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How To Find Your Dream New York City Apartment

Fail to prepare, then you should prepare to fail. That is something my father taught me at a young age and it is very applicable when it comes to trying to land your dream New York City apartment. New York is a highly competitive rental market, and by that I mean there is less rental inventory than there is apartments available. Demand outweighs supply, hence the reason that rents only ever go up. However, don’t despair, here are some excellent tips to help you thrive in this competitive market and find the perfect New York City apartment:

Finding That Perfect New York City Apartment

First, accept the challenge. To do that you must accept that New York City is a competitive market and that it’s much harder to find an apartment in a competitive rental market. There will be more people that apply for the apartment you are targeting than just you and it will mean that you need to both meet the criteria set by the landlord and also appeal to the landlord so that you become their desired tenant. The criteria laid out will likely include, and you should prepare for:

  • Lots of paperwork to fill in
  • A deposit that you must lay out in advance
  • Credit checks
  • Background checks
  • References


Knowing this before you go in will allow you to remain calm when it occurs and have the ideal information at hand.

The key to succeeding is researching New York and finding the best apartments to meet your needs. That is why we created CribRater – we wanted people to be able to explore buildings and neighborhoods and hear from real tenants on what their experiences were like. We used to scour through Quora and Reddit, but the information was all coming from an angle or opinion and seemed loaded. Renters want unbalanced opinions and true knowledge so that we could benefit from other peoples experiences.

We then recommend preparing a rental packet or a GoogleDoc based on everything that you need and when you will need it. This is great if you are applying at an open house, as it allows you to apply on the spot and keeps all your information at hand. I began storing all the main documents in DropBox and even keep the DropBox links stored in an email, that I can send at the drop of a hat. Here is what I include:

My Renter Résumé

  • My renter résumé that includes my credit score, our household income, jobs and letters from our employers, pet information for Teddy (our 18 month old Golden Retriever) and our renters insurance information.
  • The rental application.
  • A copy of my credit report
  • A copy of my drivers license
  • Proof of income
  • Venmo – so I can send a deposit via Venmo or maybe PayPal

micro apartment

Now comes the part where you must blow the dust off your wallet. It is important to talk to your bank and make sure that you are in a good financial situation and can cover all the costs. It is very easy to miss some to the basic expenses that you must prepare for. Remember all the outlays that you will have in New York:

  • Rent
  • Deposit
  • Moving Costs
  • Setting up utilities
  • Furniture
  • A/C

Always, have some cash as things like carrying furniture up flights of stairs can require that you pay the mover a little extra. Parking can be a factor too, so the more cash you have the smoother things will go.

New York City Neighborhoods

Then spend time understanding the neighborhoods. New York has so many exciting and dynamic neighborhoods. At times the pricing in those neighborhoods can rise, based on them being the “it” neighborhood. Here is where a renter can be savvy and can look at the surrounding neighborhoods or the emerging neighborhoods, so that you can find a deal and still get the experience that you would have had, but at a fraction of the cost.

Now that you are prepared, it is time to dive into the listings and get to some open houses.

To get ahead of other renters, I recommend trying to automate the process. I usually sign-up for every app and website to make sure that I am getting exposure to every listing that is out there. Some of the platforms that are out there, share the same data sets were apps like CribRater are built exclusively on real data from real users. The reason we did this was so that you could see listings that are real, currently available and receive information from the actual renters. Once you have everything set-up and are searching listings, I recommend keeping a GoogleSheet so you can see all your results and update as certain listings catch your eye.

One thing, I always have at hand is a quick description of myself and my wife, and what we are like as tenants. Highlighting the good of course – pays rent on time, neat freaks, work a lot. I feel like these elements help me to stand out over other candidates. It is very like a job application in that respect and sending a ‘thank you’ email is always a good idea as a follow-up.


Ask Questions

Remember that you are seeking the perfect apartment, and to do so, you must ask questions. You cannot be afraid to ask the landlord questions, particularly focusing on past tenants amenities and the additional costs that maybe be required, such as cable, electricity, gas and possible amenity fees. Knowing your renters rights will help you. I once found out that the apartment I applied for, and won, was rent stabilized and I would only receive a nominal increase each year. Some times certain landlords can ask for illegal demands of the tenant and that is why it is critical to know the renter’s rights in Manhattan or the borough of which you are seeking an apartment.

The more you prepare in advance of searching out, and applying, for an apartment will make a huge difference as you start to review apartment listings. It is very similar to searching out a new job, so remembering to make sure your social media accounts look professional, can be a huge help. I had a friend who lost an apartment because a prospective landlord some pictures of his rambunctious New Year’s Eve party – in his old apartment – which even had pictures of the damage someone did to his outside wall.

You must move quickly and set your priorities. The more competitive your rental market is, the faster you need to jump on listings you’re interested in, even if it’s just to take a tour. Because everyone else is moving quickly, then you must move equally quick. There is no luxury of waiting till the weekend to go and scope out that Upper East Side, 2 bedroom, apartment.

Getting To Lease on Your New York City Apartment

The majority of showings will occur after work so clear your schedule on evenings and weekends so that you have the time to go to showings—even last minute ones. This is a little bit of an intense process, so keep a clear head. Focus on the apartment, can you see yourself living there and place price as a secondary factor. At this stage, you want to be happy and content. That comes from the apartment, not from finding a deal.


Now you have selected an apartment tat you like, you have applied then relax, as this part is out of your control. Definitely, take time and be ready to respond quickly to landlords and agents. If there is a large amount of people applying for that apartment, then they will move on to the next candidate, if they do not hear back from you. Never allow yourself to be pressured by the broker or agent, remember that they are looking for a commission and are working as an intermediary between you and the landlord. I recommend setting up push notifications on CribRater and the other apps that you are using.

When the landlord reaches out, then you are moving onto the lease stage. Here is where everything must be clear and to your suiting. Ask more questions and have a legal expert look at the lease to help you understand the small print. Because New York is a difficult and competitive market, I recommend trying to negotiate small factors like move-in date, try and get an extra day to get moved in by getting your keys early. Don’t try and negotiate rent as they will likely have candidates ready to pay the going rate.

New York City Apartment Life

You have poured your heart, soul, time and money into the search for this perfect place. You have come through the leasing process and been accepted. Now is time to move in and remember you have tackled the toughest real estate market in the world and won. You now have your perfect home. Enjoy it and stay awhile and review that apartment on CribRater.