Finding Housing in New York
Arriving in New York with no place to live can be overwhelming to say the least. It's always good to have your feet on the ground before you start looking for more permanent housing arrangements. For that, if you have any friends or friends of friends in the city, crashing on a couch for a few days is always a good and cheap option. A plethora of hostel accommodations are also available in a broad price range. Hostels cost $33 to $54 for a dormitory bed and $80-$153 for a private room that can house 1-2 people. The prices depend on the specific hostel and the time of year with Christmas/New Years being the most expensive time to stay. Hostels are expensive, but offer a great way to meet travelers and other people who have just moved to New York.
If you are staying in New York for a long time, then you probably want to find more permanent housing. There are three types of housing to search for in New York: a houseshare, a sublet and an apartment to rent.
Living with strangers can be terrifying, and a houseshare is often hit or miss. However, they offer the chance to pay less for rent than you would if you were renting an apartment on your own. You get to skip the hassle of racing everyone in New York City for the one good deal on the real estate market, and you don't have to deal with a real estate broker, which many rental apartments will have. Finally, if you get lucky, you can make new friends.
Sometimes people will be going out of town for a short amount of time and will want to rent out their apartment until they return. This option has is upsides and its drawbacks. On the positive end, a sublet gives you the ability to try out a neighborhood and living situation without committing to it for an extended period of time. (Many rentals as well as some houseshares will require you to sign a year lease.) You won't have to buy furniture or decorate the house in any way, which will save you money if you are on a budget. As far as the negatives go, a sublet does not allow you to settle somewhere. You will be living in someone else's space, using someone else's stuff. If you know you are going to be in New York for a while, then it might behoove you to look for a more permanent situation.
If you know you are staying in New York for a long time, you will probably want to find an apartment right away. There are two ways to do that. One is by using a broker. A broker will do the apartment hunting for you. Brokers tend to have access to a wide variety of apartments, including some that are not otherwise available for public viewing. However, they will always charge a broker's fee, usually equal to about one month's rent.
If you want to avoid the broker fee and do the search yourself, you can find listings on craigslist, the New York Times, and the Village Voice among other places. Before committing to an apartment, make sure you know the answers to the following questions: how long is the lease and is there an option to renew; are utilities included in rent; is there a super in the building or nearby for repairs; do you have the option to sublet; is there a security deposit.
If looking at a houseshare, meet all the people with whom you will be sharing the house. They will probably interview you, but take the time you meet them to get to know them as well. Ask them questions like whether or not they have people over and if you can, the types of hours they keep (times that the apartment must be quiet), whether they have any pets (or if you can), and the type of music they listen to. When meeting a prospective roommate, you should ask the same questions.
Get to know the neighborhood where the apartment is located. Even if you've specified your search to that neighborhood, visit it at night to make sure you will be comfortable there at all hours.
Figure out your budget before you start apartment searching. In a city as expensive as New York, rent can eat up a significant amount of monthly income. Know before you start searching what your upper limit is for rent.
The key to all of these living situations is to know what a typical apartment costs in the area that you're looking in so that you don't get ripped off. You can do this by studying the real restate section on craigslist and getting a ballpark figure for the general prices in a specific neighborhood.
If possible, pick a neighborhood or neighborhoods you might like to live in before you start looking for rooms/apartments. That way you're not running all over the city to see apartments. Know that the outer boroughs are often cheaper than Manhattan (with the exception of upper Manhattan), and that certain areas of New Jersey (like Hoboken) are easily accessible to the city.
Hannah Oberman-Breindel is a freelance writer currently splitting time between New York and Seattle.
Money & Costs