When do I start looking for an apartment in NYC?
January 6, 2008 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I accepted a job in New York City that starts midsummer. I'm in school until the end of May. When do I start looking for a place to live?

I'm willing to spend plenty of time looking for a place, but I have a feeling that if I were to scout around the city now, even if I were to find anything they'd be expecting me to move in earlier than I can. I don't want to move in until July (June at the earliest). With that in mind:

-Should I be prepared to move in immediately upon signing?
-Should I put this out of my mind now, get to the city in mid-June and just focus on finding a place until I do? Or is that too risky?
-What can I profitably do right now?

posted by goingonit to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I suggest looking on craigslist for neighborhoods that are in your price range right now. Get an idea of what's out there. I would start looking seriously when you get out of school in May. In general, it's a good idea you that you start looking 6 weeks-2 months before you intend to move. In the summertime, there are lots of spaces becoming available but also higher demands so they get snatched up quickly.

Good luck!
posted by missjamielynn at 11:55 AM on January 6, 2008

Right now, you can scope out the market by looking at ads and figure out where you'd like to live in the city. You might want to let friends in NYC know that you're looking for a place for June or July and for them to keep you posted if they know of anything. As for actually signing a lease, the NYC real estate market is such that you should only start seriously looking for a place no sooner than four weeks before you want to move. Once you start looking, if you find a place you like, you'll have to apply, put down a deposit, and sign a lease on the spot, said lease to begin most likely on the first of the next month. When you do look for places, have all your paperwork with you and ready to go (letter from your employer attesting to how much money you make, copies of last year's tax returns, possibly bank statements, possibly also a statement from a co-signer if you don't meet income requirements--usually your annual income will have to be 40-50 times the monthly rent--plus sufficient funds to cover the first month's rent, a one-month security deposit, and probably a broker's fee--15% of the first year's rent).

In short, you should start looking around the beginning of June or in mid-June. Good luck!
posted by agent99 at 12:09 PM on January 6, 2008

It sort of depends on how picky you are about the apartment itself.

If it were me, I'd pretty much do what missjamielynn says. Research neighborhoods now. Come to New York when you graduate and start looking, and be prepared to start paying rent as early as June 1st. (Obviously, once you start paying rent, you're free to move in at any point, but if you want to wait until July, you can). An extra month's rent it worth it if you find an apartment you like, plus there will probably be a lot more apartments available early summer than mid-summer.

That said, if it's more important to you to wait, you WILL of course find something whenever you come. You can find an apartment in one weekend, and it's even easier if you have good credit and a good job lined up and all that. But the earlier you come, the pickier you can afford to be.
posted by lampoil at 12:11 PM on January 6, 2008

Tell friends asap, and be prepared to rent a good apartment a month early if it comes up before you can move in. Your best bet is friends, followed by craigslist. Yes, be prepared to move in soon if you sign. And your landlord, and broker if you hire one, will lie to you through their teeth.

The smartest way to find an apartment is to id your price range and neighborhood, set up a craigslist search for it, grab the rss feed, and throw it in your rss reader. Then everytime an apartment comes up that is within your search criteria, you'll get it with your blogs. You can quickly and easily skim through hundreds of apartments that fit your basic criteria.

And when you move here, fight gentrification. It's the devil.
posted by history is a weapon at 9:51 AM on January 7, 2008

Response by poster: history is a weapon: I can't fight gentrification. I am gentrification.
posted by goingonit at 2:41 PM on January 7, 2008 [3 favorites]

Short answer: 4-6 weeks before your desired move-in date.

Long answer:
I've lived in Manhattan for 10 years and I have always had that apartment that everybody envies. There are deals in New York; you just have to be smart about finding them.

Here is the process I always follow:
1) Approximately 6-4 weeks before I want to move, you take a full week dedicated 100% to finding an apartment. During this time you can work with brokers (I've had good luck with Citi Habitats and Best Apartments NYC) as well as browsing Craigslist on your own. Also, walk around the neighborhood you want to live in and look for signs, etc. The important thing is to be completely available to see a place -- if your broker calls you at 11PM on Sunday with a new listing, you go.

2) After you've looked at about 10 places -- yes, 10 -- you will have a good understanding of what you can get for your price range. You can easily see 10 places in 2 days.

3) Now you keep looking until you find that one place that is WAY better than everything else in your price range. Generally, this will happen when you're the first person to see a new apartment on the market. Small owners (landlords who only own a couple buildings) sometimes don't know what their apartments are worth -- in my experience, that is when you find a deal.

4) When you have found the place you want, submit your application IMMEDIATELY. Tell the broker you'll take it on the spot. You will probably have to pay a fee for a credit check (having excellent credit is kinda important, but if you don't have that now there's probably not much you can do before July). Things you will also probably need: letter from your employer/ CPA verifying your income, cashiers check for the security deposit/ first month's rent, driver's license, and a copy of last year's tax return. I mention this because if it takes too long for you to get this stuff together, you might loose the place.

Another word of advice: brokers and landlords help you out when they like you. Be very nice and respectful and dress well -- in short, do your best to come across like the perfect tenant. Once I actually got a $250 discount on my monthly rent based on the fact that I "seemed like such a nice girl". Another landlord gave me my first month free. Seriously, good landlords are as nervous about having a good tenant as you are about having a good building.
posted by designmartini at 9:44 AM on January 14, 2008 [28 favorites]

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