How to View An Apartment When You Don’t Live in NYC

Originally posted on August 05, 2022 3:00 pm
Updated on July 27, 2022 3:53 pm

Moving to the big city can be quite the task. Many people dream of living in NYC to become an artist, a day trader, or take advantage of a number of opportunities the city gives to people. But finding a place to live when you’re outside of the city can become quite the task. It’s smart to look at a home before you rent it out, but how can you do that if you live far away? Lucky for you, there are plenty of ways to get a feel for a home if you live outside the city. It will take some extra effort, but it’ll be worth it once you’re in your dream home.

Apartment Hunting From Out of Town

Don’t Rent Blind

Some people will rent a property that they have never seen. This is a huge mistake. If you rent blind, you could very easily fall prey to scams. You could end up with something completely different than you expected, if you end up with anything at all. Even if you’re moving in with other people you know (or don’t), make sure they give you all the information you require to make a good decision. Nothing is worse than paying a ton of money for a bad product, so make sure you do your homework before you offer anyone money.

Be Prepared to Move Fast

Homes in NYC move incredibly fast, and people often miss out on their ideal apartment because they weren’t prepared. This means it’s important to have the proper paperwork, like proof of employment and your credit score, as well as a large sum of money that you can drop in an instant. This ensures that you can move on your dream home quickly once you’ve found it. This is especially important for folks outside the city, who don’t have the advantage of seeing a ton of homes over a long period of time. Once you do this, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Additionally, make sure you do research about pricing in the city. Certain neighborhoods have better prices than others, but owners and landlords know that the NYC market is hot right now. This means that they will seek people willing to pay higher prices if they are able. That’s why it’s important to know about NYC tenant rights and average prices for the area you want to live in. This will be a tremendous advantage during negotiations, and will help you pay a fair price for the property you’re seeking.

Find an Agent

Real estate agents work with people outside of NYC all the time, so they are well equipped to find you places you want. You’ll need to be absolutely clear with what you’re looking for. Simply saying “I want a two bedroom” isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need to know what neighborhood you want, what amenities you want, the number of bathrooms you want, and even if you prefer an open concept. This way the agent will be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. They will also be able to tell you potential problems and advantages with the properties they find for you. 

Tips for Your Apartment Search From Afar

Now that you have the proper paperwork, money, and help, you’re ready to view some apartments. Some simple techniques include:

Visit the City

Even if you don’t live in the city, you’re still allowed to visit it for a day or two. Selecting a day or two so you can attend viewings or open houses is going to be extremely beneficial to anyone seeking to live in the city. Though it can be difficult to find time for travel, this is by and far the best option to see potential homes. It’s always best to see a potential home for yourself, so even if you dislike all the homes you see on your trip, this will still be a great way to gather information and cross options off your list. If you can’t visit in person, it would even be worth it to send a friend or family member to see the home for you.

This will also give potential residents an opportunity to see the city and neighborhoods they might want to live in. What people imagine neighborhoods to be can be vastly different from what they’re actually like. It’s important that folks actually experience the place they want to live. There’s nothing worse than an area not living up to your expectations, so getting the chance to explore is vital. It’s entirely possible that potential residents might not enjoy the city at all. If someone comes to NYC as a tourist, then they aren’t going to experience the true city. Likewise, if they only experience the city through media, then they won’t have an accurate view of NYC either. So visit the city, and the neighborhoods you want to live in, if you have the chance. If you can’t visit the neighborhood yourself, Google StreetView is also a great alternative. 

Listing Website Photos

Though this isn’t always the recommended avenue, and more due-diligence should be done if you can make it happen, most listing websites will have descriptions and photos of apartments. Even if this is the only way you can see an apartment, it’s better than nothing. Additionally, a lack of photos is also telling, as it’s usually an indicator that something in the home is amiss. For example, if there are no photos of bathrooms included in the listing, that’s a bad sign. Again, in an ideal world, this won’t be your only way to see the home you live in for a while. That said, this can be a great way to see apartments without actually being there.

Use Technology Wisely

If you have a flexible agent, it would be a smart idea to get them to send you photos of the homes they find. Some might even be willing to film themselves touring the various apartments. They will need the landlord/owners permission to do this, but most will allow it unless something fishy is going on with the apartment. These videos will allow you to see the apartment, or a similar one, without actually being there. Just make sure your real estate agent is a good one. Otherwise, you could end up spending a lot of money on something you dislike.

Additionally, some homes have been utilizing social media very well. Real estate agents, and even entire properties, have been making videos on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok of properties they’re seeking to sell. While it is no guarantee that a home you’re looking into will have one of these videos on social media, agents have been utilizing it more and more. In the near future, it’s possible that nearly every home in NYC will have a video tour on some sort of app. If your agent uses social media this way, it’s always a good idea to ask if they have videos of the property you’re interested in.

Even cooler than social media and facetime tours, many places now offer 3-D self guided tours of their properties. These 3-D floor plans allow you to control your tour, and see the home you’re interested in from a variety of angles. In an interesting twist, it also allows potential residents to see views from the apartment’s windows, which is a big plus for those who want to see the skyline, a park, or the bay.

Public Records

Public records are your best friend. Even if you get the opportunity to see a property in person, the people showing said property might be less than forthcoming when it comes to potential issues with the home. Public records, on the other hand, will tell you how many building code violations a property has, what those issues were, and whether or not those issues were fixed. They’ll also have info on building owners, as well as what other residents experience with them. This is vital information when it comes to seeking a home.

Another good piece of info when it comes to public records is a building’s energy efficiency score. For those concerned about their carbon footprint, inefficient buildings are the largest producer of greenhouse gasses in NYC. Because of this, the city began to rank buildings based on their energy efficiency, and will eventually find buildings that aren’t efficient. This means prices for condo owners and renters could go up depending on the repairs that need to be done to certain apartment complexes. It’s always good to know exactly what you’re getting into, so checking your building’s energy efficiency score should be a priority.


While experiencing a property in person is always preferable, there are some people who aren’t able to come into the city, and have to find another option. While it might be difficult, there are ways you can find information on apartments, as well as images of what they look like. If you’re looking for a home, you deserve to know what you’re getting. NYC is expensive, and you don’t want to feel swindled into an apartment. Luckily, if you follow these steps, you’ll be in a much better position for your home search. It might be difficult finding an apartment when you don’t live in the city, but there are ways to do it so you end up with your dream home.

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