It seems like everyone wants to live in fabulous New York City at some point in his or her lifetime. If you're searching for apartments in New York, there's a lot to know about this fast-paced market. In fact, NYC apartments have a very low vacancy rate – only two percent – which means you have to move quickly to snag a great apartment. Here are some tips to help your search go smoothly:

Required documents
Renting an apartment in NYC is a lot more strict than other markets. It's different per landlord, but here are some commonly requested documents:

  • Photo ID
  • Tax return
  • Last two pay stubs
  • Note from your employer stating salary and position
  • Two bank statements
  • Previous landlord's information
  • Reference letters – personal and business
  • Credit check

Consider hiring a broker
As the market is saturated with renters, many people searching for an NYC apartment forego the hassle and hire brokers to help them find a sweet place. The upside to hiring a broker is that you can give them your neighborhood and price specifications and have them do most of the work. The downside? You have to pay the broker a fee – typically one month's rent or 15 percent of the total annual rent – upon securing a place with his or her help. Before hiring a broker, make sure he or she is licensed and get your agreement in writing. You can even try to get a lower fee.

Go it alone
If you see an apartment advertised with "no fee," that often means that the management company or owner has agreed to pay the broker when the place is leased. Thus, when you look at a "no fee" apartment, you can rest assured that you will not have to pay a brokerage fee if you choose to rent that place.

However, if you go it alone, it's important to be prepared so you can snag your perfect place right away. Go to an apartment viewing complete with all of the paperwork.

Decide where to live
NYC has five boroughs with innumerable neighborhoods. Not many people who live in the city actually drive – most areas are extremely walkable, bikeable or have excellent access to public transportation. Recently, the average rent in New York topped out at $3,000 per month – the highest in the nation. However, rent varies wildly here, even from burrough to borough. For example, on Manhattan, you'll pay much less in Washington Heights, near Columbia University in upper Manhattan than you will in the most posh parts of Manhattan – Midtown and the Upper East Side.

Rent has gone up recently in Brooklyn. While Park Slope has always been extremely pricey and mostly appealing to young wealthy families, Williamsburg and Boreum Hill are also emerging as trendy locales, making them a little pricier.

Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx provide cheaper options though they're farther from the city center.