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How to Pick a Neighborhood in NYC

Choosing a neighborhood to live in New York City can be overwhelming. How do you know which is right for you?

There are really just a few factors to help narrow it down such as cost, proximity to public transportation, noise levels and space.

How it feels

The very best way to get a sense of a neighborhood is to visit it and walk around — get a sense of the vibe.  And don’t just visit during the day. Explore at night, too, to see whether it feels like the right fit for you and you feel safe enough to get home at all hours.

> See Neighborhoods in NYC

If you can’t visit personally, try to find locals — online, or through friends — who will give you their honest, unbiased opinions (generally, not something New Yorkers have a problem doing).

Cost

It can be tempting to overpay for an apartment in New York: rents are high, the market is tough, and after a while you might be persuaded to go over budget just to avoid the grind of the apartment search. Don’t do it! Most experts agree that it is wise to spend up to 30 percent of your income on your rent, but astoundingly, New Yorkers pay almost 60 percent of their income on rent. You may need to compromise your dreams of the perfect Manhattan apartment to get there, but remember that there are wonderful emerging neighborhoods in outer boroughs, and you’ll thank yourself every time you have a little extra cash for a night on the town.

Commute

New York City has one of the greatest public transportation systems in the world and you should take full advantage of it. Are there subway and/or bus lines close by? Will you be able to get to work or school, conveniently? Proximity to public transport will make your commute much easier and will encourage friends to come see you and your great new pad.

Commotion

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to. Be realistic about what level of noise you are willing to put up with. Are you a light sleeper? Do you enjoy a quiet run in the morning? Or is the idea of an apartment without a neighborhood bar not acceptable to you? Just remember that the trade-off for a lively neighborhood with great nightlife might be the club downstairs that blasts music till 4 a.m.

Lifestyle

There are certain lifestyle factors that are different for every renter, but are always important to consider. Families may be concerned with having good schools in the neighborhood. Pet owners may want a neighborhood with lots of green public space. Young single women may be concerned about safety and look for a neighborhood with good lighting and 24-hour bodegas. Think about what the most important factors are for you, and be sure to ask your broker the right questions.

Space

One of the first things you’re likely to compromise in order to live in New York is personal space. Population density here is off the charts, and that translates to less livable square footage. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to resort to using your oven for storage.

If you work from home, or love throwing dinner parties, or get claustrophobic, consider neighborhoods in Brooklyn or Queens that will allow you to spread out even more. Also be on the lookout for a rooftop patio or backyard space; those additions can make smaller apartments much more manageable.

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