Online Dating

What Online Dating Can Teach Us About Apartment Hunting

Alex Tseng | September 8, 2016

So you've just gotten over an unhealthy two-year relationship.  You’re excited for the new start.  You’ve gone through several sites that you’ve seen ads for, and even scheduled a couple dates.  But nothing has worked out.  The good ones get taken off the market quickly.  For the rest, there always seems to be a catch.  And nothing can prepared you for that disappointment, not even a tub of ice cream.  In case you’re wondering, I’m not talking about a human relationship… I’m talking about finding an apartment. 

On many accounts, finding an apartment in NYC is even more difficult than finding a potential love interest.  First, there’s usually a strict deadline – your lease ends in less than a month, which doesn’t give you a lot of leeway.  Secondly, finding an apartment usually involves a middleman, who may or may not have your best interest in mind.  Thirdly, the up-front costs are significantly higher.  Most apartments come with a standard 15% broker fee – for a $3,000/mo apartment, that’s over $5,000.  There’s no such thing as a cheap date when it comes to finding an apartment.

Having recently been in both worlds – online dating and apartment hunting – I’ve come to realize that the online dating world can teach us a couple things about the apartment hunt.  I’ve also seen it work out for many people, in both the online apartment hunt and online dating worlds, so let’s explore how to find the greatest success in both!

Start right by going to the appropriate site

You would never use if what you’re looking for is a fling; similarly, you would never use Streeteasy to find a short-term rental.  Instead, you would probably go on Craigslist if you’re looking to stay in a place for less than 12 months.  Before you pick a site, it may be helpful to ask yourself what you’re looking for.

You’re looking for a fling: Tinder (for dating) / Craigslist (for housing)

You’re looking for a relationship that satisfies your checklist: (for dating) / Streeteasy (for housing)

You’re looking for a high-quality, fun-loving match: OKcupid (for dating) / REMY (for housing)

You’re looking for a safe relationship: Coffee Meets Bagel (for dating) / Facebook messaging your friends (for housing)

You’re looking for a one-night stand: Pure (for dating) / AirBnB (for housing)     

Go a different route by standing out

Just like you wouldn’t say on your profile “I’m an easygoing guy who loves a good movie”, even if that were true, it doesn’t do you any good to email a broker/landlord and tell them “I’m looking for a 1BR apartment in Midtown.” Give them a sense of who you are, speak to them as if they’re real people, and let them know exactly what you’re looking for.  Give them a specific address or area, let them know what you can’t live without, and let them know that you have your financial documents ready – because you should have them ready, and they’re 99% more likely to answer you if you said this!

Make your time worth it by knowing your limit

If you’re not that adventurous, don’t suggest going rock-climbing together.  You’ll not only be wasting his/her time and feeling miserable, but you might even lose a chance at a second date.  Similarly, if you’re making $60k a year, don’t look for anything above $1,500/mo unless you have a guarantor.  You’d be wasting your time and the broker/landlord’s time, because most landlords require you to make 40x the monthly rent.

Don’t wait, throw a bait!

In the time that you’re swiping right or left on yet another profile, that hot guy/girl who you swiped right yesterday could already be off market.  Instead, take it offline after a few chats and go on a real date.  Apartments in NYC have been known to go off market in less than 15 minutes during the hot summer months.  If you come across a decent apartment, schedule an appointment right away, and submit your application forms IMMEDIATELY to the broker/landlord.  The worst thing is when someone puts in an application on your dream apartment as you’re taking the train back home to retrieve your documents – I know what that feels like.

Happy hunting.