Looking for an apartment in NYC

There are a lot of other things I would rather be doing than to look for an apartment in the busiest city in America. If you ever go and look at an apartment in New York City, you have to make a split decision to call this place home or to move on to the next apartment. There is no time to spend the night thinking about it. We discovered some great information that will help us for the next time and will help you now!

Measuring without a Measuring Tape

Looking for more room or do you just want to make sure your couch, bed, table, entertainment center fit nicely in your next apartment? Wear your “apartment hunting” shoes and measure out your furniture. My couch is 7 Diesel’s long. If you wear a different pair of shoes, you could end up 1′ short that you needed for your couch.

Take it a step further (no pun intended) if you are downsizing and measure your current rooms to see how they would stack up to your next apartment. If you think it would help, sketch out a quick diagram of each apartment you are looking at. This way you can look back at your notebook to see what each layout looks like. When you get up to looking at 4 apartments per day, 5 days in a row, they all start to look the same. You may end up in an apartment out of impatient frustration. In your notebook next to your measurements or sketches, be sure you jot down the address and broker that showed you the apartment. I saw different apartments with 5 different brokers.

Reason for the Season

There are seasons when rent is cheaper. During the winter time after November, you are more likely to not pay a broker fee and the rent on the exact same apartment will be cheaper. The reason is people do not like to move during the winter so if an apartment becomes available, the building is desperate to gain a tenant. The best thing to look for is a “No Fee” apartment which means the building owner will pay the broker from the first month’s rent or the deposit the new tenants put down. The nicer apartments and better areas will charge first month’s rent, security deposit and a broker fee. So, you would need at least $5,000 to move into your new home. After April, the No Fee apartments disappear, unless it is in a rough area and the apartment owner cannot get anyone to rent the apartment. Prime time to move to New York and get the best deal on an apartment would be between November to March.

Needs and Wants

Make an exact checklist of what you need and also add what you would like, but could do without. Physically write this list down so you do not overlook an absolute need you might forget about while the broker is pressuring you to fill out the paper work on it. Here is our needs/wants:
Needs: Under $1800, 2 Bedroom, 4 floor walk up or less, pet friendly, 3 blocks to a park, 3 blocks to a train, laundry in apt or in building, area that is not sketchy, more space than we are in now.
Wants: elevator, south facing to get sun in apt, close to Harlem River, Harlem west of 7th Avenue, Washington Heights, Hudson Heights, Inwood north of Broadway or south of Dyckman.

Every street block is different

We just looked at an apartment on 137th Street between 7th Avenue and Lenox Avenue. While walking there, I passed nice brownstone apartments between Frederick Douglass Blvd and 7th Avenue and started to get excited about what I am about to see. Once I crossed 7th Avenue, I was in a different part of town. While the apartment was freshly renovated on the first floor and duplex style, I did not feel comfortable there at all. The size of the apartment and the price were both right, but that stretch of the street is rough. Working from home would not be comfortable and I would not feel like that would be my safe place.

If you are looking to move in a few months, you should start looking at streets now. Document the areas and exact streets you would like to live on. Buy a Manhattan map and get green and red highlighters. This will make looking for apartments easier when the time comes. Brokers have a database of apartments that updates throughout the day each day. You can give them your specifications and call them up to see if anything has opened up in the areas you are interested in. Or at least you will be able to know that you have “that street” highlighted in red due to whatever reason.

Who should I work with?

It all depends on the area you are looking for. We’re looking for above 100th Street where there are some snoots that have never stepped foot about 100th Street. We used Bohemia Realty Group to find our new apartment.

Obviously Craigslist.org is a great place to start for searching. Another one is PadMapper.com which is a listing aggregator, pulling the addresses from Craigslist and putting it on the map. Problem is most brokers will not post the whole address so location could be completely off. If you are looking on a website that does not use Date Posted, you are wasting your time. When I search Trulia.com, the first ad to pop up is from 73 days ago. That apartment has probably been gone for 71 days now.

How much money do I need for a New York City apartment?

You do not need to be a millionaire to move to Manhattan. The cost of living is higher, do not get me wrong. I could definitely have a huge apartment in Tampa for the price I pay in New York! You just have to budget accordingly.

For example sake, we are going to talk about an apartment that is $1,600 per month. When signing a lease, you need to have 1st month and security deposit. The security is the same as your monthly payment. In addition, there is an application fee (typically $100 per person), a deposit to get the apartment off the market (typically $500) and then a broker fee. The deposit will go towards the broker fee. The broker fee generally is 15% of the total year lease but you can talk them down to 12%. Try for more if you can! 12% of a $1,600 per month apartment is $2,304. The total amount you need before you can move in is $1,600 + $1,600 + $200 (2 people) + $2,304 = $5,704.

If you find an apartment (off season) without a broker’s fee and the landlord is paying the broker, then your total would be $3,400 on this same apartment. Most of the time, you will not find as good of an apartment at $1,600 per month without a broker fee. You may find yourself in a rough part of town! If you do end up finding a good apartment without a broker fee, you might find that it is $1,800 per month which you would find that it would equal the $1,600 per month + the broker’s fee. If you end up staying for more than 1 year, the $1,800 per month apartment is now costing you more.

I do not have that kind of money in the bank.

My wife and I have impeccable credit. We pay off every credit card every month. But we did not have enough in the bank to pay all of the fees so we called up one of the credit card companies that we have been with for a long time and asked for a cash advance with 0% interest for a year. They gave it to us and deposited the money in our bank so we could use it the next day. I ONLY recommend this if you are good with balancing your money and know that you could pay off (loan amount / 10 months) each month. If you get approved for a year at 0% interest, shoot to have it knocked out in 10 months. Could you still afford the monthly rent amount plus 10% of the loan? If so, then go this route to help out on the initial costs.


I am not a broker and I am merely only an apartment hunter blogging about my experiences and what we did to help with our apartment hunting. Working with different brokers may have different fees and results. Have a good time apartment hunting in the Big Apple!