By Julia Fiddler
Finding an apartment in New York City is stressful. The running around, the surly agents, the broker’s fees, the Craigslist ads with fake photos and crazy typos and shouting, glyph-laden titles… Oy! But if you go into the search already knowing a little about the market and a whole lot about your own needs, it won’t be so painful (and we won’t be as surly). As an agent working primarily in north Brooklyn for a brokerage that represents landlords, I have met exhausted, baggy-eyed people who are seeing their 30th apartment in three days and I have taken deposits from people on their first showing. The difference? Preparation.
Know Your Move-In Date
Do not start calling buildings in June if your lease isn’t up until September 31st. We won’t know if anything will be available and prices fluctuate according to the market, so we don’t really even know how much they’ll cost. Just look on StreetEasy. They give the rental history searchable by address.
Do call about 45 days before your lease is up. If your move-in date is flexible, it’s probably better to keep that info to yourself. When you say “The lease start is flexible” or “I’m on a month-to-month,” we hear “I’m seeking the most perfect apartment in New York, and I’d like to drag you all over town and waste your time.” That will make us cranky and unpleasant to work with.
Know Where You Want to Live
I meet a lot of people moving from the city who vaguely know they want to move to Brooklyn, but don’t really know the neighborhoods well. There are also plenty of people coming from out of town that don’t know NYC at all. To all those people, I have two words: Open Houses. Sure! You want to explore the neighborhood before you move there. Go, explore. Have some brunch. It might even be fun to check out an apartment or two while you’re there! We are very busy and it’s not really our job to show apartments, it’s our job to rent apartments. Many units on the market are occupied and we don’t like to bother the tenants unless there is serious interest. Also, if you’re not ready to make a move, why are you looking? You are wasting your own time, because that apartment that you “think you love but you don’t really know the neighborhood” is going to be gone in two days.
If you’re not sure about a neighborhood or a part of a neighborhood, but you’d like to see a specific apartment, ask a local real estate agency if there’s an open house coming up at that unit. Or just look on one of the many websites that list open houses.
And please! Look up the address or cross streets on a map before you even call about the listing. Make sure it’s where you want to be.
Know What Amenities You Want and How Much They’re Worth to You
So you know where you want to live and how much you want to pay. You probably have an innate expectation of the sort of apartment in which you see yourself living. Make sure that vision aligns with reality. Websites like Padmapper.com can give you insight into median rents across the city. If the median for a one bedroom is $2500, but you want a luxury apartment, your options are to (a) look in a different neighborhood (b) look at studios or (c) look for a walk-up. Don’t bother calling every new development in the neighborhood looking for a $2500 one bedroom with a gym, because it is not going to exist.
Make a list of what is important to you and assign a value to each attribute. How much is a dishwasher worth to you? $50? A private roof deck? $200? An elevator? If it’s a must-have, go ahead and make it $1,000. Knowing how much these things are worth to you is invaluable when comparing apartments. Would you rather have a 600SF one bedroom in a full-service building or a 1200SF loft with floor-to-ceiling city views for the same price? Oh it doesn’t have a dishwasher? Well, nevermind.
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