How to Find an Inexpensive Apartment in New York

For years, I’ve been subletting an apartment in NYC for a couple of months each summer. It’s my travel ninja skill (lol. What’s your’s?). With some smarts and persistence, I have always found somewhere in a nice part of Brooklyn (20 mins or less to Manhattan) for less than $1500/month.

Here’s a guide.

1. Stay for at least 30 days.

Sublets shorter than 30 days are generally illegal. This is a newish law. You can still find sublets for less than 30 days but they’re not generally legal.

2. If you have any NYC-based friends, ask them to ask their friends on Facebook.

This has worked well for me in the past.

3. Look on Craigslist.

All my sublets that haven’t been via friends have been via craigslist. A friend just paid a crazy amount on flipkey because (a) she is only staying 3 weeks, and (b) she couldn’t handle filtering out the scams on craigslist.

Set your scam filter to high and use your brain. Make sure you can verify the person’s identity and deal only with NYers who are going on vacation.

Verify the person’s identity by friending them on FB, corresponding with them via their workplace phone and email etc.

4. Look in Brooklyn

The best deals are in Brooklyn. Make sure you’re less than 20 mins from Manhattan and that the subway line suits you (being the eccentric person that I am, I like being on a line that stops outside my favorite vegan bakery, and is convenient for Broadway shows).

Pick somewhere that is near more than one subway line because if you’re relying on one line your vacation could get ruined by subway maintenance.

5. If you are going to rent in Manhattan, check the bus map.

Public transport in NYC is 24/7 but if you’re noise sensitive, you might not want to be on a street a bus goes down (if the apartment is on a super high floor it won’t matter).

6. Use Google maps to check street view and walking time to the subway.

Use street view to have a virtual experience of what your walk to the subway would be. Does it seem like you’d be comfortable in the neighborhood?

7. Don’t pay more than a $500 deposit.

Sometimes I haven’t paid a deposit but I have paid up to $500 to reassure the subletter that I am going to arrive.

8. Don’t freak out and pay a ridiculous rate like my friend did!

For short visits

For short visits, I wouldn’t bother with an apartment rental. For vegans, the dining options in NYC are so good you won’t want to cook for yourself. If I have some days at the beginning or end of my sublet, I stay in a dorm at the Hosteling International on 103rd and Amsterdam. You can book it via HostelBookers – Here’s their NYC hostels page. It’s my home away from home in NYC. I stayed there for 3 weeks on my first visit to NY back in 2003. I really like the staff (some of whom have worked there the whole time I’ve been staying there). You could also look at a budget hotel if you had a slightly higher budget (or were traveling as a couple, which would make a budget hotel cheaper than two dorm beds). The hassle of a sublet, the high rates for short apartment stays, and the legality issues for sublets under 30 days make staying in an apartment not worth it for short trips (unless you’re traveling with kids and need the extra space).


  1. //

    I love the tips that you gave about staying in New York. Will definitely use it once I visit the US.

  2. //

    Great advice Kate. I’m feeling all SATC having read it! I think I might start looking for an apartment now….just incase!

  3. //

    Great advice, Kate! I used a similar strategy to find a place in Sydney. One other place you might consider looking is Sabbatical Homes ( As the name implies it’s often people who work in academia that are looking to sublet there home while they go abroad to work for a month or a semester. They’re not looking to make money, just cover their costs while they’re away.

  4. //

    Thanks for the tip Larissa.

  5. //

    We love NYC and are blessed to have relatives out on Long Island. It’s a half hour train ride, but it saves a bucketload!

  6. //

    good tips here!!

  7. //

    things i wish i knew once upon a time! great tips!!

  8. //

    Fab! May be headed there this summer for a week or two!

  9. //

    i love NYC and haven’t been for years. Thanks for the ideas!

  10. //

    Such a great idea to stay in New York for a few weeks and live like a local. You’ve given me a new idea to think about :-)

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