I’ve just recently moved from my lovely home in Jersey City, NJ to the great borough of Brooklyn, NY. I’ve moved around quite a lot in the NY Metro area (first Brooklyn, then Manhattan, Hoboken and Jersey City), but since I’ve lived in NJ for about 4 or 5 years, I’ve forgotten how unique apartment hunting in NYC can be. So, since the hunt is so fresh in my mind, I thought it would be great to share my experience here.
Introduction: pace, size, amenities
Generally speaking, most apartments go on the market two weeks before the move-in date (i.e. look for March 1st apartments on February 15th). This is likely the result of high market demand for apartments, which means, when you find a place you like, apply right away. If you think the place is great, so do 5 other people just waiting to swipe it off the market.
Despite being so expensive, apartments in NYC are very small and often oddly constructed. In the outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, etc) you’ll get more space than in Manhattan, but not much. Paying more than $2000 for a 2BR apartment is pretty much the norm. NYC apartments have old foundations, and even if they’re renovated, the old layouts and infrastructure remain and you may find a water pipe from the floor to the ceiling in the corner of your bedroom. The cool thing, though, is you can find some places with great character like exposed brick or elaborate frame molding.
Amenities that NYC apartment hunters look for are also pretty unique (i.e. the exposed brick or frame molding that I mentioned above). Good things to pay attention to when choosing a place are: washer/dryer in the building (this is less common than you may think), proximity to the subway, operable (not painted shut) windows, elevator (though most will be walk-ups), proximity to grocers, bars, cafes, and restaurants, a landlord or superintendent on premise, and the decibels of street noise.
My Personal Account
So as I mentioned, I recently secured a place in Brooklyn that I’m pretty damn happy with. By giving an anecdotal account of sorts, I hope those of you looking to move to this fine borough will get some helpful advice.
When I first started, I wasn’t sure which neighborhood in Brooklyn I liked best. New York Magazine did a great article last summer of The Most Livable Neighborhoods in New York, which I recommend reading. I took a look at a bunch of neighborhoods that were most interesting to me: Williamsburg, Fort Greene, DUMBO, Vinegar Hill, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Clinton Hill, and Prospect Heights. Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill had deep community roots, a real Brooklyn vibe and on the frontier of change. Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, and Fort Greene were by far my favorite neighborhoods. There were lots of great bars and restaurants, subway lines, and a very strong community feel. DUMBO and Williamsburg feel a little “commoditized”, lacking diversity and a community with roots; but they have a young, trendy population, are relatively safe, and have lots of great bars and restaurants. Vinegar Hill has a great historical feel, but is also pretty small and not very well-connected to the subway.
In exploring all these neighborhoods, I quickly learned what type of places I could expect in each. I also learned that I had to make some compromises in order to get everything that I wanted. For example, I wouldn’t take a place without a washer and dryer in the building and I really wanted a kitchen with more modern features (nice appliances and decent counter space); but I didn’t care so much about being really close to the subway and I was willing to go a little above my price range to get that great kitchen.
Although I had set out to find a place to live on my own, maybe a studio or a 1-bedroom, it was a lot more difficult than I had thought. My budget was a smidgen too small for the type of apartment that I wanted, but if I had been a bit more patient, I probably could’ve found something. In the end, I went with an opportunity to move in with a friend of a friend in a great place. Speaking of roommates, if you’re going to live in NYC (even Brooklyn), it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll need to get roommates. The price of apartments here are just a bit too expensive for one person to support on their own. But it’s not all bad, because it’s a great way to meet others in this big, busy city.
Regarding brokers, you don’t always need to use one. There are plenty of apartments that are rented by the owner or use a broker that doesn’t charge a fee (which is typically 1.5 months rent). If you do want to use a broker that does a great job, I’d recommend Paris Smith. You can find her on Ideal Properties Group and tell her Become a New Yorker sent you.
Brooklyn has lots of older, “historical” buildings to live in, and as of late, some new construction options as well. A few years ago, new construction may not have been as available simply because there wasn’t a need to build more living accommodations. I learned from one of the landlords at an apartment viewing that the population of Brooklyn has pretty much remained the same, roughly 2 million people, since the early 1900s. But it appears now that the trend is moving upwards and more people are moving to Brooklyn, giving more reason for new construction. So if your preference is to live in newer, more luxurious (but more expensive) apartments, Brooklyn has some great options.
To me, Brooklyn is New York City’s home. It’s the largest borough in NYC and roots that run deep which makes for a great sense of community. There are an abundance of parks and tree-lined streets, the architecture is much more residential than Manhattan, and you can still find restaurants, shops, cafes and the like that were established hundreds of years ago. In the past several years, Brooklyn has become an increasingly safe place to live and full of people settling down to start a family. It also has a great young population and “going out” scene, which makes it a fun place to live for singles as well.
If you’re looking for a new home in NYC, Brooklyn is a great choice. I hope you’ve grabbed some good tips here on how to find your perfect place!