Honestly, I find that hunting for an apartment is more difficult than hunting for a job since I am being judged solely on my personality. It makes sense—you want to live with someone who not only pays rent on time but who is also pleasant to be around. So instead of asking me questions related to my productivity and ability to excel, I’m being asked if I like pets or if I’m 420 friendly.

But finding an apartment in a new city, especially a city like NYC requires more than just a nice personality. While searching for a place I realized that there are many things that I never really thought about including total living expenses for the first month of relocating, what I can and cannot deal with in a roommate, and what kinds of facilities I need access to on a regular basis. Therefore, to make the best out of your apartment search the key is to plan ahead. I’ve broken down the search into six tips and some important websites you should keep in mind when look for an apartment in New York City.

1. Be prepared: You increase your chances of having a smooth transition if you prepare yourself financially.

  • Have a job. Having a job before you move has the following benefits: 1. You can set a more realistic budget for yourself (check out paycheckcity.com. Select the state and city then input your gross pay and exemptions. It can deduct taxes and show your take home pay). 2. You have a better sense of what neighborhoods to look at. 3. You have income to count on. 4. Many landlords want proof of income (or a guarantor stating they will pay for you if you are a student).

  • Have money saved up. People usually save up for the move in—I recommend saving for the first month of living in the apartment so you don’t have to stress while waiting for your next paycheck. Most apartments will want at least first month and security. A decent room may run you about $700 so I would save at least $1800 for the move in, utilities (if not included) and food. If you need furnishings add another $500 to that.

  • Give yourself some time. Especially if you are coming from afar—at least a month. People want to be able to see you and get in touch with you if they have any questions or some new information arises. Additionally, places tend to go quickly so I would recommend allocating at least a week to solely spending time in the city looking for a place.
2. Think of your budget for renting—then add 25% more: Shit happens. While most problems will be covered by a landlord, having an AC in the summer, appliances breaking down, suddenly ruined furniture, and a host of other problems will be your responsibility. It’s good to have about 25% of what you plan to spend on rent and utilities set aside for sudden events. And in general, things always cost more than we expect.

3. Know where to look: With so many people wanting to call New York their home there are a variety of resources available to assist people in the move mainly in the form of affordable housing options. Below is a list of websites, compiled by Citi-Habitats that can help you in every step of the way as you try to make NYC your home:
  • The Actors Fund (www.actorsfund.org)
    The Actors Fund works in many ways to help its constituents find affordable housing. Check out the I-lousing Resource Center and the Housing Bulletin Board (with new listings added every couple of weeks) to learn more about the fund's residences and housing seminars.
  • Citi Habitats (www.citi-habitats.com)
    Citi Habitats is just one of many reputable licensed real estate brokers in New York, but it's one of the largest, with more than 900 employees, offices throughout Manhattan, and housing in every price range. But brokers in outer-borough neighborhoods are easy to find online; just type in the neighborhood of your choice and "apartment broker."
  • Common Ground (www.commonground.org)
    Common Ground's mission is "to end homelessness through innovativeprograms that transform people, buildings, and entire communities," but the organization also assists working people with lower incomes. Visit the site to learn more about its affordable housing options.
  • Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association (www.mptenants.com)
    Manhattan Plaza doesn't have a website of its own, but on the site of the Manhattan Plaza Tenants Association, which serves current residents, you'll find information about the residence and its waiting list.
  • NYC Affordable Housing Resource Center (www.nyc.gov/housING)
    The city's official site offers information on all aspects of housing, including renting an apartment, buying a home, and maintenance issues. Be sure to check the site regularly for a list of the city's affordable-housing lotteries.
  • Craigslist (newyork.craigslist.org)
    This massive free market of online classified ads has become a topresource for finding apartments, sublets, roommates, and everything else under the sun.
  • New York City Housing Development Corporation (www.nychdc.com)
    The FIDC finances the development and preservation of affordable housing in New York. Click on "Apartment Seekers" for a list of buildings with available apartments, future developments, income requirements, and other info.
4. Word of mouth is much better: While the resources above are certainly helpful, being referred to someone who is looking for a roommate or renter by a mutual friend gives you an instant leg up. Tap into alumni networks to see if they know of any opportunities. Post that you are looking for an apartment on twitter, your blog, facebook, myspace—any place that people read so that friends know you are looking and can keep you in mind if they hear of anything. If you have landed a job, ask them to put you in touch with people who are also looking or who have openings. The more people who know that you are searching the better.

If you don’t know many people, go to the actual neighborhood where you are considering moving and check out libraries and community centers for postings. And don’t be afraid to ask the doormen/receptionists at apartments if they know of openings in the building or in the neighborhood.

5. Be real: This is not the time to pretend as if you can deal with cats when you are allergic, or that you are a social butterfly when you are really a cave dweller. Nor is it the time to pursue apartments/rooms that are so far out of your budget you leave yourself open to financial disaster. Your home is your sanctuary and should be a place where you feel free to truly be yourself and be at ease—in both an emotional and financial sense. Below are some great questions from So You Wanna… that you should ask yourself AND your potential roommate:

  • Have you ever had a roommate before? What if anything bothered you about your past roommates?
  • Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend or other friend who will be staying here frequently?
  • Are you promiscuous? (Do not be afraid to ask this one. You probably don't want strange people sleeping over a lot.)
  • Do you smoke? Drink? Do drugs? If yes to any, how often?
  • Do you stay out late on weekdays?
  • Did/do you have any credit problems?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • What is your occupation?
  • What do you like to watch on television? What music do you listen to?
6. Get over Manhattan: People tend to come to NYC with the expectation that their lives will be like something from Sex in the City or Friends. Get your mind away from the cosmos and cafes and remember that NYC has FIVE BOROUGHS—Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Further, there is so much more that goes into finding an apartment including access to supermarkets and laundromats, length of lease, cost of utilities and more. When choosing an apartment ask the following questions, again from So You Wanna…:
  • How long is the lease?
  • Do you have the option to renew?
  • How large of a deposit will you be required to leave as security?
  • Are utilities included in your rent? Which ones (gas, electric, water, cable, etc.)?
  • Are you allowed to keep pets in the apartment?
  • Are you allowed to sublet if you go away?
  • What sort of security does the building have?
  • Does the building have laundry facilities?
  • Does the building have a super or some sort of arrangement for repairs?
  • Does anyone else have keys to the apartment?
  • Do you need special permission to make superficial changes, i.e. painting or hanging picture?
Side: How do I establish a budget for relocating to New York?

Most people recommend that you set aside 1/4 to 1/3 of your monthly pay to housing costs. This is certainly one part of the budgeting equation, but I also realize that to get a better grasp on how much I can spend on housing I need to look at my total cost of living. I use the budgeting tips from All Your Worth, a personal finance book. In a nutshell, your budget should look as follows:
  • 50% of monthly pay goes to MUST HAVES: rent, utilities, healthcare, food, student loans, and other obligatory payments. These are the basics you need for survival and couldnt go very long without.
  • 20% goes to SAVINGS: directly to your savings account or making extra payments on debts (since doing the latter will save you money in the long term).
  • 30% goes to WANTS: entertainment, shopping, food, lattes, and all the other fun stuff you like.

Granted this kind of budget isnt easy and I am grossly oversimplifying here, but I think it is a great start for creating and maintaining healthy finances. Destination Money Balance has more information on this type of budgeting and The Single Edition (an online magazine for Singles) has money saving tips for lean living.

Side: What if I want to move right now but don’t have much time or money?

Hit up networks you already have and ask to crash while you look for a place. If you can’t find a friend, sign up on CouchSurfing or look for short term places to stay (i.e. sublets) on craigslist. The nice thing about sublets is that they require little upfront money and allow you to search for permanent employment and housing.


Age said...

Here are some other good websites for apartments (since CL can get a little frustrating sometimes!)

- http://www.flyrig.com
Fee & no-fee listings on a Google mashup.

- http://www.nybits.com
Rentals posted by building managers, which means they're all no-fee.

- http://www.rent-direct.com
Paid no-fee listing service.

- http://www.urbansherpany.com
More no-fee listings

Samual said...

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BlogBloggers said...

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Ian said...

I find these tips useful for my cousin as he asked ideas from me on the subject. He is going to relocate to New York soon. He decided to rent short term furnished apartments NYC
, area for the meantime while looking for a permanent job.