NYC Apartment Hunting 101

When you picture New York City this past year, you can almost envision tumbleweed blowing across the seemingly desolate streets. But after 2020’s mass exodus of people trying to escape NYC, the city is finally starting to come alive again and draw back its residents. On top of the promise of brighter days ahead, this is a particularly attractive time to move because you can still take advantage of those Covid prices! So whether you’re moving to NYC for the first time or just swapping apartments and need a refresher, here’s our quick and dirty guide to NYC apartment hunting!

 1. Build it into your budget 
We’d all love to live on the penthouse floor of some spectacular high-rise building…so what’s stopping us? In most cases, it’s the price! This is why figuring out your budget, is step one in this moving process. A general rule of thumb is that your monthly rent should be no more than 30% of your gross (before taxes) monthly income. Of course, be sure to have enough cash on hand for first month’s rent, the security deposit, and other moving expenses!
2. Pick your priorities 
This is typically the next best place to start! Sifting through thousands of listings can seem daunting, so you’ll want to rank items like price, neighborhood, commute to the office, number of bathrooms, laundry situation, square footage, etc. Maybe it’s a dealbreaker for you to not have to pay a broker’s fee on the place. Or maybe you absolutely need in-unit laundry. By identifying your non-negotiables, you’ll be able to better assess what your options are and limit how overwhelmed you’ll inevitably feel.
3. Start the search
Now that you’ve got your search parameters, take a look at what the market has to offer. Make it your morning routine to skim through sites like StreetEasy, Zillow, Nooklyn, and Use as many companies and agents as you can, so you’re not putting all of your eggs (and negotiating power) in one basket. You should start going to see places in person about a month to a month and a half before you plan to move in! P.s. – do not try to wear cute shoes on the day you’re walking all over NYC looking at 10 different apartments…I still have blisters (basically battle wounds) to show for it.
4. Prep your paperwork 
Once you start seeing places in person, you’ll get a much better idea of what you want. And once you know what you want, it’s only a matter before you find THE place and you’ll likely have to move quickly on it. When this happens, the last thing you want to do is scramble to get your paperwork together. So what paperwork should you have handy? I’m glad you asked! Most landlords ask for at least the following:
-ID (driver’s license or passport)
-Letter of employment (can sometimes be your offer letter)
-Last 3 bank statements
-Your last W-2 statement
-Landlord reference letter
5. Never not negotiate
If you’ve made it the point where you submitted an application and were approved for an apartment, hopefully it means you’ve done copious amounts of research on what “market rates” are for similar apartments. If market rate is lower, use that to your advantage to get your price down. But regardless, you MUST negotiate! I am adamant about this part of the process, because this is where women in particular leave money on the table. Here are a few things you can try to negotiate:
Gross rent
Pretty self-explanatory, but this is the monthly price that’s shown on the listing. It’s always a good idea to shoot for a lowered gross rent.
Free months
During the corona economy, a lot of landlords are offering concessions in the form of free months. So you’ll see gross monthly prices and a “net effective rates” that take factor in the discount with the free months offered. You can ask for extra free months or weeks to bring the overall cost of the lease down.
Security deposit
Expect to pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit (usually equal to the first month’s rent amount) all upfront. But you can try to negotiate down that security deposit amount…even though you’ll eventually get it back anyway!
Some buildings offer parking spaces that you pay a monthly rate for, so if you plan on bringing your car with you, it could be worth trying to get this rate down as well!
Remember that in any negotiation, both parties should walk away with something. So what can you offer in exchange for getting what you want? Can you pay more upfront? Can you sign a longer lease? Get your game plan in order and soon you’ll be signing!


Which of these tips was most helpful? And what are some of yours? Let us know by commenting below!

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