So — you want to find an apartment in New York.
Finding a worthwhile place to live in "The Naked City" is one of its most infamously excruciating "joys."
Assuming that you want something affordable, spacious and well-located, you should be prepared to settle for just two of those qualities; it will be more or less impossible to attain all three. The good news is that if you have a solid plan, and you've done your research, you should be able to deliver on your preferred two to a reasonable degree.
Before you start your search, you may have some preconceived notions about the types of apartments that exist, how much they cost and which areas of the city you want to live in. Unless you've been in the market lately, however, you might want to re-think some of those ideas before you actually do your research; the market is constantly transforming — expanding, contracting and being redefined. It pays to anticipate changes.
First — decide where you want to live. Do you have a certain neighborhood in mind because your friends currently live there? Is it close to your work? Did you see it on episodes of "Sex in the City," or in movies? Do you want to live there because you like it, or merely because you like the "idea" of it?
If you've never been to this magical neighborhood before, it's highly recommended that you go there in person to check it out. Yes, in person! Before you do any abstract research, have a look at it. Walk down some of its streets. Try a restaurant there; go to a grocery store. How does it feel? How does it sound? How does it taste?
Can you picture yourself living in this neighborhood? Do you feel safe there? Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel happy?
Now, whittle down your list of top neighborhoods to the right ones — the ones you've visited and liked — before you do in-depth research on prices.
Next, it's time to ask: can you afford the rent? Many people judge prices by what their friends paid after they signed a lease several years ago or by what they read on a not-quite-up-to-date real estate blog. Don't make the same mistake — prices in the city have been continuously rising since the financial crisis of 2008 and are currently at the highest levels in recorded history. Be prepared, if you're looking in Brooklyn, to shell out as much as 60 percent of your income for rent. Yes, 60 percent!
In a city where every building seems crammed on top of the next one, every square foot matters. So, make sure you get the greatest number of square feet you're able to afford.
But also note the layout of an apartment can be just as important as its floor area. One type of apartment that's common in New York is the so-called "railroad" apartment, in which every room connects to the ones before and after it in a straight line, like carriages on a train. And, like a train carriage with multiple compartments, there's also a corridor that each room is connected to, in case a person doesn't want to walk through their flatmate's room to get to the next one. The problem is, this corridor is outside the apartment — it's actually the hallway of the building! So, if you're worried about violating someone's privacy, you may find your own privacy violated instead when you try to "go around" a room, rather than walking through it to get to the kitchen or the bathroom. Needless to say, this layout is not ideal for roommates.
Finally — perhaps — you'll be able to find an apartment you're satisfied with.
Before you sign a lease, it pays to do a little research to make sure the building is not infested with bedbugs, roaches or mice. Simply type the building's full address into Google, and this information should appear in the results. But even after taking this step, it's still a good idea to talk to neighbors. Ask them about these conditions and about the proclivities of the landlord. Is maintenance on the building performed properly and on time? Do the utilities that serve the apartments function well and without interruption? How are sounds in the building, and is there street noise? A quick inquiry of other residents should be able to answer these questions.
In short, it benefits you to do exhaustive research before you commit to a lease. The more checking you do, the more you'll be rewarded, and the fewer surprises you'll have to live with in the future.