Sometimes, dorms are the worst. With smelly carpets, RAs, triples and “couches” that are no wider than most normal chairs, having your own apartment in Manhattan or Brooklyn (or God, even Queens) sounds like the nicest thing in the world.
That’s when it occurs to you—I don’t have to take this anymore. You know what, NYU? No, I will not renew my housing contract. I am about to start my twenties, I can make mature decisions and handle everything on my own, because I am an adult in the eyes of the law. I do not need you.
In many ways, you are right. You are probably at least sort-of-mature. And you can make it out there on your own in the big, bad city. You have a roommate? Okay, let’s do this. Let’s get an apartment.
So now there’s a month left until finals, and then you’ll be kicked out of your dorm room faster than you can say, “I don’t know, something short.” We’re here to tell you our own mistakes when finding an apartment and how to should avoid making these on your own.
1. Figure out all of the important information beforehand, and stick with it. Whom are you living with? How many bedrooms? What neighborhood? What price range? When do you want to move in? What futon should we buy? (DO NOT get this one.) At different points, we were looking at four-bedroom apartments in Queens, loft spaces in the LES and our own, respective one-bedroom places in Little Italy. It is good to explore your options, but the most popular living situations among NYU students are popular for a reason. You’ll probably end up in the East Village, Greenwich Village/SoHo, Williamsburg (FYI South Williamsburg usually = Bed Stuy), Bushwick, maybe Greenpoint. So start looking there. Make sure that the people you’re living with aren’t going to study abroad, leaving you with a strange subletter, and won’t back out of the apartment at the last minute.
2. Set aside a solid chunk of time in which you and you roommate(s) can look at places together. Don’t do what we did. Don’t study abroad in London for the summer where you can only communicate through Skype. If you are stateside, don’t drive eight hours with your mom to look for places when it’s 4th of July weekend and brokers are on vacation and not caring that you’re about to cry because you’re scared you’ll have to make another trip back. Just don’t do these things, because they make people want to commit homicide, suicide, infanticide, and all of the other -cides out of pure frustration.
3. Know all of the complicated real estate-y jargon. A year ago, we would have guessed that a guarantor was a cross between a centaur and a goat. Turns out, it’s basically the most important thing any student needs to get an apartment—someone with sufficient funds that will cosign. You’ll need at least one guarantor (most landlords prefer that your guarantor live in New York, or the tri-state area) who will have to provide just as much personal information as you will, bringing us to our next point -
4. You need to be ready to seal the deal right when you walk into a place that you know you like and decide to apply. Carry around a ton of cash. Like, a ton. You need to be able to make it rain the second you fill out your application, or you’ll lose out to someone who came prepared. Consider the security deposit, first month’s rent, and possible broker’s fee. It will bring tears to your eyes and puke to the back of your mouth to hand over $6000 in actual cash. That’s adulthood. Besides the money, have all of your paperwork prepared prior to looking at apartments. You don’t want to lose an apartment to someone just because he remembered his pay stubs.
5. If you’re looking for a no-fee rental, always confirm that there is no fee. Apartments are generally attached to brokers, but sometimes landlords offer a deal to rent out an apartment quickly. Other times, the apartments are through a strictly no-fee company, but they can be pretty crappy and small. One apartment shown to us by the oh-so-hilarious Glen from No Fee Rentals boasted a “backyard” that had to be accessed through a window three feet off the ground and which was made into a door. If you’re not looking for anything fancy (and by fancy, we mean free of hepatitis C), look through No Fee Rentals or Owner No Fee. And then, there’s always Craigslist, which allows you to categorize your searches by apartments attached to a broker as well as by apartments that are broker-free. Just make sure to confirm the terms of each apartment that you’re interested in.
6. Or you can save a ton of energy and hire a broker. Finding a no-fee apartment is a ton of work. While we’re sure there are some really great success stories out there, this can be a huge hassle. We tried to do everything ourselves and still had to end up paying a broker’s fee out of desperation. King’s Court Real Estate on St. Mark’s seemed really helpful, and we regret not hiring them. It would have saved time and money- two nonrenewable resources that we constantly lack.
7. Whatever you do, don’t go through Point NYC. They convinced us to apply for an apartment where the landlord would pay for the broker’s fee for us (that’s a serious chunk of change). But then, as we’re heading to the office to apply and drive home, they informed us that there is in fact a broker’s fee. We did an insane amount of work to try to avoid this, but it didn’t even pay off in the end. Also, since one of us was studying abroad in London, she had to send checks from overseas and Point NYC lost one of the checks. A certified check. A certified check that was for thousands of dollars. We almost lost another apartment because of their mistake. Don’t use Point NYC.
Hopefully, some of this information is helpful. NYU’s Off-Campus Housing Registry, found under the NYU Life tab on NYU Home, is pretty helpful, even if you’re using it only to learn about the process. If you have any questions about apartment hunting or recommendations, share them below. Good luck!