You have likely started your search on Craigslist and found seemingly perfect apartments with “no (realtor) fee” …only to find they were either a bold-faced lie posted by sneaky real estate agents with astronomical fees or a money-stealing ploy posted by a scam artist, attempting to steal your security deposit before you even view the apartment. In a nutshell…it’s a headache.
My best advice is to be realistic about your apartment search. You are not going to find a brand-new, beautiful apartment in a great location that is also within your budget easily (if at all). However, there ARE some helpful resources to use to find the best apartment within your means. I found the resources below through word of mouth and countless hours scouring NYC apartment blogs, so I thought it would be helpful to distill it down to a simple post. Happy hunting!
Streeteasy.com – I have found this site to be the most reliable in terms of general pricing and finding the true location of the apartment. Best of all, they allow you to search by building (and see what other similar units have rented for and when), and also by distance from your job via public transportation. Highly recommend, though know in advance most listings come with a realtor fee. Streeteasy also offers an iPhone app.
Suitey.com (Now relaunched as Triple Mint) – I wrote about the nice extra perks Suitey offers to their clients in a previous post, but their apartment-finding service is also worth noting. I found many apartments listed on here that I could not find elsewhere or on Streeteasy. All of them come with a realtor fee, since Suitey is essentially a realtor service, though it may be worth the extra money to secure an overall lower rent rate than if you were apartment hunting by yourself. The database seems to pull from MLS listings that are usually only available to real estate agents, but Suitey allows individual users to access these. It’s worth it to sign up just for this search feature, even if you don’t use a Suitey realtor. You can simply take the address/location of can apartment that you like from Suitey and look it up on Streeteasy to figure out which realtor the landlord is using directly (which might help cut some fees)…You will quickly realize that you must be shameless and ruthless in the NYC real estate market, so don’t ever feel bad for doing some apartment detective work.
RentHackr.com – This site allows you to “connect with the best apartments before they hit the market and follow buildings to receive instant notifications and insider information.” But most importantly, RentHackr promotes transparency, as real people post their real rents, which allows you to comparison shop true pricing…and know if your real estate agent is ripping you off.
The Listings Project (f.k.a. Stephanie’s List) – This free weekly email is curated personally by the site’s creator, so the possibility of bogus listings is significantly lowered…especially since you must pay a fee to list your rental listing. The list was originally created to serve the artist/creative community, but anyone is allowed to subscribe. Emails are sent out every Wednesday morning and include listings for:
- Art studios for rent
- Art studios for share
- Art Studios for sublet
- Office/desk space for rent or sublet
- Exhibition / Event space for rent or sublet
- Rooms for rent
- Rooms for sublet
- Live/Work space
- Apartments for rent
- Apartments for sublet
- Apartments for sale
- Houses for rent
- Houses for sublet
- Houses for sale
- Seeking apartments for rent
- Seeking art studios for rent
- Non-real estate opportunities: exhibition opportunities, open calls, internships, jobs, services, items for sale, rent or barter
Gypsy Housing – Don’t let the weird name or Facebook description scare you. Self-described as: “A group to connect members of the NEW YORK PERFORMING ARTS COMMUNITY who have a need for housing. THIS IS AN EXCLUSIVE GROUP…IF YOU DO NOT FIT THE QUALIFICATIONS, PLEASE DO NOT REQUEST TO JOIN…YOU WILL NOT BE ADDED. **PLEASE NOTE: IF IT IS NOT READILY APPARENT UPON A QUICK PROFILE VIEW THAT YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE PERFORMING ARTS COMMUNITY, YOU WILL NOT BE ADDED.**” …However, I clearly am not a prima ballerina member of the NY ballet or an artsy gallery owner, and they added me to the group. So give it a shot. People post sublets, rooms for rent, lease-breaks and available apartments multiple times each day. Also, this is a good way to connect with a huge group of people if you are looking for a roommate.
MoveMent – Known as the app to finally put landlords, brokers and the public on equal ground, MoveMent requires listings to have live geotagged videos/photos of the actual apartment for rent. Photos must be uploaded from within the physical apartment and listers are required to re-post their listings every 5 days, ensuring you are not wasting your time looking at apartments that are no longer available.
Urban Compass– This app also offers search features on their website. It is very similar to MoveMent, though its app interface is easier to use and more user-friendly. The website works similarly to Suitey. Pricing seems realistic, though note that most apartments come with a fee.