Their daughter looking for her 1st apt. We all need advice.
June 23, 2022 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Friend's daughter & her friend are looking for their 1st apt. in NYC. They asked us for advice, since neither the daughter or the parents have a clue where to begin, and they have stalled. Well, we don't know either.

The parents were inclined to stay on the side, allowing/encouraging a discovery experience, offering some basics - read the lease closely, investigate the neighborhood, laundry? subway location? and if asked, would join a walk-through/inspection, and importantly, would be guarantors. (Neither applicant has much work history, so little credit data)
Applicants are more savvy w/ craigslist/street-easy etc., but should they also work w/ a broker/realtor? Fees? Security? Go w/ parents, or go alone w/ parent's credit report? (what about privacy?) Any advice welcome.
posted by ebesan to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My NYC experience is a decade old at this point, but if the parents are going to be guarantors, they will need to show sufficient funds for 80x the rent. In better neighborhoods, they'll need to be ready to sign immediately on seeing the apartment, meaning having the financial documents in hand along with typically 3x monthly rent (first, last, security deposit). I was advised to stay off Craigslist due to the high proportion of scams.

Location-wise, neighborhood can make a huge difference in NYC. Where will they be working? I would start with that, draw a subway line map (my threshold for a commute is 5 subway stops; more than that gets tedious -- be sure to check express vs local lines) and limit the search to apartments in those neighborhoods.
posted by basalganglia at 9:23 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]

Hi, I have lived in NYC for about 30 years now and my most recent apartment-hunting experience was just last year.

It IS possible to get a place without working with a broker, but the competition for apartments is SO tight right now, that any advantage you can afford would be useful, so using a broker may well be worth the price. You don't have to stick to just one, though.

Every place is going to charge some kind of security deposit - one months' rent as a security is the standard, although you may find one or two landlords trying to charge 2 months (but that's likely because of greed and you don't need to consider those places unless you're desperate).

I am happy to offer on-the-ground specific advice for "what's the intel on this specific neighborhood here" or suggest places to look based on where their jobs might be. I've found that it's not that helpful to ask "what's a safe neighborhood" because "safe" is such a relative concept, and it may be more useful if they ask "we're thinking of looking in X neighborhood" because I can then make suggestions about staying clear of Y street, because that's where a lot of warehouses are, but Z street would actually be okay because there's a community center and more of a neighborhood vibe. Please feel free to memail me and we can trade proper email addresses.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:34 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]

Oh, another reason why asking just about "neighborhoods" may be unwise - some city neighborhoods change in character from one part to the next. I have lived in the "Clinton Hill" neighborhood of Brooklyn for 16 years now, and my most recent move was simply moving from the northern half of the neighborhood to the southern half; it is a very different vibe, simply moving one mile. So asking simply about "which neighborhoods are safe" isn't always the best benchmark, and a "local" who can give more fine-tuned advice about a specific street may be the better approach.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:40 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]

Just chiming in to say that basalganglia's suggestion to only look at apartments within five(!!!) subway stops of their work is going to severely and unnecessarily restrict their options! It's a big city, there are lots of neighborhoods to choose from, and most people commute more than five stops to work.
posted by cakelite at 9:41 AM on June 23 [20 favorites]

I would replace searching on Craigslist with searching on Zillow.
posted by Julnyes at 9:57 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]

- Streeteasy is by far the best way to look at apartments right now

- Show up with all your documents showing guarantors' credit score, guarantors' income, etc. - will probably have to have pay stubs from guarantors, last year's tax forms, guarantors' bank statements to show any assets

- Even if they look through StreetEasy and do all the legwork themselves they will (probably) have to pay a broker fee (there may be cases where the broker fee is paid by the landlord but these will advertise themselves as no-fee, but these are rare especially these days)

- Typical fee is 15% of a year's rent

- They will have to pay first month's rent upon signing of the lease plus one month security (landlords asking for more than that is I believe illegal now but it doesn't mean it won't happen) plus will have to be ready to pay the broker's fee to the broker

- As far as neighborhood, yes, look at commute times, there used to be a tool that color-coded how long it would take you to commute from workplace so you could see the best neighborhoods to live in - it doesn't seem to be working now but not sure if it's down or if it's just my browser or if there are any good alternatives

- Before signing a lease they should walk around the neighborhood at different times of day, walk from that apartment to the nearest subway stop, ride the subway, look for grocery stores, laundromat, anything else they need on a day-to-day basis - they should act fast so if they find an apartment but miss out on it due to needing to do this research, but they like the neighborhood, they should look at other apartments in the neighborhood

For decently-priced, decently safe neighborhoods I still recommend Ditmas Park / Prospect Park South where I lived for 10 years - it's on the Q train which has a very quick commute to midtown (not as ideal for downtown). It's not as expensive as some of the trendier neighborhoods, you can still get a 2BR for under $2500. Some of the buildings are older/not as well maintained so be on the lookout for that. Very residential so laundry, groceries, etc. are not a problem and there are some nice restaurants and bars.
posted by matcha action at 10:05 AM on June 23 [5 favorites]

(what about privacy?)

Expect to provide more information than you did to buy your house (if you bought one). You will be sending unsecured pdfs through e-mail with social security numbers. This is not sketchy for new york, and you may be iffed by it. If you want a non corporate place (read: cheaper) expect to do things you would not do in other markets.
posted by sandmanwv at 10:27 AM on June 23 [2 favorites]

I found an apartment in Park Slope last year by doing the following:

-looking at Streeteasy and other apartment listings for a couple of weeks until I had a very, very rough sense of what different apartments went for in different neighborhoods. Also talked to locals to back up this info.

-Picked a handful of neighborhoods I was interested in, and emailed a bunch of brokers through Streeteasy and made a bunch of appointments back-to-back on a Saturday to see different apartments in different neighborhoods; did not take any of these apartments but used them to see what it actually felt like in different neighborhoods- wandered around to get a feel for laundry, restaurants, groceries, etc.

-Having decided on a neighborhood, made a bunch of other appointments in that neighborhood only on Sunday.

-On Sunday, having seen an apartment that had a lot of the qualities I was looking for on that Sunday, but wasn't quite right, told the broker what my requirements were, and asked her if she had any similar apartments available.

-She took me to three appointments on Monday, and I took the second apartment that day, before it had been listed on Streeteasy.

On Tuesday I signed my lease.

I think the takeaway is that you want to do enough research that when you see the apartment you want, you can take it within 24 hours. So yes, also have your financials ready to go the second you're ready to pull the trigger.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 10:28 AM on June 23 [9 favorites]

Already a lot of great advice here, I'll just chime in and say if they find a place that they like - as in, maybe it's not perfect, but it ticks off even just a few boxes of their criteria - be prepared to move EXTREMELY fast. Tell the broker, property manager, landlord that you would like to fill out the application right now and would be willing to take the place off their hands *today* if possible. What do they need? Pay stubs, guarantor bank statement, etc? Have all of this stuff organized and ready to go so you can get everything over to them before EOD.

The market is wayyyyy too tight right now to be "looking at a few other places, can we get back to you tomorrow/end of week?" and from what I was seeing during my friend's recently completed (and incredibly frustrating) apartment hunt they were constantly losing out on places due to their indecisiveness and thinking they had to see through a few other appointments. If they find a place that they can see themselves living in - even with a few compromises - get that application over ASAP and don't think twice.
posted by windbox at 10:29 AM on June 23 [11 favorites]

A lot of good advice above. I will add that it sounds like maybe the people in question aren't city-dwellers. So it's important to keep in mind that several amenities that would simply be assumed in the suburbs may not be present. Most importantly: laundry; dishwasher; a/c. Most importantly of those, there may not even be laundry in the building. While that may be a tradeoff they're willing/forced to make for lower rent or a better location, it's best to be aware of which tradeoffs they'd be making. If the listing doesn't specify, you have to ask. And the d/w will either be there or it (most likely) won't, but if you're planning to move in in July, you'd better be sure whether the a/c in the window belongs to the current tenant or not, and plan accordingly.

With Streeteasy, you're going to end up dealing with whatever broker reps the building owner. I've never seen any particular value in "working with" a broker specific to me, because the odds of somehow getting a miracle unlisted apartment are pretty low and otherwise Streeteasy has all the info you need. Maybe it's different at the higher end of the market.

Don't leave either the UWS or UES out of your searches. The UWS does have a meaningful population of chopped-up old townhouses that can be a decent value (probably the best value apartment I ever rented was up there) and the far east UES still has a bunch of old tenements. Of course, you still need luck.

Finally, assuming the young people here are college graduates, I'd strongly recommend that the parents stay on the sidelines as much as possible, even if they have to provide financial support. Finding your first NYC apartment is an important rite of passage and the kids need to learn to handle their own business ASAP.
posted by praemunire at 10:50 AM on June 23 [4 favorites]

Adding the web site Hotpads as a possible source for apartment hunting. And nthing a few things above:

So it's important to keep in mind that several amenities that would simply be assumed in the suburbs may not be present. Most importantly: laundry; dishwasher; a/c. Most importantly of those, there may not even be laundry in the building. While that may be a tradeoff they're willing/forced to make for lower rent or a better location, it's best to be aware of which tradeoffs they'd be making.

COUNTERSIGNED. I have lived in New York City since 1988 and I have never been in an apartment where there was a laundry room in my unit proper. Once I was in a building where there were two or three lone washers and dryers in the basement, but for the most part I've had to either bring things to a laundromat or send it out. And only THIS PAST YEAR did I move into an apartment that had a dishwasher; everywhere else I just washed by hand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:59 AM on June 23 [3 favorites]

Finding an apartment in NYC has never been easy but the rental market has gone completely and utterly bonkers over the last few months. Set up email alerts for Streeteasy etc. so they can reach out to schedule a viewing ASAP. Have all required documents scanned and ready to go so they can apply as soon as they're done viewing the apartment. Manhattan and large sections of Brooklyn have the most competition, so if they're willing to look in other boroughs so much the better.

Something to consider is that if they're willing to live with additional roommates it might be easier to find two rooms to sublet or find additional roommates to rent a 3 or 4 bedroom apartment. Craigslist, Roomi and various Facebook groups (the most popular ones unfortunately contain a slur that cannot be posted here) are good places to search for shared living situations.
posted by fox problems at 4:19 PM on June 23

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