Tips for apartment searching in New York City

similar dress // similar jean jacket // similar bag // sunglasses // sneakers // face mask

Apartment Hunting 101

If you had told me a year ago that I would be writing a post on how to find your dream apartment in New York City, I would have spit out whatever coffee or wine I was drinking 😊. It’s honestly so surreal that I’m ending up in this city (which I first mentioned in my ‘New Job Q&A’ post), as I honestly never envisioned myself in NYC, yet it feels so right and I couldn’t be more excited to bring our life there!

As you know, Johnny and I will be moving in together and moving into a new apartment. We signed and finalized our lease a few weeks ago, after having a really positive apartment-hunting experience. I’ve learned a lot over the past few months, about what to look for in an apartment and how to find what we want, so I thought it would be useful to compile all of the tips I’ve received (many of which were from you all!) into one post.

I’ll preface this by saying that I am by no means experienced in looking for apartments, as this will be the second apartment I’ve rented as a post-grad, and my first apartment in NYC. This will be Johnny’s third apartment in the city, so he’s definitely been helpful in knowing what to do.

The second caveat I’ll give is that the pandemic has dramatically changed the landscape of the rental market in NYC, and therefore it was operating at a much slower pace and we were able to have some time to think things through and negotiate our lease, which would normally not be an option. It took five full days from the time we found and decided on our apartment, to the time the lease was fully signed and finalized, and I’ve been told that process usually lasts a matter of hours, or minutes, in the “normal” rental market in New York.

It was a different experience than it usually is, but I think that my tips will still apply, no matter what the rental market looks like in the future. Above all, we’re so thankful that we have this opportunity to move into NYC and fill up an apartment that had been vacant for months. Every time we visited the city this summer, whether it was to move Johnny out of his apartment or look at apartments for my sister, the city was vibrant, fun, and welcoming. I now cannot wait to get there and make it our home!

My Top 10 Tips

ONE // Start out by figuring which part of NYC you want to live in and this will really help in narrowing down your search. At the beginning, Johnny and I were all over the map in terms of where we wanted to move, and I found it to be so overwhelming to try to sort through all of the available options. It was much more manageable when we decided on the specific area of the Upper East Side, though that is still a large area to cover. We decided on the UES because it would allow Johnny to walk to his office when it reopens and we would be able to get more space and room for our budget in the area.

TWO // StreetEasy will be your BFF (or addiction… or both 😊). I downloaded the app and also spent countless hours on their site, searching for available apartments. Their filtering system makes it SO easy to sort by apartments based on what you’re looking for (things like square footage, a doorman, proximity to the subway, etc.).

THREE // Be weary of how things look online. When we toured apartments in person, it was alarmingly clear how very different the apartments looked in person, as opposed to the photos and videos we saw of them online. They weren’t necessarily a lot worse in person… just different than they had seemed online. If you are able to tour in person, 100% do.

FOUR // Work with peeps you trust! Johnny had used Loftey to find his last apartment, and enjoyed his experience with them, so we used them to help with our apartment search. They are an agency that guarantees that they will negotiate a rent reduction for you, and if they can’t they will cut you a check for whatever amount they thought they could negotiate off the rent. It cost us nothing to work with them (they have 0 fees) and they were honestly just very straightforward and upfront with us, which I really liked. I didn’t work with them in any formal capacity for this post, but of course still wanted to share my experience. Clarence Onyiriuka was our agent and he scheduled our entire day of apartment touring, after I sent him a list of the apartments we were interested in. He also added in a few buildings that he thought we would like, and we ended up deciding on an apartment in a building that he had recommended (that I had never seen online before!!). It was his intel and knowledge that led to us finding our dream apartment. Highly recommend them overall!

FIVE // Write out your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.” In one of my many conversations with friends about our apartment search, I was talking with someone who’s a broker in NYC and she told me that you can rarely find something that’s your ideal budget, location, and square footage in New York. So, figure out which of those you’d be willing to bend on, and then of course what additional apartment features or amenities that you want. For us, we knew that we wanted as much square footage as we could get (since both of us will be working from home for the foreseeable future) and we also really wanted a gym in our building, for the convenience that offers.

SIX // When touring, inquire about everything that comes to mind and also ask to see additional apartments! We had one apartment representative show us seven different apartments in the building, many of which weren’t even on the market yet. We simply asked him about what he had available and if he was willing to show us as many as possible!

SEVEN // Get your documents in order before you even tour! Before we looked at apartments, our contacts at Loftey told us exactly which documents we needed to have ready in order to be approved for and sign a lease. We prepared things like our W-9s, recommendations from our former apartment buildings, scanned copies of our drivers licenses, bank statements, etc. It was a little trickier since I’m not self-employed, so with lots of back and forth with my CPA (not Johnny, though he was very helpful 😊) we were able to figure it out. Loftey also had a list of recommended documents you would need if you’re a college graduate and haven’t lived in an apartment yet, which I thought was awesome as well.

EIGHT // Ask about hidden fees! Throughout our day of touring apartments, we asked each building if they had additional fees for their amenities (like gym fees) and what their application process entailed and cost.

NINE // Take as many pictures and measurements as you can when you’re in the apartment that you think you’re going to decide on, because you most likely won’t be back until the day you move in, and the dimensions of everything determines what furniture you’ll be able to fit. We are going back to visit our apartment this weekend (a week before we move in) to take some additional measurements, since we missed a few things when we were last there!

TEN // Don’t let yourself be pushed around or intimidated by the process. At the end of the day, it’s an apartment you’re renting, so it’s not a longterm investment property. Would you be safe and happy living there for one or two years? If so, that’s all that matters! We were told that there was a backup offer on our apartment, yet they were willing to really negotiate and pretty much do everything they could to help us with the process… so who knows what the reality of the situation really was! Shop the Post