Apartment hunting in New York City is a blood sport, and while every rental finding website promises to make your search simple and pain free, the deluge of optionsIs one superior? Does one site better deals? Which has the best options in Queens?can make it even more stressful. Curbed editors and writers use sites like StreetEasy, Craigslist, and Zumper on a daily basis, but how do they all compare? To figure that out, we looked at 11 different services, ranging from weekly email lists to sites that search by move-in date, and outlined the pros and cons of each.
This is one of the biggest players in New York City real estate, and it is a vital resource for Curbed. StreetEasy gets listings from all of the major brokerages in New York, as well as individual landlords and brokers. The site is easy to navigate and has a ton of search criteria, from doormen to pets to no-fee to distance from specific subway lines. You can see your search results on a map or in a detailed list, and every listing gives the exact address. Rentals on StreetEasy tend to be nicer than a lot of other sites, but their inventory thins out the farther you get from Manhattan. One of StreetEasy's best features is the ability to set email alerts for what you want. You can set a rent range, apartment type, and geographic area, which can be as general as "Upper Manhattan" or you can draw a custom boundary around the exact 15 blocks you want.
Craiglist, where you can find everything from an apartment to a roommate to items and services you had no idea you didn't need. The search refinements aren't as varied as StreetEasy; in fact, by comparison, it looks downright primitive. But it's been around for a long time and keeps getting the job done. It's easy for brokers and landlords to share their listings, and it's updated constantly, so the amount of inventory is unmatched. Plus, it's easy to search, and you can choose to search within only "no fee" apartments. You can search by neighborhood, apartment type, and rent amount, but Craigslist is notorious for listings with incorrect locations or details, so going through the results can be a more time consuming process. That said, Craigslist is still one of the best places to find cheap apartments.
Right off the bat, this is a little different. Instead of asking for you to either input a zip code or click on a borough and neighborhood, it has a blank line, giving you more flexibility with your starting point, letting you search for apartments on Hudson Street or near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. One of Zumper's best features is the map view, which shows your results as a series of dots with numbers that represent how many apartments are in a given area. Click on a dot, and it shows you the individual listings, and as you zoom in, the dots get more location specific. One quirk is that not every listing gives the actual address; sometimes, you only get the cross streets.
The first thing you notice about Lovely is how sleek and clean the interface is. But perhaps it's too cleanthe search options are limited, with only a "keywords" section rather than a list of amenities. The results are displayed on a map that looks very similar to Zumper, and the individual listings are also very clean, though the image display badly crops the photos. You can email the landlord directly through Lovely's website, and all listings have the exact address.
RentHop is clean and easy to, and functions a lot like Lovely, but it gives each listing a "HopScore," determined by a "sophisticated set of algorithms" that rank the quality of the listing. The site displays results in a list or a map, which looks very much like Lovely and Zumper. Individual listings initially display as a pop-up window with the basic information, but if you scroll down to "View Full Listing," you're taken to a new tab with a lot of helpful details. The full listing compares the rent to the neighborhood's median, and it explains the Hop Score. For example, this Bed-Stuy listing got a poor score because an exact address was not given and the "person who posted this is a new or fairly inactive manager on RentHop." Overall, it seems like RentHop has less expensive listings than other sites, but these less pricey options may also be poor quality listings, lacking addresses or decent photos.
Listings Project is an different animal from the other sites we've reviewed thus far. It's not a searchable website, but a weekly e-mail subscription started in 2003 when founder and artist Stephanie Diamond was looking for a place to live. Signing up is easy and just requires your contact info and occupation. Then every Wednesday, you get an e-mail of "real estate and opportunities listings serving artists, creative communities, and beyond." In addition to full apartment listings, the weekly blasts include art studios for rent or share and rooms for rent, so it's a great resource for seeking roommates.
Naked Apartments is another standard apartment listing website that aims to stand out from the crowd by putting a focus on neighborhoods. If you know the type of apartment you want, but don't care where you live, you can take a brief quiz, pick your preferred neighborhood vibe, and Naked Apartments presents you with a map of areas that fit your desires. A standard search for apartments presents a list of options next to a map, but the search can be a bit finicky. A search for one-bedrooms in the West Village showed a lot of apartments, including one apparently at 14th Street (give or take a street) between Seventh and Eighth avenues (you don't get an exact address). However, when you add proximity to the A train, there are suddenly zero results.
This site is billed as "the refreshingly simple way to find your home," and the interface is indeed very easy to use. You can only enter the most basic of search criteria, apartment type and rent range, and the results are displayed as a list and map. You must create an account to see the full listings, and when you sign up, you set a target move-in date so results are targeted to your time frame. Once you create an account, a real person will contact you to help you through your search, providing a phone number and all.
As the name implies, PadMapper is based around the map and is almost like Metacrawler for apartment hunting as it pulls from several other sources, including Craigslist and Airbnb, to generate the listings. It starts out with basic search criteria, and then you have the option of adding more filters, like "no fee," whether pets are allowed, and which sites you want to see listings from. You can also click a plainly obvious button to add "super-secret advanced features" that include commute time and subway proximity. Once you click on a listing, it gets a bit clunky and the "street view" feature isn't entirely accurate, as one listing's street view was the inside of a pet food store.
This site is for people looking to fill someone else's extra room, not to find a place of your own. That means by its very nature, it has fewer listings than the previous sites, and it is deceptively rudimentary. The basic search just goes by geography, but the advanced search has plenty of options for gender preference, number of rooms required, length of stay, etc.
—Evan Bindelglass is a local freelance journalist, photographer, cinephile, and foodie. You can e-mail him, follow him on Twitter @evabin, or check out his personal blog.
· All Renters Week 2015 coverage [Curbed]