So You Want to Rent An Apartment in New York City

You’re on the cusp of graduating from Reed, Oberlin, or Williams College. You flew to New York for the weekend to lock down a pad so you can finally move here to become a freelance _________. Start by picking a neighborhood, telling yourself you can only live in a studio, by yourself, in Williamsburg. That’s where everybody from your liberal arts college flocks when they graduate, so obviously that’s where you need to be to feel hip, cool, legit.

Go on Craigslist. Skip the past the “Broker” apartments, click on “All No-Fee Apartments Only.” You’re saying, “Who uses a Broker to rent an apartment?!” Believe you’ll get a better deal this way, don’t realize nobody gets a “deal” in New York real estate.

Type “Williamsburg” in the search window and limit your max rent to “$900.” 26 results materialize. You’re seeing stuff in non-Williamsburg neighborhoods you’ve never heard of, such as Bushwick, Far Rockaway, and Gowanus. You’re like, What’s a Gowanus? Open up Google Maps to see what “Gowanus” means. See that it’s toxic, has Gonorrhea, is nowhere near Williamsburg. But Whole Foods is coming, so that’s kind of rad.

Scroll down. Here’s one, an “AmaZinG 1bdrm Aptm***(Williamsburg)”—no price listed. Click it. Inside the link there’s just a picture of a wall, which obviously tells you everything you need to know. But it’s by the Bedford L train, a major plus. The owner is having an Open House tonight from 6-9PM, something you’ve never heard of, so you go.

By the time you get there you realize the place isn’t by the Bedford L at all. It’s actually on the Lorimer Street J train. Whoa. To get to Williamsburg, all you have to do is walk to the Flushing Avenue G train, coast two stops up to Metropolitan Avenue, get out, walk up the stairs, walk, then go down the stairs, then up more stairs where you catch the L train at Lorimer and move one stop west to Bedford. Total travel time: 35 minutes.

By the time you get there, 10 or 45 people are already inside, plus a line of people outside waiting to get in. All this for an apartment? You take a look around and realize everybody’s handing out cover letters, resumes, employment letters, tax returns, bank statements, blood test results, health records, police reports, school transcripts, and photo albums to the owner dude. Everybody’s filling out questionnaires.


You go over to the owner, tell him you’re about to graduate from wherever with a degree in whatever. Tell him you really need to lock down a place today because you’re leaving Sunday—you only flew out to find an apartment. He’s like, I don’t rent to students or freelancers. Do you have a guarantor? And you’re like, What’s that? And he goes, How’s your credit? So you go,        I don’t think I have any, and that’s when he asks if you have a parent who makes 250x the rent who can get on the lease with you and you’re like Um and then he asks where they live so you’re like in California and he’s all, Sorry, kid, I only take guarantors in the Tri-State area.

Basically you just wasted a whole day on that one apartment. Call your parents. Tell them getting an apartment is like trying to get accepted to Harvard. Ask them—plead— can’t you just buy me a place? No. Call your best friend Max, tell him what happened. He’s like, Bro, you gotta use a broker dude.

Next day. Roll around (real) Williamsburg and pop into a broker such as Apartments and Lofts. Speak to Lisa (hot, maybe 25-29) and tell her you’re leaving tomorrow, you really need a place today. Tell her what you want. Say your budget is $900. She throws a stack of paperwork at you and you fill it out in her office while she sifts through phone calls, text messages and other alerts on all four of her BlackBerry’s. You’re just on the verge of Carpal Tunnel from all the paperwork and she puts down the phone and says, Okay I have a couple places to show you, one for $1250, one for $1500, and the other for $2300. All totally out of your price range. She talks with a New Jersey accent and has on a spray spray tan. Big hair. Reaches for her Louis Vuitton, Starbucks, and you both climb into her BMW M6 convertible, top down.

Apartment 1, noisy, under the BQE, 15 minute walk to the subway, no doors. Apartment 2, a one-bedroom with a shower in the kitchen, no stove—just a microwave and a hot plate. Apartment 3—a breath of fresh air (sort of): new construction, doorman, center of Williamsburg, 100 square feet. $2300. You pick that one, almost three times what you wanted to pay. Lisa’s like, Great. I’ll need a copy of your cover letter, resume, employment verification, tax return, credit score and bank statements to get you approved.

You: Um…

Lisa: How much money do you have, kid? You need to make 65x the rent in a year. Plus first, last, security, holding deposit and my broker’s fee.

You: Oh, um…how much is all that?

Lisa: Let me add it up. [Typing on her BlackBerry]. It comes out to $11,500 total.

You: To rent an apartment?!

Lisa: This is New York Fuckin’ City.

You: Um…

Call your parents. Tell them the news. Dad freaks out. Dad says That’s ridiculous. Dad says We’re not giving you $12,000 to rent an apartment. Says to settle for a different, cheaper city, such as Burlington, Vermont. TC mark

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  • G Train


    • Madison Moore

      G Train, it would be really great if you could get it together and, you know, come just a *touch* more frequently. :)

  • too rude magazine

    great post. we all know it costs so much money to rent in NYC, yet all of those young “writers” seem to move there. how, and why? are you trying to dig yourself into a deeper hole? because you know, writers don't really get paid. ever. as much as i adore NYC to bits & pieces and would give most anything to live there, it doesn't seem to be worth the hassle or competition, especially when you don't have any connections there. sorry if this comment is too rational for thought catalog. i still love you.

  • Michael Koh

    this is true

  • Matthew Bergman

    I know it's hyperbole, but still It's not that bad. Just mostly that bad.

  • NC

    Only time I'm glad that I live a train ride and ferry away from the city.


    live in new jersey, that's what i did!
    live in the projects in new jersey, that's what i did!
    regret the decision constantly, that's what i did!
    …i hear burlington is great this time of year.

  • christopher lynsey

    Thank god for Red Bowl, the Asian Bistro.

    • Madison Moore

      glad you like that spot!!

  • Marc

    I happen to be the leasing manager for a company that owns/3rd party manages about 2,500 apts in Manhattan/Brooklyn/Queens.

    I advertise no-fee apts on Craigslist and one other site, and its legit, you see apt, fill out an application and approval/rejection is pretty quick and based only on credit and income 40x rent.

    If someone has patience to gather the info needed they would save a bundle on broker fees. Get an employment letter, save a few pay stubs, straighten out any collections and that's all, no $2,000 +/- broker fee.

    I rent to students often, requiring a guarantor, which is also simple, you just have to have some patience and you can save yourself a lot of money.

    Also, no credit is not bad, bad credit is bad.

    • Talia

      what is your email? I am interested in finding a 1 bedroom in Manhattan

    • Ucfgrad917

      Seriously Marc, what IS your email? Trying to find a 3-4br in Manhattan/Brooklyn, starting in May. Let me know, thanks!

  • Guestwho

    there's always montreal

    • Madison Moore

      hehehe :)

  • GenerationMeh

    Sometimes, when I'm trying to fall asleep at night, I remind myself that I could afford a down payment on an honest-to-god house in Burlington right now. It's a comforting thought.

  • Travis Baugh

    should I move to New York City

    • Madison Moore


      • christopher lynsey


  • lindsay

    hahahhaa me and my room mates were looking for apartments tonight and found one in “bushwick”

  • Kal

    damn should i not move to NYC then?

    it's funny easy it is to get a cheap decent place in LA but NYC is a different story i guess…

    i want to hang out with madison moore in real life one day

  • lindsay

    hahaha me and my room mates were looking for apartments tonight before i read this, and found a place in “bushwick”.. haha this is spot on

  • ruthlezz

    60 degrees and sunny today. Need to go hand in my less than $700 a month rent on my apartment one block from the beach. New York I miss you, but not that much.

  • Erin Goldberger

    This is great. “What's a Gowanus” had me laugh out loud.

  • JH

    “She throws a stack of paperwork at you and you fill it out in her office while she sifts through phone calls, text messages and other alerts on all four of her BlackBerry’s.”

    The plural of BlackBerry is not BlackBerry's. The apostrophe indicates possession, as in the BlackBerry's case. Plural form would is spelled BlackBerrys (not BlackBerries, as this is a proper noun).

    • ACDC


  • NoahTourjee

    Huh wish I'd seen this when you wrote it. Its really not that hard to find a decent place to live in NYC. Of course if you're as completely ignorant as you appear to be about how to do anything on your own – then it might be more difficult. Whats Bushwick? Good God. Its called 10 blocks from Williamsburg and a lot more pleasant. Plus, I live in a studio in Williamsburg for less than 1,000. Took me 5 hours.

  • CBee

    Ha! I may have graduated a few years ago, but the open house anecdote was spot-on to my Williamsburg apartment hunt. Not only was it barely within neighborhood boundaries, but it was in a basement with no windows, no closets, and no sink in the bathroom. Still crushed when I didn't get it.

    Sucked it up and moved my liberal arts graduating-self to Queens. Nobody visited me.

    Now renting on the Upper West Side, no fee and in my price range (there is hope) from I'll disclose that I know the owners, but for anyone wary of the endorsement, all their properties are no-fee and what do you have to risk, except avoiding brokers that show you things way outside your price range and Craigslist ads that don't resemble the actual apartment in the least?

    If you're willing to leave your dreams of Williamsburg rentals behind, believe it or not, there are recent grads up here.

  • New York No Fee Apartment list


    I really so desire to Rent An Apartment in New York City because New York is really like as dream city, I want to get an apartment on rent in New York city and I liked to read your article.


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