Finding a New York City apartment

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The first rule about New York City housing is that the longer you live here, the better off your housing situation is. This is because the rent on the apartment you occupy will increase more slowly than rent on potential vacant apartments, and because once-sketchy neighborhoods become more and more desirable as time goes on. For instance, In 1997 I lived in a grimy, industrial neighborhood with poor subway service, paying a 10% above-market rent, where you had to walk three blocks to find the Times; today I live in a vibrant, ethnic, artistic community with a great health-food store and a friendly corner store that sells the Times and good coffee, for a 20% below-market rent. Of course, the joke is that I haven't moved.

For a two-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one or two stops from Manhattan's East Village on the L train, you will pay $1500 these days. For a two-bedroom in Manhattan you may pay twice that.

The only secrets I have to finding apartments are:

() Read the Voice classifieds online Tuesday afternoons for latest apartment listings.

() Network incessantly. Someone you will meet is looking for a roommate.

() Bring cash equal to three months' rent when you are looking at an apartment. Figure first month's rent, plus two months' security deposit. Or one month's security deposit, and one month's realtor's fee. Why cash? Well, folding money is extremely persuasive, and the landlord doesn't have to worry about your check bouncing. Plus, if the landlord takes your cash, they have to rent you the apartment; they can't just call you and tell you they are mailing your check back to you or not billing your credit card. And having the money right there in your pocket makes you automatically the most attractive tenant of the crowd.

Good luck!

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