How I Found my NYC Apartment

Hi everyone! Jamie here. As many of you know, I moved to New York City last May to pursue a MFA in Interior Design. Although school didn’t start until September, I wanted to move to the city early for a summer internship, which would help me get acquainted with the interior design industry in New York. I have to say, it definitely worked in my favor to sign my apartment lease starting May 31, as the influx of recent college grads doesn’t normally start until the end of summer. At that point, everyone’s rushing to figure out a living situation last minute and less apartments may be available making it harder to get a good deal on a good apartment.

Let me start off by saying that the New York City apartment hunt is no easy feat… but it is actually a lot more doable than you probably think! When I first realized that I was moving to NYC, I couldn’t even imagine where to begin looking for an apartment. We all hear horror stories of NYC apartments and their skyrocketed prices (this is true if you’re willing to pay the price – trust me, you can find a lot cheaper) or crazy landlord stories. But, my roommate, (hi Carli!!) our moms and I came up with a solid plan beforehand and were able to find our apartment in two full days of searching! Pretty successful if you ask me.

In this post I hope to give anyone moving to the city my top tips for finding their first New York City apartment (YAY!!!).

Step 1: Make a Plan

There are a few things you need to think about before searching for actual apartments. Talk it out with your family or friends to get a realistic sense of how you want to live and take notes to look back on throughout the process. Here are a few things to get you thinking:

  • How many roommates do I want to have (more roommates draws the price down)?
  • Do I want to have a doorman for added security (and added $$$)?
  • Do I want to live closer to work/school or closer to where I will be spending my free time?
  • Is there a specific subway line I want to live by that will make my commute to work easier?
  • Would I be okay with commuting in from Brooklyn to reduce the cost?
  • What amenities are important to me (laundry in building, gym, etc.)?

Step 2: Research

In reality, no one here goes looking for their exact apartment until about a month before they want to move in. However, you can start looking at different apartment buildings, areas, etc. to have a game plan before it’s time to sign a lease. This is where StreetEasy comes in. This will be your best friend throughout this process! You can search down to a specific area, subway line, as well as certain amenities like having a doorman, laundry in the building, etc.

I suggest making an Excel spreadsheet with the name of the apartment buildings, locations, costs, and amenities available. You can also put the contact information of the leasing agents so that you have that ready to go when you’re able to come to New York to see the apartment units.

Step 3: Set Up Appointments

If you don’t live close to the city, you’re going to have to plan a trip. My mom and I planned a trip to NYC for a few days to check out the prospective apartments on the Excel spreadsheet! This was the smartest thing we did and it allowed us to really maximized our time in the city having everything planned out beforehand.

Step 4: The Actual Search

CONGRATS – You did it! At this point, hopefully, you’ve narrowed down your top favorite apartments. And don’t forget to move quickly at this point, good real estate doesn’t remain open for long in New York! I’ll leave you with a few more tips to remember throughout the process:

  • Temporary Walls: Consider the pros and cons of putting up a temporary wall if you choose to add another bedroom. Yes, it adds another room, which allows another person to live in the space and brings down the price. But, most buildings don’t let you build it all the way to the ceiling due to the fire codes. Are you okay with having a 12″ gap, making the room feel a little less private? Talk to the leasing agent to find out these details. In our case, our apartment complex had two companies that they only allow to build temporary walls in the building. Also consider the price of them; they will let you keep them for two years, but they can cost over $1,000 to install and about $200 to keep past the second year depending on the company.
  • Don’t be Afraid to be Pushy: You have to be confident and firm to get what you want in New York (that goes for… everything). If a leasing agent keeps putting you off, but they have the apartment of your dreams available, don’t stop calling or try to speak to another employee. That apartment might soon be taken by someone else! Or, if an agent keeps calling you but you are not interested in what they have to offer, tell them flat out. No use to waste anyone’s time here! And trust me, you might still be getting marketing emails months later.
  • Keep the End Goal in Mind: If it helps, write your budget and 1-3 apartment must haves in the notes app on your phone to remind yourself throughout the process. The days can be long and you’ll be taking in so much information you’ll be exhausted! It’s important to keep reminding yourself of what you need in an apartment so you don’t end up overpaying.


This guide has been long requested and I hope it helps! Feel free to DM or email us with any more questions 🙂




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