Apartment Hunting in a High Speed Market: What Can You Do?

“There are those gems of apartments we see and just know it’s the one. Location. Check. Price is right. Check. Apartment is big AND has character. Check.”

And then it just slips right through your fingers.

“I had this happen to me twice in my latest apartment hunt. So disheartening it was, I stopped looking and renewed my current lease.

The story is one we’ve heard so many times we practically know it by heart.

And yet, another year passes, and we find ourselves here yet again. Sweltering in the New York City summer heat and humidity, with a lease that just ended, and now on the hunt for a new place (hopefully with air-conditioning this time).  Maybe you’re looking for an upgrade, maybe you’re in the wave of students moving from dorms to apartments. No matter your situation, it’s crunch time, and you’re on the hunt for the perfect apartment, without having to sacrifice any limbs to pay for rent.

The rental market in New York City isn’t normal. “I’m giving myself 9 days to find an apartment and a job once I get to the city,” my former roommate told me before we made the voyage from Paris back to New York. We, the general population of New Yorkers, seem to learn from experience that you can find an apartment in one day—that’s all it takes. So why plan ahead? Why look at apartments that won’t be available when you actually need one?

Not to mention that committing to an apartment is a big commitment—we like to weigh our options, look at several apartments, and sleep on it before making the leap. But the fact of the matter is that you can’t do that in New York City. Sleep on it, and you lose it. The bottom line is the good apartments go very fast. You might have 12 hours for a good deal (if that). For an average place, count on it being gone in less than 48. So, there’s no weighing your options or sleeping on decisions in the city that never sleeps.

So, if you can’t sleep on it and you can’t weigh your options, what do you do? I talked to some agents to get some advice on the crazed New York City market.

The words of wisdom from Ryan Olsen advised to “have all of your paperwork and documentation ready before you go out to look at an apartment.” Sometimes getting all of the documentation together takes longer than the 12 hours you might have for your perfect apartment.

But don’t go in with expectations that are too high. “Be clear with yourself on what you want,” says Steve Karlin, “The best way to avoid driving yourself crazy is to find an agent that you feel comfortable with and to focus your search with them. The market is no secret, and any good agent can find any available apartments. You get to delegate the responsibility, create the criteria, define which ones you see, and all you need to do is show up to the visits and decide which one you like best.”

But maybe the most important step in the hunt is making sure you are mentally prepared for the process. You have to be ready to say, “yes, this is it, I want it,” when you find the right apartment. But you also have to be aware of the reality of the New York City rental market–and keep your expectations in check.

The takeaway: don’t hesitate. When you’re ready to start looking, be ready to commit as well. And don’t be afraid to use and abuse Showings on Demand that lets you see an apartment when you want to see it.