The rental market in New York City is one of the most brutal anywhere in the world. Even if you are familiar with complex and competitive housing markets, finding a reasonable apartment in New York is a whole new ball game and is nothing short of daunting for the uninitiated. Rents are astronomically high and landlords demand more financial documentation than you may be used to, but no matter how much you prepare yourself mentally, the small sizes and expensive rents shock many first-time apartment renters when they arrive in New York City.
And even though low price options, and room shares are available, if you aren’t familiar with New York City, finding or recognizing a deal can be almost impossible. Additionally many individuals, in their excitement and eagerness, fail to account for the sizable broker fees, higher cost of living in some neighborhoods, and the safety or desirability of certain neighborhoods. Here are a few tips to get you started on your way to finding the perfect apartment for you.
Prepare for the Hunt Early
I haven’t used the hunt metaphor lightly here. You have to be a predator in the search of your catch, an apartment, but you can very easily become the innocent prey at the hands of the wrong agents or sharks. Like any good hunting expedition, start preparing early. Don’t wait till the last minute. Do your research. You may think any neighborhood in New York would do, but you would be mistaken. There are many parts of NYC that aren’t desirable, affordable, or accessible enough for your purposes. Investigate neighborhoods you’re interested in, and look up apartments in those areas well in advance. Utilize NYC rental websites to look for affordable apartments.
Physically Visit Neighborhoods of Interest at Night
When we live somewhere, we expect to feel comfortable and safe in our vicinity at all hours. Internet research can only take you so far. It is very important to physically investigate your shortlisted neighborhoods of interest. An apartment building or a street may seem fine in the middle of the afternoon, but may seem far less appealing after dark. While darkness of building lobbies and corridors can be rectified easily with 4ft LED garage lights, it may be impossible to do the same for street corners or alleyways. You should also ensure that the people who hang around the area at night are not the kind you would want to avoid.
Avoid Apartment Hunting in the Summer Months
If you can afford to wait, avoid searching for apartments in New York during the summer. Summers are especially chaotic because many college students and fresh grads pour into the city looking for economical living options. As a result, prices generally sky rocket. The best time to look for apartments in the city is between September and December. This is when the summer flow declines and the demand for apartments is lower, which gives you more room for negotiation.
Calculate Your Budget Beforehand
The cost of living in New York can differ considerably from many other cities in the US. It would be a good idea to understand the buying power of your salary in NYC. You can use a COL (cost of living) calculator to understand your budget and estimate what your wages in your hometown would be sufficient for if you were in New York or vice versa. For instance, $100,000 in New York city on average has same local purchasing power as around $50,000 in Kansas City, assuming you pay rent in both cities. This comparison assumes net earnings after income tax. Before you move, you should ensure that your salary and savings are sufficient to cover rent, groceries, and transportation costs. You should determine an affordable budget for your monthly rent as you conduct your search.
Share Rent by Getting a Roommate
New York City is the most expensive city to rent an apartment. You can find a much better apartment in a much better neighborhood if you split the rent 2 or 3 ways between roommates. Many city dwellers live with roommates to cut costs. In fact, since 40 percent of all adult renters in NYC live with roommates and this statistic does not include roommates who are in a relationship with each other. There is even a program where elderly renters can share their homes with younger ones to strike a money/support balance. In NYC, renters pay $3000/month on average for a one-bedroom and $4000/month for a two-bedroom apartment. This means that by splitting the rent with a roommate you can anywhere between $1,500 to $2000/month or even more. However, be careful when selecting a roommate, and consider terms like location, chores, grocery costs, lifestyle, hygiene and manner of living. You don’t want to be stuck living with someone you are incompatible with.
Don’t Go in with Rigid Expectations and Keep an Open Mind
Popular movies and TV shows like Friends, Gossip Girl, 2 Broke Girls, and others set in NYC, all give the impression that New York apartments are all luxurious lofts with artistic ambiances and a whole lot of space. This could not be further from reality. Apartments that the average Joe can afford are usually very small and lack basic amenities like washing machines and dishwashers. Look for the potential in spaces rather than going in with a fixed mindset. For instance, dark apartments can be lit up using LED light fixtures, and modular furniture can maximize space. However if you want something larger, with basic amenities and more cost-effective, you might want to consider another borough. Just keep an open mind and see how you can maximize the potential of any space rather than focusing on the negatives.
Keep Your Paperwork and Financials in Order
If you find something that feels right, and the apartment you have seen checks all the right boxes, do not wait! If you have your paperwork and the down payment ready and available, you can quickly lock down and close the deal. Chances are high that other people might be just as interested in the apartment as you are, some might even be willing to pay more, so if you view an apartment you like, don’t take too long to close the deal. To act quickly and close the deal, you will need your bank statements, a photocopy of your ID card, a letter of job offer, as well as a check for the first month’s rent and security deposit ready. So keep your paperwork and financials in order to avoid disappointment.