Here is the scenario: You are considering taking the most exciting plunge of your life which is making the move to NYC! You soon become one of the thousands who make the same migration to NYC. And we are not talking about the outskirts of NYC here like far-out Queens or Staten Island, which the majority of New Yorkers don't even know how to get to. We are talking about the fast-paced, hustle and bustle areas, heavily populated, and most importantly the actual exciting N-Y-C that is seen on tv and the movies. Whether you are coming from out of state, out of the country, or moving cross-borough, be prepared because you are about to go through one of the shittiest, hellish, most annoying, and trying experiences that exist in this world. An experience that all New Yorkers have gone through at one point in their life: Figuring out how to find an apartment in NYC, and then actually finding an apartment in NYC, and then finally how to rent an apartment in NYC.
So how do you find an apartment in NYC nowadays?!? Here are 4 known ways on how to rent an apartment in NYC but the best way to find an apartment in NYC is through 2 main channels:
- Use a real estate broker to help you find an apartment
- Do it yourself and find it on your own
1. Use A Local NYC Real Estate Broker
There is some statistic stating there are roughly 30,000 - 50,000 NYC brokers out there all clamoring for the lucrative thousands of dollars commission. Considering broker fees commissions for rental apartments run that high, it is no wonder there are many brokers in the market. What this means for you as a renter is there is no shortage of help if you want to go that route. There are plenty of brokers who are willing to take a few grand off you.
For an NYC newcomer, finding an apartment in NYC is a very daunting task. You may want all the assistance you can get. Brokers add plenty of value when you are seeking their help. They will listen to your every problem, pet peeves, likes, dislikes, requirements, and give you plenty of recommendations. It's like having a short term shrink. There is no shame in admitting you need help.
A one time upfront charge of a few thousand dollars in the form of a commission fee will make anyone cringe. We're talking anywhere between $2,000 - $12,000 for the broker's fee for what generally amounts to a few hours of work.
If you go the broker route, there is going to be about that guaranteed sense of buyers' remorse once that money leaves your bank account. It is a normal feeling that thousands of people experience because again, the fee is in the thousands of dollars and it's only natural to question the value when you're spending such a large chunk of money. Don't worry, you are sure to be in good company as someone else is paying that broker fee as you are reading this post. Just be sure to put your broker to work. Make them earn the money.
How do you find an NYC real estate broker? They are EVERYWHERE. You will come across plenty of them even if you actively try to avoid them. The NYC rental market gods will 100% ensure that you are going to come across a broker during some point in your NYC rental apartment search.
2. DIY And Browse Through Online Resources
This is the more obvious common and practical route. In today's age with Google, smartphones, Amazon, literally EVERYTHING is researched and shopped for online. It is no different for finding an apartment in NYC. In fact, there are many specific NYC apartment finder websites out there all touting NYC rental apartments. It ranges from broker websites to aggregator listing sites. Trust me when I say there is no shortage of website apartment finders in NYC. Instead of going through the never-ending list of websites since they are all the same except for a few subtle user interface and user experience differences, we'll provide a shortlist and tidbits of what to expect when browsing those websites. It's all about tempering expectations.
The Best Websites To Find Apartments In NYC And Why
Streeteasy - apartment listings pool from a wide variation of sources ranging from brokers, big and small property managers to individual owners. It is currently looked upon as the best, if not the best website to find an apartment in NYC. The cost to list is between $180-$370 for 4 weeks (most expensive) leading to an incomplete picture of true availabilities.
Craigslist - has a wider array of affordable hidden gem apartments posted by smaller private and individual landlords not found elsewhere because the cost to list is $5 for 4 weeks.
Transparentcity - accurately represents the market rate available listings of larger NYC landlords who professionally manage buildings. Listings are taken directly from landlord websites at no cost and give renters one of the best ways to find apartments in NYC because listings are more precise.
What You Should EXPECT During Your Online Search
Expect A Broker Behind Over 95% Of The Apartment Listings You See
The biggest surprise for anyone new to the NYC rental market is just how prevalent brokers are behind every door. The entire system is intertwined where online apartment listing sites make money by charging brokers a listing fee, brokers use the listing sites as a fishing rod with the apartment listings as bait, renters click around the apartment listings, take the bait by contacting the broker. The broker charges the renter thousands of dollars in the form of a broker fee commission. The property owner or landlord fills their vacancy, the listing sites make money for the listing posting, the broker gets paid a few thousand dollars and it all comes at the expense of the renter thinking there is no other way around the broker fee.
on transparentcity.co, a marketplace for no broker fee buildings where you can rent directly from property managers. Because there is no ability for brokers to post listings, there is no way for brokers to exist on the platform. All of the buildings have been curated internally which enables the guarantee that renters will save thousands of dollars in broker fee commissions.
Expect The Listing To NOT Be Real
The NYC rental market might be the birthplace of the bait and switch tactic. The scenario is this: you browse around listing sites and do a filter on price and apartment type. Then sort the apartment listings by the lowest price so you can browse through those first. A handful of apartment listings stand out and you think you are onto the greatest steal of the century. You send whoever is behind the post an email asking if the apartment is still available and that you would love to schedule an appointment to see it. Then BOOM, the broker drops the classic line in the playbook: "actually, that apartment just got filled up but I have a few others I could show you that are slightly more money". Brokers will post pretty imagery with a low price point with the intention to obtain contact information and emails. You can't blame them. How else are they supposed to capture business? This will happen more often than it will not happen. Expect it.
Expect Pictures On The Listings To NOT Be Of the Actual Apartment
Seeing generic stock photos are going to be very common when browsing through listing sites. The main reason behind this occurrence is due to a lack of access to the apartments, laziness, or both. As a broker, listing as many apartment units as possible is their way of marketing out to the public. It would take many hours to travel to the apartment, take the best quality pictures, and then post the pictures on every listing site. It's much simpler and quicker to put up stock photos. It would be a near-impossible feat to get accurate pictures on every single apartment listing that is out there. Consumers have a great appreciation for transparency so when the person behind the listing at least puts up a message saying "images are of another similar unit", there is an appreciation for that because people hate surprises. Brokers generally won't do that on their listings.
Expect The REAL Inventory Available To Be MUCH Less Than It Seems
Truth be told, every NYC rental listing site touts themselves as having the most listings inventory. Unfortunately no site actually markets or prides itself as being the most accurate. It's the quality versus quantity question. From the renters' perspective, the quality and accuracy of the information are much more important which is a disconnect between renter and listing site. Take a look at this example: 14,000+ listings but chances are the majority of the listings are duplicates. We pulled this right off the first page where the same unit, same pictures are posted by two different brokers and both are 'exclusive'. Expect the 14,000+ number to be a farce. Listing sites don't have the time to de-duplicate these. There is too much fake news to sift through. To the renter, it sucks because it is just additional listings you have to waste time browsing through. It makes you wonder what the real accurate number is. It's crap like this that makes finding an apartment in NYC such a god awful experience.
Expect Not To Find Exactly What You Wanted
Inventory moves very quickly in NYC. Supply is low, demand is high. If you do not act quickly, you will lose out to someone else who acted on it slightly faster. Finding the perfect rental apartment in NYC at the right place and time is an urban legend. The most you expect to find is an apartment that is in your realistic price range in your desired neighborhood. Most of everything else, such amenities, proximity to your favorite places, transportation hubs are going to be a crapshoot. Be happy if you get close enough to a handful of your required items because many people don't even get that close.
3. Walk Around The Neighborhood
There is a general recommendation to walk around a specific neighborhood as a research tool. Obviously not going to work if you aren't in the area, moving from out of state or country. Walking around building to the building going door to door USED to be a good way to find apartment buildings that you can rent directly from property managers in order to bypass the broker fee. Now you have sites like transparentcity.co where it is all online which has made the walking around method obsolete.
4. Search The Newspapers For Listings
Print Ads are dead. Dead or on its last breath. Don't do it.
Be Skeptical During Your Search
Do you have extra money to spend on a broker or are you cost-conscious and want to do more of the work yourself? Regardless, make sure to keep your guard up during your apartment search because the NYC rental market is full of fishiness. In the end after you have found your apartment, you are still going to feel like you might have paid so much money for not that much. It's a common feeling that all New Yorkers go through.