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Moving to New York? Here are 3 tips for landing the perfect apartment

  • 4-min read

Moving to New York City will be simultaneously the sexiest and unsexiest time of your life. Here's how to land the perfect apartment.

Man moving to New York walking saying, "Right here is my favorite New York pizza joint"
NBC / Giphy

Moving to New York City will be simultaneously the sexiest and unsexiest time of your life. Sure, the city has its perks, from the artisanal coffee shops in Soho to the decadent brunches in Brooklyn to the quintessential afternoon picnics in Central Park with Insta-worthy views. But the never-slumbering city comes at a price (and a peculiar smell from the sidewalk in the summers). 

The chances of finding a rent-controlled apartment like Carrie Bradshaw’s are as slim as getting into Soho House under the name Anabelle Brownstein. And while you might’ve been able to catch a deal on an apartment while everyone was baking bread with their parents in the suburbs, the cost of living in New York has rebounded since the depths of the pandemic. 

If you don’t play your cards right, you could live in a rundown apartment the size of a shoebox that costs $3,000, the average rent in NYC according to Apartment List. But don’t lose hope.

How apartment hunting in New York is unique

Hunting for New York City apartments is similar to Black Friday shopping: You’re not the only one looking for a deal. Although 9.3% of Americans moved out of the city in 2020, New York enthusiasts are moving back by the thousands after many have moved out of popular neighborhoods like the east village

The New York housing market—for renters or homebuyers—is fiercer than Beyoncé herself. New Yorkers also take pride in having a hustle no one can compete with. You have to be on your grind with your checkbook ready, or someone else will take your dream apartment. 

3 tips for landing your perfect New York apartment

Research the best neighborhoods to live in

You can have the most perfectly appointed apartment, but it’ll get old fast if your neighborhood isn’t ideal. After living in the city for three years, my favorite neighborhoods in NYC are:

  • Lower East Side, Manhattan
  • Murray Hill, Manhattan
  • Upper East Side, Manhattan
  • Astoria, Queens
  • Williamsburg, Brooklyn
  • Bushwick, Brooklyn 

It’s essential to consider the borough and the neighborhood and how they can add to your life.

Consider things like safety, train lines, banks, grocery stores, and proximity to work and friends. Try making a list of things that are a priority for you in a neighborhood: Maybe you have a dog, and living close to a park is a priority.

Celeste Polanco

StreetEasy is your friend

Sites like StreetEasy make apartment hunting much easier. The site lists thousands of apartments in NYC for rent with clear photos of your future shoebox home. You can adjust your search by price, amenities, bedrooms, neighborhood, etc. Hot tip: Sites like these help you avoid a broker’s fee, which can run you as much as 15% of your annual rent

Apartment viewing is similar to dating; you want to keep your options open. I wouldn’t suggest settling on the first apartment you view unless it’s your version of micro-Versailles and it’s within budget. Take the time to look at several apartments until you find the one that speaks to your needs, and never be afraid to ask questions. You have to live here for at least a year, so you want to make sure it’s the right pad.

Getting the approval

To get approved for an apartment in NYC, you and any roommates generally need to earn at least 40 times your monthly rent annually. If you can’t swing it, you can add a guarantor, such as a parent (or sugar daddy). To get approved, you’ll need to provide a photo ID, two years of tax returns, two recent bank statements, and pay stubs. A credit check will also be run by your landlord or management company. 

If you work a traditional 9 to 5 and have had a steady income for a few years, getting approval shouldn’t take much effort. However, if you’re a freelancer, you may have to take a few extra steps. You’ll also need to provide a history of your largest contracts or invoices. It also helps to get a letter from the manager or agency representing you. 

Once everything is in order, it should take no more than a week to hear back from the landlord. Then, you can move and bring your Pinterest apartment inspo to life.

Make moving easier, not harder.

Moving day in NYC can look different for everyone. I’ve helped with moves on the subway—a great way to get awkward stares—in a U-Haul, and walking down the street. But once you’re settled in, enjoy the vibrancy of the city, the culture, the food, and the magic of the greatest city on Earth. Trust me: You’ll remember this journey for a lifetime.

Starting a new chapter of your life?

We can help. Read more of Smart MNE’s New You Guide, a collection of tips and explainers to start your new job, internship, or whatever on the right foot.