Brick Underground’s best advice for finding your next NYC apartment

By Donna M. Airoldi  | July 5, 2018 - 10:00AM

Consider this a crash course in NYC apartment hunting.


Whether looking to rent or buy, there are so many websites and tips for how to snag your next apartment that simply beginning the search can be overwhelming.We’ve culled the best of Brick Underground's advice to help get you started.

If you’re moving to the city for the first time, there are important things to know about how finding an apartment in New York works—whether you’re buying or renting. Check out our crash course in apartment hunting that highlights eight considerations, including how to scope out neighborhoods and what to look for in a listing that could be deceiving.

Avoiding the broker free on rentals

Unlike many other real estate markets, in New York agents charge a brokers fee for the service of finding you your next apartment. This fee is usually between 12 and 15 percent of the rent for one year. For the Manhattan median rental price of $3,495, according to the May 2018 Elliman Report, we’re talking roughly anywhere from $5,000-$6,300.

Yes, sometimes it is worth it to plunk down that money for their services. But that’s a lot of dough to come up with on top of the usual first and last month’s rent, plus moving expenses. Another option to find a no-fee apartment, which typically means the owner is paying the broker's fee. Check out the no-fee section of our How to Rent guide, and see what the eight best websites are for finding a no-fee rental apartment in NYC.

Where to search if you’re looking to buy

If you’re in the market to buy instead of rent, we have fewer online options to recommend for your search. This may seem surprising at first, but consider this: 70 percent of New Yorkers rent versus own—the exact opposite of most of the rest of the country.

Still, you need to look at multiple sites because you’ll get different results on each, due to the different data feeds being used, how frequently the feeds are refreshed, the technology specific to each site, and the different ways each site defines neighborhoods, says Constantine Valhouli, founder of NeighborhoodX, a real estate research and analytics firm. Sure, you can go directly to each brokerage site, but to save you time, we’ve listed the three best websites for buying in NYC.

Be in it to win it—an affordable housing lottery, that is

Some new developments are 80/20 buildings. This means the developer received a tax break in exchange for setting aside at least 20 percent of the available apartments as “affordable” for gainfully employed low- and middle-income renters. The rent is determined by taking a percentage of the area's median income, and most buildings have several qualification bands that could range from 40 percent of the AMI to 130 percent, for example—which means sometimes those apartments don’t seem so affordable after all when they’re renting for upwards of $3,000.

These apartments are granted based on a lottery system run by the city. Tens of thousands of people usually apply for a handful of available units, but it could be worth it. One lottery tenant who lives in Battery Park City wrote about her experience for Brick Underground. Be sure to also check out our seven steps for applying to the NYC affordable housing lottery.

Share your space

Not surprisingly, if you live in New York, you likely need to live with a roommate. Sometimes it’s the only way you’re able to meet the requirement of earning 40 times the amount of monthly rent. (Yes, that’s another New York real estate thing.)

But finding an apartment share can be daunting. A bad roommate can ruin your life. A good roommate on the other hand, can become your bestie. How do you ensure the latter happens and not the former? Post these 20 questions to prospective roomies, and keep your radar up to avoid roommate scams. Plus, read our 13 best websites for finding a roommate in NYC article, and you’ll be well on your way to scoring a new place to live, and possibly a friend for life.


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