In an era before AirBnB I was a habitual subletter. I managed to live in New York for seven years without ever signing a lease, hopping from one sublet to another and crashing with friends (or my parents) in-between.

Finding a sublet in New York is more difficult than ever, thanks to the popularity of AirBnB. Rooms that might have been rented out at a discount to make sure someone would help cover the rent are now rented out by the night for profit. It’s still possible to find a great place, especially if you’re flexible.

The best sites for apartment listings

Craigslist isn’t the only site posting sublet listings. Leasebreak lets you search by length of stay. Fliplease verifies their listings. Don’t forget about Renthop.

Mailing lists

I’m a big fan of the Listings Project. It’s curated by an actual human being and comes out once a week, which makes it a million times better than Craigslist.

Nonsense List also has a few apartment listings a sublets. If you’re going to be in NYC, you should subscribe to this.

Student housing

Student housing boards are great, especially if you’re looking for a summer or winter sublet. Most of them don’t require that you be a student.

Facebook groups

Facebook groups can be a bit overwhelming, but they can also come through. There are a bunch specifically for subletting an apartment or a room, but you might also have luck with community groups.

Even if you don’t think you know anyone in New York, you never know who your friends might know. Posting to Facebook and asking the #hivemind to find you a sublet in NYC might just work.

CouchSurfing

Not only will CouchSurfing give you a free place to crash while you’re looking for a place, we also have a group for apartment and roommate listings.

Photo by Paul Nylund on Unsplash

Actually finding a sublet you’ll like

New York has a pretty wide range of quality when it comes to housing. You could be looking for something dirt cheap — like a walk-in closet with a futon mattress on the floor — or a full-service building where things actually work. Having realistic expectations is the first step.

Send the right email

Find a place you’re interested in? Great. When you’re replying to an ad, don’t forget to include:

  • Your name and your contact information
  • How you’re going to be paying the rent (your remote job, your savings, freelance gigs, goodwill)
  • The dates you need a place and how flexible they are
  • Something interesting about you (keep it short, like your Twitter bio) and why you’ll be in NYC
  • When you’re available to view the place

Look beyond Manhattan and Williamsburg

Living in New York isn’t like it is on television. Unless you’re ready to shell out some serious cash, you won’t be staying in prime Manhattan. Pull up your subway map and focus on neighborhoods that have reasonable subway access and rent you can afford.

Look beyond the five boroughs

Jersey City and Hoboken are obvious choices. With the PATH, your commute from the “sixth borough” might be faster than from the northern tip of Manhattan or most of Brooklyn.

If you’re working remotely and don’t need to be in the city every day, it might be worth looking into spots along MetroNorth or the LIRR. Especially in the summer, when that means the beach and upstate hiking is just a hop away.

Know what you’re getting into

Sure, the apartment is fully furnished when you look at it, but what will be there when you move in? How will you handle utilities? Do you need to bring sheets and towels?

Roommate issues don’t often come up with a short-term sublet, but you’ll still want to be cautious. Are they bailing before the lease ends because their roommate is keeping dead animals in jars, there’s no heat, or they’re getting evicted? Ask.

Watch out for common scams. Have an idea of NYC’s housing laws about subletting or taking over a lease. Use your common sense.

Don’t overlook other options

Pet sitting and apartment swapping can land you an apartment in New York for weeks or months — without costing you anything.