Whether you’re just dreaming about living in New York City, or actively looking for a place to live, you probably know that the world of NYC real estate can feel like a jungle–especially when you’re in your 20s. Keep reading for tips and tricks to navigate apartment hunting in the Big Apple, so that you can find the perfect first NYC apartment!
1. Know the Boroughs.
Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island are the five boroughs that make up New York City. While you may be dreaming about living in a Manhattan studio apartment, the other boroughs have great options too, and apartments are often cheaper when you look outside of Manhattan.
2. Research the neighborhoods
From the Financial District to the East Village to Williamsburg, each neighborhood has its own flair. If you want to live where a lot of young people are, the East Village is filled with restaurants, bars and clubs that draw in a huge crowd during the weekend. The Financial District is very quiet during the weekend, but bustling from 9-5 on weekdays. Researching the neighborhoods will also give you a better understanding of pricing. A lot of people believe that living in Brooklyn is always cheaper than living in Manhattan, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Williamsburg has evolved into one of NYC’s most popular neighborhoods, which has skyrocketed the cost of living.
3. Know your budget
Budgeting is hard for everyone, especially when you’re young. A lot of people are just living on their own for the first time, and balancing groceries with rent, utilities and the occasional splurge can be difficult. Add a $1,000 price tag for a room the size of a closet, and it can get complicated. On top of that, once you find your first NYC apartment you’ll need to furnish it. You have to prioritize so your money will last. Are you looking for a building with a doorman? An elevator? Those often come with an added expense. Having a budget planned out can help you narrow down what neighborhood you can afford to live in, and ease some pressure off of moving to one of the most expensive cities in the US.
4. Find a realtor
This step is optional, but helpful if you’re a complete newbie. You should be aware that some realtors or brokers require a fee when you find a place, sometimes as much as first month’s rent. However, these people are the experts. This is their job! So, if you’re completely in over your head, get some advice from a professional. After all, this is surely not their first NYC apartment.
5. View the space
The best thing to do when looking for apartment is to be in New York City to look at them. The internet is full of scams.You DO NOT want to put down any sort of deposit for an apartment or sublet you have not seen. If you see a great deal on Craigslist, and the person is telling you that you can’t view the apartment, back out IMMEDIATELY. Seeing the apartment in person is the only way to get a true sense of the space. If you aren’t in the city, ask a friend to view it for you, or ask the person renting it to FaceTime you and show you the space.
6. Ask the uncomfortable questions
Has the apartment had bed bugs in the last year? Does the building have a mouse or roach problem? How do you handle emergency repairs? How reliable is the landlord? If you’re planning on having guests frequently, or have pets, there might be specific policies. Here is a list of other important questions to ask.
7. Know the difference between subletting and leasing, and if you’re even allowed to sublet in the first place
Odds are if the person you’re subletting from wants you to say you’re their “cousin” to avoid telling their landlord, it’s probably not a good idea. Subletting is great for short term housing and doesn’t anchor you to a lease. A lease is a direct contract with your landlord. A sublet is a contract between you and the original renter, who has a contract with the landlord. In a sublet, the subletter doesn’t have a direct contract with the landlord. Here are some helpful tips about subletting, and also how to find one.
8. Realize there are no perfect apartments
It’s hard to not picture a perfect apartment in your mind. One with lots of windows, white or exposed brick walls, wood floors and laundry in building. One with all-new appliances and marble features in the bathroom. Oh, and central air. But if you’re looking for an apartment that checks all of your boxes, odds are you’re never going to find it. Be sure to keep an open mind during your apartment search. You’ll probably have to compromise a few things, but your future home is out there somewhere!
What’s your advice for finding a great first NYC apartment? Let us know down below in the comments!
Isabelle is a journalism major and English and media studies minor at Northeastern University. She is a writer, editorial intern and social media enthusiast with a passion for the digital universe. At the moment, you can find Isabelle living and working in New York City for SWAAY Media, Society19 and Flocabulary, focusing on writing, editing and digital content creation.