July 22, 2024

Getting Started: For Renters-to-Be, the High-Tech Lowdown

They would be mistaken.

Cracking New York’s real estate code can be daunting, particularly for those without an ample financial cushion or a network of resident friends. But one starting point is visiting a handful of helpful Web sites.

To become a savvier renter, and to avoid deals that are too good to be true, it’s essential to get a good handle on the city’s real estate picture. The standard-bearer is Curbed NY, which mixes commentary about properties on the market with news and gossip. It is an excellent place to get a feel for the rough-and-tumble of real estate as well as to learn about new developments or conversions of older buildings.

The site’s founder, Lockhart Steele, moved to New York in 1996 after graduating from Brown University. To find his first apartment, he like everyone else searched through printed listing guides and newspaper classifieds, a process that he said now seems “outlandish and bizarre.”

Mr. Steele says that although apartment-hunting remains arduous, the Web makes it easier to understand what you are getting yourself into. Now, he says, “there’s so much information, the trouble is trying to decide which sources to abide by.”

He began Curbed in 2004 and has expanded it to other major cities and a nationwide report.

For practical advice, BrickUnderground, started by Teri Karush Rogers, a veteran real estate journalist, has information about current prices, and more generally, the lowdown on apartment living in New York.

The site has a link to “Survival Kits” for renters. The topics include tips for finding a no-fee apartment, the seven worst places to live in a building and the perfect letter of recommendation for a landlord. There is also a series of columns called “Rental Rookie,” written by a woman who recently moved to New York from Los Angeles.

New York has almost 300 neighborhoods, and for newcomers, an important early step is winnowing them to those that suit their lifestyles, transportation needs and price ranges.

HotPads, introduced in 2005 after the founders became frustrated by their own postgraduate apartment searches, has 55,000 active apartment listings in New York, all plotted on a map. It also has a tools to help narrow the hunt.

One of those tools, “HotSpots,” allows you to get a general sense of whether you can afford a particular neighborhood, overlaying dots of different colors on a map to show listings and their price per bedroom. Using this tool, it is easy to see at a glance that a bedroom in the West Village, for example, often rents for more than $2,500 a month, while a bedroom in Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn will set you back less than $1,500.

The site’s “Lasso” tool also comes in handy. It allows users to draw a circle around an area, say a four-block radius around a subway stop, or parts of two different neighborhoods. These searches, like others on the site, can be saved, and users can sign up to receive e-mails when apartments in those areas become available.

But there is much more to a neighborhood than its per-capita income and subway stops. Each has its own identity and flavor. A site called NabeWise ranks neighborhoods based on various characteristics.

Say you want to live in Brooklyn and your wish list is: good public transportation, a neighborhood that’s quiet but trendy, and rents on the lower end of the price scale. After selecting those attributes, NabeWise shows you a map of the borough with the five neighborhoods that best meet your criteria, with South Williamsburg and Greenwood Heights as the top options.

The site encourages users to fill in information about neighborhoods, but as the site started just last year, there has been little participation so far. Nevertheless, the rankings are useful shorthand.

Once the search is down to a couple of neighborhoods, it’s time to look at the apartment stock. HotPads can help with this, as can sites like Naked Apartments and RentHop. These provide multiple ways to narrow preferences, including no-fee apartments and pet-friendly places, and include listings from a variety of landlords and rental companies.

The New York Times’s Web site, nytimes.com/realestate, has rental listings, as well as recent and archived news articles. StreetEasy has searchable listings and an active user forum, though discussions tilt toward sales.

For pure listings, Craigslist has a wide variety, many placed by small landlords or roommate-seekers. As with any site, it is best to proceed with caution. An appealing listing may be bait: you call, a broker answers, and guess what! The apartment is rented, but lucky for you, a similar one, for a higher price, is available. Or it could lead to something worse. Craigslist has prominent links to tips for avoiding scams, and apartment-hunters should familiarize themselves with them.

“I know many people who have had success with Craigslist,” said Alicia Schwartz, a former broker who recently introduced Rentenna.com, a site that gives apartment buildings numerical scores based on their value, amenities and other factors. “But people need to be aware of how the market works and going prices.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=a8c5ee0dff9f88cc075a44f3744b63cb

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