The Market

16 staple-these-to-your-forehead tips for hunting down a rental

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | April 8, 2014 - 8:59AM

Like most things in life, practice makes perfect when renting an apartment in this town. We hit up experts--that is, New Yorkers who've signed multiple leases--to get their best insider info for the search.

  • "See as many apartments as you can, even if they are slightly above your price range. We were able to get the rent down by $350--from $3,600 to $3,250--in the summer. Our place is in a small building--26 units--and while we were in the process of looking, a different apartment opened up in the same building. It made more sense for them to take our offer, even though it was lower, so they didn't have two apartments vacant at the same time." - Alissa, Upper West Side 

Be smart about picking a broker

  • "Never start your lease in the summer. Rent goes up significantly in the summer." - Michelle, Upper West Side
  • "Brokers are in a dog-eat-dog industry. There are a few good ones but most will say anything to get your signature on a lease. Use referrals." - Caryn, Upper East Side
  • "I always ask any tenants I see while viewing an apartment if there are any hoarders or bug issues in the building I should know about. Tenants are usually very vocal while agents or management are not." - Kelly, Upper East Side

If you see tenants in the hallways, ask them about bug issues (Photo credit: Lou Sorkin)

  • "If the apartment you're calling about is unavailable, hang up, don't stay on to hear about "other great properties." They're likely pulling the bait-and-switch and leading you to a pricier place." - Rachel, Upper East Side
  • "If you see the same pictures advertised for multiple addresses, chances are the place you actually see will look nothing like the pictures." - Jocelyn, Prospect Heights
  • "If you choose to use a broker, make sure you ask them if they have actually seen the apartment beforehand, to make sure it meets your criteria and avoid wasting time." - Rachel, Upper East Side
  • "Check out StreetEasy before you go look at apartments to have a sense of what's out there. And do yourself a favor and use a broker--it will make your life easier even though the commission is painful. But don't be afraid to resist high-pressure sales techniques--no matter what they say, this is not the last apartment in NYC." - Candace, Park Slope
  • "The listings you see online represent only a fraction of what's out there. What that means is you'll likely need a broker to get you access to many of the apartments that are on the market." - Deborah, Yorkville

Double check that you're hunting in the right school zone

  • "Research your school zones, and which schools you want to send your kid(s) to before you start looking for an apartment, or you could end up in the wrong zone." Heather, Carnegie Hill  
  • "If you have your eye on a specific public school, call the parent coordinator to confirm that your would-be address is in the right zone. StreetEasy, which lists that information, is not infallible. And move in before March, when most public school applications are due." - Deborah, Yorkville
  • "Always check that the stove and shower work when you first see the apartment!" - Rachel, Midtown West

Turn on the stove before you sign that lease (Photo credit: stevendepolo)

  • "Check the water pressure in the shower." - John, Crown Heights
  • "Take a close look at the surrounding buildings and businesses--no apartment is soundproof. I currently live across the street from a 24-hour auto shop. I enjoy random sounds and lights from the tow trucks at all hours of the night. See what kind of restaurants and bars are around. Also, follow the good standby that an avenue will always be louder than a side street." - Rachel, Midtown West
  • "Google the landlord and the broker before signing a lease to make sure there haven't been any major complaints, lawsuits, etc." -John, Crown Heights
  • "Check the Bed Bug Registry before moving in." - Shannon, Upper East Side


Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.