When you're on the apartment hunt, there are a few things your landlord will never tell you (for example, how much your neighbor pays, how much the tenant before you paid, and how loud your neighbors actually are). And there are some things your broker isn't allowed to tell you (demographic information and intel on local schools, for instance).
So oftentimes, your best bet—as a renter or a buyer—is to corner your future neighbors and get them to spill information vital to your your future quality of life.
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Assuming you can find someone, here are seven topics worth quizzing the neighbors about:
- Noise and odors. Unless you can check an apartment at all hours of the day, you may not notice the weekday construction across the street, your neighbor’s Tuesday tuba lessons, or the recent college grads prone to throwing weekend parties. Building residents can give you the inside scoop on noise problems inside and outside the building. Also, ask them if there are any problems with secondhand cigarette smoke or cooking odors.
- Bed bugs. By law, landlords and sellers must disclose bed bug history, but you may not be getting the full story. Current residents (especially renters, who don’t have anything to lose) are more likely to tell the truth when asked. For more information on disclosure requirements and sleuthing techniques, see Finding an apartment without bed bugs.
- Crime. You can always check the official NYC website for crime statistics, but the best way to get a sense of how comfortable single women/kids/locals feel in the neighborhood is to ask one who lives there.
- The super. Some supers move quickly to resolve problems, others are total duds who take ages to respond to requests or only respond when well-oiled. Building residents will know which category their super falls into. Of course, take this with a grain of salt, since some people are more picky/particular than others. Try and ask several people if possible.
- Rent increases. Brokers will usually tell you that the rent increase will be negligible after your lease expires (they want to make their commission after all!), but neighbors can give you the real scoop.
- Parking. If you’re considering parking on the street, you’ll want to know how difficult it is in your neighborhood. Neighbors can tell you, and they may also be able to give you parking tips (such as alternate-side parking rules, and streets that have earlier cleaning times). If you’re going for a garage, neighbors may be able to recommend a reasonably priced place. You might also inquire whether the super parks residents' cars as a side job.
- School information. By hanging out in the lobby around 8 a.m. or 3 p.m. you can tell just how family-friendly a building is. And if you happen to come across a parent, it's worth asking about the schools in the neighborhood: What are the options? How do people feel about the schools, etc?
- Restaurants/attractions, etc. No one can better divulge up-to-date restaurant and general entertainment advice than those who live there. Even more important than recommendations, they’ll also probably be able to tell you which places to avoid.
*** This story was updated on May 12, 2016.
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