10 Essential Apartment-Hunting Tips

NYC

10 Essential Apartment-Hunting Tips

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Apartment hunting can be one of the most time consuming and stressful experiences a New Yorker can have. But you can learn from my mistakes and reduce the burden by following these simple tips:

1. Get a clear picture of what you absolutely don’t want, so that you can quickly eliminate apartments from your hunt.

Absolutely disgusted by parquet floors? Me too. That’s why I told my real estate broker, and the no-fee buildings I called, that I absolutely didn’t want anything with parquet. Is a good view important? Be specific, because their version of a “good view” is likely very different than yours. I didn’t want to have my living room look directly into another building, so I told them that ahead of time, and asked them to verify before taking me anywhere. Saved me a lot of running around the city.

10 Essential Apartment-Hunting Tips

2. Check the water pressure.

Many NYC buildings have very old, very narrow, water pipes running through them. The last thing you want is to move in and discover that it’s going to take you an extra 15 minutes every morning to rinse in the shower.

3. Know your budget.

What was on your tax return last year? From that you can figure out what you can rent. Almost all buildings and landlords require 40 times rent as an annual income (unless you’re paying cash up-front, which is never advisable.) So if you’re renting a $5000 apartment, your annual income must be over $200,000.

10 Essential Apartment-Hunting Tips4. Ask your current landlord if you can rent monthly.

This’ll take a lot of pressure off, and if you find something you like but it goes south for some reason, you won’t be forced into a less-than-ideal apartment because you ran out of time.

5. Keep records.

Take video and photos when you’re hunting. Show the paper floorplan, building outside, and lobby. This will help you remember what you saw at what price. Keep records of what buildings you saw in a notebook or digital file you can edit on your phone, so you don’t waste time seeing buildings multiple times.

6. Talk to the neighbors.

Ask how they like living in the building. Ask if they can hear their neighbors through the walls or ceiling, and if the elevator is broken often. Ask how long it takes the landlord to fix something that’s broken. Go back later on your own and try to talk to at least a few people in the building, in case the one you talk to first has unusually quiet neighbors.

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A writer, artist and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary spends most of her time in France, but still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. Hilary spent the past decade living in NYC and has traveled extensively around the world, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and brands to bring to Urbanette readers.

7 Comments

  1. michele

    How do I find an apt? I am so lost and confused.

  2. Courtney Watson

    Hilary, this is just the information I needed about finding an apartment. I am moving to NYC soon and I have been looking for an apartment to live in. The tip about knowing my budget seems smart. I had no idea that there was a requirement for income. I will have to figure out what kind of places I can live based on my income. Also, I never would’ve thought to talk to people in the building – also super smart!

  3. Could you please write an article about the best and worst managed buildings / management companies??

  4. Hilary, this is just the information I needed to make my apartment hunt easier! I really liked your tip about asking the landlord if it is possible to rent monthly, I never thought of doing that before! That really would take a lot of pressure off buying an apartment. I will have to be sure to ask the landlord about that when I find apartments I like.

  5. This is super helpful advice. I'll have to find a new apartment next year, so I will definitely keep this article in mind!

  6. I never thought of implementing these tips before. Would’ve made my apartment hunt so easy 🙁

  7. Julie Fratenelli

    I find it really helpful and time saving to search for apartment listings online to help narrow down my choices based on my budget.  But beware of scams on classified ads. There are good property websites with reputable agents.

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