The Do's and Don'ts of apartment-hunting as a couple

By Beth Stebner  | February 9, 2016 - 2:59PM

In honor of this weekend's Valentine's Day, we're revisiting some of our most popular posts that focus on the intersection of love and NYC real estate.

In the never-ending hunt to find the perfect apartment (proper kitchens, endless terraces, and the like), that old relationship enemy—displacing your frustrations on your partner (and let's be honest, this is a frustrating market)—rears its ugly head. With some careful planning, discussion, and a round of beers or two, the process of finding an apartment as a couple doesn’t have to be one massive, and potentially relationship-crushing, bicker session.

We talked to several seasoned brokers on what to do—and what not to—when you’re on the hunt with your honey.


The best way to go about apartment hunting as a couple is to work out what are absolutes, which are perks, and what things you don’t really care about at the end of the day, say Halstead’s Ivana Tagliamonte.  “You should get on the same page with what you can and can’t live without,” she says. “If we hit three to four of those things, that’s good.”  Every couple is different, but make the list in a way that minimizes stress, like over a relaxing dinner. Talk about what's important for both of you and meet in the middle.

And be realistic. Don’t expect a magical apartment with dishwasher, washer and dryer, and whirlpool, all in your budget. Go into the search knowing where the two of you are, and aren't, willing to compromise. "She might want a golden bidet and a wraparound terrace, he might want to get a dog. It’s important to agree on what the budget is and what the search criteria is going to be," adds Citi Habitats agent Angel Dominguez.


Even if you make good money, that’s not all you need to rent or buy an apartment in New York City. Make sure your financial ducks are not only in a row, but solidly rank-and-file. “A lot of people torture themselves for months not knowing their true financial situation,” Tagliamonte says.

Know your income, know your savings situation, and stick to a budget. (Come to think of it, this is also good advice to keep in mind when you're apartment-hunting solo.) If you or your partner has less-than-stellar credit (usually under 700), figure out alternatives before it's time to sign on the dotted line, like using a guarantor, since the person with lower credit will be considered for the mortgage. Honesty is always the best policy, and sometimes, brokers are sympathetic to dings in your score from medical bills or other emergencies. Just be willing to provide extra collateral in the form of security or last month's rent.


Another rookie mistake? Wearing your heart on your sleeve. “Try to keep emotions out of it and keep your eyes on the prize,” Paul Zweben of Douglas Elliman tells us.

“Fighting isn’t going to help the process,” he adds, no matter how much you want to shout and scream about some underlying issue. If your temper is getting the better of you, take a deep breath and hold it, releasing it slowly. Repeat as necessary. Or, postpone your hunt for another day.


Yes, you may want to be on your best behavior in front of your broker—see: the above advice about avoiding temper tantrums—but it doesn’t work to clam up totally.

“Ask questions, because you should feel secure and educated about your new place,” Dominguez says. This is especially important when you're looking for an apartment with a partner, since there are twice as many opinions on any given property. 

Though you and your partner might see eye to eye, you probably aren't able to intuit every thought that goes through their head. To that end, it's extremely important to communicate openly and calmly about what you think about a place. Is a stand-up shower a deal breaker? Let your partner know before you're stuck lathering upright for the next year.


“Brokers are therapists,” says Zweben. “We have to be. If we lose our heads, the buyer or seller loses theirs.” Translation? Your broker is the person in your corner, your Girl Friday, making sure that you’re getting the best deal. It’s necessary to communicate your hopes and fears with them.

Zweben once had a client who wanted a full-floor man cave in the prime Upper West Side. His pregnant wife just wanted to find a place with a good school before the school year started and they became parents again. Zweben acted as an intermediary of sorts, convincing the father that a place on 92nd St. was just as good, and less expensive. 

"It's kind of like a marriage," he said of dealing with high-needs clients. But, he added, brokers are working in your best interest. 


Let’s face it: Even renting an apartment is crazy expensive when you factor in broker’s fees, moving costs, and all of the other hassles. So if you’re in a committed long-term relationship or married, think of the possibilities of a space, and how it may be converted.

“Within five years, a lot of things can change,” Dominguez says. “So make sure you have a place with enough room, just in case.”


“Alcohol and medication work wonders,” Zweben jokes. 


Shacking up: the do's and don'ts of cohabiting for the first time

How to handle couple fights when you live in a tiny apartment

Apartment features than can make or break your love life

How your relationship will survive the apartment hunt, according to nosy brokers

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