As experienced renters know, a fabulous apartment in a neighborhood that makes you miserable is not usually an apartment worth having. But with as many choices as New York City offers, determining the right neighborhood(s) is almost as hard as finding an apartment in a rental market with a 1% vacancy rate.
Here are a few tips to help you identify the right spot for you.
Tip #1: Tally up the transit options
Size up your commute and figure out what transit lines you’ll require to get there. This is more important to some people than others, but I would encourage everyone to think long and hard about this, as it’s a major quality of life issue.
The ideal scenario would be a direct commute - ending up directly off or close to subway/bus lines that are within walking distance to where you need to be each day.
For those of you looking in upper Manhattan or in another borough, pinpoint which transit lines you’ll be using and ask around your prospective neighborhood to get a better idea how reliable those trains/buses are on the weekends. If you need to come back to the island on a Saturday or Sunday, you don’t want to be stuck with spotty service.
On one of my first few moves, my roommate and I couldn’t seem to settle on a preferred location. I wanted Soho for the plethora of restaurant options and easy access to my Midtown internship via the N/R trains, she wanted Chelsea for the multiple transit options to the west side via the A/C/E.
We took a look at our respective commutes and compromised on a neighborhood with mass transit options that worked well for both of us – hello, Greenwich Village. Ultimately, the decision was a great one and we ended up in a fantastic neighborhood (one we weren’t previously considering) that we both loved.
Tip #2: Assess your neighborhood’s amenities
This one might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to consider it when they’re busy falling in love with a new neighborhood (or apartment).
Think about your routine – What bank do you go to? Do you prefer one grocery store over another? Is the local laundromat/dry cleaner part of your weekly regimen? Do you need a great public elementary school option?
Pound the pavement the old-fashioned way or check out the local businesses from your mobile device with Foursquare. You can research public schools on Insideschools.org and check listing information onStreetEasy to find out whether your prospective apartment building falls within your target school zone. (Note: Boundaries are always changing, so be sure to confirm by calling the school’s administrative office.)
Tip #3: Level with your lifestyle
Are you single or married? Do you have kids? Do you like a lot of nightlife options or do you prefer suburbanesque quietude? Do you need easy access to a park or bike-path for exercise?
To figure out what neighborhoods fit you best, keep your eyes open, ask around, and take a spin around a very useful resource called NabeWise, a site that provides super reliable neighborhood information, data, tips, and more.
Found the right neighborhood? Excellent! Now all you need to do is find the right apartment.
Caren Maio is the CEO & Co-Founder of Nestio.com, a website that makes it easy for renters to collect and organize rental listings from any site. She currently lives downtown in a boutique elevator building that has ten coffee shops in a three-block radius (a feature she claims sealed the deal--but the washer-dryer didn't hurt either).
See all Serial Renter.