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How I Found My NYC Apartment

If you talked to me at all during my first month living in New York City, you would know that my level of stress was at an all time high, at some insane level that I had never experienced before. The moment I got the email with my job offer, I immediately burst into tears, cried for a solid fifteen minutes, and then immediately Googled "best websites to find no fee apartments in New York City." I had zero plans before I moved. All I had was my trusty spreadsheet (more on that later) and a few apartment tours scheduled for the short weekend that my mom was going to be there with me. 

My living situation when I first moved to New York, while not ideal, was also not totally uncommon. You have to do whatever you have to do in order to get settled, even if it's not exactly where you want to be. I spent two weeks staying in Crown Heights in Brooklyn while a girl I found online (off of Roomi, not just some rando) was traveling for two weeks and was renting out her room in her two bedroom apartment and spend the remaining two weeks and a few days of the month of April staying on the couch of a family friend (basically my uncle) in Chelsea, the place where I usually stay when I visit the city. I finally moved into my own place in Brooklyn on May 1st, but it was a long and incredibly stressful road. I cried a lot, I panicked, and I think I did math for the first time in my life trying to figure out how much all of this was going to cost. 

But, I did it and here's how I made it all happen!

What I Was Looking For 

It's true with NYC real estate that you're never going to get everything that you want when it comes to your apartment. Even if Hannah Montana says you can get the best of both worlds, it's rare when it comes to NYC.

While I knew I wasn't going to be getting everything, this is what I was looking for in an ideal world: a no fee two bedroom apartment with some of the utilities included that was relatively close to a subway line that could conveniently get me not only to work in SoHo, but also to other places in Manhattan. I was also looking for something that wasn't too far of a commute to Manhattan in general, was near grocery stores, and also had a coffee and bagel place nearby (this was not necessarily a deal breaker but like, it was admittedly a little too important to me). 

While that is all something that you can find out from a map, there were also things that were important to me visually that I could obviously only determine in person: will it fit a sofa that pulls out into a bed for guests?; are there other people in the neighborhood who are out and about or does it seem like a ghost town?; what are the streets around the apartment like?; what will my walk to and from the subway look like at different times of days?

Websites That I Used

Ultimately, I found the place that I'm currently living in off of the website StreetEasy. It's pretty easy to navigate on both the website and app and contacting the realtors is as easy as sending a message directly on the listing and waiting to receive an email back to the account that you list/is created by your account. While StreetEasy is the website that I personally found my apartment on, I toured apartments from the following websites (listed in order of preference in my opinion): Naked Apartments, Zumper, PadMapper, NYBits.

There is also the website and app called Roomi, which is what I used to find that very temporary living situation for two weeks and plenty of Facebook groups, but the most popular is definitely Gypsy Housing. The one thing that I would keep in mind with websites and groups like these is that while some people are offering to sign for new leases, a lot are for subletting, which could potentially be a good option for you if you don't know exactly where you want to live when you move but just need someplace that you don't have to commit to or if you're only going to be living in the city temporarily (i.e. for a summer internship).

How I Kept Track of my Choices

Instead of just bookmarking apartment listings or saving them on the apps, I kicked it up a notch and decided to make use of Google Sheets. I created a spreadsheet that I shared with my roommate (who wasn't actually living with me at that point so this was the easiest way to share listings we were legitimately interested in and would consider touring) that outlined certain aspects of the apartment and it's listing.

Here's what I included across the top bar of my spreadsheet and filled out for every single apartment that I came across that fit our main criteria:

  • Location
  • Price
  • Amenities
  • Approximate distance from SoHo and from Central Park (another arbitrary Manhattan location so we knew that we wouldn't be stranded in whatever area of Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan during the weekends or on our off days)
  • Distance to the closest subway stations and which lines were there
  • Link to the actual listing
  • Whether it had a fee or no fee
  • Furnished/Unfurnished (this was mostly for subleases that were for two bedrooms)
  • Lease length
  • Other details (i.e. things that were part of the listing but didn't necessarily fit into the amenities category)
  • Contact name and number or e-mail for the realtor
  • Tour date (if we scheduled a tour at that location)

Ultimately, I toured about...I don't even know how many apartments. At least ten, which might not seem like a lot to some people, but it seemed like a lot, especially because I toured a decent amount by myself. The thing with real estate in NYC is that it is really tough and competitive. Places get snatched up quickly right under your nose and you have to be committed. It was funny though, when I would talk about my search at work, everyone would just reassure me that I would find a place and when I did, everything was going to happen in the blink of an eye. My roommate and I toured the apartment we're living in on a Saturday, submitted our applications on a Sunday, got approved on a Monday, and signed our least a day or two later. So, the moral of the story is, you just have to be patient. I toured ten shitholes and ended up in a neighborhood that checks off a lot of criteria on my original list. Did I have to be a nomad for a month and live entirely out of whatever I packed in my two suitcases when I moved? Absolutely, but you gotta do what you gotta do to be where you want to be sometimes.


  1. Ugh, apartment hunting in the city is the worst! I live in DC and it can be pretty bad here too! This post gave me flashbacks of when I went apartment hunting with my boyfriend. We looked everywhere before we moved to where we are now.

    xo Deborah
    Coffee, Prose, and Pretty Clothes

    1. Apartment hunting is THE WORST. It's so stressful and I hate it and am not looking forward to doing it all again next year ughhhh.

  2. I'm glad you found a place that ticks off most of those boxes, so now when I go to New York (that will be more than just a dream one day) I can come visit!

  3. Omg this post is SO helpful! Literally bookmarking it for future reference. I love this idea of google spreadsheet!

    Xo Logan


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