As a newcomer to the city, the first obstacle you will probably be facing is finding a place to live. Sound simple? Well, if you don’t mind living in a box, then yes (though even here you’ll have some stiff competition from more seasoned hobos for prime box real estate). Alternately, if you own a fortune 500 company, you likely aren’t worrying to much about finding a reasonable place to live. For the rest of you, you’ll probably want to plan a little more carefully, so to help you find your dream apartment, or at least something big enough to fit your bed in, I’ll walk you through some steps that I think will make the transition a little easier.
STEP 1: SUBLET – Good neighborhood/bad neighborhood can be confusing enough, and you’re not even down to street level yet, so if you’re new to the city, why take a chance? There are dozens, maybe hundreds of sublets throughout the five boroughs available every single day, often at reduced rates. Take a look on Craigslist and pick one out to try for a few months.
STEP 2: ASK THE NATIVES – Your best source for information is going to be other people, preferably friends, but you can pump information from the people at work, in bars, at coffee shops, or really anywhere. Contrary to popular belief, many New Yorkers are friendly and more than willing to tell you all about the places they live. The more you find out before having to make any long term decisions, the better.
STEP 3: SLEEP AROUND – You heard right. now that you’ve got your sublet, get the hell out and sleep somewhere else once in a while. Stay with friends, lovers, accomodating strangers, anyplace but home. It’s important to leave your neighborhood and find out what its like living somewhere else for a day. If you feel comfortable enough, go ahead and walk around a few choice areas that are of interest to see if you feel at home there. Not all neighborhoods are necessarily what you’d expect, and you may be surprised at what you learn.
STEP 4: GO FOR A TEST DRIVE – Now that you’ve got some basic New York knowhow under your belt, it’s time to actually start seeing apartments. By now, you should have a general idea of what you want in an apartment and a neighborhood, and if you don’t, you’re not doing yourself any favors by rushing. At this point, it may be a good idea to visit some places that you think you can afford, just for practice. This way, you can establish more thoroughly what you’re looking for and how much it will cost you.
STEP 5: EYE OF THE TIGER: You’ve got all the information you’re going to need. It’s time to play for all the marbles. Keep looking at apartments, only this time, be ready to pounce. You’ll find that apartments come and go in a matter of days in this city, even less if they are particularly desireable, so you should be comfortable enough with your needs and limitations at this stage to make a decision on the spot. If you see something you want be prepared to snatch it up, and conversely, don’t be afraid to walk away if a place just doesn’t seem up to spec.
Now naturally, all this will take some time. If you don’t have that kind of time, or want to try and find something right away, you might want to consider finding an agent instead. Finding a qualified agent may seem even more difficult than finding a reasonable rent in Manhattan, but my friend and former employer, Niki , has built an impressive website that can help you if this is the path you want to take. One way or another, I wish all of my readers the best of luck finding their new digs, and hope that this advice has been helpful! Keep on watching for more lessons on Becoming a New Yorker!