Find the Right Big Apple Apartment to Fit Your Needs
With nearly 9 million residents and broad-spanning hospital systems, it’s no surprise that scores of travel nurses make their way to New York each year.
Beyond the challenge and opportunity of serving America’s largest city, there are plenty of reasons why nurses choose to work in New York.
For one, it offers nursing wages that average 12.8% higher than the national average(1). It’s also an amazing opportunity beyond employment - access to incredible museums, fine dining, and Broadway shows...
Nurses that have made the decision to move to New York likely have a lot on their minds. Regardless of where they are coming from, New York will undoubtedly be a change of pace.
One of the biggest challenges for nurses first arriving in the city is finding the right housing. Where should I live? Can I afford an apartment for myself? Will I need to find roommates?
To answer travel nurses’ burning questions about New York apartment hunting, we’ve put together a 6-point guide to help find the right New York housing to fit their needs:
1 - Start with the Apps
Long gone are the days of filtering through listings in the morning paper. We’re in the future now - we can let technology streamline our apartment hunts.
While in most towns and cities, a realtor/broker could be necessary to find apartments, that’s not the case for New York renters. With ample information available online, travel nurses could consider forgoing hiring a realtor and instead using the tools at their disposal to hunt down their next residence.
While nationwide websites like Zillow are certainly an option (and a great solution in most parts of the country), new New Yorkers can benefit from utilizing apps designed with the city’s unique rental market in mind. Nurses making the move should consider trying out a New York-focused rental app.
Consider starting with one of these:
- Streeteasy: lets users shop listings across the city, with extensive filters, to explore apartments by location, amenities, square footage, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, fee/no fee, and more. Streeteasy is owned by Zillow and is their New York-focused offering.
- Renthop: Similar to Streeteasy, Renthop offers a number of filtering options to help users search across a broad range of listings. Renthop separates itself from the pack by using data to warn users if an apartment seems overpriced, inaccurate, or looks too good to be true.
- Zumper: also enables filter-based searching to find listings that meet user criteria. Zumper provides extra information on the neighborhoods in which the apartments are located, which can be a useful feature for newcomers who don’t know much about the city and its neighborhoods.
2 - New Buildings vs. Old Buildings
Every apartment building is different, and each has its pros and cons. That being said, there is one factor that should always be top of mind while on the apartment hunt: new building vs. old building.
New buildings can be great. They may have exciting amenities like in-building gyms and rooftop lounges, but they can occasionally be all flash and no substance...
Every New Yorker has toured an apartment that looks great on paper but is missing some key components. New apartments are often built to maximize value for the owner, not the renter. When touring these new buildings, take note of things like:
- Closet space - are there closets in every bedroom? What about coat closets or places to store cleaning supplies?
- Kitchen setup - is there enough counter space to cook and store your appliances? What about cabinets and drawers?
- AC/heating - is there central air? Window AC units? Is the heating electric? Can you control AC/heating in the apartment, or is it controlled by the building?
Old buildings, on the other hand, have their own slate of pros and cons. These buildings may offer more spacious accommodations, however, after decades of wear and tear, they could present some challenges.
Watch for erratic heating systems, dysfunctional/non-existent elevators, and drafty windows. These buildings are also prone to more bug problems, so make sure you understand what the process is to have exterminators come to the building (most should have exterminators come by monthly or on request).
3 - Don’t Forget Broker Fees...
When setting the budget for your move, don’t forget about broker fees(2). Even if you don’t hire a broker to assist in your search, you will need to work with one when touring prospective apartments.
Broker fees can vary drastically - while there are plenty of apartments that don’t charge these fees, they are often unavoidable when signing a new lease.
Broker fees can range from a few hundred dollars to a month’s rent or even more. Apartments should list up-front if they have a broker fee. If it’s not mentioned, it should be one of the first questions to ask when learning about an apartment.
Even if an apartment could be the perfect fit, an exorbitant broker fee could sour the deal.
4 - Watch for Scams
A sucker is born every day, and some landlords count on it. If possible, always avoid signing a lease sight unseen.
Even apartments that seem to have comprehensive photos from every angle could be misleading. Far too often, renters sign on for an apartment only to move in and find it’s hardly bigger than a shoebox.
If you can’t make it to the apartment in person, there are other options.
Do you have any connections in the city? See if you can send them on your behalf to evaluate.
No connections in New York yet? Ask if the broker can FaceTime your phone and walk you around the apartment. Real-time footage over FaceTime can help clarify the setup and hopefully answer any questions you may have about the layout.
The New York rental market is always red hot, which means apartments come off the market incredibly fast.
Brokers and landlords leverage this fast-moving market to drive action. “Just so you know, there are dozens of other renters interested in this property, and a few have already submitted their applications...” While this may be true, don’t let it impact your decision. Make sure you’re moving to a place you really want, not just a place that seems to be in high demand.
On the flip side, if an apartment has been on the market for a few months, it begs the question: why? What’s wrong with it...? It may be nothing, but it could be something that every other prospective renter noticed and decided to walk away from.
5 - Review Transit Options
Google Maps and Apple Maps are every New Yorker’s best friend.
While even 5 years ago, these apps had relatively unreliable information on subways and buses, they now show extensive data spanning all different transportation options, including estimated departure times/route closures.
Nurses that find an apartment that could be a fit should make sure they plug the address into a maps app and begin virtually exploring before signing a lease. Consider mapping out a few key routes:
- Apartment to your place of work. How long is the ride? What are the transportation options (subway, bus, ferry, biking, walking, etc.)? If one mode of transportation fails (and it certainly will at some point), what would the backup route be, and how long would that take?
- Apartments to the neighborhoods you want to visit. If you’re moving to New York for the first time, you’ll want to make the most of it when you’re not working. How far is the apartment from the sights you want to see? Can you access the fun things you’d want to try in your free time?
- Apartment to other modes of transportation. How will you access the airports (JFK, LaGuardia, Newark)? What about Grand Central Terminal to hop on the Metro North train? Or Penn Station to grab an Amtrak?
On top of mapping out routes, search for the address of the apartment and just scroll around. Are there a lot of restaurants in the area? What about greenspace, like a public park? Is the neighborhood fairly residential, or is it more business-focused?
6 - Always Communicate Over Email or Text
Renters should treat their relationship with their broker/landlord as if they’re going to end up in court. Keep the evidence!
Renters should make sure they have a paper trail for every communication. If there is a discussion about move-in/move-out dates, pricing changes, or maintenance requests, those should all be done over email and saved to a folder for easy access.
Why? Keeping everything over email can help make sure that if there is a difference of opinion, you can reference what was said and agreed upon.
The last thing any renter needs is confusion over the status of the apartment. Keep everything tracked so if you need to refer back to a prior conversation, you’ll have the receipts.
That being said, sometimes, these conversations will happen over the phone. After those conversations, renters should consider recapping the information discussed and sending it over an email. Include a line to the effect of “Please respond if there is anything missing or inaccurate here.”
Nurses are incredibly busy. After working three straight 12-hour shifts, the last thing anyone would want to do is argue with a landlord. Keeping a strong paper trail will help to make sure that if anything does come up, it can be resolved quickly and painlessly.
Move to the Big Apple with Confidence
Nurses making the move to the big city have a lot to consider, with apartment hunting likely towards the top of the list.
Take the time to make sure you’re getting an apartment that suits your needs and will facilitate your lifestyle - both for work and free time.
Rental companies have their sights set on first-time New Yorkers - don’t let them take advantage of you. By focusing on these 6 key points, you can help make sure you find an apartment that will make your time in New York everything you hoped it could be.
(1) The 15 Highest-Paying States for Nurses, The Nursing Journal. Published July 14, 2022.
(2) NYC Broker Fees Guide, Property Club. Published October 18, 2022.