How to Find an Apartment in NYC

New York City apartments are nothing like they are on Friends or How I Met Your Mother. They're expensive and tiny. Even worse, they're even hard to find!

Oh, you're looking to move to the Big Apple?

First of all, good luck! Becoming one of millions of New Yorkers involves many trials and tribulations before you even arrive. Finding an apartment in one of the five boroughs can be a complete nightmare depending on where you're looking and your budget. If you're rich, then this article may not be the most useful resource for you, but if you're like most people trying to find the perfect place (so you hopefully won't have to move every other year like many new residents), you've come to the right place.

Apartment hunting becomes depressing pretty fast. I initially searched for a studio apartment in the East Village and quickly realized the potential for a good bang for my buck was low in that area. When I started looking with another person, the pool expanded exponentially. While I ended up finding a great spot right on Tompkins Square Park (it's a fifth-floor walk-up with no laundry in the building), I definitely learned a thing or two from my experience!

Ask Around

Do you already know someone who lives in the city? If yes, ask them if they know of any apartments opening up and if they know anyone else who's apartment hunting and maybe looking for a roommate. Connections in NYC are incredibly valuable, especially since the renters' market is bustling. Brokers are closing deals left and right, so being in the know (or even the first to know) could raise your chances of landing the right place. The more people you know, the better your odds are of maybe, just maybe, finding a rent-stabilized apartment.

Use Streeteasy

Streeteasy is the go-to site for renting and buying property in New York City. It's user-friendly and has the most listings of just about any site of its kind. Please, for goodness sake, use the no fee filter. While paying a broker fee could lead to the best apartment of your dreams, you could be paying that fee every year you renew your lease, which is a rabbit hole you don't want to go down. I wasn't aware of this part of the process when I first went looking. Although the broker I used was helpful, he knew his fee was the catch-22 for every apartment we went to see. While he did decrease his fee to finally seal the deal after over a month of looking, it still added weeks to the process and highlighted the greedy part of the business (yes, they deserve a living, but I also need a place to live at an affordable rate).

Look Around

Many people rent the first place they find. It's obvious why; you don't want to be homeless or couch-surfing forever. But holding out for the right place can be worth it. I once went to an open house for an apartment: It was a two-bedroom with a sizable living room, but the bedrooms were immensely disproportionate in size (and one didn't have a window). The broker strongly urged us to act fast, claiming we would lose it if we didn't. Two weeks later, the apartment was still on the market. If an apartment is on the market for over a month, there's most likely something wrong with it. Although, if you do find the perfect place that meets many of your needs, it is important to act fast.

Look Around Part 2

Check every corner, every cabinet, the shower's water pressure, the pipes, and even the surrounding area. For example, at one point, my roommate found a place she liked. She was worn down by the process and wanted to be done. While the apartment itself was lovely, there were some concerns about the safety of the surrounding area, and as two young women living alone, this was a major concern to both of us. Trust your instincts.

Compromise

If you're planning on living with someone, you're going to have to make compromises at some point. It's important to discuss your respective checklists for a place with your potential roommate. What's your budget? What area do you want to live in? Are you both OK with a walk-up? Is there a subway line you need nearby? Do you prefer a bigger living room or bigger bedrooms?

Even after you both come up with your lists, you probably won't find everything you both desire in one place. Ranking your priorities will assist in the exhausting process of finding a home. Don't forget to be open-minded and try to lower your expectations, because New York City apartments are supremely expensive and tiny. Unfortunately, we don't live in a '90s sitcom and
have access to our grandma's rent-stabilized apartment like they do in Friends—when hunting for your own place in the concrete jungle, it's more like Hunger Games.