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.
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.
4. 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.