Brooklyn Apartment Hunting
March 27, 2017 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I've recently accepted a job in Brooklyn. I'll have about $1,900 to spend on rent per month (less would be wonderful, obviously). I'm willing to live with a roomie, but would be open to a studio if that was at all possible in that price range (research suggests it's not). What are good options for places to look, given some criteria below the jump?

My priority list would be:

1.) Closeness to a train line. I will not have a car in the city, but will need to travel to Manhattan on a semi-regular basis. I'm not basing it on much, but under an hour to get to Manhattan would be ideal.

2.) A kitchen. I'm not sure how much I'll cook, but I really do want a full kitchen (stove, full sized fridge, sink, dishwasher etc.).

3.) Neighborhood. Safety and things to do are sort of equally rated on my list. It would be nice to have a decent grocery store nearby.

I don't particularly care about space, since I don't have a lot of stuff, but I'd prefer a maximum of 3 roommates, if possible.

I've also heard that NYC apartment shopping is notoriously draining and difficult. If you have any tips to pass along, I'd gladly take them. I will start in September, and would like to be moved in last week of August.
posted by codacorolla to Work & Money (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
what part of manhattan will you need to get to semi-regularly? where (in Brooklyn) will you be working the rest of the time? These details matter quite a bit - many parts of Brooklyn are relatively less accessible to each other than they are to certain parts of manhattan. If by BK you mean Greenpoint/Williamsburg/Bushwick you will get different answers than if you mean gowanus/park slope/carrol gardens etc.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

Seconding the request for more info. But I will say that citibike is a game changer. Do you intend to use it and/or your own bike?
posted by mahorn at 12:37 PM on March 27, 2017

Also, note that the L train will be shutting down for over a year starting in 2019, so take that into account if this is expected to be a long term move. That'll impact big chunks of Brooklyn to Manhattan routes.
posted by tau_ceti at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

From my experience, dishwashers are a rarity in NYC apartments.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:39 PM on March 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

I know nothing about this, but I have friends who lived in the Ditmas Park area near Cortelyou Road, and they seemed to like it fine. The Flatbush Co-op met their grocery needs and Craigslist (which, no idea how reliable pricing is for that in NYC) indicates you could find something there inside your budget. 30 minutes from Midtown Manhattan on the Q train.
posted by cnc at 12:46 PM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Brooklyn for over 20 years and had to move under duress a couple of years ago. Here's what I wish I had done.

You didn't say where you were moving from… if you could visit Brooklyn and check out neighborhoods for yourself, and then hire a broker from that neighborhood, that would be ideal. Use StreetEasy or something like that to price out neighborhoods you can afford, but don't actually use it to apply for apartments. Go to the neighborhood and hire a broker yourself — you're going to have to pay the broker fee either way.

Once you have the address of a place, look it up in the NYC Building Information Search to look at all the complaints and permits issued for the building. Again, I wish I had done that before my move. Google the name of the building's owner and/or the management company's name.

(On preview: I currently live in Ditmas Park and hate it, so YMMV. This just underlines how important it is to do your own visit.)
posted by Ampersand692 at 12:50 PM on March 27, 2017 [7 favorites]

2 helpful links:
WNYC transit Time transit map to figure out what neighborhoods to target that will be close in terms of commute time to your workplace to figure out how responsive your future landlord might be (once you have it narrowed down to a couple buildings)

A dishwasher is probably possible if you are in a luxury-type building (a $3800 2-BR would _probably_ fit in that category? If you and your potential roommate were both willing to pay $1900?) but is definitely not the norm for NYC.

Consider also your laundry situation; in-apt laundry > in-building laundry > hauling your stuff to a laundromat every other weekend, unless you plan in advance to just have a laundry service deal with it.

Without a car it's important to know where the closest supermarket and laundromat are, I would want both within a 10-minute walk (unless you plan to rely on delivery services for both).
posted by matcha action at 12:59 PM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've had dishwashers before in shared apartments that were under 1K/room, so it's not totally impossible, but it's not super common either.

There are definitely studios in that price range, just not in the fancier parts of Brooklyn. You could live in a much nicer area with roommates for that budget or less.

Agreed that it really matters what part of Manhattan you're gonna be travelling to - I live in Brooklyn and it takes me 30 minutes to get to my job downtown and 90 minutes to visit friends uptown.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:06 PM on March 27, 2017

Ah, sorry for that lack of details. The ink's still fresh on the contract, so I'm a little unclear myself. The likely locations in both Manhattan and Brooklyn will be:

Roughly between Brooklyn Heights and Fort Green in Brooklyn and,
Near Washington Square Park in Manhattan.

RE: Other stuff,

Dishwasher - no problem. Definitely not something I'd pay a significant amount for. I handwashed dishes for most of my life, so I don't mind going back.

Laundry, however... I'd REALLY like to have easy access to laundry facilities in-building, and would likely be willing to pay for that.

In terms of getting around, I hadn't really thought about it, but I could see myself potentially biking. If I had to guess I would say mostly walking and metroing. I asked my boss about the L train closure, and he says that he uses the A/C line or the R line when he makes the trip.
posted by codacorolla at 1:17 PM on March 27, 2017

Laundry in-building is more likely to be found in newly developed larger buildings, of which there are a bunch in downtown Brooklyn these days. (However I also know lots of people who get laundry picked up and dropped off at their apartment, so that's an option too.)

For a share I think you could find stuff in most of the surrounding neighborhoods of Fort Greene or even Fort Greene itself.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:22 PM on March 27, 2017

The general recommendation is to sublet when you first get here, and not sign a long term lease until you have a better sense of what your life here will look like, the neighborhoods you like, where your friends are, etc.

You have a high enough budget that you can have pretty much anything you want, just not everything, as they say. If you want a studio, there are plenty of places in Brooklyn where you can pay less than that. They'll just be further out and/or less nice than the place you can get with roommates.

For your first month to month sublet, I would prioritize finding a place that has roommates you think you will like and that is right off the train(s) that take you to work. The A/C might be the best line to start looking on, and the 2/3 right behind it.


(I don't have laundry in building but my lease does not prohibit portable washing machines, and it is just awesome. There is also such a thing as a portable dishwasher, but my space constraints have never worked for that).
posted by Salamandrous at 1:43 PM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

A dishwasher is generally ambitious.

Right now there is a perceived glut of "luxury" rentals coming online in downtown Brooklyn (close enough to the A/C, most of them, I believe, and also adjacent to Brooklyn Heights) with resulting rent concessions. You could probably get a 1-bed to share for $3800, if you are comfortable with that, with relatively nice finishes, a doorman (honestly, more valuable than you might think), and dishwasher, possibly even w/d in the apartment. Downtown Brooklyn is a bit grimy but has gotten a little less low-rent, commercially, in the past few years. But I don't know about a 2-bed.
posted by praemunire at 2:04 PM on March 27, 2017

The New York real estate hunt does suck, but it's one of those things it's fun/cathartic to tell horror stories about when it's safely in the rearview, and equally terrifying to hear those stories when you still have the hunt in front of you. I'll put a positive spin on your particular situation: you have time to research/get your bearings and you have a generous monthly budget for a place with a roomie, both luxuries that will go a long way towards smoothing out the rough edges.

For $1900/month, you can either have a) a place of your own or b) a place close (walking distance, maybe) to where you'll work in Brooklyn. As others said, you'll very likely have to pick between the two. Both have their advantages, neither is the "right" answer. I live by myself and would probably double the length of my commute to keep it that way, but I know people whose quality of life is immeasurably improved by being able to walk to work. You know yourself.

If you want to see what you can get on your own, you can use the advanced search on Streeteasy to limit your search to places in Brooklyn under $2,000 with laundry in building off the R, A, and C trains. Look off the 2,3 too, as suggested above. That will start to give you a sense of what's out there.

If you opt for somewhere further away, I would recommend testing out your various commutes on the trains you would take during rush hour. For instance, Ditmas Park may be 30 minutes from midtown at certain parts of the day, but it is definitely not so when everyone is going to or coming from work. In apartment ads, the "XX minutes to Manhattan" claims are always calculated at, like, 11:17 AM on a cloudless 60 degree day that isn't a holiday and also tiny angels are flying behind the train and their whispering makes the train car go ever-so-slightly faster.
posted by superfluousm at 2:18 PM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Arrive for any viewings an hour early and scope out how far the nearest grocery store, laundry, drugstore, etc. are. If it's more than a 10-minute walk, do not take the apartment. Probably 5 minutes for laundry.

You will not get a dishwasher.
posted by Automocar at 3:39 PM on March 27, 2017

I just arrived in January - you can find a studio for your price. I looked at a (tiny) studio for $1950 in Brooklyn heights, and there were others available in the neighboring areas. Get an Airbnb your first month, walk around neighborhoods, and email several brokers with your budget and see when they can set up showings. Just be prepared to pounce when you're ready - as in that day - so get all your paperwork and make sure your finances are in order.

Laundry is going to be tough. I know you want laundry in your building, but really, it's not bad to go to a laundromat. Or consider drop off services as noted above - they're everywhere and it will open up your choices.

Also - practically every single apartment here has some charming features, and some things you'll hate. There aren't any perfect apartments. I think the biggest things are whether you want a roommate and how far of a commute you want and work from there. Oh, and also, whether or not you can afford a broker.

And cooking in a tiny kitchen is an adventure, but fun!

And welcome to New York, when you get here! You're going to love it.
posted by umwhat at 5:31 PM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

2nding StreetEasy, subletting at first, and not being scared off! NYers love to talk about how impossible apartment hunting is. The market is softening and I have a couple different friends looking to move because they can get a nicer cheaper place rather than because they're getting priced out.
posted by (Over) Thinking at 7:53 PM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's not clear to me if you are looking roughly between Brooklyn Heights and Fort Green in Brooklyn or if that's where your job will be.

I'd recommend looking in Bed-Stuy — you can have good trains (G on the north, A/C on the south — though there are also large swaths of the neighborhood that are pretty far from trains) that can get you into Fort Green/Bk Heights/Manhattan directly or with a pretty easy transfer. Very cute neighborhoody vibe. Fewer large apartment buildings which means less likely to find laundry on-site, but not unheard of.

Zillow has a bunch of 1-br listings around there that are in your range and look v cute.

Good luck! And welcome!
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:31 PM on March 27, 2017

I am extremely confused by the claim that Brooklyn rentals don't usually have dishwashers! All three of the ones I've rented – and by memory all of the others I looked at – did so. I was probably looking at a rent price slightly higher than the one you mention here (adjusted for the different years I did so, but all in the last several years).
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:16 AM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I've lived in three BK apartments and had dishwashers in two of them, and washing machines in all three. It's not the norm but it's not unheard of.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:01 AM on March 28, 2017

You've gotten some great advice so far! The idea of AirBnBing for a few months is a great one.

However, I too think that areas surrounding Barclay's Center would be closest fit for what you're looking for, with the details you've provided.

(Except! You don't really specify what you mean by "things to do." If you're in your mid-20s, my answer would be different than if you're in your mid-30s. If by "things to do" you mean nice, chill restaurants then the above stands. If "things to do" means "bars bars club club loud music wooooo," the area might be a bit too sleepy for you.)

I've lived in Ft. Greene/Downtown BK for a few years now, and here are my thoughts:

+ Upside: It's insanely convenient to a lot of neighborhood amenities, like Target, an embarrassing riches of subway lines within a few blocks of your door (2/3/4/5/Q/B/C/G/F), Brooklyn Academy of Music, Ft. Greene Park, and brand-new (but expensive) restaurants.
+ Downside: You live in a transit/shopping hub which can be sheer lunacy sometimes.

+ Upside: There are so many high rises flying up that they're giving away "free rent" deals. You can most likely get a 2 bedroom for 4K with those deals, which includes dishwasher, over-the-top nice common spaces, doorman, laundry in building, and likely an incredible view. (However, word to the wise: don't re-sign the lease. The the deal will end, and your rent will jump to market rate and you'll get stuck in it.)
+ Downside: You live in a construction zone. It's gotten a bit better as buildings finish, but it's still loud as hell. Seriously, we've been calling it Little Dubai. The speed is incredible.

+ Upside: Downtown BK is crazy accessible to a bunch of neighborhoods. It's nice to be able to walk to Cobble Hill, DUMBO, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, the river, Prospect Heights, Ft. Greene proper, Clinton Hill, etc.
+ Downside: Downtown Brooklyn isn't really a neighborhood in and of itself. It doesn't have the lovely brownstones and trees and homeyness and community. As I get older, this is becoming really important to me, as is trying to limit my contribution to gentrification. High-rise apartment buildings are a screamingly obvious icon of gentrification in Brooklyn, and it's really wearing on me.

If the "high-rise and a roommate" idea isn't doing it for you, I'm fairly confident you can find a small, probably basement, apartment in the surrounding neighborhoods I mentioned above, for around your budget (give or take).

Anyway - trawling Streeteasy/Zumper/Trulia is one of my favorite hobbies. I would be stoked to help, if you want it.
posted by functionequalsform at 9:40 AM on March 28, 2017

Strongly concur with the above that you consider subletting first. The facebook group Gypsy Housing is one standard place to look for these, along with craigslist. It's the best ever advice for a new city, especially one where your standards (and expectations) for housing are probably going to need to shift in more ways than one.

If you're not open to that, consider using a broker. They're expensive, yes, but they can help you realistically assess your priorities AND they'll help you avoid scams which are (as of my last hunt) surprisingly plentiful and sometimes even sophisticated enough to momentarily trick someone who does know the neighborhood. You're not going to get a crazy-amazing hidden gem with a broker but you're unlikely to end up paying way over market or taken for a deposit somewhere that never really existed. Plus, in areas where rent-stabilized apartments still exist, brokers tend to have a better handle on those (true in Queens, at least).
posted by R a c h e l at 11:35 AM on March 28, 2017

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