How to Rent an Apartment in New York City: Where to Look and What You’ll Need

Renting an apartment is hard anywhere, but in New York City it’s worse. Guaranteed. Ok maybe not because San Francisco is pretty bad, but NYC is the second worse place to go apartment hunting.

So, you’re moving here. How do you find an apartment? Listen, I’ve been through it all so I’ll let you know what you’re in for, and which apps, websites and other creative means there are to find and get one. Don’t worry though, it’s all worth it. New York City is the best city in the world, and this is its way to weed out the undedicated people!

new york apartments

Apartment hunting websites and apps

Craigslist

Yes. Tried and true, Craigslist. I was looking for a New York City apartment while I was still living in Boston, and this is how I ultimately found my first one. You can search for apartment listings specifically, but what I did is make an ad for myself, “woman seeking man.” JUST KIDDING DON’T DO THAT. I ACTUALLY put out an ad for myself “housing wanted.” And that’s how my first roommate found me. She had an empty room in Hell’s Kitchen, I had a great phone conversation with her and saw some pics of the apartment, and then went ahead and moved in on a hot summer day.

Use a broker

Remember that you can choose to use a broker or not. The broker will make it easier because they show you apartments targeted to your needs, but they are also expensive. They usually require one month’s rent as payment. If you’re not into this, make sure you’re searching “no fee” apartments.

Contact management companies

This is going right to the source! Google “new york city management companies” and a few big ones will come up (Pine, Beach Lane, etc.). When you call the companies, they’ll show you what apartments they have available in the buildings they manage. It’s a great way to sweep a large number of apartments without a broker’s fee.

Roomi

Roomi is where you can find or list a room for any duration of time. Need a place for two months while you get on your feet? This is where to look. I like its Airbnb-like interface. You can see the apartment itself and see how much it is immediately. Padmapper is another similar option.

Nooklyn

Brooklyn’s so popular these days, some people don’t even look at Manhattan. This is your expert app on Brooklyn apartment listings and roommates.

brooklyn apartments

Zillow

An app that allows you to search by a variety of criteria. It has a huge number of apartments, and an awesome app to sort through it all.

Zumper

Has the usual apartment search function, but also has an instant apply feature that helps you get your credit report fast.

Joinery

This is a great hack to get around a broker. Apartments here are listed by the person who is planning to move out. And what’s better than talking to the person who just lived there?

Naked Apartments

You can search for apartments, but here they also recommend agents that can help. They are rated by previous users, so it’s kind of a Yelp for agents. This way, you don’t get SWINDLED. Looking for something temporary? Check out the new rooms for rent feature.

StreetEasy

Yet another apartment-search app, but this one is good for also purchasing an apartment…if that’s what you’re into. I will be visiting said apartment though.

Location, location, location

There’s the usual neighborhoods of the Upper West or Upper East Side of Manhattan, or the East or West Village, or Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but there are so many other up-and-coming neighborhoods to live in. Keeping in mind the safety of an area, as well as a reasonable price point, here are a few neighborhoods that I’ve heard a lot about lately and would recommend you keep on your radar if you’re thinking about a move:

  • Greenpoint, Brooklyn
  • Bushwick, Brooklyn
  • Astoria, Queens
  • Battery Park City, Manhattan
  • Jersey City, New Jersey
  • Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn
  • Gowanus, Brooklyn
  • Long Island City, Queens
  • Inwood, Manhattan

Want to know more? Place I Live is a cool interactive way to get an idea of an area based on demographics, quality of life, affordability and even best BBQ joints.

manhattan apartments

How to prepare

Apartments in New York go FAST, so be sure to have the following documents ready for your application. That’s right, even if you apply (with the usual $100 fee), you may not actually get the apartment:

  • Letter of Employment
  • Bank statements from past two months
  • Last three months of paystubs
  • Last one or two tax returns
  • Clear photocopy of photo ID
  • FIrst and last month’s rent (usually money order)
  • Credit report
  • Possibly more!

If you need a guarantor, make sure they have all the same documents for themselves.

Last thing: I cannot stress this enough. ACT FAST. There was a time I missed an apartment by 10 minutes. Yup, someone claimed the apartment before I got a chance to apply. I don’t want you to think it’s all scary though. It’s so awesome living in New York. I hope you get a chance to experience even for a little while!

girls getaway

Have you had any crazy NYC moving experiences? What would you do differently? @maryinmanhattan

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6 comments

  1. I’ve lived in nyc for almost 12 years. 2 years ago I had to move because my super tiny Boerum hill studio got way too expensive. Ugh I had such a hard time finding a place mostly because of my limited budget. I really wanted my own place but I was open to the roommate thing too. It was soooo hard! And I found a site called address report, which made me crazy because you learn how many buildings have had issues like bed bugs, mice, etc. Fun fun! Somehow I managed to find a place! Now I’m in Ditmas Park in a decent apt. Bigger than my last place and within my budget! I found it with either trulia or Zillow, can’t remember. I had to pay a one month brokers fee. :(. But that was better than the scam agent in sunnyside who wanted me to pay a 20% fee.

    Apt searching is so hard in nyc, but you’re right, never give up! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this! Great advice! I have a question, though. As someone who has never lived outside of her hometown and has always wanted to move to New York… is it better to move there and then find a job, or secure a job before you move there? And if it’s better to move and then find a job, how do you get an apartment if you’re temporarily unemployed?

    Like

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