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Survival Guide for Performing Artists

Apartment Hunting
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Survival Guide for Performers: Highlights

Discount Dance Supplies
Audition Listings
Web Design
Performers' Publicity
Living in NYC
Personal Safety
Apartment Hunting in NYC
Saving Money
Making Money
Sheet Music Stores
Did You Know... 
Other Resources 

Affordable Neighborhoods - How Much $$ ?
How to Find Apartments - Bribery, aka "Key Deposits"
Real Estate Agencies
- Sublets

Finding an Apartment
in New York City

PLEASE NOTE: does not find apartments for people. The only information we have about apartments is below. Please do not call or write for more information or help in finding an apartment. All the info we have is posted here. Thanks.


What You Can Rent for $1000: Read this informative article from the June 4, 2006 New York Times about finding a "cheap" apartment for under $1000. You may want to read it too:

Rent vs. Buy: see The New York Times' interactive feature comparing the benefits of renting versus buying a comparable home.

The Cheap Seats

door.gif (2130 bytes)If your priority in coming to NYC is to improve your artistry via lessons, coachings, going to shows, dance classes, etc., then you probably won’t want to spend all your money on rent.

There are a few neighborhoods in NYC that are more affordable than most of the rest:

  • Inwood & Washington Heights (157th/Broadway - 218th St, Manhattan) known for thick walls and musician-friendly buildings.
  • Astoria & Sunnyside (Queens)

In these areas, you can expect to find spacious apartments for less than the more desirable busy neighborhoods in Manhattan, though you will have to spend 25-45 minutes on the subway to get to Midtown. For many, it is a welcome trade-off, considering the alternative is living in a "shoebox" and/or paying all your wages to the landlord.

How Much?

BS00044A.gif (2229 bytes)Approximate monthly rents in Inwood, Washington Heights, Astoria, Sunnyside (going up all the time):

Studio $800 - 1000

1 bedroom $900 - 1400

2 bedroom $1200 - 2000

If you just can’t take the commute, but still want to save a little over premium NYC prices, try the area surrounding Columbia University & Manhattan School of Music (100th St/Broadway - 125th St/Broadway). The prices will generally be about $200-300 more per month than the above. In this area, the farther West you are, generally the safer the area.  This area also boasts more "fashionable" hangouts, like name-brand coffee shops, lots of great bookstores, and many good restaurants.  You won't find many of these comforts in "the cheap seats," but then, most folks end up spending most of their time in the heart of the city anyway.

If you really want to live in "hot" neighborhoods, here's what you can expect to pay (all rates approximate):

For a Studio  apartment (bear in mind that Studios in these areas may be considerably smaller than those in the neighborhoods mentioned above):

  • Upper West Side (65th - 96th Street, Riverside through Columbus):  $1150-1300
  • Greenwich Village: $1300-2000
  • Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope (Brooklyn):   $1000-$1300

How Do I Find an Apartment?

Before you start flipping through ads, you should do some footwork.  Walk around the neighborhood you think you might like, and take notes about which buildings, which streets, which blocks you like, and which you want to avoid.   Often 1 block can make a big difference, so unless you are really brave, do your homework before you take an apartment. 

After you've really narrowed it down, pour over the papers.  The most popular way to find an apartment is newspaper ads.  Check the New York Times, the Village Voice (now free in NYC-- you can almost always find it in Tower Records, Barnes & Noble, and on many street corners) and LOOT (a free ads paper).  

HOT TIP: The Voice comes out officially every Wednesday, but you can find it Tuesday nights about 8pm in Greenwich Village.  Many die-hard apartment hunters wait for the paper by their favorite newsstand and then call and/or visit the available apartments that very night.  Often the best deals listed in the Voice are gone by Wednesday noon.

In Inwood & Washington Heights, a great way to get a place is to visit the superintendents of the buildings you like.   Ring their apartment, or have a peek in the basement.  Dress in your most "respectable" outfit, find the "super" and ask for an apartment application.  Be endearing.  Fill out & return your application, and if you can, include a letter of recommendation from your employer.   Expect to wait about a month.  If your application is approved, the realtor or the super will call you when an apartment becomes available.  Rarely will you get something in less than a month, so be prepared.

Bribery:   An effective but costly tool

Be sure to ask if you will be required to pay a "Key Deposit."  A Key Deposit is essentially a bribe (anywhere from $100 - 1 months rent) paid directly to the super to hold an apartment for you.  It is technically illegal, but it is done a lot.  If you really like the building, it is worth it to pay the super to ensure good service during your tenure in the building.  Sometimes it is the only way to get the place you want.  If you are feeling flush, when you go apartment shopping, carry large amounts of cash and your checkbook with you so you can jump on any opportunities which may arise.

In Astoria & Sunnyside, check out the local newspapers.  These neighborhoods have a heavy Greek population, and some buildings only advertise openings in the Greek publications.  But don't neglect the Daily News and New York Post. is reported to be another way to find excellent, affordable, fee-free apartments.

Real Estate Agencies

There are agencies who will find your ideal apartment for you, for a fee of course.  Most agencies charge the equivalent of 1 month's rent, but some charge 15% of 1 year's rent.  Either way, really adds a lot to your total rent bill.  However, if you plan to stay in the apartment for many years, it may be worth it to you.  Also, if you don't have time to do the groundwork yourself, this can be a useful service.  Bear in mind that Agents do not do very thorough work when your apartment budget is small.  The more rent you're willing to pay, the higher their commission.  What else is new!?

So, check the yellow pages for Real Estate Agencies, or just take a walk around (and ask around) the area you want to live in.  These agencies are everywhere.


A very effective way to find out where you want to live is to actually live there.  Sublets are great for this, and of course they are also handy when you need to be in NYC for only a short time.   Subletting is renting an apartment from someone who already rents the apartment from a landlord.  In essence, you pay someone to stay in their apartment while they're gone.  You use the other party's furniture, dishes, sheets, towels, etc. (generally).  Can be convenient, can be frustrating if it goes on too long. 

>Check out's page on how to find a SUBLET. top.gif (377 bytes)


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Last modified: March 17, 2004