Apt Hunting in NYC - What to Expect This Time Around...
February 28, 2012 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Apartment hunting in the NYC area, post-recession: What do I need to know?

The last time I looked for an apartment in the city was around 2005; I moved out of the city area entirely in early 2009, but now I need to move back to the area again (Manhattan/Jersey City - unfortunately Brooklyn/Queens not possible) and I'm pretty sure the game has changed radically. Hoping to hear the current wisdom on this from the mefi crowd before I launch the search, especially in terms of prices, pet policies, deposits, etc. Bonus points for insights on using Craigslist effectively (or other sites - is that hopelessly old-fashioned nowadays?)
posted by lilboo to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Are you looking to rent or buy?

Rental inventory is tight, especially in Manhattan, and prices keep rising. Depending on what kind of property you're looking to rent in (assuming you're renting), expect the gamut: bank statements, pay stubs, letter of employment, credit check, etc., etc.

As for web sites--I'd skip Craigslist. Look at Streeteasy and NYBits.
posted by dfriedman at 9:50 PM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: Obligatory padmapper mention.
posted by lalex at 9:56 PM on February 28, 2012

Best answer: This may be not exactly the advice you're after, but..... I suggest tailoring your search to to your travel plans. For instance, I bought a huge home in NJ less than ten miles from Manhattan that happens to be right on an easy bus route to the city. Other place in the same town would be an uncomfortable walk/ride to the bus line. Same was true with my place in Brooklyn - RIGHT by the express bus stop. When I lived in Manhattan, I was (very luckily) right at a bus stop on 1st Ave. Point is, your ease of getting to where you're going is what will ultimately matter - not where you actually live (unless you're hung up on that). I'm no fan of NJ, but my commute to Manhattan is further than it was in Brooklyn, yet its easier and faster.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:19 PM on February 28, 2012

Response by poster: Looking to rent, not buy, alas...
posted by lilboo at 3:47 AM on February 29, 2012

Best answer: This is not advice on how to find a place. It is advice on how to make sure you end up in a place that isn't falling apart around you.

At the bottom of the HPD violations page is a link, entitled "PROCEED TO HPDOnline >> " if you go there and enter the address of a potential rental, it will tell you what violations the landlord has racked up in the past years.

If you do this before renting it may save you a certain amount of heartache and suffering. A long list of unfixed violations should give you pause. Most tenants will contact the super and try to get things fixed before calling 311 to report it. If there are many reports to 311 it usually means that the landlord/super doesn't take care of problems. Obviously this doesn't always hold true - sometimes there's a problem tenant - so use discernment when looking at the list.

I live in a building with 34 pages of violations. Don't do that to yourself. I wish I had known.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:26 AM on February 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

(the link only applies to NYC, not Jersey City; I forgot that you were looking both places).
posted by sciencegeek at 7:04 AM on February 29, 2012

Since you've been gone, credit checks and requirements for how much you make vs the rent (like 40x) have become more stringent in the city. Can't speak for NJ.
It used to be that you could make a borderline amount and be ok if you give a letter of employment, but now some of my friends who can totally pay rent and have stable jobs are being rejected because someone else has a better income relative to the rental cost.
posted by rmless at 10:58 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been in 5 or so apartments in NYC since 2003. I think your assumption is flawed--I don't think anything has really changed. For a while in 2009-10, the rental market was depressed and a lot of landlords were not raising rents and giving concessions to new renters (a couple months free, waiving fees, paying broker fees), but the rental market has recovered, NYC is still popular, and the brief salad days are gone.

You still need to bring your checkbook to the first viewing of any apartment advertised for less than your budget (and probably any priced over your budget as well); be prepared to put down first month, last month, deposit, and the broker's fee. In Manhattan, that means that you need to be able to cut a check for at least 4x the monthly rent.

Brokers will still neglect to mention that there is a fee (or advertise a listing as no-fee when there is a fee) and use pictures of a completely different apartment.

You still need to make 40x the monthly rent per year (or have a guarantor who makes 80x).

It's still almost always the best idea to rent directly from the landlord, particularly when the landlord also lives in the building.
posted by benbenson at 8:30 PM on February 29, 2012

Response by poster: So the competition hasn't intensified much since I last looked? That was the assumption I was making; you know, less people buying apts means even more competition for rentals?
posted by lilboo at 8:55 PM on February 29, 2012

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