There is no place like New York — it promises mystery, beauty, surprises, possibilities, glamour, and endless diversions. Yet, the city is also downright unattractive; it is dirty and smelly and, at times, rude. New York is not a city that will hand you anything easy. American writer, E.B. White, writes in his book Here is New York (1949):
“… the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience — if they did they would live elsewhere.”
I cannot help but chuckle. Indeed, finding an apartment in New York is frustrating and ridiculous, what do you mean the there is a broker fee? 15% of my annual rent? That’s more than one month’s rent!
Being new to the city looking for an apartment is hard and frightening, but it can be done. Here are some tips to getting your started on becoming a true New Yorker!
1. List your criteria in order of importance, for example, my list looks like this: price, location, proximity to public transportation, no pets, no smoking, safe/quiet neighborhood.
2. Research. Look up apartments in areas that you would like to rent so you could have a sense of how much your room should cost.
3. Walk around, take your time looking for your apartment. Yes, you need a place to stay, but you also need to find a place you are comfortable with. Check out the neighborhood, e.g. see what it is like at night.
4. Check to see if everything works — hot water, gas, etc.
5. Be decisive. In New York, demand is higher than supply. Hence, if you like a place, sign quickly.
note: Broker fee or no broker fee, that is the question. Brokers are nice if you don’t have time. Nonetheless, it is not cheap. Brokers usually take 15% commission (some “cheaper” ones take 10% or just first-month-rent). Do the math. A studio in East Village costs around $1800/month, and you pay $21,600/year. Your broker would take a cut of $3,240 (15%) or $2,160 (10%) or $1,800 (flat fee).
Personally, I find the concept of paying broker fee ridiculous and reject it on a matter of principle. Consider using resources like renthop.com, easyroommates.com, facebook, etc.
The best? The good old craigslist.com. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.