There’s a lot more to a neighborhood than its aesthetic. That’s why when choosing the right neighborhood to move into in New York City, it’s best to do your research.
Don’t choose a neighborhood on the basis of having visited it once and liked it. You need to conduct not only online research but on the ground research.
There are many New York City apartments to choose from – so which neighborhood is it going to be?
Consider getting a short-term rental
If you have the extra time and money and energy, you can get a short-term rental in the neighborhood you’re seriously considering and experience what it’s like to live in the place first-hand without getting into a binding contract.
This way, you’ll find out what the daily commute is really like and how close the supermarkets and other amenities are and how safe you feel walking home at night.
This knowledge cannot be gained from internet research and exploring Google Street View.
Conduct extensive research
If you think you’ve found the right apartment in the neighborhood that you love, do a bit more sleuthing like viewing Address Report or Localize.city just to get a comprehensive address report and gain more information about the area.
Here are only some of the things that you will find:
- Noise complaints
- Filth complaints
- Street quality complaints
- Number of parks
- Changes in the neighborhood
- Future developments
- Road safety
- Neighborhood safety
Check out local blogs
Every neighborhood — especially a great one — is bound to have a blog dedicated to living in it. You’ll find upcoming events, community activities, charity events, and places to go.
You should also get a glimpse of the sentiment of the people in the area and what they value. Is there a general sense of dissatisfaction going around? Are the residents not happy with planned developments? Is this going to affect you negatively?
Get an accurate picture of how convenient it is
Just about every neighborhood in New York City is going to boast about convenience. But not every neighborhood’s claim is accurate.
Take for example your closeness to subways. A convenient location would mean that you’re just 5 to 10 minutes away from the subway. And if that subway line closes down for maintenance work or construction, what other means of transportation do you have as an option? Keep in mind that some subway lines can close down for years.
What dining options are around?
Murray Hill, Greenwich Village, and the East Village are known for their cheap eats, mainly due to the abundance of students in the area.
Find out your dining options if you live in the neighborhood. Get a sense of what restaurants and eateries and cafes are in your neighborhood by checking out Grubstreet and Thrillist.
And if you cannot head out to buy food, are there delivery services available in your area? If you cannot have late night Chinese food in New York City, then that is just a disappointment.
Do you like the schools in your catchment area?
Families with kids often look up good schools first and base their decisions around that. Notice how StreetEasy includes public school zoning information?
If you want to send your kids to a really good public school, there is Public School 6 and Manhattan’s Public School 40. If you must send your kids to the best public schools, make sure your building is within the school’s zone.
For more information about schools in New York City and their catchment area, visit the Department of Education website. You can also check out private schools and non-zoned charter schools.
Is there something to do at night in your neighborhood?
If you enjoy going out at night and socializing, it’s best to check out the nightlife options in the neighborhood. New York City has quiet and family-focused neighborhoods and also party neighborhoods with a youthful vibe to it.
If you rent in Manhattan, you will have many options for going out and socializing if you live in the Greenwich Village, the East Village, and the Lower East Side. If you rent in Brooklyn, that would be Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg. In Queens, there’s Astoria and Long Island City.
What evacuation zone is the neighborhood in?
Superstorm Sandy has shown us how extreme weather can affect the lives of New Yorkers. With climate experts telling us to expect more in the future, it’s important to know the evacuation zone your neighborhood is in.
The more coastal your location, the sooner you get evacuated. Despite there being no damage to your building, expect a temporary disruption to your day to day schedule. If you’re living in a flood zone, you are going to need to take out expensive flood insurance.
How safe is the neighborhood?
To check the safety of an NYC neighborhood, check the official NYPD website for crime stats. Again, there is nothing like first-hand information so ask someone who lives there or better yet, check it out for yourself. Walk around the neighborhood at night — what vibe do you get?
How is the landlord?
You will be dealing with the landlord for the entire duration of your stay. So before you sign the lease, run a background check on the landlord. There are websites that rank New York City landlords: Review My Landlord and Rate My Landlord.
Talk to his or her other tenants and find out what they have to say about him or her. Does the landlord care at all that the building is well-maintained? Does the landlord respond quickly to any concerns regarding building amenities or safety?
You can also check out your building’s rating on RentLogic.
Is the apartment worth the price you will pay?
Given how overwhelming it is to get an apartment in New York City, it’s tempting to overpay just to get it over and done with.
Do not go down this path. Financial experts advise spending up to 30 percent of your income on rent. Anything more than that is a slippery slope to financial ruin. You can put an end to the search and settle into an apartment – any apartment – are you going to be able to pay consistently every month?
Landlords can take you to court for missing payments. In fact, in their contracts, you will find stipulations on what happens if you miss paying rent.
Lastly, be open-minded when it comes to your neighborhood search. While Manhattan is still top borough, there are emerging neighborhoods and more apartments to rent in NYC in other boroughs. Where you can have more space and peace of mind knowing that you can afford the food, supermarket, and shopping options in the area.