How to find your place in the center of the universe

Before moving to NYC, I heard from countless friends who had made the move before: finding an apartment in NYC isn’t easy. For one, there’s the cost. But also, finding the right roommates, or the right location or the right-sized room: you can’t get it all.

Always the optimist, I decided to ignore most everyone’s advice. I’m also pretty selfish and when I set my mind to something: I go for it. I wanted a super cool hipster apartment in Manhattan, and I was going to do whatever I needed to make that a reality.

Thankfully, I made it happen. Here’s how I did it…

Step 1: Prepare your documents

I thought the Germans loved paperwork, but that wasn’t until I started to look for a place to live in New York City. Thankfully, there are plenty of Americans still happy to bend the rules as needed. But it was still important to have as much paperwork as possible before even bothering to look at a place. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a lease, a sublease, or just a short-term rental, you pretty much need the following:

  • Credit score
  • Last three months’ pay stubs
  • Recommendation from your previous landlord
  • Bank statements
  • Photo ID
  • Many applications ask for your most recent tax returns

Step 2: Pick a neighborhood

The sheer size of NYC makes it seem daunting to try to find an apartment. When I moved here (sleeping on a friend’s couch for the first week), I was immediately overwhelmed by the city size: vertically, geographically, horizontally—every which way, this city is B I G .

Because of the amount of options in NYC (literally thousands of new apartment listings to look at every week), it’s really only manageable if you limit your options. Use search filters on each of the apartment listing websites to choose your neighborhood. Focus on one area at a time to prevent too much travel time between apartment viewings.

Step 3: Look everywhere?

Here’s the thing about finding an apartment in NYC: it might come from anywhere! There are countless websites and tools for finding apartments, and many of them advertise aggressively on the NYC subway—so just always be on the lookout for places to look for apartments.

And as with anything, your personal network should always be your first go-to. Post to social media when you’re looking for a place. Almost always, a friend or friend-of-friend is going to know about something. If you’re lucky, it might all align.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular places to look for apartments in NYC:

Step 4: Know the terminology

Moving to NYC, I felt like I had to learn an entirely new language. Apartments here are unique. There’s a distinct style to a NYC apartment—and no, they don’t look like anything you might recognize from sitcoms like Friends or Seinfeld. There are a few words you’ll have to learn during the apartment search.

Truth be told, finding an apartment in NYC was not nearly as difficult as everyone made it out to be. It did take some dedication—I set aside time regularly each day for the search—but with enough time, you can find your kind of place. I ended up with two great roommates in a great apartment in China Town, arguably one of Manhattan’s most beautiful and authentic neighborhoods.

Francesco Duri

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