Read Between the Lines – Avoid Listings with These Tricky Words

Whether you’re a seasoned NYC renter or a new transplant, it can be difficult to navigate the world of real estate listings. Real estate agents get a bad rap for their misleading listings, but it’s their job to drum up interest and get as many potential applicants as possible. For both renters and agents, it’s a numbers game. Of course, when you’re planning on moving in NYC, your time as valuable. You don’t want to waste it by going to apartments that don’t fit your needs.

In order to narrow down your our list of prospective locations, look out for these words.



When you think of something that’s cozy, what pops into your mind? For most people, it probably means a fireplace, rocking chair, cuddling under a warm blanket, hot cocoa, etc. The word conjures up very positive reactions and that’s why you often see it in listings. However, what it usually means is small. So a “cozy” studio apartment probably will be pretty tiny. If you’re okay with a small place, it might be fine, but if you’re looking for something more spacious, skip the cozy listings.

Search For Listings

Junior 1-BR

You’re probably browsing through craigslist, Zillow, StreetEasy, etc. for apartments. If you’re narrowed down your search to a 1BR you’ve probably seen a lot of these listings for Junior 1 bedrooms, but what does it mean? Essentially, it’s a 2 room studio so your kitchen will be separate from your bedroom. There is NO living room, so if you’re hoping for an entertaining space, look for listings that say true 1 bedroom.

Stay Vibrant


Want some peace and quiet? Then avoid listings that tout what a vibrant location the apartment is in. Usually this means you’re surrounded by a lot of restaurants and bars. And where there’s bars, there’s loud, drunk people. While it might not be an issue if you’re on a higher floor, if you’re on a lower floor, the noise can be a deal breaker if you want some peace and quiet. As well, you also need to worry about cigarette smoke coming into your apartment as smokers tend to congregate in these vibrant areas.

Steps Away

Steps Away

Yes, it’s convenient to be steps away from things like a subway station, grocery store, laundromat, parks etc. However, if the listing says steps away from Port Authority, a tunnel/bridge or highway, you might want to reconsider visiting the location. Usually steps away means you’re apartment will be overlooking these busy locations and do you really want to be on top of a location that constantly has backed up traffic? For those who have issues like asthma, being in a location with constant idling engines is a death sentence. Even if you don’t suffer from asthma, the smell of the car fumes can be nauseating. Avoid these places.



While the word utilities itself isn’t a “bad” word, you’ll want to look carefully to figure out what utilities are included. Generally, most buildings provide heat and hot water, but there are some that require you to pay all utilities. This is the case in a lot of newer buildings that provide their own individual heating units. If the listing doesn’t mention utilities, it’s always good to email the agent and ask before you fall in love with the place. Heating and hot water can add quite a lot to your monthly bills, especially in the winter time so you want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you commit.

Too Good to be True

Too Good to be True

Whether these exact words are in the listing or not, if an apartment just seems like a deal that’s too good to be true, follow your instincts. It probably is. There are plenty of people who are more than willing to cheat apartment searchers out of money. The biggest tell is the price. If it is much lower than any other apartment you’ve seen in the neighborhood, you likely are dealing with a con artist. Take a look at the pictures, if they’re posted. If they look like stock pictures move on.

Light Renovation

Pictures are from a different apartment

Generally after someone moves out of an apartment, the building management company does some light renovation to the apartment for the new tenant. A lot of scammers use this to their advantage and will post fake or stock pictures of an apartment and state that the pictures are not from the actual apartment, but that they both have the same layout. While not ALL of these listings are scams, a good majority of them are. Most management companies should have pictures of their apartment in their archives so they can easily post a picture even during renovation. The layouts don’t change, so there’s no need to

Residential Area

Sleepy Neighborhood

If you’re looking for a good nightlife and some excellent restaurants, you might want to avoid listings that place an emphasis on quiet and sleepy. Most of these apartments will be in residential areas and while great for family and quiet, it’s not great if you want to hit the town and do some bar hopping with friends. Depending on what you want for your apartment, the above listed words might help you find exactly what you’re looking for. If you want a small place, a cozy location might be great for you! However, by recognizing these words, you can also start deciphering each listing based on the keywords they use. When moving in NYC you have to keep your eyes peeled and be on alert if you want to find what you’re looking for.