Finding an Apartment in NYC without a broker?
June 23, 2014 11:01 AM   Subscribe

I am moving to NYC for work (yay!) and need to find an apartment. My start date in my new position is between 8/15 and 9/1, depending on when I can get into a place. Because I'm moving from a low-income area to a high-income one, my salary is basically doubling, which is fantastic, but not until 8/1. I'm trying to figure out a way to get around paying broker fees because my cash flow is not going to be great until the raise kicks in.

I feel a little lost on the whole apartment-hunting process, but I'm familiar enough with the city that I know where I want to live (general neighborhoods at least). I have a good idea of what I want (a studio with a clean-ish bathroom and as much of a kitchen as I can get), and how much I can pay (up to $1875/month).

I'll also be in the city once a week up until the move, so I have some time to search a bit.

Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas for how I can make this search as inexpensive as possible? I'm so excited about living in the city, but this part of the process is freaking me out.
posted by elvissa to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Congrats on the new position! When I moved, I've used craigslist and trulia app. Trulia has been fantastic and at times more useful than craigslist. Also the broker fee is sometimes paid through the landlord and not by the prospective tenant, so I would ask about that when inquiring about apartments.
posted by mooselini at 11:09 AM on June 23, 2014

With that budget this isn't really that problematic unless we're talking you want to live in a trendy Manhattan neighborhood. You're not even limited to studios, you could get a one bedroom apartment in Washington Heights/Inwood or in Brooklyn or Queens.
posted by Jahaza at 11:10 AM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

NY Bits is a database of no-fee apartments. It's got a pretty nice search engine.

You will not find an apartment more than 1 month ahead of time. So if you're looking for an 8/1 move, start looking 7/1.
posted by teabag at 11:13 AM on June 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

First resource I'd mention is the no-fee apartments search on Craigslist.

Another site I like is StreetEasy. Uncheck the option "Broker, fee", expand to enter advanced options (like sq. feet, neighborhood, even commute time, etc.) and search away.

Welcome to NYC!
posted by xiaolongbao at 11:13 AM on June 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Congratulations and welcome to NY! The only thing I will say is that Craigslist has become a bit of a troublesome site. There are predatory folks looking to take advantage of people on there and I wouldn't suggest it. Unless you know someone who may be renting out their apt. in a two family or multi family dwelling, the best thing to do is to go to a broker. I can see if I can help you get some numbers together from supers if you let me know what neighborhood you are looking in. That may help you avoid fees because you will deal with the building directly. Otherwise, pay the fee (it's negotiable) because then you know that everything is on the up and up.
posted by Yellow at 11:30 AM on June 23, 2014

Maybe you could live in a sublet temporarily or in a place on Airbnb, and then, when you have more cash saved up, you could get a broker. (With more time in the city, you'd also have a better idea of where you'd like to live permanently, and you could also try to find something yourself via Padmapper etc).
posted by three_red_balloons at 11:33 AM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I find craigslist useless for this kind of thing. Go to streeteasy, nybits, padmapper, etc. and filter for apartments in your price range. Then filter for the neighborhoods you're interested in. Look at smaller apartment buildings/private houses because those are the ones less likely to be represented by brokers. Start calling the numbers shown on the listings, schedule an appointment if you're interested, and bring all the paper work requested.
posted by dfriedman at 11:34 AM on June 23, 2014

Following three_red_balloons advice, getting a short term sublet is generally the best way to find a permanent place that you won't regret. It's much easier to find a place once you are here. Look for a 1-2 month sublet, put your stuff in storage if you have to, and then you'll have a lot more breathing room to find the right place.
posted by kimdog at 11:41 AM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I too was going to suggest subletting. Moving to NYC is stressful enough without worrying about having to sign a 12 month lease before you've really had a chance to get your bearings. I know a sublet isn't ideal but it might be a good option for you.
posted by kat518 at 11:42 AM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

How to Rent an Apartment from BrickUnderground
posted by lalochezia at 11:51 AM on June 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Streeteasy and Padmapper are what I use when I help friends find apartments. Craigslist works too, but I would cross-reference them with other sites since it tends to have the most scams.

When you are in town prior to the move, just make looking for apartments your primary focus. Also, check with any friends/family you may have in the area - they may know people who are moving or may know of vacancies in their building. For example, I have a friend who has to move away from NYC for a job and he told all his friends so that they can put the word out. He has a couple of people interested already just through word of mouth.
posted by bedhead at 11:53 AM on June 23, 2014

You can get an idea if some place looks nice on paper, but is a real nightmare by going to
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:37 PM on June 23, 2014

I found my last three apartments, no fee, on craigslist. Make sure you ignore anything that looks too good to be true. Put in a minimum amount of rent. look for places with pictures, with clear descriptions, NOT IN ALL CAPS!!!!!
Be prepared to apply the day you see the apartment.
If you have time, walk around the neighborhood in the morning and talk to the supers and the guys who sweep/take out trash from buildings and ask them about vacancies.
What neighborhoods are you interested in and where are you moving from?
posted by the twistinside at 7:06 PM on June 23, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Right now I'm finding the most apartments that fit what I'm looking for on the Upper East Side. I'll be working on 49th and 5th, so that seems perfect. I also have a great aunt in that lives on 86th and Lexington, and hopefully I'll be able to check in on her pretty regularly.

One follow up question - what do I need to be ready to apply?
posted by elvissa at 6:03 AM on June 24, 2014

+1 for Streeteasy; I've found multiple apartments there at this point.

As far as applying, the only things that I needed that the broker didn't do for me were proof of employment and a cashier's check for first/last/security. Everything else (credit report, etc) they'll probably take care of.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:15 AM on June 24, 2014

Thanks everyone! Right now I'm finding the most apartments that fit what I'm looking for on the Upper East Side. I'll be working on 49th and 5th, so that seems perfect. I also have a great aunt in that lives on 86th and Lexington, and hopefully I'll be able to check in on her pretty regularly.

Bear in mind that the UWS is a neighborhood with a lot of old rich people. That might be totally fine with you, but if you expect to live somewhere 'fun' I'd look elsewhere...
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:48 AM on June 24, 2014

I found my no-fee apartment on Craigslist. I showed up with a copy of my credit report, a bank statement, a letter from employer showing salary, and my checkbook.
posted by quixotictic at 11:56 AM on June 24, 2014

In the cases where I wasn't paying a broker's fee, there was still a $50 or $ 75 application fee [cash only]. They gave me a receipt. Id, pay stubs, bank statement, letter from your job.
posted by the twistinside at 9:02 PM on June 24, 2014

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