How to rent a New York City apartment in three hours

You’ve all heard horror stories about the process of renting an apartment in New York City. But I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to rent your perfect New York City apartment in three hours or less. This is a true story – let me tell you how Lawrence did it.

Lawrence was moving from California to New York City to go to podiatry school. He was flying into JFK and staying in a hotel out in Long Island City. We were scheduled on Thursday to meet at 11 am to look at apartments on the Upper East Side. We submitted an application by 2 pm that day and he moved in the following Tuesday.

We submitted an application by 2 pm that day and he moved in the following Tuesday.

Here’s how Lawrence did it.

  1. He showed up fully prepared with all of the paperwork required to rent an apartment in New York City including his enrollment letter from school, and his bank account information. He was also using his parents as guarantors and had both of their job letters, tax returns, bank statements and photo ID.
  2. He had a bank account in New York City where he had access to funds equal to four times the monthly rent. If you’re moving to New York City for the first time, many landlords will ask for the first months rent, the last months rent and security (which is equal to one months rent).
  3. He did the research and knew that Yorkville was the area he was going to be able to get a decent apartment for $2100 or less. He committed himself to searching within that neighborhood.
  4. He was flexible with the size of the apartment. He was open to renting either a large studio or a small one bedroom.
  5. We saw 10 apartments in three hours that ranged in price from $1925-$2195 a month.
  6. He made a decision to take a large studio that was recently renovated on York Avenue and 90th St. for $2125.
  7. We filled out the application and submitted it and he was approved the next day.

So what did Lawrence do right? And what would you need to do to find a rental apartment in New York City in under three hours?

The most important thing you can do is to have all of your paperwork fully prepared before you start to look. Find one real estate professional that specializes in your segment of the market, and tell them that you expect to find an apartment in one day. Do research ahead of time on which neighborhoods you are most likely to have success in by going to Naked Apartments and checking out their tool, which shows you average apartment prices in NYC neighborhoods. Recognize that if you see 8 to 10 apartments in a specific neighborhood at a specific price point, that’s a good indication of the type of apartment you will find within your price range. Be prepared to sign the lease and move in within seven days of seeing the apartment.

I’ve seen people who find apartments in three hours, and get on with their lives. I’ve also seen people spend weeks and weeks in agony, frustration and despair looking for the “perfect” New York City rental (hint – it doesn’t exist, there will always be a compromise). They spend hours and hours looking at StreetEasy, calling multiple brokers, getting advice from friends who have never rented an apartment in New York and Googling every single address to see if there’s ever been a complaint about the building. They literally make their life a living hell for weeks and weeks, and in the end, they usually end up in an apartment that they could’ve spent three hours finding.

Benjamin Franklin once said,”if you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.” That is especially true in the New York rental market.

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