How I Found My Dream Apartment in One Weekend (after Much Planning)

As I think back on how I found the apartment of my dreams, I am realizing that there is so much I need to tell you guys!

Finding your dream apartment is not easy. It takes time, diligence and patience (the latter of the three I admit I often lack), but when you finally find it, I promise all that work will be well worth it.

When I set out to find mine, I had a very clear objective and plan, and I made sure I didn’t stray from it. This is the most important part of your apartment search!

But first, I’d like to tell you a little about myself. I am a graduating college student with a huge passion for marketing and advertising, planning to snag a great career in the field in these upcoming months. I was born and raised in “suburban” Brooklyn, but attending college in Manhattan introduced me to a whole different lifestyle that I fell in love with. I promised myself that I would do whatever it takes to stay in the city after I graduate, and I am making it happen now.

So, back to the basics of my apartment hunt. The first decision in starting to look for an apartment is to pick a specific area or areas where you’d like to live. My advice is to love where you live, and not to settle. With dedication, you can find places within your price range in your top choice locations.

For me, this location is Manhattan’s financial district. I have grown to love it, so I limited my search to this area.

The next decision is to use an agent, or not to use an agent. You can go either way. I did a combination of both. First, I scoured the Internet and created a list of residential buildings in the financial district. You can do this simply by running Google searches with the keywords “List of residential buildings” followed by the name of the location or town you are interested in.

You don’t have to do this and most people don’t, but like I said before, your diligence and patience will be rewarded! Using websites that post apartment listings and going through an agent are all good resources but how do you know they are showing you absolutely everything available?

While I put together my list of buildings I wanted to check out, I made sure to include the phone number of each building or leasing office. I then called each building, asked if there was anything available in my price range, and made an appointment to go see it that Saturday (which was the only day I had available to look at apartments).  Let’s just say that Saturday was a super busy one.

Which reminds me. Set the dollar amount that you are comfortable paying each month, including utilities, and don’t take an apartment that is too expensive! You will thank yourself later.

To be extra thorough, I also met with an agent when I was done seeing the buildings I had found on my own.  Typically, if you rent an apartment that an agent shows you, the agent collects a commission that you are expected to pay (it usually amounts to about one month’s rent). You can evade that fee by asking to only see ”no fee buildings.”  A no fee building is one that actually pays the agent fee for you, so it’s as if you found it on your own!

When I met with my agent that Saturday evening she was truly impressed with how many apartments I had scoped out on my own.  I had already seen many of the buildings on her list which allowed us to quickly and efficiently make certain that I had seen every single apartment in my price range in downtown Manhattan.

My next recommendation is one that can backfire: sleep on it before you make your final decision.  If you see almost twenty different listings in one day like I did, you won’t be in any mindset to make a final decision. If you wake up the next morning, after weighing the pros and cons of your favorite spot, and still believe it is the best space for you, this is the time to act fast.  Go put down that deposit! Someone else will most likely be falling in love with it, too.

And this is what I did. The very next day, I ran to the only bank open on Sunday, and put down my deposit, taking my apartment off the market. And good thing I was in a rush; like I expected, I beat another love struck shopper with their check in hand by a matter of minutes for the very same listing that I wanted.

This is an exhausting process, and that weekend was overwhelming. But when it was all said and done I had found the only apartment in NYC that I believe was made just for me, and I felt exhilarated.

Now the next big challenge: to decorate it!!

Side notes/tips:

If you are moving into the NYC area and would like to use a friendly, no-pressure, personable and super efficient real estate agent, I highly recommend Lana Parker from Hudson Properties in NYC. She was the best!

This iPhone app called Nestio really helped me in organizing my apartment search. I was able to list each of the places I had seen, write notes and even upload pictures of each listing.

Author My First Apartment
Christina

Posted by

I am the type of person who likes to get involved in everything I can, which keeps me endlessly busy! I moved into my very own apartment in Manhattan after graduating college, and every day has been more exciting than the last. Furnishing my apartment is just one of the many ways I satisfy my shopaholic tendencies; I especially enjoy finding cute one-of-a-kind items that fit my style. Most recently, I created MinnieinManhattan.com, a New York-centric blog dedicated to the best addition to my home: my little puppy named Minnie!

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Comments (15)

  1. Nye

    Hi Christina:

    I’ve really enjoyed your article and how thorough and organized you were about it. I’ve been handling my research (for another city) in the same manner, though you’ve given me some really handy tricks. I’m def a fan now.

    I am curious to know the range of your apartment? I’ve seen some numbers shared but as for a one bedroom or studio apartment in the area, on a conservative yet realistic budget, how much would that be?

    Thanks and Best,
    Nye

    Reply
  2. Chelsea

    Thank you very much! I appreciate your advice. I’ll e-mail Lana now. :)

    Reply
  3. Christina

    Chels, I realized I didn’t fully answer one of your questions. They will look at both roommates credit scores but usually no credit is not the biggest issue. If for whatever reason you or your roommate cannot get approved, then they will encourage you to have the person who is approved sign the lease. To sum it up, each resident who wants to appear on the lease and be legally responsible for the rent requires approval. One person can get approved and the other can be added as a legal occupant, but if anyone was to be late on payments, only the approved lease signer is legally responsible to cover the rent cost. So if only one person signs, they are taking on a large financial obligation in the event that roommates don’t keep up on payments!

    Hope this helps :)

    Reply
  4. Christina

    Hey Chels!

    Finding a place for $2400 a month is totally possible in the areas that you are interested in. Although I know that Lana may specialize in the downtown area, she is no stranger to most ares of manhattan. I recommend that you shoot her email and let her know what you’re interested in. I’m sure she’ll be more than eager to show you apartments and if she knows someone within her agency that is better for the job, she will let you know.

    All of the apartments that she showed me were in no-fee buildings, which means that the building covered the broker fee. I did have to specifically ask just to see no fee buildings.

    As for the credit scores, usually what the buildings do is multiply by your monthly rent price by a number like 30 or something, and whatever number it comes out to is the dollar amount that you and you and your roomate must prove that you together have in your possession…or will have in your possession by the end of the year (such as annual salary). All checking and savings account balances in your names contribute to the dollar goal. If you can prove that you have the money then you have a good shot at being approved even if you have no credit. However, bad credit will probably make things harder. I’m not totally sure if this is correct! But I think it’s on the right track :)

    All this info may be hard to follow, so let me know if you need any further clarification!

    Christina

    Reply
  5. Chels

    Hey Christina,

    Great post, it was very helpful. I was hoping that I could badger you with just a few questions that I’ve been researching and coming up empty on, since you are on top of your game.

    I am moving to NYC in August, and my roommate and I are looking for an apartment either in the Upper West Side or Midtown West that caps out at $2,400/month. I looked up Lana’s Facebook group, but it appears as though Midtown and UWS aren’t areas that she covers (or I may be wrong).

    Do you know of any other reputable agents that do cover those areas? I wasn’t sure if she would know anyone that she could recommend.

    Also, did you have to pay her a broker’s fee, or was she paid by the landlords whose apartments she showed you?

    And, last but not least, do you know if, in the case of roommates, both credit scores/past credit history are taken into account, or just one? I don’t have bad credit, simply a lack thereof due to paying cash and using a debit card for my expenses. Because of this, though, I’m scared that I will be turned down for an apartment. Did you speak to any landlords that were willing to negotiate?

    Sorry for the novel, but your advice is greatly appreciated.

    Reply
  6. Ashley

    Thanks, Christina! That is really great news – and I just emailed Lana, so hopefully I’m on my way to that dream apartment! Also, I have no idea where I got Marks from in my earlier comment . . . whoops, that’s embarrassing!

    Reply
  7. Christina

    Hi Ashley!

    I’m so glad you brought this to our attention, and I have great news for you!

    I just spoke with Lana and I learned that she switched to a new NYC real estate agency because the manager at the old agency got married and closed up shop!

    Her new agency can be seen at NYisHome.com, and her direct Email address is Lana@nyishome.com

    I told her that you’re looking for a place in Greenwich Village and she said that they are currently devoting an entire team to that area because it is getting so popular. She knows a ton of great places there and told me that she just found her friends an amazing apartment, super cute with 2 bedrooms for just $2400/month!

    She also told me about a special Facebook group she has called Real Estate Deal of the Week, where she posts about new amazing deals that she finds. You should check it out!

    I told her your name and she is waiting for your Email! I hope you find the apartment of your dreams, please keep me posted!!

    Christina

    Reply
  8. Ashley

    Thanks for the post! It inspired me to look harder into scoping out apartments on my own. My roommate and I are looking to move to Greenwich Village, and are taking a trip down to look in a few weeks so it’s getting about that time to start putting our plans into action! Unfortunately, I seem to be having a devil of a time finding buildings in the Village via Google search, but I’m sure we’ll find some. When we were there last we ended up finding a posting or two outside of buildings as we walked around, so I’m hoping that’ll be the case when we’re there again.

    Also, I would like to take you up on your advice to contact Lana Marks as a broker, but the link doesn’t seem to work for me. Could you point me in her direction, please?

    Reply
  9. Christina

    Hi Siobahn!

    New York City, as you already know, is one of the hardest locations to find affordable living. I think that with a budget of $1000/mo, you are in for a challenge. After doing a little bit of research, I found that if you really want to be in Manhattan then you could probably find something in or around Harlem for around $1,000/mo. If you’d like a little more options, looking into Brooklyn or other surrounding brought is your best bet. There are many areas of Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and even New Jersey that are a short subway ride away from NYC and are much more affordable to live.

    Try websites that show available apartment listings such as NakedApartments.com. This one will show you listings in all 5 NY boroughs so you can get a taste of what’s out there in which price range. You can also search by neighborhood as well as how much you are willing to spend.

    Here are some things to keep in mind when moving to New York City. New York is like nowhere else in many ways!

    Many buildings have policies with studios, and how many occupants are allowed to live inside one. Often times they won’t give you an issue, but since you’re going to be at least 3 people, they may only allow one or two of you to sign the lease.

    With that said, just keep in mind when looking for studios that you are looking at VERY small places. Of course, there are always the very large and teeny-tiny exceptions, but at this price range studios will probably just be between 300-400 square feet. With three people, this may become stressful. Of course, if you look for apartments outside on Manhattan, you will have a much greater selection.

    Just like how New York City has the highest rent prices, it also is extremely expensive to just..survive! Food, groceries, housewares, shopping.. it’s all overpriced. So just make sure that you forecast for this!

    Finally, consider the time that you are moving before you make a final decision. You want to move within two months, which is going to be the most expensive time to make a move. Renting apartments is seasonal, and everyone does it in these months. When demand for apartments goes up, so do apartment rents and the costs associated with moving. You’ll find higher rent prices during the summer months than you would at any other time.

    To summarize, although your options in Manhattan would be either non-existent or highly limited, you DEFINITELY have options right outside of Manhattan! Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and New Jersey are all close by and will be great! I hope that you guys find something you love.

    Keep me posted!

    Christina

    Reply
  10. Aleena

    Your post helped so much! Thank you! You actually remind me of myself. I’m planning on moving soon and trying to be as prepared as possible. Thx again!

    Reply
  11. Siobahn H

    Hi!

    I absolutely loved reading you post! My husband, roommate/best friend and I are planning a big move from Florida to NYC. We are moving in about two months. We have never been to NYC and this will be a very spontaneous move. We have been planning this move since December 2011, and have been saving up money for the move since then. My first choice is to move to Manhattan but our monthly rent limit is only $1,000 and I don’t see that being possible. We are looking for anything between the sizes of a studio apt. and a two bedroom; do you think that sounds like a possibility for us? We want to keep Manhattan as our number one choice, but I don’t want to get out hopes up for something that isn’t possible. Our second choice is to move to Brooklyn Heights because I absolutely love the look of that neighborhood, looks like it is straight out of the movies! Do you think our dream is a possibility for us?

    Reply