The housing market in New York City is notoriously fast-paced and can be overwhelming for those who are not accustomed to the conditions. It’s not uncommon for desirable units to go on the market and be rented or sold within a week, especially in the busier months.
If you want to increase your chances of finding the perfect apartment, you should prepare ahead of time so you know what to expect. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to move to New York City.
- Set Your Budget
- Decide on What's Important to You
- Do Your Research
- Pick a Borough
- Find a Great Neighborhood
- Consider Using a Real Estate Agency
- Narrow Down Your List of Apartments
- Weigh Your Options and Pick a New Home
- Apply and Move-in
1. Set Your Budget
The first thing you need to do is set your budget. If you’re buying a home, your budget will be determined by the loan amount that has been pre-approved by your lender. If you’re renting, you’ll have to meet the landlord’s requirements. Most New York City landlords require tenants to make at least 40x the monthly rent to qualify for an apartment.
If you do not meet the threshold or have someone who can guarantee your lease, you can always use a NYC guarantor service.
You should also factor in other essential expenses like groceries, utilities, entertainment, etc., to determine the rent amount you can afford.
2. Decide on What’s Important to You
Live Alone or with Roommates
You should also identify what is important to you in a home. Would you prefer to live alone or have roommates? Living with roommates certainly makes the rent and other living costs more affordable. It can also be nice to have a person or group to spend time with, especially if you’re new to the city. But finding responsible roommates can be difficult, and it’s often tough to know how well you will get along until it’s already too late. So, you should weigh the pros and cons and decide if privacy is worth the additional cost.
How Long Will Your Commute Be?
Another thing to remember is your commute time. Suppose you are working in Manhattan and want a commute time under 30 minutes. In that case, you will be limited to certain neighborhoods and likely pay for the convenience. So, it’s important to decide what distance from your work will be acceptable. If you work remotely, then this may not be a concern. But you should still figure out where you’ll be working from (home, coffee shop, coworking space?) and if you’ll need to report to other locations.
3. Do Your Research
Once you’ve pinned down your budget and living preferences, it’s time to start doing your research to find the right area. Your budget will largely determine which neighborhoods make the most sense, however, you will find several different options at each price point. Search for listings online to see which areas offer the most value for your money. Every borough and neighborhood in New York offers something unique and exciting, but they each have shortcomings as well. The more research you do before beginning your search, the more time and energy you’ll save finding the perfect unit.
4. Pick a Borough
Once you’ve done some research, it’s time to decide on which borough has what you’re after. All five boroughs offer something unique. Here is a brief look at the pros and cons of each.
Manhattan: Manhattan has an energy you won’t find anywhere else, as well as world-class shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. But it’s also the most expensive, and apartments tend to be small – unless you have the right budget.
Brooklyn: Brooklyn offers a trendy atmosphere with plenty of artists and young professionals and more diverse neighborhoods, each with a unique culture and identity. But certain areas still suffer from crime, and it’s quickly becoming just as expensive as Manhattan.
Queens: Queens is a safe, peaceful borough with a good mix of urban and suburban ambiance. But it doesn’t feature as much action and excitement, and public transportation tends to be a bit harder to come by the father you get into the borough.
The Bronx: The Bronx offers some of the most affordable real estate in the city and plenty of up-and-coming neighborhoods. But much of the borough suffers from social problems like poverty and crime, and certain areas can be dangerous after dark.
Staten Island: Staten Island is the safest borough in the city and features a laidback, suburban ambiance that is great for raising a family. But you also have to take a ferry to get into the city, and it tends to be a bit insular.
5. Find a Great Neighborhood
Once you’ve decided on the perfect borough, you should look into individual neighborhoods. Here are some of the most popular neighborhoods in New York:
Manhattan: SoHo, East Village, West Village, Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Chelsea
Brooklyn: Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO
Queens: Astoria, Long Island City, Forest Hills, Sunnyside, Rego Park
The Bronx: Riverdale, Morris Park, Kingsbridge, Pelham Bay, Fordham
Staten Island: Great Kills, St. George, Huguenot, New Dorp, West Brighton
6. Consider Using a Real Estate Agency
How Do Broker Fees Work with New York City Apartments?
Another thing to consider is whether or not you’re willing to pay a broker. The standard broker commission for a sale in New York City is 6%, which means 3% for the listing agent and 3% for the buyer’s agent. But, you can always negotiate or decide to look on your own. The broker’s fee for a rental in New York ranges from one month to 15% of the annual rent, depending on the listing and location. Plus, it is typically the renter’s responsibility to pay the fee. There are plenty of no-fee apartments where the landlord agrees to pay, but these are rare and tend to feature stiffer competition.
Are Real Estate Agencies Worth It?
Real estate agencies provide a valuable service, but that service may not be necessary for everyone, especially renters. Many real estate agencies have access to exclusive listings and relationships with sellers and landlords that can make the process more manageable. But, in today’s day and age, you can find a variety of quality listings by doing a quick google search. Plus, if you’re renting, you may end up paying a broker fee anyway, so working with an agency would allow you to get more value for your money. But if you feel confident in your own abilities, you can always try to save yourself the commission and search on your own.
7. Narrow Down Your List of Apartments
Once you’ve cornered a borough and neighborhood, it’s time to zero in on the perfect unit. Try to see as many apartments as possible within a limited amount of time. You’ll want to give yourself options. However, the New York City housing market moves very quickly. So, if you wait too long, you could easily lose the unit to someone that is ready to make a move. Buyers will have a bit more time to look than the renters. But either way, it’s best to see as many options as possible within the appropriate window of time and make your decision based on what’s available.
8. Weigh Your Options and Pick a New Home
Once you have a few contenders in mind, you should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each to decide which is the winner. This may be obvious, or it may be a difficult decision. Consider things like the price, amenities and utilities, your commute time, proximity to schools or entertainment, and any other factors relevant to your life. Also, consider what is essential and what is convenient. You may have to sacrifice a few conveniences to ensure all your essentials are met. But if none of the units satisfy your essentials, you may want to keep looking.
9. Apply and Move-In
Once you’ve found the perfect place, all that’s left to do is apply and move in. If you’re buying, you will complete the mortgage underwriting process and go through the closing. If you are renting, you will submit an application package with your financial documents to the landlord and wait for approval. Once the contracts are signed, you will get the keys to your new home. But moving to New York City can be notoriously difficult, so you may want to hire a moving company or make other arrangements to help with the labor.