“Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do. Now you're in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new. Big lights will inspire you. Let's hear it for New York.” (Jay-Z, 'Empire State of Mind')
When you think of New York City, a lot of things come to mind: Concrete Jungle, Skyscraper National Park, The Big Apple. When you think of apartment hunting in New York City, one thing comes to mind: Pounding Headache! Have no fear; we've outlined all the information you’ll need to make the search as quick and painless as possible! So get into your Empire State of Mind, grab your MetroCard, and let’s go!
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The Bare Essentials to Call NYC Home
What's it Gonna Cost? No matter where your apartment hunt takes you, there are a few things we recommend you have handy. Of them, the most important has to be some cold, hard, cash. New Yorkers should expect to spend ¼ of their annual income on rent. Landlords like to see that your annual salary is at least 40 to 50 times the cost of your monthly rent.
Be Prepared: To get into just about any place, you’ll need at least first month’s rent and security deposit in the form of a cashier’s or bank check. (New Yorker's aren't very trusting when it comes to personal checks!) A letter from your current employer stating your salary and time of employment as well as a reference from your previous landlord don’t hurt, either. If you don’t make a certain amount of money, you may need to call in a guarantor. However, this varies building to building. A credit check will also be required, but those obtained on your own will not be accepted. Be prepared to spend between $25 and $100 getting one.
Getting Your Priorities Straight: Chances are that you, like most New Yorkers, probably won’t have everything you desire in your immediate vicinity. Are you most concerned with the size of your new space? Commute? Prioritize the things that are most important to you before you set about your hunt.
Do I Need a Broker? Using a broker or an apartment locator is often recommended when renting in New York City (especially in summer and early fall – NYC’s most difficult times to rent) and while brokers can charge a fee ranging from one month’s rent to 15% of one’s annual rent, in certain circumstances it may save you both time and money in the long run. Many brokers have access to rentals that aren't listed elsewhere, so if you've hit a dead end in your apartment search, it’s probably worth a phone call. Just keep in mind that the shorter the lease, the more expensive they come. Most brokers deal in long leases, so make sure you really want to live in your selected spot before committing.
Leaving Expectations at the Door: Usually, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be conscious of bait and switch scams found on Craigslist and elsewhere. Trust your gut. This same rule applies to the cost/size ratio.
Many people move to the Big Apple with images of Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha’s “Sex and the City” pads floating in their heads. Manhattan is completely doable if you look in the northern regions of Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood. These neighborhoods more budget-friendly. The only drawback to living ‘round these parts could be your commute downtown (assuming that’s where you’ll be winning your bread). Thirty-minute commutes to the subway train are standard fare, so you better bring some comfy walking shoes. Whoever said a little exercise was a bad thing anyway?
Another neighborhood to check out is the “new” Upper East Side, in the 80’s close to York Avenue. Has a plethora of dive bars.
Your New York options are truly endless! We suggest pointing yourself towards the East Village for an amazing nightlife, the West Village for cobblestone-street cuteness and adorable sidewalk eateries, Midtown for easy access to the best theater in the world, the Upper East Side for endless museums, or the Upper West Side for strolls through Central Park with your pooch.
If you’re a foodie at heart, Queens may just be the borough for you. It has often been said, “I ate my way around the world and never left Queens!” The main thing to keep in mind if you decide to go to one of the outer boroughs is commuting time. Obviously, the closer you are to Manhattan, the shorter your commute will be. And if you end up in the outer-reaches of a far-out borough, make sure you are close to public transportation.
Brooklyn has their spacey apartments. The farther east or south you go, the further your dollar stretches. Just keep that commute we warned you about locked in your mind.
Ahh, the Boogie-Down Bronx! The South Bronx is home to Yankee Stadium, so the area is undergoing a lot of positive development. Amazing deals and lifestyles can also be found in the Northeast Bronx in the neighborhoods of Pelham Parkway and Co-cop City. The apartments will be spacier, and you’ll ultimately get more bang for your buck...not only in rent, but also bodegas, grocery stores and restaurants. When it comes to having and housing a car, The Bronx is the most user-friendly neighborhood around. It's not uncommon to find street parking, and the parking garages are a fraction of what you will pay in other boroughs.
If you are looking to stay with the suburb experience while still calling yourself a “New Yorker”, we would recommend living in Staten Island. It can only be reached by a bridge from Brooklyn (i.e. a car is a must), or a 20-minute ferry ride that will take you to the bottom of Manhattan. The North Shore is home to the hoods St. George, Tompkinsville, Clifton and Stapleton, and is the most urban of the island.
Big City Living
Once you get to NYC, there are a few things you should know to help you make you look like less of a transplant.
Getting Around Town:
- Ditch the car. In NYC you can get just about anywhere using public transportation and your own two feet. Owning a car in NYC is more of a liability than a convenience: with limited parking (running as high as $400 a month), perpetual bumper to bumper traffic, insurance, gas, and all of the potential tickets from NYC’s extreme parking laws, you’re better off selling your car to help pay the rent.
- Learn the subway system. Know your line. Know your train car. Know your schedule. The subway runs 24/7.
- The left side of the subway escalator is for those rushing, stay on the right side if you’re feeling like a casual stroll.
- Invest in a good pair of shoes for walking. You’ll be doing a lot of it.
- Carry with you a quality collapsible umbrella. It rains a lot in NYC and, not to beat it into the ground, but you’ll be doing a lot of walking.
Now that your unlimited MetroCard has been put to good use, let’s reconvene! New York’s 5 boroughs are home to over 8 million people speaking over 800 languages. And no matter the borough you choose to call home, we’re sure you’ll bring something unique and amazing to the table. Get your apartment fondue skewers.