apartment hunting in new york city
March 5, 2012 5:09 PM   Subscribe

what advice can you give to a renter in new york looking for their first apartment?

i am 23 years old and about to start my search for my first apartment in new york city. i grew up in the outer boroughs but have decided to move into Manhattan for work related reasons. i have a $2000 budget for a 1 bedroom and i'm hoping to live below 50th st. is that a reasonable price for a decent apartment? what websites would you recommend looking at? i am also really curious about what I should be asking when I view apartments and what to look out for.

thanks in advance!
posted by cm1088 to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Depends on your definition of decent...you will have people chiming in to say that budget is doable, but when I looked around August/Sep of this year I wasn't able to find anything I thought was decent in Manhattan for that price. Most 1-beds I saw in that range were kind of run down/sketchy and/or really small and/or inconveniently located. If you are willing to live in a studio or have a really tiny kitchen with no dishwasher then it might be doable. I would look at Murray Hill / Kips Bay / UN area, the Financial District, and the (deep) Lower East Side.

I would check out Streeteasy, really easy to filter on areas you like and price range.
posted by pravit at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2012

I recently gave advice on this.

In brief:
check to see if tenants of the building have had to make lots of complaints to NYC's housing department. It can save you some heartache, many nights with no heat or hot water, and getting to listen to the super threaten to break another tenant's legs (the last was last night).

At the bottom of the page is a link for HPD online. Get the hence, type in your potential address, and make sure that there aren't multiple pages of violations.

I can't emphasize doing this enough; it will save you from at least a subset of awful landlords.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:20 PM on March 5, 2012

You could probably get a nice studio.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:26 PM on March 5, 2012

I agree that $2000 won't get you a one-bedroom in Manhattan, especially not a decent one. You'll be able to find some studios in this range, and those should probably be your focus.

I know a lot of people on here are very anti-Craigslist, and I get that. But if you look for individual landlords advertising there, you may find some leads--and some that won't charge broker's fees.

You may also want to walk around in a few of the neighborhoods you like, stopping into bodegas and looking at bulletin boards in diners, signposts, etc., as you'll still often find listings in those places. Sometimes those are also listings that won't appear elsewhere.
posted by yellowcandy at 6:58 PM on March 5, 2012

Sometimes I'm really confused at people's standards here. What I define as decent and what lots of other MeFi NYers seem to define as decent seem worlds apart. You're 23, right? I mean, do you want brand new appliances, hardwood floors, recently remodeled, central air, right near a train line, with an elevator and a door man? Then no, $2000 won't cut it. But can sloped floors, a hissing radiator, fourth floor walk-up, railroad with a super-tiny bathroom and a 1970's olive green stove with only one functioning eye and a fridge with someone else's stickers from two decades ago, with no a/c, no closet, and cracked windows be included in your definition of decent? Because the latter is actually the kind of place I prefer (over the glass-and-steel sterile environments), and hoo-boy! could I get one of those downtown for $2000. And that would be an improvement! I mean shit, some friends of mine had a remodeled TWO bedroom on Orchard for $2200. So I think you can swing it, so long as you don't have unrealistic expectations.
posted by greta simone at 8:42 PM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

I lived in a place much like gerta simone described (sloped floor, hissing radiator, 2nd, not 4th floor walkup, no closet ... eery) for a bit under $2k in East Village until a few months ago. Prices may have gone up a bit, but there should definitely be places that you can find. East Village and Lower East Side are interesting places for a young person -- there are lots of things happening, they're loud, 'gritty' and full of life. Also trash bags laying on the streets.

If you look through an agent (and most listings will tend to be by agents), expect that the apartment may not be quite as described but the agent will have 'a few other great listings nearby.' If they are decent, that will actually be true but often enough, you'll be dragged along for the hustle and bustle of them trying to arrange appointments and get the keys. I tried to be very explicit over the phone about what I was looking for to minimize the amount of time wasted on wrong apartments but even then, it's tough because the agents are very reluctant to admit that a place isn't what you're looking for. This is for Craigslist as that's the only thing I really used.

If you're planning to look at a walkup in an old building (which, at your budget, you probably will), you should ask and think about
- Size (obviously). What's less obvious is that the proportions may be messed up -- even in a sensible apartment, the bedroom or the bathroom may be tiny.
- Closets: whether they exist, they are decent, etc.
- Condition of the floor and ceiling. Look up to see if the plaster is drooping -- that means there are or have been leaks. The floor may be very not flat.
- Windows and how much light it gets. Many apartments are caves.
- You should find out how decent the management company / super is. That probably requires asking the neighbors or at least checking the # of violation citations on the New York City website.

I recently moved to a nice doorman building in Jersey City and I'm enjoying it much more. Things are a lot cheaper here and with the Path, it takes me the same time to get to work than it did from my old apartment. I know you're trying to move closer to work, but I strongly recommend considering this option.
posted by bsdfish at 2:12 AM on March 6, 2012

God it pisses me off when people say "you can't live in Manhattan for under $x" and then go on to define unreasonable-for-a-young-person-in-Manhattan terms. I pay 1500 for a one bedroom on the Upper East Side. I have a dishwasher. I do not have a closet. I do have kitchen cabinets I use as a closet. My radiator hisses and there is no elevator. There is a lot of light and exposed brick. Manhattan is not the place to live if you want a new, shiny, sterile apartment.
posted by millipede at 7:38 AM on March 6, 2012

(And yes, 2000 is enough to live in a place like mine or nicer, even below 50th street.)
posted by millipede at 7:39 AM on March 6, 2012

Response by poster: thanks for the comments everyone! i do have realistic expectations and don't except an elevator, doorman, new appliances, etc. also, long story short, for my living situation, i would need a 1 bedroom. also, i had never really thought about living in jersey city- what can $2000 get you near exchange place?
posted by cm1088 at 9:19 AM on March 6, 2012

You could also try Williamsburg. It's only one/two stops on the L from the East Village, and you could find a one bedroom easy.
posted by greta simone at 11:59 AM on March 6, 2012

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