Finding the right apartment anywhere can be a challenge. Finding the right one in New York City, on the other hand, can be a small miracle. But it’s time to take the complexity out of apartment-hunting. What makes a good neighborhood, for example? Why do apartments cost what they do? What are some good neighborhoods to look out for in the future? Taking the guesswork out of finding an apartment isn’t as difficult as it might seem, and is essential in order to find a safe, appropriate, and affordable rental in NYC.

Cost

Let’s start with the obvious: money. It’s no secret that Manhattan apartments for rent are relatively pricey on a national scale. But besides outright market value, there are many aspects of apartments that go into their cost. While the tenant pays rent, there are bills that the landlord or building owner must pay as well. Since the tenant is not responsible for these particular fees, there are a couple of different kinds of insurance that the apartment hunter may or may not know about. Building insurance is a major contributor to rental price in NYC. First of all, NYC requires a specialized Landlord Insurance that a landlord must own for their property. Other types of building insurance exist as well with regards to residence type. The price to insure a residence differs greatly depending on factors such as neighborhood, crime (theft, in particular) rates, or whether there is parking or storage on the premises, to name a few. But while these systems are in place to protect property owners, tenants do have rights within them too. Responsibilities of landlords to protect tenants from lead paint, carbon monoxide, and bedbugs among others are outlined in the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development Rules & Regulations. So when looking for apartments, prospective tenants should look at these features for insurance reasons as well as personal comfort, since such factors can significantly affect current and future rental rates.

Maintenance

A significant cost built into the rents of rental apartments in Manhattan are the costs of maintenance.

Speaking of building insurance, when viewing an apartment, it’s essential to take a look at its upkeep. Leaky faucets, cracked or broken windows, and damaged cabinets can be more than just annoyances. They could be signs of a building where the landlords don’t respond to maintenance complaints, response times are slow, or the apartment is simply in poor condition. Any of these reasons are enough to drive off a cautious tenant, for they are common causes of headaches down the line. It never hurts to check for upkeep of security arrangements as well (e.g. window gates) to protect yourself from burglary. Any changes can be discussed with the landlord. Previous property alterations should be discussed as well. According to the NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB), improvements to the property that subsequently increased rent since the last tenant must be reported on the lease for the new tenant.

Neighborhoods

When looking for a rental apartment in Manhattan, a good combination of location, low crime rates, transportation, and nearby attractions while still maintaining reasonable tax and insurance rates (transferring to lower rent for tenants) can make a neighborhood extremely desirable. There are several of these “up-and-coming” neighborhoods that have been receiving a lot of buzz lately. Manhattan’s Yorkville saw its gentrification days decades ago, and has since faded from distinct attention. However, it may soon be experiencing the second phase of its popularity, with crime rates continuously falling since 2009 and apartments competitively priced for the location. Morningside Heights, also in Manhattan, is seeing many new businesses pop up and new residents flocking in. Columbia University has helped the popularity of businesses, and crime rates are also well-controlled.  There are places to be watching out for in the future, as well. Previously known for its seedy vibe and high crime rates, Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood is seeing more and more recent popularity for its eclectic and artistic feel. While recent crime increases have still kept many at bay for the time being, it will be an interesting neighborhood to watch in the coming years.

There’s no doubt that leasing an apartment in NYC is going to be difficult. The city has one of the lowest residential vacancy rates in the country. But a well-educated prospective tenant has a better chance at finding the perfect place. If things like property owner’s insurance are taken into consideration when exploring communities of differing price ranges, the apartment-hunter might realize that a high rent is also paying for building features like high security or stellar location. Indeed, the savvy renter might just even start seeing trends and nab a place in a soon-to-be popular neighborhood, proving that it pays to be smart in a place like NYC.

Guest post by Eve Pearce. She can be reached at e.pearce@andalemono.com

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Written by Lorenzo

Lorenzo has been hanging around the RDNY.com office for the past 20 years, and, in the process, has become the president of RDNY.com, Rent-Direct.com, and Acmelistings.com. His mission is to build RDNY.com into New York's largest no fee apartment rental service. Before RDNY.com, Lorenzo was a Regional Sales Manager for Time Equities, Inc., one of New York's largest converters of rental buildings to coops and condos. Lorenzo was once a part owner of Swift & Watson Real Estate in NYC's Greenwich Village.

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