Tips for finding your next apartment

There is a lot of work to do before taking the keys to a new apartment.

As the school year quickly draws to a close, waves of students scramble for places to call home in preparation for the start of the new school year in the fall. Most rentals in the city are listed as immediate sale, so they don’t go on the market more than one month in advance — looking just a little over a month before your desired move-in date is fine. There is hope and time for finding an ideal apartment in a great location, all without breaking the bank. So before diving headfirst into the process of scoring a place, focus on a realistic budget and completed paperwork.

Paperwork intact

Keeping organized and prepared will give you a leg up in the eyes of landlords. Having all the paperwork on file is essential because rental applications in the city cannot be complete without proof of employment, tax returns from the past two years, three recent bank statements and a copy of government-issued identification such as a driver’s license. Having these on hand will not only assure the landlord of your seriousness, but also speed up the processing.

Power of the Internet

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The Internet can be a powerful tool to become familiar with a location and find available apartments without broker fees. To find information on a neighborhood, including nearby public transport, a site like streeteasy.com can save some time and effort. Even better, apartment listings are included on the website so everything is highly accessible. Apartable.com, which shows only no-fee listings, has an abundance of apartments located in Manhattan and some in Brooklyn and Queens. The site determines the exact distance from the nearest subway line and includes access to previous building or landlord complaints. Check out nybits.com to beat the competition for apartments that have yet to be advertised and for mostly no-fee listings.

Brokers worth a shot

Dishing out money while saving for rent may turn many people off, but paying for brokers can be useful in the process of seeking an apartment. To be realistic, brokers usually charge about 15 percent of the yearly rent or a fee of at least one month’s rent. The fee is negotiable, however, and in some cases the landlords will cover broker fees. Often brokers specialize in certain neighborhoods so their extensive knowledge can be an advantage. Nakedapartments.com includes a large inventory of listings that charge a broker fee, but some at lower rates such as 9 percent. It also has some apartments whose fee is covered by the landlord. It might not hurt to consider recruiting some extra help.

Walk the talk

Get out and proactively seek potential apartments by looking specifically at smaller privately owned buildings to meet with prospective landlords in person. Avoid large apartment towers that are run by big management companies — they leave little leeway around criteria such as a minimum income, which makes you less likely to stand out among other prospective renters. Because landlords prefer the annual income of tenants to be at least 40 times the monthly rent before accepting any applications for an apartment, the landlord of a smaller building may be more responsive to payment negotiations to maneuver out of this tight spot for potential negotiations. Never ignore word-of-mouth, because a friend might know of a perfect available apartment.

Read between the lines

Most importantly, once you find that place with a reasonable balance of budget and needs, don’t forget to read and reread the conditions of the lease before signing. Because it is a legally binding contract, the lease should be examined closely for basic information, such as the due date for rent each month or any confusing aspects that require explanation. Be diligent now so that, when you finally move in, you can relax in full confidence that your new home is truly yours.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, March 26 print edition. Email Nina Jang at [email protected]

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9 COMMENTS

  1. It’s really good to know that with the right resources and skills, it’s not too hard to find an apartment. The tricky part for me is finding one that has good management, looks nice, has enough space and is easy to get to for the right price. I’ll have to try some of these tips to see if I can get a bigger selection of apartments that are right for me.

  2. I really like the suggestion you give to go out, look for smaller, privately owned buildings, and meet with the landlords. As you suggest, looking into these types of apartments will help you find landlords that are more willing to negotiate on your price and be more lenient in their criteria. Plus, I think that looking into more obscure apartments will help you find a variety of options that are easily in your price range and have easy to work with management. Thank you for your insight!

  3. I think the best tip that you give is to get out and proactively seek potential apartments. When I was looking for my own apartment, I just looked online, and when I finally moved in, it wasn’t what I wanted. So, I think that going outside, looking, and investigating is the best thing to do.

  4. You make some great points about things to look for when finding a new apartment. Another thing you might want to consider is looking into the apartment’s rental property management service. This can make a big different between loving your place and hating your apartment. See if they have good reviews online or ask the previous tenants about their service experiences. http://cambridgeman.com

  5. My friends and I were looking for an apartment and we were pretty eager to find one as soon as possible. I did most of the hunting through the internet so I agree with the checking out apartment finding websites. It takes quite a bit of research to make sure you’re getting what you need and want. It also took longer than we had thought. I would have considered a broker, but wasn’t in the financial position to do that yet. I also agree with the reading the contracts carefully. We almost made a mistake by not catching things we did the second and third time. Thanks for the information! http://www.brgapartments.com/Pages/About-Us.aspx

  6. I need to find an affordable place to live while I’m still taking classes, so these apartment hunting tips will come in handy. Keeping my paperwork organized and prepared seems like a good idea. There are a few apartments that I have my eye on, so I should collect all of the documents that I need to be selected by a landlord soon. Hopefully, this will help me get a good place to stay that’s close to campus. Thanks for the tips!
    http://pennstatecampushousing.com/home.html

  7. I’m glad to hear that there are those experienced in finding a rental in a good location that has exactly what you might be looking for. My friend who works full-time from home with two kids is really having a hard time finding a place with a back yard for her children. I suggested your site. Finally after getting all her paperwork together (as you advised), she called a property management company that was offering a rental. It worked for her and she is living in comfort. Thanks for the help in our friendship. http://www.spectrumpropertymanagement.com/provo-utah/

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