Do's and Don'ts of Apartment Hunting in NYC

Making the decision of whether or not to stay in my home country (Trinidad and Tobago) or move to the Big Apple to pursue a master's degree was a dilemma in itself. A huge part of that dilemma was the idea of living in NYC and navigating the city life. Furthermore, finding the right apartment in NYC seemed somewhat impossible because of my inexperience in apartment hunting. But I'm happy to say I did in fact find the right place for me (eventually, and not without some missteps) and it is possible.

To the New York Newbies like myself, here is a list of the Do's and Don'ts of apartment hunting in the Big Apple.


Start your hunt on the right day!

I know that as graduate students we may be excited to start searching for our new apartment, but looking for an apartment too early means you'll see options that don't align with your move-in date. My uncle who dabbles in real estate once told me that one should start searching for their new apartment 25 days in advance of their desired move-in date since most landlords typically require you to move in at least 3 weeks after signing your lease.

Have a guarantor on deck!

A lease guarantor is someone who guarantees payment on the lease if it couldn't be paid for some reason. When I began my apartment search, 9 out of 10 of the landlords required a guarantor the moment they learned I am a student with no credit in the U.S. It was at those moments where I felt like I began a crash course in real estate management. FYI, landlords require you to have at least 40 times the monthly rent in your bank account or "good credit" and if you don't, you must secure a guarantor who does.

If I hear the word guarantor one more time!

I also always thought a guarantor must be a family member, but this isn't true. In fact, some companies specialize in providing persons with a guarantor (I'd say stay away from those companies though). Nevertheless, if you are lucky, you may find a landlord who understands that you are a student and may simply ask for your proof of enrollment without requiring you to have a guarantor (although this is very rare to find).

Consider having a rommate, maybe roommates

When I was in the process of moving to this concrete jungle, I swore that having a rommate is the last thing I would do. Needless to say, I am currently living with two other rommates, but that's okay.

Based on my hunting experience, most studio apartments are usually priced from $1,500 and up. While some grad students may be able to comfortably afford that, some can't. When finding a roommate, whether it's a lifelong friend or someone you found in an online forum, be sure to agree on specific terms concerning location, cost, and manner of living. You can check out NYU's housing registry to search for roommates or available rooms here

Michael Jordon Crying Meme

Other Do's

  • Check out NYU's resources for off-campus living
  • Ask for a copy of their broker license before working with a broker to find an apartment
  • Schedule viewings ASAP. Apartments in NYC are like your ex, here today, gone tomorrow
  • Ensure that your apartment is near a main train or bus line and that there are services nearby such as laundry
  • Read the lease to the apartment in its entirety before signing it. For example, checking the building amenities against the lease

Being unprepared when viewing an apartment you like

Speaking from experience, the outcome of this can be heart-wrenching. It was a Saturday morning and the birds were chirping melodiously to the sweet sunshine. The night before found me searching high and low for the right apartment and to my surprise, I found the perfect one. Upon viewing the apartment, it was clear this was IT!

Apartment Hunting Y U No Easy meme

I told the landlord that I was definitely taking the apartment and all I needed was one day to prepare all my documents. I was warned that someone else would be viewing the apartment later that day and if they had their documents ready, the apartment would be theirs. Long story short, the person showed up to the viewing with their documents in hand and got the apartment.

Therefore, it's wise to have the following documents available immediately when viewing an apartment:

  • Letter of employment and/or guarantor's approval letter
  • Last two paystubs
  • Last two bank statements
  • Tax return (if applicable)
  • Official photo ID (passpord, driver's license, state ID, etc.)

Applying for too many apartments within a short time-frame're doing too much meme

This was a shock to me. I thought that the more apartments that I submitted an application for, the more chances I had at securing one. THIS IS FALSE! As mentioned earlier, my uncle dabbles in real estate management and he informed me that landlords can see how many times your credit has been checked specifically for housing. This suggests to them that you may be a flake. It is suggested that you submit maximum 3 applications.

Other Don'ts:

  • Not knowing exactly what type of apartment you're looking for (i.e. number of rooms, amenities, location, etc.)
  • Not reviewing your lease in its entirety. If it helps, have someone else review the lease with you
  • Don't allow your labdlord to make verbal agreements about things to be fixed or repaired in the apartment. Get it in writing!

Undeniably, finding the proper apartment in New York can be like finding a needle in a haystack if you are unprepared and inexperienced. I hope that these tips are helpful because these are some of the things I wish I knew before and during my apartment hunting tenure.

Good luck apartment hunting, and may the odds be in your favor!

NYC Rent be like...