Moving to New York City: A Winter Guide

Moving to a new city can be daunting. Moving to New York City? Well, that’s a whole beast on its own. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. From getting started, where to look, and the most helpful resources are all here. The following are some tips to help you get a head start.



Chelsea - Winter 2016

Why winter is unique

Inventory is much lower since most people don’t want to move during freezing weather. This means there’s a little less competition for finding a place. You’re also more likely to see No Fee apartments—though still quite rare.

A general tip from various brokers including beginning your search at the beginning or the middle of the month. Most leases start on the 1st or 15th so that’s when apartments would open up as well. It’s generally not recommended to look more than a month ahead though still very possible.


Renting in New York City is a bit different

The fees:

  • Broker’s Fee: A fee typically around 15% that you’re paying the broker for the apartment.
    • Exclusive Listing: The rental is represented by a brokerage (~15%)
    • Open Listing: When a rental is not specifically represented by an agent or broker (typically ~10%)
  • No Fee: The landlord is taking on the fee instead of the renter. This is often a rare find.

Here are a few more helpful resources:

  • TripleMint: They are a brokerage that I’ve worked with in the past.
    • TripleMint helped me successfully find my current apartment in LES. It took over a month or so but my agent, Ethan Vickery, was very diligent, transparent, and honest throughout the process.
  • An interactive, comprehensive guide for first-time renters in NYC. I wish I had this when I was looking the first time around.
  • Jetty Blog: Jetty focuses on providing rental insurance, and their blog offers some excellent guides on what to think about surrounding rental life.


Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park

When is it a good time to look?

Most leases start on the 1st or the 15th. Hence, it’s best to start looking at the beginning of the month or right in the middle.

Also, inventory moves fast. You can’t expect to take an apartment six months in advance. The earliest you can look is around a month out.


Know what you want and what you’re willing to give up

It’ll be easier to figure out what you want or where to hunt for once you know what you value the most.

Location? Access to restaurants? Subway less than 5 minutes away? This list will help you narrow it down.

Throw together a list. You’ll, of course, modify this during your search when you can better understand what you can get your budget.




In my time in NYC, I’ve lived in Chelsea and LES/Chinatown. Both are great in their little ways. I’m biased based on location, access to public transportation, food, and accessibility to the arts and neighborhoods around me. For in-depth guides, get started with these:

  • Airbnb Neighborhood Guides: A great way to get a feel of the neighborhood when you’re not there in person. While these guides are geared toward visitors, this is still helpful as you explore a new location.
  • Make NYC Yours: If your life and decisions revolve around food, this is a great guide to learn more about the neighborhoods. Let your stomach desires guide you.
  • Compass Neighborhood Guides: Compass is a real estate company/brokerage that also offers guides to help you better understand where to find your dream home.
  • Wikitravel: While not directly related to moving, Wikitravel often has great crowdsourced information about visiting places. There can be some helpful information available in these guides as well.


Where to look for places

A few resources to scope out places to rent (in no particular order):

  • StreetEasy: Filter to your heart’s content. There’s also an app that allows you to search on the go.
    • Save your favorite places and save your favorite listings.
    • Any saved listings or searches can be followed up in emails so you can be notified of any changes to a listing.
  • Naked Apartments: It’s just interesting to see when the buildings were built, how much everyone else is paying in the building (crucial to ensure you’re paying a fair price). Think Zillow but for renting.
  • listings project: This is a great resource great if you’re moving by yourself and you want to find something affordable. There are no brokers here so only the direct owner or someone who wants a sublease.
  • NYBits: Great to do an aggregate browse of what’s available. The listings are super accurate/updated, but you can get all the information on the broker, management company, and more.
  •  Facebook Groups:
    • Broke List: Great for looking for affordable finds. People buy and sell things for cheap here. However, there are often postings for room shares or single rooms here as well.
    • New York City Housing, Rooms, Apartments, Sublets: There’s a lot of bad listings but also some great ones. Beware of the annoying realtors or brokers who spam you.



Get prepared

As with any apartment application, you should always be prepared with a few copies of handy documents that all landlords and management companies will need. Fair warning: be wary of who you share your information with. Be sure to protect yourself and vet the people you’re sharing your knowledge with as well. It is highly recommended that you black out any sensitive information such as your SSN and bank account numbers.

At minimum:

  • Copy of your photo ID
  • First 2 pages of your most recent Tax Return
  • Last two months of your bank statements
  • Credit report – get a free copy with Credit Karma. It’s also good to keep an eye on your personal credit score if you haven’t started already.



So how did I do it?

I posted I was looking for a place a week before on NYC Housing Facebook group. Now, this isn’t my favorite Facebook group, but I caught the eye of someone who saved me in the nick of time. By chance, she had a spot, and I took it. However, I spent quite a bit of time digging through the internet trying to find a place, but in all honesty, everything will be okay.

Above all, trust your gut.

Best of luck to you if you’re in the search or are thinking about it. Share any tips you have in the comments or your experience!


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