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How to Find an Apartment in New York

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

Jul 01, 2024


Anyone who has tried to move in New York City knows that it is one of the country’s most competitive rental markets. For one, it’s known for being incredibly expensive (it’s consistently ranked the No. 1 most expensive city to rent in the US). Plus, it’s home to over 8.5 million residents, making it the biggest city in the US. Combine those factors, and it starts to feel like for every great deal you find in New York, there are at least a dozen other renters waiting to apply. Basically, moving to New York can be daunting — but we’re here to help.

In this guide, we dive into everything you need to know for finding an apartment in New York — from your initial search to your signed lease. To skip to specific section you’d like to read, refer to the ta­ble of contents below.

Planning: A Sample Timeline for Moving in New York

When you’re moving apartments in New York, you have to be ready to move quickly to make sure you can snag the best deal. Here’s an example of a moving timeline for the city.

Day 1 — Start Your Apartment Search

In New York, you probably don’t want to start your apartment search any earlier than 30 days in advance of your move-in date. That’s because most landlords don’t require their tenants to give them more than a one-month notice to vacate. If you start your search any earlier, you may be met with blank stares from landlords who don’t know whether their units will even be available yet. So, if you are planning on moving into an apartment on August 1st, you’d start your search on July 1st at the earliest.

Use an online apartment listing site like ApartmentAdvisor to find available apartments in your price range that match your criteria. We have filters to help you find apartments that are pet-friendly, have a doorman, washer/dryer in unit, short-term rentals, and more.

This is also a good time to hire movers if you haven’t done so already, as it’s recommended you book them at a minimum of three to four weeks out from your move in New York.

Days 2-7 — Tour Your Favorite Apartments

Once you have a list of apartments you’d like to see, it’s time to schedule and attend tours. If you are only looking at buildings that are professionally owned and operated by a management company, you can likely schedule tours on your own to see vacant units. If you are looking at condos or apartments owned by smaller landlords, then you may need to work with a realtor to set up a tour. 

When renting with ApartmentAdvisor, your advisor will handle all scheduling for you and meet you at each of your tours — regardless of the kind of apartment you are touring — to ensure a smooth process.

If you know you will definitely be moving at the end of the month, then now is also a good time to start packing up your current place.

Day 10 — Submit Your Application

Like we said, New York is competitive — so you don’t have much time to mull over your options before submitting an application. If you wait too long, it leaves an opportunity open for someone else to apply and get approved for the same property that you wanted.

Day 14 — Sign Your Lease

If you are diligent about touring multiple apartments in the span of a few days, it shouldn’t take much longer than two weeks to get an application approved and a lease signed in New York.

Day 15 — Apply for Your Moving Permit

If you don’t want to struggle with finding parking on the day of your move, then you’ll want to apply for a parking permit at least 15 days in advance. This can be done online at the New York City Department of Transportation’s website.  While this won’t guarantee you a space, it’ll allow you to block off an open space that you find on the day of your move.

Day 30 — Moving Day

Happy moving day! It’s finally time for you to move in to your new home. Get there early in the day to secure a parking spot and put up your parking permits. 

Brownstones in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill neighborhood.

Apartment Hunting in New York: Picking Your Borough

NYC is a huge city — with five distinct boroughs, each offering a unique feel and lifestyle. When searching for your perfect apartment, it’s important to do your neighborhood research to find the borough that’s right for you. 

Borough Breakdown

In this part of the guide, we will go through what you can expect to find in each borough, which should help you narrow down your search for the right neighborhood.

Manhattan

When you picture NYC, you are likely thinking of Manhattan. Arguably the most fast-paced borough in the city that never sleeps, Manhattan is home to the city’s financial and business districts, many of its famous landmarks (like the Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and its entertainment (Think: Broadway) — despite being the smallest borough. If you’re looking to be in the thick of city life, then Manhattan may be the borough for you. Just know that it comes with the highest price point on average as well.

Queens

Located right above Manhattan, Queens is a more residential and slower-paced section of New York — with the benefit of being very close to the action. Its neighborhoods are more quieter and feel homier, but make no mistake. Queens is no sleepy suburb. Known as the “world’s borough” for its status as one of the most diverse counties in the US, Queens is filled with diverse food options, bars, coffee shops, and more. Plus, it’s home to the New York Mets, two major airports (JFK and LaGuardia), and shopping malls (the Queens Center Mall and Flushing Center Mall). It also offers a lower price point than Manhattan, while giving its residents the benefits of proximity to the center of the city.

Brooklyn

Separated from Manhattan by the East River, Brooklyn is like its artsier, hipper counterpart. With a mix of neighborhoods — some offering a more residential, community feel of brownstones and smaller buildings and others comprising high rises and luxe new construction — it’s a lively and energetic borough that’s continuously evolving and being developed as we speak. Less expensive than Manhattan but pricier than the other boroughs, Brooklyn offers the best of both worlds in many ways.

The Bronx

If you’re looking to live by lots of green space and some of the best Italian food you’ve ever had, then the Bronx may be the borough for you. The second smallest borough, it offers much more of a small community feel within a big city — and packs a punch within its 42 square miles. It’s home to Yankee Stadium, plus the Bronx Zoo, the Bronx Botanical Gardens, Pelham Bay Park, Van Cortland Park, and more. It’s also the least expensive typically of all the boroughs. 

Staten Island

The most suburban of any of the boroughs, Staten Island almost feels like a different world compared to the rest of New York City (and you do need to take a ferry or drive through a tunnel to get there). Rather than high rises and multi-family buildings, single-family homes and duplexes are much more common in Staten Island. Many families appreciate the quiet suburbia of Staten Island, but it’s not for everyone. It has less public transit than the other boroughs, fewer nightlife, and fewer employment opportunities than the rest of the city.

Price

Our rule of thumb for renters is to spend no more than a third of their gross income on housing. New York is the most expensive city in the nation, so depending on your income, you may need to live with roommates in order to afford a place here.

Below is a breakdown of 55 neighborhoods in New York by their median rent prices for studios, one-, two-, and three-plus–bedroom apartments, based on our rental data.

NeighborhoodStudio1-Bedroom2-Bedroom3-Bedroom
Alphabet City$2,733$3,695$4,579$6,000
Astoria$2,707$2,850$3,750$4,200
Battery Park City$3,990$4,933$8,395$14,500
Bay Ridge$1,735$2,015$2,600$3,250
Bedford–Stuyvesant$2,391$2,775$3,296$3,750
Boerum Hill$3,468$3,608$4,998$6,500
Brooklyn Heights$3,125$4,250$7,230$11,995
Bushwick$2,700$2,934$3,398$3,777
Carroll Gardens-$3,500$4,700$8,311
Chelsea$3,973$5,181$6,931$11,500
Chinatown$2,398$2,738$3,800-
Clinton Hill$2,872$3,595$4,300$5,443
Crown Heights$2,398$2,698$3,200$3,612
Downtown$3,493$4,601$6,720$8,829
Dumbo-$4,998$7,487$11,850
East Flatbush$2,208$2,450$2,800$3,178
East Harlem$2,302$2,713$3,200$4,173
East Village$2,975$3,498$4,690$6,450
Financial District$3,901$5,032$6,795$10,461
Flatbush$2,175$2,498$2,800$3,284
Flatiron District$4,514$5,995$10,307$13,150
Fort George$1,884$2,150$2,625$3,143
Fort Greene$3,010$3,885$4,998$5,875
Gowanus$3,225$3,438$4,042$5,441
Gramercy$3,600$5,000$6,750$6,930
Greenpoint$3,000$3,900$4,650$5,450
Greenwich Village$3,620$4,898$6,310$9,338
Greenwood Heights$2,350$2,700$3,497$3,900
Harlem$2,250$2,745$3,273$3,849
Hell's Kitchen$3,477$4,300$4,831$5,998
Inwood$1,800$2,054$2,400$3,000
Kips Bay$3,200$4,195$4,750$6,648
Long Island City$3,300$3,995$5,900$8,000
Lower East Side$2,613$3,523$4,455$5,997
Midtown$3,495$4,720$6,150$7,500
Murray Hill$3,200$4,404$6,000$8,064
Nolita$3,390$4,484$5,898$8,998
Park Slope$2,688$3,500$4,475$6,299
Prospect Heights$3,223$3,700$4,400$5,725
Prospect Lefferts Gardens$2,374$2,650$3,165$3,650
Sheepshead Bay$1,895$2,483$2,800$3,500
Soho$3,450$4,886$10,700$11,500
South Slope$2,677$3,250$4,125$5,998
Stuyvesant Town-$5,387$6,420$7,088
Tribeca$4,773$6,226$10,815$22,000
Upper East Side$2,650$3,416$4,995$9,600
Upper West Side$2,900$4,200$6,200$8,167
Washington Heights$1,973$2,263$2,791$3,473
West Village$3,800$4,999$6,713$7,995
Williamsburg$3,750$4,175$4,700$5,826

For more help figuring out what your budget should be, try our Rent Calculator tool.

Public Transportation

New York is one of the most walkable and transit-accessible cities in the country. While the MTA’s subway system may sometimes get delayed, it really has no match in the country as far as how connected and far-reaching its trains are.

When picking your neighborhood, it’s important to think about where you will be commuting and how often. The vast majority of New York is served by public transportation — but some commutes are easier than others. For example, if you’re working in Manhattan but want to live in Brooklyn, make sure you pick a neighborhood serviced by multiple subway lines. Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights are two options with short and easy commutes, where you can hop on the train and get to Manhattan in less than half an hour without transferring.

Use the MTA’s Trip Planner tool to check out potential commutes, as well as the “What’s Nearby” tool on our apartment listing pages to see how close a unit is to a train station. You can also filter by which subway stops you'd like to live close to when searching for New York apartments on our site. 

The subway on an elevated track in Queens, with Manhattan in the background.

What’s Nearby

Nearby grocery stores, parks, nightlife, and public transit can make or break a neighborhood for a renter. That’s why every listing on our website comes with an interactive map that helps you see what’s nearby, including: places to eat, schools, bus stops, gyms, grocery stores, parks, gas stations, and train stops.

Lifestyle

If you are moving to New York from out of town, it may take you a few tours to get a feel for the different neighborhoods. Some renters even elect to sublet an apartment for a few weeks or months when they first move to get a sense of the city — and only once they’re comfortable do they begin a search for a long-term lease. To find a sublet, try asking friends if they know of anyone who needs a subletter, or looking in NYC Housing Groups on websites like Facebook or Reddit.

One benefit of the Big Apple is that most neighborhoods are very walkable and transit-accessible, while a downside is that NYC apartments tend to be on the smaller side in general. This is pretty true across the board, though some neighborhoods offer slightly more space than others — as shown in our breakdown of where to get the most space for your money in New York.

Another fact of New York is that, in general, it’s less car-friendly than most other cities you’ll go to. Having a car in New York can be costly and inconvenient, but if it’s an absolute must, consider looking at neighborhoods in Brooklyn (though avoid the Downtown Brooklyn area) or Queens. They should have the most options for street parking. As a rule of thumb, the further you are from Manhattan, the easier time you’ll have with your car. 

If you need more help figuring out which neighborhood is right for you, fill out this form to be connected with one of our experts.

Touring: Everything You Need to Know

New York is a broker’s market, which means that you’ll need to work with a licensed broker in order to see almost any apartment in the city (and you’ll need to pay them a broker’s fee). This is due in part to the competitive nature of the rental market in New York, which also leads to many units only being on the market for a few days before being rented out. Renters from out of town may also be surprised to hear that many listing agents host open houses for apartments, where there can be anywhere from 5 to 20 potential tenants touring and applying for a unit at once.

If you’re able to, you’ll want to tour any potential apartment before you sign onto a lease to make sure it meets your needs. If you are not able to tour in person, then ask your real estate professional about virtual touring. Make sure not to hand over any money before you or your trusted, licensed agent tour a property — otherwise, you may fall victim to a rental scam. Before you tour, check out our guide to the 17 things you should look for in a rental.

Chelsea in Manhattan.

What to Bring to a Tour

If you come empty handed to an apartment tour in New York, then there’s a good chance you’ll leave that way, too. You may be asked to fill out an application during the tour if you like an apartment. To give yourself a better chance at being accepted, come to the apartment tour with a few documents in tow: an ID, a bank statement or paystubs, a printout of a free credit report, and a list of references.

If you don’t have an income, have a lower credit score, or a poor credit history, you may be required to have a guarantor or cosigner on your lease as well. If you suspect this is the case, come prepared with the name and contact information of a guarantor as well.

Budgeting: The Upfront Costs of Moving in New York

One of the hardest aspects of moving to a new apartment for New Yorkers is the upfront cost. Most landlords will require you to provide first and last month’s rent, as well as a security deposit equal to one month’s rent. On top of that, the broker will require a broker’s fee, which can cost up to 15% of the annual rent price (so, if your monthly rent is $3,000, that could be up to $5,400 for the fee). A landlord is also allowed to charge you a move-in fee (usually 20-50% of one month’s rent), as well as an application fee — capped at $20. That means that the upfront cost of renting an apartment can be around 4.5 to 5 times one month’s rent.

So, just to reiterate, the fees you may be expected to pay upfront are:

  • First month’s rent and last month’s rent
  • Security deposit (which cannot exceed one month’s rent)
  • Broker fee (between 8% and 15% of the annual rent)
  • Application fee (capped at $20)
  • Move-in fee (between 20% and 50% of one month’s rent typically)

Learn More: New York Resources Roundup

Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you’re feeling a lot more prepared to find apartments in New York. If you need more assistance, though, we’re here to help. Our team of advisors will work with you through the whole process, from finding prospective apartments, to setting up tours, to submitting your application. Just contact us here. 

Find even more of our resources about moving to New York below:

We rate and sort every listing based on fair market rent.

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