A Simple Time-Saving Tip for Finding the Right Brooklyn Neighborhood
- Concentrate on No More than Three Neighborhoods:
The first thing to do is narrow down the apartment search to a few desirable neighborhoods.
Organize your decisions according to the factors that are most important to you: school district, commute time and subway line, walking distance from the subway, proximity to the Long Island Railroad, proximity to friends, a park for running or cycling, or a dog run — or whatever.
It's most efficient, of course, to focus on just one neighborhood. Looking in two neighborhoods is do-able. Looking simultaneously in three areas will be seriously time-consuming, especially without using a broker, but also offers a good basis for comparison.
- Get a Map of Brooklyn and Mark It Up: It sounds basic, but use a map — not an online or Google map, but rather a three-dimensional, paper map that's easy to mark up. Buy a big map of Brooklyn from a local bookstore, and (even though it may seem childish) circle in different colors of ink the top neighborhoods you're considering. Unless you are intimately familiar with the Brooklyn neighborhood in which you are looking, a map will be a huge time saver.
- Narrow Your Apartment-Hunting Zone Within the Neighborhood(s) of Choice: Spend some time walking around the neighborhoods of choice, map in hand.
Even within a given neighborhood, streets can vary block by block.
For instance, an apartment on Bergen Street in Boerum Hill might be on a leafy, quiet, shaded residential street. One block away are new high rises with many attractions, but they face traffic-intensive Fourth Avenue, with views of (and noise from) a four-lane thoroughfare. If walking out of your apartment building onto a fast, busy road is a deal-breaker, mark it on the map.
Similarly, if the dream apartment in Williamsburg near transportation, but you have in mind the "L" subway line, not the busy Brooklyn-Queens Expressway highway, mark it. On the other hand, proximity to the highway might be a top priority. Whatever the preference, mark it down on the map.
The point of the exercise is this: mark on the map where you do, and don't, want to live so when looking at a listing address, you can save time by cross-checking it against your wish-list map. Detailed information on a renter's preferences also helps save the realtor time; they appreciate it if you know, in advance, what locations will be unacceptable.
- Expand Your Apartment-Hunting Zone to Nearby Neighborhoods: Some neighborhoods in Brooklyn have gotten more media coverage than others, but that doesn't mean they are actually better, more liveable places than the next neighborhood over. So be a smart shopper. It may be possible to find a dream apartment in an adjacent, less publicized neighborhood.
So, for instance, when looking for that cozy nest in a 19th-century landmarked brownstone, many people head to pricey Park Slope, only to discover that the same kind of properties in the neighborhood of Prospect Heights across Flatbush Avenue rent for a lot less money. Or one might start looking for apartments in Sunset Park, but actually find a great rental in nearby Greenwood Heights. Countless twenty- and thirty-year old creative types have headed to hip Williamsburg in search of a home, but find an equally good apartment in nearby Greenpoint that's cheaper, if a slightly longer walk to the subway. In short, keep an open mind, look around, and be open to various neighborhoods.
Again, use the map. Having identified the two or three most desirable neighborhoods, then go back to the map and in a different color, expand that radius.