How to Get the Apartment You Want, Part 2: Questions of Timing

Today I will address questions of timing in an apartment search. The first question is “how long should it take to find a rental apartment?” and the second question is “how many weeks before you want to move should you start looking?” There is no hard and fast answer to either of these questions and they are undoubtedly related and thoroughly intertwined. How long you spend looking for an apartment depends on how picky you are and how realistic you are about the mutability of rental market conditions that may preclude the very existence of your “dream” apartment. After seeing 30 apartments over a series of two months and having them all be insufficient, it might be the case that what you desire does not exist and you will need to adjust your expectations so they are more in line with reality.

A good rule of thumb is to begin casually searching for an apartment 6-8 weeks before you want to move so that you can learn about the current market conditions, understand what is available in your price range and desired neighborhoods and to prevent a desperate time crunch because you only gave yourself 10 days to look. You should spend the first few weekends going on casual “scouting missions” to neighborhoods you are considering and drop by some rental open houses in order to see what your money could get you and if you’re considering using a broker open houses are a good way to meet some brokers in person and see how they conduct business.

Some brokers will not even want to deal with someone who isn’t moving within 2 weeks. Forget those folks, it’s perfectly reasonable to begin your home search a lot earlier than 2 weeks before you want to move. You are finding a home and that’s not something you want to feel pressured to compromise on because of a time constraint. That’s not to say that you won’t be compromising. You will be. An apartment search in NY is very often an exercise in learning how to compromise: maybe that means a farther walk to the train, possibly giving up that dishwasher or laundry in the building or climbing an extra flight of stairs to save a hundred bucks a month. That’s where the time comes in, you should look at enough apartments that you know which compromises are worth making and which are not.

So the answer to these questions is: how long it takes is how long it takes!! Realistically, no longer than 2 months is a general guideline. If you start too soon you may see the perfect apartment and not be in a position to rent it. If you start too late you may have to settle for a unit you don’t really like because you have to move within a week.

Tomorrow: How to rent an apartment in NY: the paperwork problem. What documents should I gather?

Previously: “How to Get the Apartment You Want, Part 1: What Happens When I Use a Broker?”

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About Me

Michelle Erfer is a licensed Real Estate Salesperson in New York City.
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