Finding an apartment in New York City can be a daunting process. In today’s tight real estate market, stories abound about apartment hunters seeing scores of units before finding a suitable one, only to be outbid by a prospective tenant with check in hand. It is also common to hear anecdotes about unbelievable deals on centrally-placed apartments found simply by word of mouth. How do apartment hunters actually find a place to live in New York City? Check out our list of the most common ways New Yorkers find apartments:
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Both brokers and landlords post their available apartments in online databases (such as StreetEasy or Craigslist), sometimes with a fee and sometimes without. Individual brokers or managing agents may also maintain their own websites with vacancies in buildings they own/manage. Other websites may specialize in bringing roommates together or renting furnished apartments. Brick Underground, a website with real estate advice and information, publishes a list of the some of the largest apartment listing sites.
Affordable housing programs, under a variety of programs, and typically offered by lottery, are linked from our Affordable Housing section.
One of the most common methods of finding an apartment in New York City is using a real estate broker. If you know what neighborhood you want to live in, it’s usually best to find a broker based there. Many brokers also have websites where you can view available apartments. Although fees are charged, some brokers can be very helpful, especially if you have specific housing needs.
Word of Mouth
There is good news for those who would prefer not to pay brokers’ fees: find your new apartment by word of mouth, mostly from friends, relatives, and co-workers. If you’re looking for an apartment, make sure everyone you know knows that you’re looking.
While now used less frequently, local papers (including community presses), many of which post their classified ads online as well and in print, are still a source of up-to-date information on the housing market.
You can also find an apartment by simply seeing a “For Rent” sign. It can pay to walk around the neighborhood you want to live in and look around. If you are specifically looking for a rent stabilized apartment, pick out some areas where you want to live, look at our list of rent stabilized buildings and then visit some of them. Since most apartment buildings have the name of the super or management company posted in the lobby, you may find a contact and inquire about vacancies. However, keep in mind that while a building may contain rent stabilized units, vacant units in the building may have already been deregulated.
If you’re living here for professional or educational reasons, don’t neglect your organization’s housing office or service. They know what you often don’t about renting in New York City and it’s their job to help you find a great new apartment.
Apartment Referral Services
Referral services are a resource that savvy hunters, especially those who are comfortable searching on the Internet, should not neglect. For a monthly fee these services will provide you with a list of no-fee apartment rentals as they become available.
Vacant Apartments in the Same Building
Other movers find their apartments in the same building in which they already live. Be proactive and talk to neighbors, doormen, supers, landlords, and/or management company to see if another apartment is available in the same building.
Affordable housing (housing that is tied to a tenant’s income) is often offered through waiting lists or application lotteries. If you have time before you need to move, put your name on waiting lists and/or fill out applications for affordable housing.
You may occasionally find housing through local government offices or community groups that keep information on neighborhood housing notices. Check with some of the neighborhood nonprofit groups (senior centers, community service agencies, etc.) in the area and see if they have listings or bulletin boards available.