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NYC Housing Treasure Hunt

By: Ee Ning-Foo

Maximize your resources, ask friends for recommendations and surf a range of websites to find your ideal unit

It’s that time of year again when NYU students go shopping and make plans for their housing for the upcoming year. Unlike the relatively straightforward shopping cart for credit courses on Albert, shopping for a place to call home in the big city takes on a whole new level of complexity. This article is here to cover the basics and help you understand what to expect on the search.

When it comes to the hunt for rental units, the most basic question to ask is whether on-campus or off-campus ones work better for you. With everything from location to pricing and utilities, these are the main factors to consider:


On campus: Range of prices is limited and don’t guarantee the type of rooms you are allocated– your housing priority decreases the more senior you are and those who have lived off campus before are disadvantaged when it comes to choosing rooms.

Off campus: Extra costs such as broker fees, furnishing, utilities, and WiFi.  Maintenance can accumulate (Note: some platforms offer discounts on broker fees for NYU students), but off-campus options generally offer a wider range of prices, depending on amenities and location.


On campus: Single rooms are rare and the price for one (not guaranteed) starts at $16,564 for an academic year. If having a room to yourself is a prerequisite in your search, off-campus options will be much kinder to you. On-campus options usually also entail living in a suite, where you may not be able to choose who your suitemates are. To illustrate: Out of the eight first-year Washington Square halls, 5 offer private rooms, though most come in a suite. Even then, the percentage of these rooms offered is small– 3% of spaces in Goddard ($1934/mth), 11% in Lipton ($1934/mth), less than 1% in Rubin ($1627/mth), 3% in Weinstein ($1934/mth) and 2% in Third North ($2143/mth).

Off campus: Greater flexibility with a wider range of options for living alone (private room in suite, private apartments, railroad apartments) and most rentals are advertised as single bedrooms. The ability to choose your own housemates and coordinate individual rooming situations is definitely a valuable one!


On campus: Required to abide by dorm policies, where quiet hours need to be respected and guest passes applied for– less flexible for those who wish to feel in control of their houses. On the flip side, this also means living in a relatively controlled environment without unwelcome surprises like neighbors who party till 3 am– great for those looking for less disruptive environments. Unfortunately, students in first-year residence halls may be limited to sharing the communal kitchen during resource center hours, or not having a kitchen at all.

Off campus: Most offer greater freedom, where you can choose to host friends for spontaneous stay overs, customize your living space as you see fit or even keep a pet! There isn’t a “quiet hours” policy, and even if there is one, they usually aren’t enforced as strictly. This relative freedom would feel like heaven when compared to on-campus dorms, ideal for those who wish to feel in control of their living situation.


On campus: Mostly in the vicinity of school buildings, which can mean saving on daily transport (subway, bus, bicycles, or plain walking). However, they are usually clustered in a small area which may not be the most exciting, hence some may prefer to move off campus to an apartment in a nicer neighborhood of their choosing.

Off campus: Could be in close proximity to useful places like grocery stores, farmer’s markets or 24-hour CVS stores that could save travel time for errands but are typically further away from campus, though this won’t be an issue if you aren’t taking classes eg. during the summer. Transport options can vary with Citibike charging $169/year or $3/trip to use their bikes and the MTA offering a 30-day unlimited Metrocard which costs $121.

Implicit Costs

On campus: Residential College dorms like Broome Street may require spending certain amounts of time and commitment on dorm activities 

Off campus: General adulting requires you to make monthly payments and keep financial records, or carrying out any repair work. Weighing risks like safety and assessing deals for reliability (sifting out scams) is essential. You may need a good credit score, minimum monthly income, or a guarantor to be able to secure a competitive unit. You should also consider the opportunity cost of the effort and time spent doing all of the above, which could be used to work and increase productivity.

Embarking on the Off-Campus Search

Okay, so if after considering the above factors, you have decided to live off campus, then you can have a great opportunity to break out of the college campus bubble and gain independence– exploring new living spaces in the city or finding the perfect little eatery on your way home that no one else knows about can be a hallmark of college life. Some consider the freedom that comes with ownership of your own space and the ability to determine your living situation as the true signal of adulthood. With a group of close friends, there is no need to be mindful of a sleeping roommate when spending the night having deep conversations about life, or deciding to host a party spontaneously. If this sounds like the perfect life, start looking for off-campus housing!

A quick scan of “Citi Habitats”, the platform listed on NYU housing, requires careful consideration of your search parameters and trade-offs. Are you willing to check out the unit in a dubious location with no image but is light on your wallet? Or would you opt for the unit further uptown that isn’t furnished and doesn’t include utilities? The website hosts a range of options and offers NYU students a discount on broker fees, though details are limited and one has to contact the relevant personnel to obtain more information. If you grew tired of the slow loading times on Citi Habitats’ website, you may want to head to “Nest Seekers”, another haven for housing sleuths. Their website provides more in-depth information about each unit, including policies on pets, amenities and contact details for the real estate agent in charge– a definite plus in establishing trustworthiness. Alternatively, the more student-friendly website “MyGradPad” offers many housing options in close proximity. Although it doesn’t filter for specific criteria, their location-based results boast an impressive number of units up for rent. For students with the location as a priority, this platform allows you to see at a glance where each unit is located on the map or search for all rental units in a small (school) area.

For more options, the NYU housing website lists 51 different web pages and provides access to The Housing Registry using your NYU email:

Pricing Strategies Off Campus

Living in NYC is no easy feat. Rental prices are sky high and while the minimum wage has increased, wallets still feel the pinch. These are the average rental prices at the end of 2017:


Image Courtesy of:

You’d be hard-pressed to find a unit in lower Manhattan for less than $1200/mth and it’s difficult to find a decent one without being willing to fork out at least $1500/mth. Of course, great bargains are available for good planners.

For example, a group of friends secured a large apartment in the Upper West Side for $4200 a month and split the 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms between 5 of them. This came up to $775-$960 a month for each person, which is hard to beat in Manhattan. Three other friends shared an apartment near Chinatown and had their own rooms for $950-$1200/mth based on size ($950 for a ~60 square feet room, excluding common areas). On the other hand, a friend managed to find a unit right next to Lipton Hall on campus at $1800/mth. If living in Manhattan isn’t your cup of tea, you could try New Jersey– a friend rented one in NJ for $1200/mth but was paying at least $1350/mth after including utilities and transport.

A note for those who are still up for the challenge of living in NJ: transport is unpredictable especially in bad weather, which could mean being late for or missing an exam. The best choice would be a place with easy access to the PATH train, though it could be delayed on heavy snow days too. For the best results, be sure to maximize your resources, ask friends for recommendations and surf a range of websites to find your ideal unit. Keep in mind that prices listed on websites are negotiable and that 78% of housing sales traded below their asking price in 2018.

On-Campus Halls

Now for those who choose to stay on campus, there is no need to worry either– NYU provides 22 different resident halls for you to choose from and two graduate communities. In addition to the convenience of having laundry rooms, resident assistants and resource centers in the same building, on-campus residents get to benefit from the range of activities organized by both faculty and the dorm council. Residential colleges like Goddard and Broome allow students to form instant communities and engage in meaningful events according to themes while Residential International Student Engagement provides opportunities for international students to explore the city and eat at places like Grimaldi’s for free! All these can add up to significant savings, especially for those subsidized Broadway tickets.

According to NYU’s publication of revenues in 2018, first-year housing rates in Washington Square schools increased by 2.8% and student housing and dining constituted 10% of the school’s operating revenue. Residence hall rates have in general been increasing every academic year since 2016 so this comes as no surprise. It also means that living in rent-stabilized units off-campus may prove to be more economical over the long run if you are planning to stay there for more than a year. The typical first-year resident would pay between $13,000 and $14,600 for a 9-month contract, which comes up to $1450-$1620 a month. Options for upperclassmen show a wider variation, with anything from $10,880 to $22,130 and an average $16,564 which is $1840/mth.

Summer Housing On Campus

Summer housing provides more flexibility as payments are collected based on the number of weeks stayed, so you could apply for the 10 weeks you need for your internship before going home or choose to stay for all three months. The prices for traditional housing are comparable to those during the academic year, and meal plans are compulsory. Apartment-style housing may be a better bargain especially for those already in affiliated dorms with a double or triple bedroom, totaling savings of $456 per week.

In general, there isn’t a straightforward answer to whether living in residence halls or off-campus is better– options and trade-offs vary. There is a larger market off-campus where hidden gems may be lurking, but the convenience of and resources in resident halls are difficult to find elsewhere. Good luck in your search!

Works Cited:

Image Source:

Hall, Mitchell. (2019, Jan 12). Manhattan Monthly Market Report, December 2018. nyc BLOG estate. Retrieved from

2018-2019 Housing Rates. NYU Residential Life and Housing Services. Retrieved from

Fiscal 2019 Budget. New York University. Retrieved from


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