Problems I never thought I'd have: finding lodging in NYC for my fiance for several months / a year
February 19, 2012 12:58 AM   Subscribe

I can't believe I'm trying to find an apartment in NYC, especially on such short notice, but I guess I am. Is there some kind of apartment-finding service anyone recommends? Am already looking at Airbnb - good? Probably need something cheap, tiny, convenient for a few months (one person working in Times Square), then something for two people and possibly a cat for the remainder of the year.

My awesome dude just got a year-long contract in NYC, based right on Times Square! It starts before March does. I'd love to stay with him there starting maybe in April or June, then we both plan to return home to NC next year.

He's got a housing "allowance" of $1250/month. I think we can spend a little more if we want, both for the sheer short-term adventure of it all and for the savings if/when I stay with him.

I think we're looking at two terms: part A (2-3 months or more), him in a tiny place NYC alone (& traveling some weeks); and part B (rest of year), both of us in NYC possibly with some cats. It would be wonderful if he could just stay in the same place for the entire year, but I don't think we'll find a perfect place before he has to start his residency, around Feb. 26.

He'll arrive in NYC toward the end of February, work a few days, then go to Bangkok for a week starting March 1, then return to NYC and (we dearly hope) go back to his familiar lodgings to prepare for returning to work at the NYC office until the next trip.

He's extremely considerate; most people think he'd be an ideal roommate/tenant, and they're right. He doesn't cook stinky things, hardly makes any noise, is cleaner than anyone -- and he's super nice. Plus, he'll be out of the country a lot.

I signed up for Airbnb just now, and it looks sort of promising. I've also started asking friends for personal references.

We might also adopt some cats; one of our foster cats is *in love* with him, and I'd bring her and her sister with me.

Searched AskMe, found this question, plus another that made me think I should seek places in and around Park Slope as well as on Manhattan. A colleague found a place in Astoria that also looks promising.

I'd like some place with good, fresh, vegetarian/vegan friendly food easily available, walkable/bikeable, ideally cat-OK.

He'd like some place with a 30-minute or less transit commute to Times Square.

Answers I'd love:

- Yes! Airbnb is the best way! ..or Airbnb is too risky! ..or Airbnb is great if you do X thing!

- If you commit to one place for a year, you will/won't do better than if you try to break it into two terms of indeterminate length.

- The person who can get you just the right place is Z. She charges a flat rate of $X and will absolutely take care of you, plus she has backups in case something falls through and you can call if there's a problem. She also knows all the neighborhoods and can choose good places for transit times and safety.

- Hey - my awesome dependable friend Y has a place; let me put you in touch!

- Pets? Forget it!

- Cats that do tricks? I'm sure you'll find a pet-friendly place in Park Slope with no problem!

- New Jersey is closer/better/too far/more food-friendly.

- You'll be happier staying in Chapel Hill.


- I did something like this - I wish I'd known X.

- Don't try to live with two people and/or a cat in an efficiency!
posted by amtho to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have never heard of Airbnb and I've been in NYC for years. Guessing it's some kind of corporate or temporary housing situation? Honestly your best bet is Craigslist, especially for a short-term sublet. It can be harder to get something to rent if you aren't actually there, or can't come up for a day to hunt and sign for a place.

And just so you are searching for the right things on Craigslist, they call them studios in nyc, not efficiencies. And they are small. And I think it would suck to share a one-room space with another person and three cats. But plenty of couples live in studios. Don't know how many of them have multiple pets.

In my experience, most areas that are "30 mins or less from Times Square" are fairly veg & bike/walk friendly. Park Slope and Astoria are nice. If you live in Queens or Jersey, don't plan on your city friends wanting to come over...people are not jazzed about traveling there. And everyone has different feelings about safety. If you are asking if neighborhoods are gentrified, you can find that information online easily. It will be hard (if not impossible) to find a studio for 1250 in Park Slope proper. And not super easy in Astoria either. Harlem, Washington Heights, Morningside, Crown Heights, Ditmas Park, Sunset Park, Park Slope South, Prospect Lefferts Garden, Bushwick, Greenpoint, would be more realistic with that budget. If he shares as a roommate, his options will expand.

And Park Slope is not 30 minutes from Times Square via Subway. More like 45-1hr, depending on where exactly you are. For transit times, check

As for "the person who can get you just the right place is..." You really need to do a lot of legwork, real estate people in NYC do not care about you like they do other places--they don't have to! They often have good potential tenants banging down their doors. I'm sure there are great and nice brokers & agents, but really, dont expect to find them catering to your every need.

And you've given too little context for us to gauge if you would "be happier" somewhere else...

Good luck!
posted by manicure12 at 1:53 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is definitely a seller's market there. If you find a place with a lease using an agent, you will have to pay him a lot of money (say 10-15% of the annual rent) as commission. That's right. The renter pays the commission. That's how it is.

Seconding the Craigslist idea for the first session. Then take it from there.

The fewer cats the better.
posted by megatherium at 5:06 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had quite a bit of experience finding short-term places in NYC, though I'm in a long-term one now. It's my opinion that unless money is no object and you just want the convenience of someone else doing your search, NYC apartment brokers/agents are almost never worth the bother or the cost. Yes, it's a busy market and they don't care about you etc, but thankfully you don't really have to care about them either.

I think you want to be looking for sublets, via Airbnb but mainly via Craigslist, doing your searches on "sublet / temporary" (and perhaps "vacation rentals") restricted to "apts by owner" to screen out the endless stream of all-caps bullshit from brokers. Good luck! New Yorkers enjoy making pessimistic pronouncements about how tough the process is, so remember to adjust by about 30% any predictions of doom and terror that may get posted in this thread.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:45 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you are unlikely to find a permanent place for March 1. Just because you won't know where you want to live: it's better to have him there, boots on the ground, checking stuff out for a full-time place.

AirBNB is inflated pricing due to short term stays. You MIGHT find something? But that's irregular. Most of the pricing is done for weekly stays.

Consider: Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, maybe Prospect Heights (but only subway-adjacent). Long Island City, Upper West Side, Yorkville, Harlem. Astoria, absolutely.

The best tool actually is called Street Easy; the main page is sales but they have a robust rentals section too. They show you by price, by neighborhood, and they also tell you how long things have been on the market, etc. The advance search is VERY useful.

Craigslist--searching by "by owner" and "no fee"--is okay.

Brokers are brutal and dumb, unless you get a great referral.

Don't get ripped off. If you feel like you are getting ripped off, you are getting ripped off.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:46 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Airbnb works well for short term, as does VRBO. Craigslist is really hit or miss, and you'll want to check out any apartment in person before handing any money over.

I like Streeteasy for apartment hunting. You may be able to find a no fee place, but with historically low vacancy rates right now, you're probably looking at a 10-15% broker fee.

Don't live in/near Times Square. Just don't. For a 30 minute commute you could go as far up as the Washington Heights area, or out to Williamsburg/Brooklyn Heights/LIC/Astoria. Long Island City might work well for you (walkable, cafes, etc, usually pet friendly, 7 train is just a few stops to Times Square...when it's running).
posted by melissasaurus at 6:47 AM on February 19, 2012

Why not just a sublet for a while? There are so many sublets on craigslist, and you can try out a neighborhood in a nicely furnished apartment until you have more of an idea of where you want to live (and before committing to a lease.)
posted by caoimhe at 6:52 AM on February 19, 2012

Astoria. Astoria. Astoria. His commute will be glorious and it's cheaper than Park Slope.

Get one apartment, a nice studio or one-bedroom, for the whole time. Craigslist. He might need to stay in an AirBNB for a week or two to set it up, though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:59 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might want to sign up for the listings project, which is a weekly email list with various housing and sublet opportunities. It's aimed at artists and is more friendly than Craigslist. It's also how I found my first sublet in NYC.

Also, Roomorama is like airbnb -- worth a shot.
posted by feets at 7:11 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pal of mine has a place in his building, just redone, avail March 1. Sent him your info.
posted by timsteil at 7:14 AM on February 19, 2012

melissasaurus: Probably he won't live near Times Square, but we're talking to someone with an Airbnb room in a high-rise that's a 7-minute walk with possibly-OK cost (working out the details, may not come through). Is it just too soul-destroying to be in that environment? It would be convenient.
posted by amtho at 4:35 PM on February 19, 2012

It's not that bad; he might even like it, especially if he's not stuck there. A 7 minute walk could be a lot of neighborhoods, too. The nice thing about the 42 st area (including Times Square) is that the transit is great, so if he hates it he's a quick subway right out of there!
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:00 PM on February 19, 2012

Get one apartment, a nice studio or one-bedroom, for the whole time. Craigslist. He might need to stay in an AirBNB for a week or two to set it up, though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:59 AM on February 19 [+] [!]

Good advice, because there really isn't any such thing as a six-month or month-to-month lease in New York. The only realistic alternative to signing a year lease is stitching together a series of sublets. (Actually, stitching together sublets might be a worthwhile adventure -- you'll have glamorous experiences/war stories from three or four neighborhoods instead of just one.)
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 5:45 PM on February 20, 2012

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