10 Essential Apartment-Hunting Tips

Make the process ten times easier, and don’t get stuck in an apartment you didn’t expect.


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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Avatar of Hilary Rowland

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 10 Comments

  1. Avatar of StefT


    So funny, I looked up my reviews on my building at TransparentCity.co

    DEF recommend doing the same!

  2. Avatar of Derrick Chou

    Love these points. They all still hold true. Also appreciated your article on Huff Post about the truths behind NYC real estate brokers. Mainly points 7 & 8 where you don’t need a broker and renting in buildings without a broker. At transparentcity.co, we built a platform for consumers to easily filter through all of the different buildings managed by management companies and provided direct website links to availabilities. We also provide reviews of those buildings and management companies. I hope your readers will find success in bypassing broker fees and reading reviews on who they are renting from.

  3. Avatar of michele


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

  4. Avatar of Courtney Watson

    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!

  5. Avatar of Chris Naselli

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

    • Avatar of Derrick Chou

      Could probably write something about the best managed buildings. I think publishing the ‘worst’ could get people into trouble! If it’s review based, it could also be quite arbitrary. Consumers have been adding reviews about their NYC buildings at https://transparentcity.co/. We then roll up the reviews and aggregate it up to the management companies.

  6. Avatar of Emily Smith

    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.

  7. Avatar of Auriane Desombre

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

  8. Avatar of Sarah Woodstock

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

  9. Avatar of Julie Fratenelli

    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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