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When to start apartment hunting in NYC? Six to seven weeks before you want to move in.

Question: I am relocating to New York for a job and have started to research apartments in Manhattan. When would be the ideal time to start reaching out to brokers, agents, landlords and owners about apartments they have posted? Is it plausible to think that if I took two or three days to visit New York, see as many apartments as possible, and pick one that is ideally available “immediately,” I can expect to be approved and have the apartment ready and waiting for me when I made the move?

— Manhattan Bound

Dear Manhattan:


The simple answer is that you shouldn’t have any trouble moving in on the date you expect. If a place is on the market and the agent or landlord says it will be available for move-in on a given date, you can pretty much be assured it will be ready. This is their business, after all.

As for timing, take your desired move-in date and count back about six or seven weeks. That should give you plenty of time for a two-or-three-day reconnaissance mission, time for the property owner to check out your credentials and time for you to arrange your move. It also gives you some negotiating flexibility. If there’s a lot of interest in the apartment you want, you can offer two weeks or a month’s rent before you actually move in.

>> Read Our Complete Guide to Moving to NYC

As an out-of-towner, you need to be fully prepared to make a deal quickly, so have your documentation all in line and ready to present to the agent or the landlord. Make multiple copies, and prepare and present everything in a finished, professional manner. At a minimum, you should have a copy of your offering letter (or something that shows you have a new job and what it pays), a resume or bio, financial or bank statements and references — preferably someone in NYC — but even your current landlord would be a good reference. “Manhattan Bound is a great tenant and pays on time blah, blah, blah.” And bring your checkbook!

If you can afford it, I’d suggest you get in touch with a broker to show you around. Getting an apartment through a broker is expensive (15 percent of the first year’s rent), but in your case, it might be worth it since you have limited time to look.

Finally, a word of caution: If you are new to New York, you are a potential sucker — a rube, a mark, whatever you want to call it. As former Mayor Mike Bloomberg so eloquently put it: “I’m from New York, and I know a con when I see one.”

>> The StreetEasy Guide to Renting in NYC

Well, you’re not from New York. So be smart how you go about getting your new place. Be sure that whomever you deal with has the proper authority to rent it to you. Stick to brand-name real estate firms. Be wary of lone-wolf brokers; just because they have a key to an apartment, doesn’t mean they can rent it to you. Be very skeptical if they ask for money up front. Ditto if you deal directly with a landlord; make sure they own the property. If your BS radar suggests something’s not right, it probably isn’t. And if the deal is too good to be true, well, there you have it.

Welcome to New York!

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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