As you may have realized by now, I am Australian, so my experiences of finding “my first apartment” in New York City weren’t exactly my first experiences of finding an apartment. I have had leases in Australia and thought I knew the process quite well.
I was caught pretty off guard here in the USA!
You wouldn’t think there would be many variations but my apartment hunt in New York City was somewhat of a hustle, compared to my relaxing Saturday mornings wandering “Open Houses” in Australia.
Things I learned along the way, finding myself the perfect New York City studio apartment:
1. It is absolutely critical that you have your documents ready, in order, and be ready to fetch more documents that you never expected you’d need. Brokers and landlords can be hasty and demanding, so come prepared!
2. Don’t take no for an answer and don’t believe everything a broker tells you! When I first sat down with my broker’s associate, she told me no management company would accept an offer from a non-US citizen who didn’t have a social security number, yet three days later I was signing a lease with the same girl. Go figure.
3. Know your budget but tell your broker a lesser amount – it will give you a little bit of leverage to go over what they believe is your budget (i.e. If you can afford $2000 a month, tell your broker $1800, because let me assure you, they will push a few hundred higher than your budget anyway!)
4. Be prepared to perhaps need to go slightly over budget. Depending on where you are looking or how adamant you are about certain spaces you need, it may require more than you anticipated. Sometimes, something needs to give – size or money.
5. You need to stand your ground, be clear about your requirements and don’t be bullied into anything you are not 100% positive about. Brokers work very closely with the management companies and while you think the broker has your best interests at heart, they really have the best interests of themselves and the management company at heart most.
6. You don’t necessarily need a broker. There is a notion that your second and third experiences of finding an apartment in New York City will be far cheaper and less hectic than your first. The reason being, generally the more people you meet, the more likely someone will know someone who wants to sublet their apartment to you, making a broker unnecessary and therefore no broker fees! Personally, I was prepared to cough up around $3000 to my broker for the “ease” of the process (I didn’t know enough people here to rely on the word-of-mouth real estate market).
7. Don’t expect professionalism! When my lease was ready to be signed, it was 5pm on a Friday evening, pouring rain in the city and my broker barked into the phone, “You need to get here in the next twenty minutes.” When I arrived, he was on another call, arguing with a colleague across the office, scribbled an address on a post-it for my Super, threw me one of the two keys I needed and basically waved me out of the place. I couldn’t believe I had paid him $3000 in commission and not even a hand shake and a “nice doing business with you” thank you.
8. It is definitely worth it in the end! All the hard work and stress pays off when you have your own space that is your sanctuary to come home to at the end of a long, hard day in the city.