List of Things to Bring on a NYC Apartment Rental Search

The NYC apartment rental search, particularly the days when you are viewing apartments, can be a bit overwhelming. As a potential lessor, you are often working with several realtors, apartment owners, and friends to make sure everything is coordinated to see several properties over a short period of time. Even if you are lucky enough to be using a realtor, who will organize much of this process for you, you are tasked remembering the specific pros and cons of properties you may only see for 10-15 minutes - after the 5th or 6th, who can keep track anymore?

To help facilitate this process, I've made a checklist of things you should bring with you when you are viewing apartments in New York City. Having these items with you will help you to make a well-thought out choice when selecting your new place to live:

1. Measuring tape. When you are viewing an empty apartment, it's often hard to understand how and where the furniture will fit into your place (In New York City, this is particularly challenging as the apartments are very small.) Having a measuring tape to better understand whether your personal items will fit into the apartment comfortably will be extremely helpful.

In the apartment, I would suggest measuring:

  • The dimensions of the apartment, taking note of where doors and windows are. This will help you tremendously when trying to understand where to put big pieces of furniture such as a bed or couch. It will also help you to compare dimensions between several apartments, as this is often the differntiating factor between places.
  • The width and height of windows, particularly if you will need to install shades, drapes, or an air conditioner.
  • The width of the door, to make sure that big pieces of funiture will fit through it.

2. A digital camera. After seeing several apartments, you will start to lose track of which is which, making it hard to decide on the right choice. Using a digital camera to take pictures and record apartments will help you to have a better "feel" for the place. It will also allow you to discuss potential options with friends and family who may not be able to do a viewing tour with you.

I often underestimate the "right" amount of photos to take when viewing an apartment - I would suggest taking 6-10 of each to make sure you have a good understanding how each looks. Some suggested photos are:

  • The view of the apartment when you walk in, to understand what the "overall" look of the place will look like
  • Pictures of kitchen and bathroom fixtures, to remember the overall condition of the place.
  • Pictures of the main areas where you will place big pieces of furniture (to make sure you understand where they will fit)
  • Pictures of the entrance to the apartment building
  • Picture of the hallway to get a better idea of the overall maintenance of the building.

3. Pen and paper. It never hurts to take notes when you are visiting an apartment - combined with pictures and measurements, this can help to give you a more comprehensive picture of a particular place and gives you the ability to compare apartments over time. I try to take a lot of notes while I am at apartments, and particularly focus on:

  • Making sure I record the EXACT address (if you are using multiple brokers, this is particularly important as you don't want to duplicate seeing a place with more than one broker).
  • The measurements of the apartment.
  • Any names of supers or landlords I meet.
  • The overall pros and cons of the place: I try to list the biggest "pros" and "cons" that I remember - this will give you an overall gut feeling of what you liked. A list that has more cons than pros is very telling.
  • An overall mark: for me, this is either an "X" (no way), a "--" (possibly), or a check mark (very interested) to differentiate the front runners from the rest.

4. A subway map or map of NYC to make sure I understand where my apartment is relative to my work commute.

5. A checklist of exactly what you are looking for. On the apartment search, it can be hard to remember what exactly you originally wanted - in an effort to speed up the process, we try to fit our lifestyles to the apartment vs. fitting the apartment to our lifestyles, making for a less-than-optimal final decision. There are a number of questions you ought to ask and make sure you check for before moving in. I would highly suggest taking a checklist of things you are looking for in your apartment to ensure that it meets all of your needs.

Bringing the above items with you, and using them well, will give you a comprehensive idea of what is available to you and will allow you to choose the apartment of your dreams!

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