Finding housing in New York City is stressful -- here's the strategy I've used

New York City’s housing market is expensive and daunting.

The average monthly rent for a studio in Manhattan just hit a record high of $US2,351.

Available apartments come and go in a day sometimes, so if you see something you like, you better be ready to sign ASAP.

When you hear things like that, it makes you wonder how you’ll ever find an apartment — and one that’s within your budget, too.

I have some good news for you: I’ve done it twice.

Instead of looking for an entire apartment though, I’ve always looked to sublet a room in an apartment, and it’s worked out well for me.

Here’s how I’ve done it.

Craigslist became my life.

Before my move from Chicago to NYC last fall, my mum and I flew into NYC for five days to look at apartments. In the week leading up to our trip, I spent pretty much any and all free time I had on my laptop perusing Craigslist for possible homes.

What I like about Craigslist is that it allows you to filter your searches. Instead of being forced to comb through thousands of housing posts, you can specify the location you want, your price range, if you want the post to include an image, and what kind of housing you’re looking for, to name a few.

Although you have to be careful of the many scams on Craigslist (don’t ever transfer money to someone if you haven’t met them and haven’t seen the place they’re offering), I actually ended up finding my first apartment through Craigslist, and it worked out really well. I lived in a three bedroom, one bathroom apartment in the East Village with two great female roommates who were around my age.

I told everyone I was looking for an apartment.

You just never know who knows who, and if they might end up helping you find a room. Perfect example: The second time I was looking for a place to live, I told my editor at work that I was apartment hunting. The next day, she told me she had a friend who had posted on Facebook that he needed someone to sublet his room. It turned out his apartment is 10 minutes from the place I was currently living in, and it ended up being a perfect fit.

Had I not mentioned that to my editor, I probably wouldn’t have found that apartment, since some people don’t like to post on such public platforms like Craigslist. Also, if you’re able to find something through a friend of a friend, it takes away some of randomness, and you at least know you’re not wasting your time with a scam.

I used social media.

What’s the best way to reach out to all your friends and acquaintances to tell them you’re in need of a room? Social media, of course. Post on your Facebook profile, post in individual Facebook groups, tweet, Instagram, use all forms of social media to get your message out. This will only increase your chances of finding something.

There are also some Facebook groups created especially for those who are looking for a place to live. When I was looking for my second apartment in NYC, my former roommate told me about a group called Gypsy Housing, which is a place primarily for those in the performing arts to post if they’re offering or seeking housing in NYC. Many of the places I looked at I found through this group.

I was persistent and dedicated a lot of time to my search.

Finding housing in a city as big as NYC is stressful, and if you’re going to do it without the help of a professional, you better be ready to put the time in. When I was in the thick of looking for apartments, I was constantly — every couple hours or so — checking the housing resources I was using. That’s the thing about apartments in NYC: They become available as quickly as they’re taken. The quicker you contact someone about an apartment posting, the better chance you have of getting it.

And just because you don’t hear back from someone right away, doesn’t mean their place isn’t available anymore. Send a follow-up and let them know how interested you are. You have nothing to lose. Yes, you sometimes have to put the rest of your life on hold, but when you find the apartment you’ve been looking for, it’s worth it.

I realised there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ apartment.

If you’re looking for an apartment that checks every single one of your boxes, you’re going to get discouraged pretty quickly. The second apartment that I found was exactly what I wanted, except for the fact that it doesn’t have laundry facilities in the unit or building. I’m really particular about how my clothes are washed, so that means I’ll be making a few trips to the laundromat. Not my first choice, but I figured having a decent-sized room with a decent-sized closet, in a clean apartment with nice roommates, in a good location outweighed the lack of laundry.

Decide what matters most to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice, because otherwise your search will never end.

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