How to Find an Apartment in New York, in This Economy

The TLDR answer, unfortunately, involves losing your mind

Maya Kosoff

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Not sure if you’ve heard, but it’s a pretty bad time to be looking for an apartment, an apparently increasingly scarce commodity, in New York City. Due to the unfortunate confluence of factors — low inventory, people who left New York moving back to it, landlords hiking up pandemic rents, tenants scared to leave their apartments because they don’t want to be subjected to the horrifying ordeal of finding a new one in this environment, literal bidding wars over rental units — finding an apartment has never been a less enviable task. I’ve lived here for eight (Jesus Christ) years and I’ve lived in so many apartments in that time. I’ve never loved the task of finding a new place to live here — you really can’t find a rental until a month out from the end of your lease, at the earliest — but it’s never been this bad, and I had naively assumed that decent income and a credit score would make that part of the search a breeze for me. I recently learned about a couple renting a (very tiny) 3-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg. They moved in a year ago and were paying $2800 a month, but the landlord hiked up the price by $1700 so they couldn’t resign the lease.

Rents are now higher than they were before the start of the pandemic, somehow. Here are some facts about how bad it is out there from this New York Times article:

  • Rents in New York rose 33 percent between January 2021 and January 2022, according to Apartment List, which is nearly double the national rate.
  • According to StreetEasy, in January 2020, the median asking rent citywide was $2,900. It dropped 14 percent over the following year, before climbing 16 percent to $2,895 in January of this year.
  • Though roughly half of all rental units in New York, are rent regulated, about 43 percent, totaling 2.1 million units, are subject to market forces.
Not my new apartment, but maybe someone else’s? Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash

As I write this I’m waiting to be approved for an apartment — my first one-bedroom place — but it was a nightmare to even get to this point. Here are some of the things I’ve witnessed in my apartment search:

  • I was on my way to go look at a one-bedroom place with no amenities at the top of my budget a…

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Maya Kosoff

i’m a freelance writer and editor. you can also read me in places like the new york times and vanity fair.