Advice for hunting for mid-range 3-bedroom apartment in NYC?
June 3, 2009 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Tips for finding a 3-bedroom apartment in NYC?

A good friend and colleague is looking for a 3-br apartment in NYC (as they have 2 teenage daughters).
He's relocating for work, so he obviously has a reasonably good job, but definitely not a Wall St-type (either then or now) salary.

Everything >2 bedrooms seems to be quite high end - $4k and above - which is a bit too much. Kids' school is on upper west side.

Any suggestions for how to go about this? We are foreigners so the whole thing is a bit opaque.
posted by 8k to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where in the city will he be working?
posted by hermitosis at 9:04 AM on June 3, 2009

Stay out of Manhattan. Queens is probably an easier commute than the Upper West Side than Brooklyn is, but I only know Brooklyn and I'm new enough to the city to not know much about that.
posted by Airhen at 9:06 AM on June 3, 2009

Everything >2 bedrooms seems to be quite high end - $4k and above - which is a bit too much.

then he might have to settle for a two bedroom apartment, with his daughters sharing a bedroom. it wouldn't be the end of the world. there are deals to be had on the upper west side and in harlem. inwood has large, affordable apartments but is a long trek to anywhere below the uws.

really, he should be finding a broker who either specializes in or has access to many listings in the neighborhood he's interested in. since he's relocating for work, his company may pay the broker's fee for him; he should find out.
posted by lia at 9:06 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

That's womewhat standard for a NICE 3 bedroom. If you're looking for something less NICE, you can probably swing 2500. Additionally, if they want a deal, they're going to have to go to the boroughs, which is not necessarily convenient for getting to the upper west side. I would recommend queens for an affordable apartment. I would also recommend they contact a broker and let the broker know their price limits. The broker will be able to give them a better idea of what they can realistically get within that range.
posted by orville sash at 9:07 AM on June 3, 2009

Is Park Slope a possibility? If so, I think a 3-bedroom identical to mine is available across the way. Good location. Probably for about $2500. MeMail me if you want more info.
posted by etc. at 9:08 AM on June 3, 2009

if they want a deal, they're going to have to go to the boroughs, which is not necessarily convenient for getting to the upper west side.

There's always the Bronx...
posted by hermitosis at 9:08 AM on June 3, 2009

Stay out of Manhattan. Queens is probably an easier commute than the Upper West Side than Brooklyn is, but I only know Brooklyn and I'm new enough to the city to not know much about that.

uh, perhaps you shouldn't be giving advice if you don't know the city? look at a map—queens is not an easy commute to the uws either. the bronx can be, but then he's faced with a long commute to midtown or a super long commute if he works downtown.
posted by lia at 9:09 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a three bedroom in Queens for $1750, although I don't know that two teenagers and parents would have fit into it. I agree he's going to need to look into the outer boroughs, and probably at private homes rather than large buildings (since large buildings tend to have much smaller rooms). has lots of broker reviews.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:10 AM on June 3, 2009

Two points about renting in Manhattan:

1) Be sure that your friend understands the paperwork required. For co-ops, this is especially paramount: tax returns, letter from employer indicating that he actually has a job, copies of bank statements, credit check fee, etc. Make sure that your friend understands to ask a lot of questions, especially if he has never rented in Manhattan before.

2) Tell him to look at Extensively. Look at listings. Post this question to their discussion forum. The site is focused almost exclusively on Manhattan real estate, and the people there are extremely well informed and opinionated.

Finally, make sure that your friend realizes that renting in Manhattan is pretty much unlike renting anywhere else. Co-op boards, and increasingly condo boards as well, can and do reject people who have tons of money, for many different reasons.
posted by dfriedman at 9:16 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also: Make sure that, when you post this question to streeteasy that your emphasize that your friend is a foreigner (if I am reading your post correctly). Being a foreigner pretty much rules out renting in a co-op, though as with everything there may be exceptions.

But the people on streeteasy will be much more informed than most people here.
posted by dfriedman at 9:18 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

uh, perhaps you shouldn't be giving advice if you don't know the city?

I don't know the city as well as many others, but I'm not clueless about how to find an apartment in New York. They seemed to be Manhattan-centric based on the rent prices, so I said Queens would be easier than Brooklyn. Is that not correct?

I was answering based on the assumption that the kids' commute was a priority since that is mentioned in the question while the parent's is not.

Maybe you shouldn't be giving advice if you're just going to call out other people who are trying to provide some help.
posted by Airhen at 9:20 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Queens is not an easy commute to the UWS, sorry. Neither is Brooklyn, really, though subway lines do go directly from Brooklyn to the UWS.
posted by dfriedman at 9:26 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a somewhat huge 3br in Brooklyn for 2900$. Backyard and all! Take the L to the ACE or 123, you'd be fine.

Basically, Manhattan prices are out of control. I realize he wants to be close to the UWS for the kid's sake, but I'm not sure he'll be able to net a "real" 3br for under 4k. We looked at a lot of 3brs in Manhattan for kicks and anything that was anywhere within our price sphere (About 3500$) was a 2 bedroom with a living "room" and was abysmally tiny, especially for a family.

Neither Brooklyn nor Queens is a particularly horrible commute. I live just off the Montrose stop on the L and work on 57th st between 8th and 9th. It takes me about 20-30 minutes and one transfer to get there. I don't think that's optimal, but it hardly seems lunatic.

Point being: He's going to have a very hard time finding what he wants for that price in Manhattan. I think Brooklyn or Queens is a totally okay idea.
posted by GilloD at 9:35 AM on June 3, 2009

Look, please define "easy" before you continue the flame war. From Queens, the Q to Times Square and the 1 to the Upper West Side could be considered "easy." It depends on where you're coming from and where you're going.

Nthing using brokers.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:36 AM on June 3, 2009

2nding uptown - Harlem, quieter areas of Washington Heights, and the Bronx for ease of commute (sorta reverse commute) and availability of NICE apartments. All of these areas have direct connection to A, B, C, D, or 1/2/3 trains that pass through the Upper West Side. Commute varies from 20 - 30 minutes depending on where on the UWS and how far uptown you go. It takes me about 20 minutes to get to W 86th Street from Yankee Stadium.

search on CL with your criteria: 3BR $2000 to $3500.

In my experience, a GREAT apartment might make me think twice about a neighborhood I hadn't considered. Looking at what is available first might allow you to get a better feel for neighborhoods and niceness of apartments. Because you don't specifically list other amenities you may be looking for, I think the search will help you/the family narrow down what's very important to them.
posted by alice ayres at 9:37 AM on June 3, 2009

Also, a Broker may be your friend. There's usually a somewhat substantial fee involved (1 month's rent), which is why I stay away, but if he's got the money, it may not be so bad. If he does decide to check out Brooklyn etc., he could probably forgo the broker.
posted by GilloD at 9:40 AM on June 3, 2009

Good call on Harlem. I worked on 125th Street for a few months, there were a lot of younger families moving in. Which was somewhat of a point of contention among long time locals, but it's definitely up and coming.
posted by GilloD at 9:42 AM on June 3, 2009

Inwood. I don't know rental prices there, but given what you get for the $ when buying, I'm betting it's a very good deal. Also, very easy to access the upper west side (A train) .... I mean, it's the upSTATE west side, basically.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:52 AM on June 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for replies so far. To earlier questions - he works in 5th ave (which I believe is mid-town).

I think they were hoping on Manhattan - I get the impression that up towards $4k may be possible, but not higher. But yeah, it sounds tricky.
posted by 8k at 9:55 AM on June 3, 2009

P.S. Google map "inwood manhattan". There's another community called "Inwood" out by JFK, but that's not the one that lia and I are talking about.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:55 AM on June 3, 2009

Take a look at this.

There appear to be 3 bedrooms on the UWS for less than $4,000 per month. But again, your friend would need to figure out which of these buildings, if any, are amenable to foreigners renting. If they are all co-ops he's likely out of luck.

Does his company offer any relocation assistance? Generally, at least with large international firms, their HR departments help expatriates navigate foreign real estate markets.
posted by dfriedman at 10:02 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also try New Jersey.

Unless money is not a worry, its pretty ridiculous to try to rent in Manhattan. Its just out of control. Manhattan is only for normal people with years of rent control in the family or the insanely rich that rule the world. A bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

There are plenty of good neighborhoods (still too expensive) on the edges of the city; Queens (Astoria, LIC), Brooklyn (Ft. Greene, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, downtown), New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken), the Bronx, etc. are all relatively (20-40 minutes) short commutes to a mid-town job on 5th Avenue. If the school commute is the more important v. mid-town, then Jersey / Bronx / Queens are the best bet; Brooklyn's not impossible but its kind of far.
posted by RajahKing at 10:05 AM on June 3, 2009

A nice resource is

Listen; you can search NYC forever trying to find the right apartment at the right price. Sometimes you'll find a rent controlled gem (like me). Most of the time you won't. Search craigslist, network with other New Yorkers and just be vigilant. Most importantly be ready to move on the place you want immediately, even if it means paying for an extra month before you move in. Finding an apartment in NYC is a full time job for as long as you're willing to look.

There is no easy formula for this (besides "look in the boroughs"). If there was, everyone would be doing it. This is one of the hardest real estate markets for a renter.

You should not shy away from certain amenities as well. Having a walkup sucks. Not having a doorman means you're not going to get deliveries. Not having a view of the sky is an easy way to be depressed a lot. Be sure you consider these things when looking.
posted by teabag at 10:15 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, brokers are great, if you're willing to pay for the convenience. Cityhabitats is nice as well.
posted by teabag at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2009

Manhattan prices are absolutely not out of control, if you've been paying attention to the real estate in the past six-nine months. A deal can certainly be had on the UWS.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2009

It's expensive out there. A few places to try:

1) Roosevelt Island. There are some nice, new building out there that aren't as expensive as Manhattan. The views of Manhattan are awesome and it's a nice place to live.

2) Forest Hills in Queens. It will be a commute, but it is supposed to be nice.

Otherwise, you might have to go the 2 bedroom route. Welcome to the city.
posted by SciGuy at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2009

Look, please define "easy" before you continue the flame war. From Queens, the Q to Times Square and the 1 to the Upper West Side could be considered "easy."

Not really, since the Q doesn't go to Queens. Really, all things considered, Brooklyn and Queens are equally annoying in terms of having to get to the UWS. There are neighborhoods in both boroughs from which that commute would range from "mildly annoying" to "it would be quicker to commute from Philadelphia."

Since the UWS is where the kids' school is, it sounds like it'd be worthwhile to prioritize location based on that, as much as I love both Brooklyn and Queens. This shouldn't be too difficult, seeing as how what's just above the UWS--Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood, tend to be the very next area people mention, after Brooklyn and Queens, in terms of being able to find affordable apartments in safe neighborhoods.

The key to apartment hunting in New York is to work diligently and quickly. You just have to find listings and/or brokers, look at apartments, and snatch up the one you like most. It's a huge pain but it only lasts as long as it lasts, which can be as short as a day and as long as a month but hardly ever longer than that.

Here's what craigslist has for 3BRs on the UWS for under $4K. If they're not big/nice enough, or they balk because of the foreign thing (unlikely especially since he has a good job and the market is tough for landlords right now), then start heading North from there.
posted by lampoil at 10:39 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

When we were looking for 3BRs, we found some great deals (on purchases, not rentals) in Riverdale. That's a relatively easy commute to the UWS. Riverdale is a great community, I'd pick it over Park Slope any day. Riverdale is in the Bronx, which means you get an automatic discount on your rent. They should at least walk around that neighborhood.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:54 AM on June 3, 2009

Forest Hills is lovely, but it took me over an hour to get to my job at 64th and 3rd every day. I wouldn't recommend it for this particular situation.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:10 AM on June 3, 2009

Seconding Upper Manhattan. Inwood, and the area of Washington Heights that runs west of Ft Washington from the GW Bridge up to Fort Tryon Park (an area that brokers have tried to brand Hudson Heights). They will find large prewar apartments in their price range. Depending where they look, they will be convenient to the A or the 1 both of which run down the Upper West Side. The A is express will take you from 181 to 59th St in around 25 minutes and to 14th St in about 35 minutes. The neighborhoods are fairly eclectic with regard to ethnicity, with lots of families. And it's beautiful... Ft Tryon is home to the Cloisters, and it is one of the greenest areas of the island. The amenities are servicable... there's decent grocery options and restaurants, although not as plentiful as lower Manhattan. It's also very safe. I lived in that area for 6 years, and it blossomed during that time.
posted by kimdog at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2009

I used to live in an enormous 3BR/3BA duplex in Harlem (145th and Adam Clayton Powell) for $2K. Super close to the UWS and about 45 minutes from midtown. It's more than doable for under $4K.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:51 AM on June 3, 2009

Maybe you shouldn't be giving advice if you're just going to call out other people who are trying to provide some help.

airhen: pointing out when advice is bad sure beats giving an uninformed opinion any day! if you don't know about finding apartments in manhattan (per the question) or (as you said) anything other than brooklyn, this isn't really a post you're qualified to help answer—and there are likely hundreds of new yorkers on metafilter that are.

anyway. the uws is totally doable on this budget, if they are willing to spend time hunting deals down and use a broker. $4k means $1300+ per bedroom, and the uws is blessed with lots of beautiful buildings with apartments that size; as are harlem and inwood, and they're cheaper to boot. morningside heights is lovely too but there's a lot of rental competition around columbia. if the kids are willing to share a bedroom, they'd probably have an easier time finding a nice place in a good neighborhood for less money—maybe put them in the master and the parents in the spare so everyone has enough space.

this is a good time to rent in manhattan too, landlords are more willing to cut rents and work out deals because of the economy. your friends just really need to make a list of their priorities and sort out what they absolutely require, what they would like, and what are unacceptable, and then go spend days looking at stuff with an open mind and very good walking shoes.

p.s. people, seriously, stop suggesting new jersey—it's okay for adults to commute in for work but it would totally kill the social lives of the teenagers since they'll be going to school in manhattan. they're already foreigners and you want them to live not just out of the city but out of state too? c'mon now.
posted by lia at 1:03 PM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Reposting my comment from this thread. To recap, my money is on Washington Heights/Inwood. There are some really nice, and reasonably priced apartments to be had there.

I'd advise looking at Washington Heights as well. I live in the Heights now - in a 4 bedroom 2 bathroom apt that goes for $3000 a month. I'm also within walking distance of Fort Tryon Park a huge park with its own branch of the Met (i.e. the Cloisters) in it. There are tons of families, restaurants, etc... in the area and if you need to hop down to midtown its a 20 minute trip on the A express.

Only thing I don't know about is public schools in the area. Maybe some other people could point you in the right direction on that.

posted by jourman2 at 2:18 PM on June 3, 2009

Best answer: Nth-ing Washington Heights, where it should be possible to find a beautiful, pre-war 3 bedroom for under 3k. The commute to the Upper West Side is almost negligible (half an hour, or so), and depending on the train line, the commute to midtown should be about 45 minutes.

In addition to Street Easy and Craigslist, I'd also recommend the NY Times Real Estate listings (link for Wash. Heights 3 brs under $4k). Major brokers (such as Corcoran and Prudential Douglas Elliman) sometimes post listings on their own sites before putting them up elsewhere. And finally, there's always subletting and/or apartment swapping, which would give them time to adjust, and a chance to look for a place in person.

I know this has been said, but once they find something they like, they should jump on it. It often takes less than a week between a place being listed, and someone signing a lease. Especially at the end of the month.

Out of curiosity, where is the family moving from? One of the nice things about New York: Thanks to it being city of immigrants, its neighborhoods afford some creature comforts (and tasty pastries) from distant places.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:35 PM on June 3, 2009

I have lived in a 3BR (master with bath, 2 smaller BRs that would be perfect for kids that share a BA) for a couple years on UWS. My rent has been $3900. I just negotiated a new lease at $3500(!)
posted by jckll at 8:34 AM on June 10, 2009

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