The Best Neighborhoods to Rent in Brooklyn

Ruth Shin

CITY

Brooklyn Williamsburg Street

Apartment hunting can be a grueling process, spending hours of research, sifting through hundreds of listings, contacting different agents, and figuring out exactly which neighborhood is right for you. Prospective renters often make the mistake of thinking they’re all set once they figure out the square footage or number of bedrooms and the price they’d like to set for rent.

While it may be a renters’ market, take down a few of these notes and you may see that finding the apartment right for you may not be as difficult as you think.

Before You Start

The most important step in the apartment hunting process is going to be making sure you actually qualify and knowing what to expect from the application process. After all, if you don't qualify you won't be able to move. While not every landlord's process will be identical, generally what's looked for is that the applicant(s) earn at least 40 times the monthly rent on a yearly basis and that the credit score(s) is "good" or close to it. The average credit score in New York is around 680-690 and this tends to be the range many abide by. You should always check your report before you begin, to make sure everything is in order.

Deposit

Most agencies will take a security deposit at the time of application if you are seriously interested in an apartment. This is earnest money that shows good faith and a serious interest in the unit. This amount can be anywhere from about a few hundred dollars to a full month of rent. Most of the time this money will be going towards the security deposit.

Make sure the payment is made out to the agency's LLC or official company name and that you are signing an earnest money deposit contract that clearly states any refund policy. NEVER make out a payment directly in an agent or broker's name, which can spell an illegal side deal the agent is running or worse--a rental scam.

Application and Credit Check

Once you fill out an application, normally this will generate your credit report to be viewed and considered by the landlord. Usually, there is a fee for the application that can be anywhere from $15-$175 depending on the brokerage/management company. If you want to look at your credit report, just ask the agent if you can receive a copy. Hopefully, you've already done your due diligence and checked your credit report beforehand and nothing you see will surprise you.

Preparing Income Documentation

Not everyone's income requirements nor the documentation they ask for will be the same, but generally speaking you'll need to provide a copy of a government-issued photo ID (such as a state ID, driver's license, or passport), recent bank statements, recent pay stubs, recent tax returns, and some kind of employment verification. If you receive your salary through direct deposit, you can always highlight the deposits in your bank account or ask someone in payroll to print out some statements for you. If you didn't file your taxes yet, you can always put together tax documents such as W-2's or 1099's that show your full income for the year. Usually, a letter written by your employer stating your position, salary and start date will suffice as employment verification. Some corporations provide a number to call, but providing a recent contract or a letter stating a recent promotion may also provide confirmation. Make sure you have these as digital files that are  ready to be emailed or printed out.

Prioritize

The first thing to think about is not necessarily limited to the neighborhood or even your budget. You have to first understand what is paramount to your needs and living situation. Are there school zones you’d like to live in? Do you spend a lot of time at local bars and restaurants? Are you primarily looking for a short commute? Do you work from home? Do you like to spend a lot of time in an outdoor space? Are you on a tight budget?

Figuring out the most important aspects of your daily life will be crucial to what kind of place ends up being right for you. Also important to think about are features that would be nice but you don’t absolutely need.

Top Priorities to Look At


Affordable rentsAverage prices for 1-bedrooms are roughly $2,600, 2-bedrooms at $3,100. Finding apartments well-below these prices in choice neighborhoods can be challenging. Expect to find more deals in Central and South Brooklyn. 
ParksIs there a park in the neighborhood? Is it a park where you can carry out recreational activities or exercise? Does the park have a playground for your child?
RestaurantsAre there proper sit-down restaurants in the area? How about restaurants to order delivery? Do you need a good variety of cuisines to choose from? Or maybe you'll be doing a lot of cooking.
Top Public SchoolsIf you don't have kids, this might not be a priority for you at all. But if you have school-aged children, you'll want to make sure that you're in a good school district or zoned for a good neighborhood school. If not public, there's always private school.
Movie TheatersIf you can find a movie theater in your neighborhood, consider yourself lucky. With well under 20 movie screening venues in all of Brooklyn (much less if you're only counting proper movie theaters), you'll most likely be seeing a movie in the city. Brooklyn is home to more unconventional type venues that either screen rarities or provide screenings in private spaces or rooftops. Neighborhoods with major movie theaters are Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Fort Greene, and Bay Ridge.
WalkabilityNew York City is the most walkable city in the country, but this can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Does your chosen neighborhood have lots of shops and restaurants that are easily accessible by foot? Is there beautiful architecture and greenery and easy to get around? The most walkable neighborhoods will have beautiful parks, public spaces, and pedestrian walkways or plazas, with plenty of retail spaces and other pedestrians. 
Public Transportation/CommuteObviously, commute time and proximity to transportation is a big factor for most New Yorkers when looking for housing. Depending on your budget and desired apartment size, you may have to sacrifice how close you are to your place of work or far your walk to the train is. Remember, a 10-minute walk to a train station is not the worst or longest walk to a train station (even in Manhattan). Not everyone is lucky enough to live down the street from the train.
ParkingNeighborhoods with good street parking has always been an issue in New York, but it's a growing issue especially as Brooklyn becomes increasingly popular. It's not unusual for Brooklynites to acquire cars as public transportation is not as convenient in some areas. FIning a building or apartment with designated parking might something to prioritize. Some people forgo activities or traveling anywhere just because they don't want to lose their parking spot. If this sounds like you, you might need to find a place with a garage or designated parking spot.
Music VenuesLuckily, this is an area where you won't have to sacrifice too much. In a city full of talented musicians, there's no shortage of a live music shows or acts. This very true in Brooklyn as well. There a few large music venues such as the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Kings Theater, but you're more likely to be able to catch a show at one of the numerous smaller clubs and venues in your neighborhood. 
Access to Farmers' MarketsFarmers' Markets in Brooklyn can be found through the Greenmarkets site<www.grownyc.org>. While a farmers market won't be the main reason most are drawn to a neighborhood, it's a definite plus for many, especially if there aren't many great supermarket or grocery shopping choices in the area.
Coffee ShopsA definite first sign of gentrification or livability for many is the popping up of a local small business coffee shop (we're definitely not talking about Starbucks here). Coffee shops are a great place for people to interact, work, and find out about things happening in the neighborhood. A coffee shop can be an almost transformational presence a neighborhood where there are little to no retail businesses. 
CrimeOf course, most people are concerned about crime and want to feel secure enough to wander their area even at night. However, it's New York City, which although relatively safe, is still an urban area with over 8 million people. This means you're just going to have higher occurrences of crime. The good news is that violent crimes are relatively rare. If you check NYC's crime map, you'll be surprised to find that most of Brooklyn is far safer than lower Manhattan.
New York PizzaThere is nothing more quintessentially New York than New York pizza, with bagels perhaps at a close second. You can taste the value of a neighborhood in a local slice. Most areas will have the usual staple of old-school New York pizza. However, you can definitely tell a lot about a neighborhood on whether your pizza place offers vegan or gluten-free options or real brick-oven thin-crust pizza. Being able to order pizza from a great place is a huge plus when it comes to picking neighborhoods.

Budget Appropriately

Besides budgeting for a rental price that you think is reasonable, you need to take into consideration the formula that most landlords are judging your ability to pay the rent. Make sure you magic number falls within those requirements and you should be set. Your annual income, whether it is a salary, freelance work, or just great savings funds in the bank, should equal 40 times the monthly rent. For example, if the monthly rent is $1,000 a month, your annual income should be at least $40,000.

It should be used as a general guideline as each landlord will have their own individual requirements.

It’s All About Personality

After determining what your needs are, now it’s time to think about the type of space that would be right for you. Ask yourself if you prefer something with a more historic character like a pre-war or something modern. Are you the type of person that like a place that needs a little TLC? Do you prefer a new development? Perhaps something that’s older but gut-renovated? Is a loft or a traditional apartment more your style? There’s everything for a low-to-high maintenance lifestyle--a complete DIY or full amenities life. You should assess your ability to get to your apartment as well, whether it’s in a walk-up or elevator building, or a ground floor or top floor unit.

Brooklyn Neighborhoods

Brooklyn's neighborhoods are as diverse as the people who inhabit it. The different flavors of Brooklyn have something to offer everyone. However, there are important things you want to consider for the neighborhood you choose besides commute time to work. If you plan on biking to work, your choice of the neighborhood may be more flexible, although it may be wise to have a bus or train backup plan for inclement weather.

Best for Families:Best for Millennials:Best for Nightlife:
Cobble Hill/Carroll GardensWilliamsburgWilliamsburg
Park SlopeClinton HillDowntown Brooklyn
Bay RidgeBushwickBushwick
GreenwoodCrown HeightsGowanus
Windsor TerraceBed-StuyPark Slope

North Brooklyn

The neighborhoods of North Brooklyn are the most well-known and in demand. Saturated with interested renters and countless new developments, the market is already very competitive in the borough's most desirable areas. These neighborhoods include favorites like DUMBO, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, but also include quainter gems like Clinton Hill/Fort Greene, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, and Greenpoint. 

If you're looking for a neighborhood with a great nightlife, you can explore Williamsburg. If affordability is an issue, you might want to try Bushwick, which is also a popular area for millennials to live. Amazing and acclaimed restaurants lie all throughout North Brooklyn, so take your pick.

Great schools for young families may take you to district 15, which includes Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, and Carroll Gardens. Still, there are many options for family-friendly areas like the Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area, and Prospect Heights. 

Central Brooklyn

The neighborhoods of Central Brooklyn are ones that people are becoming more and more familiar with as affordability options are gradually disappearing from North Brooklyn. The most sought-after area outside of North Brooklyn would be Crown Heights, at times out-performing Bed-Stuy with the number of its nest-seekers. More affordable, with access to a few different trains, and right around Prospect Park, Crown Heights is a great alternative to those priced out of Park Slope.

Windsor Terrace is not a new discovery for many. A very family-friendly area, right by Prospect Park, many see this place as an alternative to Park Slope or South Slope,

Nestseekers are pushing further into Central Brooklyn, particularly Prospect Lefferts Gardens and Flatbush. When renters go to Flatbush/Ditmas Park, it's for the low prices and large spaces as Brooklyn apartments become smaller and smaller.

Eastern Brooklyn

The utmost eastern part of Brooklyn includes Canarsie, Brownsville, Cypress Hills, and East New York. Gentrification and development are quietly moving into far-off areas like Cypress Hills and East New York. Cypress Hills has attracted spillover from Bushwick and East New York has started courting real estate investors, after the city's rezoning plans. These neighborhoods are very affordable areas in Brooklyn, with good access to transportation. 

South Brooklyn

South Brooklyn reaches from Sunset Park down to famous Coney Island and from Sheepshead Bay all the way to Bergen Beach, making this the largest territory in Brooklyn. Given that most of the neighborhoods have oceanfronts, makes these unique areas to explore, especially if you like living by a beach, a marina, or enjoy sailing. These are also historic and affordable areas, which might be the right pick if you don't mind a longer commute into the city or if you can work from home. 

Neighborhoods like Mill Basin, Gerritsen Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Bay Ridge and Marine Park are surprisingly diverse and offer a completely different vibe from the rest of Brooklyn. They may make you feel like your in a small town and no longer in the city! These neighborhoods are also great for families.

Average Sq. Ft. of Rentals in New York City


Studio1 Bedroom2 Bedrooms3 Bedrooms
Manhattan370 SF565 SF820 SF1160 SF
Bronx460 SF640 SF840 SF1035 SF
Staten Island580 SF760 SF970 SF1280 SF
Brooklyn380 SF550 SF760 SF965 SF
Queens410 SF570 SF795 SF975 SF


Maybe you prefer an edgier vibe? Bushwick may be a great choice, being a hotspot for artists, artisans, and young like-minded people. If you’re looking for a diverse and quaint family-oriented neighborhood, Fort Greene, Sunset Park, Bay Ridge, or Windsor Terrace might be good options depending on your budget and commute respectively.

Average Monthly Rental Prices in New York City 2018


Studio1 Bedroom2 Bedrooms3 Bedrooms
Manhattan - All$2,550$3,500$5,150$7,890
Manhattan - Tribeca$3,700$4,850$8,480$14,800
Manhattan - Gramercy Park$2,590$3,700$5,140$8,120
Manhattan - Murray Hill$2,590$2,870$4,050$7,550
Manhattan - Kips Bay$2,450$3,260$4,450$5,540
Manhattan - E. Greenwich Village$2,350$3,120$3,690$4,960
Bronx - All$1,510$1,790$2,260$2,690
Bronx - Fieldston$1,580$1,830$2,290$5,660
Bronx - Riverdale$1,490$2,010$2,950$3,850
Bronx - Spuyten Duyvil$1,490$1,930$2,730$3,090
Staten Island$1,630$1,980$2,630$2,560
Brooklyn - All$2,300$2,620$3,100$3,480
Brooklyn - Dumbo$3,210$4,460$6,220$13,100
Brooklyn - Brooklyn Heights$2,300$3,000$4,680$7,930
Brooklyn - Fort Greene$2,400$3,040$3,980$5,350
Brooklyn - Williamsburg$2,640$3,190$4,090$4,870
Brooklyn - Park Slope$2,060$2,570$3,230$4,100
Queens - All$2,040$2,390$2,910$3,110
Queens - Long Island City$2,440$3,070$4,180$6,380
Queens - Sunnyside$1,680$1,980$2,440$3,280
Queens - Astoria$2,000$2,290$2,700$3,210
Queens - Forest Hills$1,550$2,030$2,710$3,370
Queens - Kew Gardens$1,550$1,910$2,370$2,940

Deciding on the Best Apartment for You

Now that you’ve put together your checklist, ranked them according to importance, and seen a few apartments it may be difficult to decide which one is right for you. If you have a short list of apartments, make sure that your top picks include the top three features. Considering extra amenities or features may not be as important this case. Think about which apartments in your top two or three actually fit the description of what you are looking for.

If you are working with a long list of apartments (say over 5 apartments), you may need to reevaluate your criteria and priorities. Sometimes it’s not an apartment that checks the most items off your list that wins you over. It usually boils down to what the most important aspect or two are and how closely a unit actually embodies it. It can mean the difference between a place you like and a place you love.


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