There Are A Handful Of Methods For Figuring Out How To Find An Apartment In NYC But 2 Are Now Most Popular  

Are you considering taking the most exciting plunge of your life and move to NYC? If so, you are one of the few hundred thousands of people that migrate into NYC every year.  Whether you are coming from out of state, out of country, or moving cross borough, you are going to go through one of the most trying experiences that exists in this world that all New Yorkers have experienced at one point in their life:  figuring out how to find an apartment in NYC.  

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 some 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 a 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 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 brokers 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 a 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.  Search And Browse Through Online Resources

This is the more obvious common and practical route.  In todays age with Google, smart phones, Amazon, literally EVERYTHING is researched and shopped for online.  It is no different for finding an apartment in NYC.  In fact, you are going to come across a multitude of online websites all touting NYC rental apartments.  It ranges from broker websites to aggregator listing sites.  Trust me when I say there is no shortage of them.  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 tidbits of what to expect when browsing those sites.  It's all about tempering expectations.        

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, 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 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 themselves as being the most accurate.  It's the quality versus quantity question.  From the renters perspective, the quality and accuracy of the information is 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.  Makes you wonder what the real accurate number is.  


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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 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 where it is all online which has made the walking around method obsolete.    

4. Search The Newspapers For Listings

Print is 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.