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How to Find an Apartment in New York City

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere -- but first you need to find a place to rest your head. Heed these tips to find an apartment in New York City.


  • Step 1: Consider outer boroughs and less centrally located neighborhoods. New York City is more than Manhattan -- prices, square footage, housing quality, safety, amenities, and access to transportation vary greatly among neighborhoods. Think about what's important to you when deciding on your location.
  • Step 2: Be savvy when looking for an apartment. Some building owners illegally divide apartments, or don't provide adequate safety features or basic services. Find out about any history of problems like flooding or unreliable plumbing, bed bugs, or mice and rat infestations. Contact the city housing department if you suspect the building isn't up to code.
  • Step 3: When you find an apartment you love, act fast. Competition is fierce; the rental vacancy rate is usually around 1 percent. Bring all of your documents and tell your potential landlord that you're prepared to pay that day. In the city that never sleeps, if you snooze, you lose.
  • FACT: 2010 New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan founded the "Rent Is Too Damn High" Party, but has lived in his Brooklyn apartment rent-free since the 1980s.
  • TIP: If you aren't able meet the landlord's salary requirements you'll need a guarantor to sign the lease -- usually a parent -- who must make at least 80 times the monthly rent.
  • Step 4: Assess the costs of moving, which can include an application fee, first and last month's rent, security deposit, and a broker's fee. Be aware that landlords typically require that tenants earn at least 40 times the monthly rent.
  • TIP: Listings for junior one-bedroom or convertible one-bedroom apartments are actually studio apartments with a wall added to create a bedroom.
  • Step 5: Use several methods to find an apartment: visit apartments with a real estate broker, search online for management companies, scour the classifieds online and in local newspapers and magazines, and ask friends if they have any leads. If you're moving for work or school, check if housing services are offered. Willing to share space? Search roommate wanted listings.
  • TIP: Real estate brokers typically charge 12 to 15 percent of the annual rent for their services. To avoid this, look for "no-fee" apartments.
  • Step 6: Prepare the documents potential landlords may ask for, including proof of employment, recent tax returns, bank statements, and references and contact information for previous landlords. Most landlords will also ask you to provide your credit score or will run their own credit check, which they often charge for.
  • Step 7: Realize you'll have to sacrifice to live in America's most famous city -- apartments in New York City are generally smaller and more expensive than anywhere else in the country. It may take awhile to find the perfect place, so start looking 4 to 6 weeks before an expected move-in date.

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