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10 Essential Apartment-Hunting Tips

Make the process ten times easier, and don’t get stuck in an apartment you didn’t expect.

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Found the Apartment You Want? Here’s What To Do Next…

Finally found a place that feels like home? Don’t get too excited. Here’s what to do to make sure you’ll still be happy when you move in:

1. Find out the whole situation.

Is it a co-op? If so, move on. No matter what your broker tells you (remember, they just want to make the sale), all NYC co-op boards have rules that state how long an owner can rent out the apartment. It varies from one to two years. What’s the landlord or seller’s deal? Why are they renting the apartment and do they plan on coming back, or letting a family member use it someday? Why are they selling? For these questions, I advise doing a little research and contacting the apartment owner directly, as the broker may advise the landlord to lie in order to secure the sale. You can find this info out as part of public record, then track them down on Facebook or Google.

2. Talk to the neighbors and doorman or superintendent.

10 Essential Apartment-Hunting TipsWhat’s it like living in the building? Can they hear their neighbors through the ceiling or walls? Do people complain about noise? Does rent increase much each year? Do things get repaired quickly?

3. Hire a real estate lawyer to look over the lease.

Obviously, don’t ask your broker for a recommendation because there’ll be a serious conflict of interest. Your broker (and his/her lawyer friend) want you to go through with renting the apartment. Therefore, their lawyer buddy is far less likely to tell you if something doesn’t smell right. Always find your own totally independent counsel.

4. Looks up reviews of the building.

Find out if there are complaints from residents. Find out what the management company is like. Know what you’re getting.

Bonus tips: Update your address everywhere at once using Updater. And always make sure to click the light gray link at the bottom of Yelp reviews to view the “other reviews that are currently not recommended”, as Yelp has a worrisome habit of filtering most of businesses authentic negative reviews — the ones you should read first.

Want more tips? Check out our guide to why NYC broker’s aren’t working for you, and how to protect yourself.

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A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 10 Comments

  1. StefT

    So funny, I looked up my reviews on my building at TransparentCity.co

    DEF recommend doing the same!

  2. Love these points. They all still hold true. Also appreciated your article on Huff Post about the truths behind NYC real estate brokers. Mainly points 7 & 8 where you don’t need a broker and renting in buildings without a broker. At transparentcity.co, we built a platform for consumers to easily filter through all of the different buildings managed by management companies and provided direct website links to availabilities. We also provide reviews of those buildings and management companies. I hope your readers will find success in bypassing broker fees and reading reviews on who they are renting from.

  3. michele

    How do I find an apt? I am so lost and confused.

  4. Courtney Watson

    Hilary, this is just the information I needed about finding an apartment. I am moving to NYC soon and I have been looking for an apartment to live in. The tip about knowing my budget seems smart. I had no idea that there was a requirement for income. I will have to figure out what kind of places I can live based on my income. Also, I never would’ve thought to talk to people in the building – also super smart!

  5. Could you please write an article about the best and worst managed buildings / management companies??

    • Could probably write something about the best managed buildings. I think publishing the ‘worst’ could get people into trouble! If it’s review based, it could also be quite arbitrary. Consumers have been adding reviews about their NYC buildings at https://www.transparentcity.co/. We then roll up the reviews and aggregate it up to the management companies.

  6. Hilary, this is just the information I needed to make my apartment hunt easier! I really liked your tip about asking the landlord if it is possible to rent monthly, I never thought of doing that before! That really would take a lot of pressure off buying an apartment. I will have to be sure to ask the landlord about that when I find apartments I like.

  7. This is super helpful advice. I'll have to find a new apartment next year, so I will definitely keep this article in mind!

  8. I never thought of implementing these tips before. Would’ve made my apartment hunt so easy 🙁

  9. Julie Fratenelli

    I find it really helpful and time saving to search for apartment listings online to help narrow down my choices based on my budget.  But beware of scams on classified ads. There are good property websites with reputable agents.

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