This is adapted from my book, Let’s Go to NYC, a comprehensive guide for those planning a move to NYC from outside the States.
Whether you’re moving from a different country or not, the apartment hunting process in NYC feels like a test on your patience and/or sanity. Thankfully, we created this handy cheat sheet to help you through it. Just remember these tips and you’ll be one step closer to finding your dream home in New York City.
Lesson 1 - Moving at the right time
True or false: Winter is the best time to move to NYC.
Answer: True. But when it comes to moving to New York, there is a time frame called the “Golden Period.” That time frame is usually November to January. While it might be one of the most exhausting times to move, winter is the best time to relocate to New York from a financial and logistical perspective.
This is true for several reasons. First, most people are not willing to move in or out during the winter. While this means fewer apartments will be on the market, it also means fewer people are looking for one, giving you less competition. And if there is one thing you can prepare yourself for in New York, it’s competition — on every level.
"Anytime someone asks you to wire money in advance or pay in cash, run fast."
Lesson 2 - Searching for apartments online
Which of these apartment listings is a scam?
$1,000 / month newly renovated loft in SoHo
Park Slope apartment for rent: Cash only deposit
Cheap Brooklyn apartment fully furnished with washer / dryer provided, free cleaning service
Beautiful Manhattan apartment: Wire application fee NOW to secure it
Answer: Trick question. These are all most likely scams. No apartment in SoHo is going for $1,000 / month, I can promise you (my book includes illustrated maps of NYC featuring average rent costs for each neighborhood), and it’s unlikely any affordable apartment will provide a washer / dryer, much less a cleaning service. Anytime someone asks you to wire money in advance or pay in cash, run fast.
Especially when searching somewhere like Craigslist, you should be wary of scams and ALWAYS make sure you visit the apartment in person before signing the lease. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Lesson 3 - Preparing for your landlord appointment
Which items should you bring with you to your landlord appointment? Circle all that apply.
a. Tax returns from at least the last one or two years
b. Pay stubs from at least the last 2-3 months
c. Letter from your employer stating your annual income
d. A copy of your enrollment letter and course schedule (if you’re a student)
e. A detailed list of every person who has ever harmed you and how you plan to kill them
Answer: All except e. apply.
When searching for an apartment in NYC, preparation is key. When you show up to an appointment, you’re usually not the only one there. Lots of people will be viewing that same apartment and decisions are often made within minutes. Landlords in New York have high expectations, especially from people they don’t know. Be prepared and be ready to act fast.
Bonus points - Meeting your landlord & inspecting the apartment
Repeat this phrase three times:
“No landlord, I cannot meet you at dusk in an alley to discuss the lease.”
Handwrite this phrase in the lines provided:
“What happens if I flush the toilet more than 2 times a day?”
Memorize this phrase:
“Where is that smell coming from?”
These are just a few conversations you might find yourself having while meeting a landlord and inspecting and NYC apartment. The Let’s Go to NYC ebook includes a full checklist for inspecting your apartment, as well as landlord requirements, advice on avoiding scams and of course tips on where and how to find your dream apartment.
Nice work! You just completed your first course in New York apartment hunting. Pick up the Let’s Go to NYC ebook to learn lots more. And be sure to catch up on our article series about moving to New York right here.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the founder of DESK, nice to meet you!