I FOUND A NEW APARTMENT! I’m a bit excited because I’m moving from a three-person share house where I was subletting, and I’m movin’-on-up to my very own place. There are lots of things that you’ll need to sort out if you are planning a move, so I thought I’d keep a list while I was doing it myself. This will be updated in separate posts over the next few weeks and all of the posts can be found here!

The first thing to know is that looking for an apartment is going to take you some time. Normally, the window is around 30-45 days but in many cases (like mine) it can take much longer to actually find the place you want and get through the process. Once you’ve picked a place, if everything goes well, the process is normally about 10 days from offer to completion of contract, which gives everyone enough time to do what they need to. Sadly, you generally won’t be able to find apartments more than about a month out because they just don’t have that much notice, but you can always keep an eye out!

Step 1: Picking a few locations

Working out where you want to live is very important. Each borough and neighborhood in New York City has a completely different feel and price so you’re going to want to look around and become familiar with areas before committing to a rental.

For a REALLY brief introduction to the boroughs of New York (in order of what I think is most popular to least popular for expats): Manhattan is the island in the middle and the one you’ve probably heard most about. It’s hectic, it’s tall, and it holds most of the landmarks you think of when you think about NYC. Rent is the most expensive, and the size of your apartment is going to be much smaller. Next, there’s Brooklyn, just over to the East. Brooklyn is now known for its slightly more chilled out vibe, its culture, and its sprawling size. Apartments are more reasonable the further you get out but still expensive close to Manhattan. Queens, right above Brooklyn, is the most ethnically diverse county in all of the US, there’s always a lot going on, and it’s furiously becoming more popular (read: gentrified). Due to this, luxury apartments are popping up all over the place and it’s becoming very popular and prices are climbing. Above Queens and Manhattan is The Bronx, which has long been thought of as the slightly more rough-and-tumble of the boroughs but is slowly shedding that reputation. I don’t know many people who move from overseas to the Bronx. Finally, right down South, past the Statue of Liberty, you float right into Staten Island. It’s greener and sprawling but with much less going on. Again, I don’t know too much about Staten Island because I just don’t know many people who move there.

Inside of each of the boroughs are neighborhoods. You may have heard of some of the popular ones like Midtown, NoLiTa (NOrth of Little ITAly), Williamsburg, and FiDi (FInancial District). Each neighborhood has its own look, feel, and budget again, but transitioning between them is as easy as crossing one street. You’ll become selective about which neighborhoods you like (Lower East Side is grungy, hip, and fun) and others that you don’t venture to unless you have to (Midtown is full of tourists and you’re a local now). Prices for apartments vary dramatically depending on where you choose, so be aware of what neighborhood is being advertised when you’re looking and ask lots of questions. https://www.airbnb.com/locations/new-york/neighborhoodsAirBnB has a nice summary of each neighborhood for you!

You’re going to want to pick two or three neighborhoods that you like and that you’d be happy to live in. This will give you a good scope to start searching.

You can start looking at websites like:

  • Craigslist (e.g. New York Sublets) – Have your whits about you, this is going to be a wild ride;
  • Roomi – A really good new startup that does proper background checks
  • SpareRoom
  • StreetEasy – If you’re looking for a whole apartment
  • Zillow – Similar to StreetEasy
  • Listings Project – Great for creatives looking to sublet
  • Nooklyn – “A wonderful service for those new to the city” – Andrea K;

Step 2: To broker, or not to broker

Finding an apartment is a pain in the arse ass. Take it from me, someone who spent a LONG time trying to find something I liked and for a price I wanted to pay. You’re going to see dirty washing, tiny apartments, dirty walls, exposed wires, and more when you start to really delve in. While this is an adventure at the beginning, after a few different examples you’re going to start to become quite burnt out. So, enter the “broker”.

Just like everything else, you’re going to hear mixed reviews of brokers and the whole process. Brokers can be expensive, charging normally around 15% of yearly rent or even more. So yes, this is expensive. Yes, you can do all of this on your own without any help. Yes, if you have the time and the willpower, I recommend doing it alone, but for me, I couldn’t do it any longer.

You will find some “no fee” apartments which means that there will be no fee attached to you (and instead the seller will be responsible for the fees) but keep an eye out for “CYOF (collect your own fee)” apartments which will include a fee right at the end.

That being said though if you find a good broker you can save yourself some time and hassle. I found a good one (and I’m not getting anything for writing this but I like to highlight good people who I’ve met):

Jeff Hurwitz TripleMintJeff Hurwitz from TripleMint was awesome. I’d tried two brokers prior to Jeff and both had shown me nothing and really not helped me even slightly. Within one week of contacting TripleMint, Jeff had already found me four apartments to look at (all exactly what I’d asked for) and within two weeks, I had a signed agreement. From his bio:

Jeff is a dedicated and energetic Real Estate expert specializing in Brooklyn and Manhattan. His experience as an art consultant for various New York fine art galleries has allowed him to bring the same top-notch service and expertise into the real estate market.

So, obviously get in touch with Jeff if you’d like (you could even mention that you found him here – just to inflate my ego) and he might make the process a little easier.

In upcoming days and weeks, I’m going to write about things like: Questions to ask when you’re looking at new apartments, how to make an offer on an apartment, what documents you require, what a guarantor is, how to interpret the contract, some surprises you need to know about, how to forward your mail if you’re moving, who to notify legally of your change of address, what to do before you move in, what to do before you move out, how to change your address at the DMV, how to set up power to your new apartment, how to set up internet to your new apartment, where to look for furniture deals, finding a good mover, and finding a roommate.

Is there anything more that you would like to know? Let me know and I’d be happy to write!

About the Author

America Josh

I had a fantastic life in Adelaide and in Australia but thought in late 2015 that it was time to do something new. I handed over control of my company, sold my house, car, and even gave away my cat (“Aslan”) to start on my journey to New York.

I arrived in New York on January 10, 2017, from Adelaide, South Australia and in March 2017, I started America Josh to help make the transition to the US from wherever you’re from just a little bit easier.

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