Apartment Hunting in NYC: How to Win the Real Estate Hunger Games

Apartment hunting in NYC can feel like you’re participating in a death match. Simple prep and a little bit of awareness can help turn you from that person who ALWAYS loses spaces to that dude or dudette who always gets what they want!

Knowing when to start apartment hunting in NYC can make all the difference in where you end up. Apartment hunting in the city is an art form due to issues like the high cost of living and the sheer number of people looking for a place to live. Having a plan of action can help you find and secure the space you want.

Own the Off-Season

Many people think that looking for an apartment during the off-season (winter through early spring) is the worst time to look for an apartment since there are fewer offerings on the market. On the contrary — looking for an apartment during the off-season is one of the smartest moves you could make. In a smaller market, it may make sense to look for a home during the spring/summer renting season when there are tons of listings on the market. On the flip side, everyone else is looking for an apartment at the same time, making competition stiff and prices can creep upwards as landlords, management companies, and owners take advantage of increased demand. If you can afford to hold off on your search, it could work out in your best interest to look for an apartment during the off-season. People are more willing to negotiate if they need to unload a space and fewer people are looking. Comb through the listings yourself or work with a broker who’s likely to know which apartments and homes need to move.

Start Two Months Before You’re Ready to Move

While it makes sense to look for an apartment when you’re ready to move, it wouldn’t hurt to look a little bit before that time. Landlords and owners sometimes post an apartment a few months before it’s ready to be occupied. They often do this because they may be anxious to move a space, or they want to make sure they have someone in place when they’re ready so that they don’t lose money. A broker usually has their nose to the ground when it comes to listings, so they’d have all the intel regarding upcoming listings. You can also comb listing sites yourself because owners/brokers will often post that an apartment will be available two months or more down the road.

Move When Your Current Place Isn’t Making You Happy

Home is where the heart is. It sounds like a sappy, well-worn cliche, but it’s absolutely true. It may be difficult to move due to many factors including finances, but if your current home is making you miserable, now is the right time to consider other options. Maybe it’s too late to get out of your lease this year, but start putting a plan in place to look for something for next year. If finances are an issue, consider setting aside a portion of your income each month in order to be able to make the move. If there is no extra money, consider getting a part-time job so that you can use those earnings to move. It’s truly that important; if you’re happy where you live, everything else falls into place.

Wait Until You Have All Your Ducks in a Row

Before you start your search, make sure you have everything you need for your search, including documents like your W-2s, tax forms, bank statements, and credit reports. Apartments go in a flash, and the well-prepared early bird gets the worm. If you don’t think you meet the income requirements for the apartment, have a guarantor in place.


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