Thursday, April 14, 2011

Apartment Hunting in NYC

So I managed to secure the current (one-month) sublet that I'm currently in with the crazy girls while I was still in San Diego. (Yes, they still smoke, but it seems to have calmed down some - maybe because they are starting to show the place?) Anyway, that was an effort in and of itself to find this sublet while I wasn't in the city but I got really lucky, plus I didn't want to sleep on my friends' couch for an entire month! I figured once I arrived in New York, actually being here would be a huge advantage to finding a more permanent place, a room in an already furnished apartment where I could just sign onto a 1-year lease.

Wrong. Very, very wrong.

A week and a half after I got here, I started looking for shares. A share = your own room in an apartment aka not living by yourself. (Not the same terminology used on the West Coast!) I sent e-mails, I posted on Facebook, I contacted every person I could think of who might have connections in the city. I also figured out a budget and stuck within that range.

And I scoured Craigslist like it was my job. Which is almost was! I had a Craigslist window open on my work computer and would refresh it every hour. I would come home from work and continue to check it in between gym/errands/socializing. Whenever something that sounded decent in the areas I wanted showed up, with or without pictures, I immediately sent an email. I had a short paragraph written about myself, my schedule and my habits that I would copy/paste into each e-mail. I would possibly ask a question or two, inquire about pictures (if there weren't any on the listing) and then ask to schedule a viewing.

Do you know how many e-mails I sent out? 28.

Do you know how many replies I got? 7.

Do you know how many apartments I actually saw? 4.

That's right. I only saw FOUR! Below is the breakdown of each one. Most of the time I just wouldn't get a solid feeling so I would pass based on that. Also, whenever I would get an address from a potential place, I would immediately put it into the Bed Bug Registry website to see if the building had ever had issues. I chose not to look at two places because last year over half the units in each building were infested! GROSS! Not something I wanted to have to worry about.

Apartment 1
Location: Chelsea
Price: $1,175/month (+$60 utilities)
Pros: LOCATION! This was a corner unit on a main avenue and street in the heart of Chelsea. Super cute area, very close to the subway, across the street from a grocery store plus had views of the Empire State Building. The living room and kitchen/dining area were an open plan and LARGE.
Cons: It smelled of smoke when I walked in. The available bedroom was TINY, even by Manhattan standards. It could just fit a full bed and a really small nightstand. There was a closet in the room but it was also tiny/cramped. The room was also directly next to the front door and landing for the floor, plus it was on a very busy/noisy street. Turns out the two other girls in the place were also on similar schedules to me which makes the bathroom situation complicated. It was also awkward because there were three other girls checking it out at the same time and they were trying to compete for the attention of the girls who were showing the room. I've never dealt with a situation like that before for a RENTAL but hey - welcome to Manhattan! ;)
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 2
Location: Upper West Side (low 70s)
Price: $1,075/month (+$45/month utilities)
Pros: Good location, close to to the subway and not too far from where my friends live in the UWS. Two blocks from a Trader Joe's! Available room was very big! It could fit a full or queen bed, wardrobe, desk and dresser plus have space to move around in.
Cons: Very old building which had had bedbug issues in the past, cramped bathroom (I tripped over the toilet walking in!), old everything and gross/moldy tiles in the bathroom. Turns out the two girls who were currently living there were considering moving out in two months as well, even though they advertised for someone to sign onto the 1-year lease after the sublet period was over. I just didn't get a good feeling from this place.
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 3
Location: Upper West Side (high 90s)
Price: $800/month (+$75 utilities)
Pros: CHEAP! Decent location, in between two subway lines and still relatively close to my friends in the same neighborhood.
Cons: Another old apartment, weird bathroom setup, TINY bedroom again and also directly next to the front door. The girl needed someone immediately (as in, sign the paperwork the next day in order to avoid it being put on the market by a broker and to avoid paying a broker's fee!) and there were about 12 people looking at the place! It was like vultures, even worse than the Chelsea place and I didn't even get to talk to the girl who was looking for roommates.
Verdict: PASS

Apartment 4
Location: Hell's Kitchen/Clinton/Midtown West
Price: $1,060 (including utilities)
Pros: Very clean apartment, renovated kitchen (brand new stainless steel appliances!) and bathroom, decent-sized 9x12 furnished bedroom including air conditioner, small closet and some built-in shelves plus lots of under-bed storage, on the same block as my current sublet, laid-back/quiet male roommate who works a lot but was friendly and a NON-SMOKER! The building is kept in good shape and the entranceway/lobby had all new tile work.
Cons: 3-month sublet (I wanted to sign a 1-year lease somewhere to have a more permanent place), no cable, no dining or coffee table. Really? That's what I could come up with?! Those are not deal breakers at ALL but more "nice-to-haves" that I'd definitely give up in exchange for a fantastic place!
Verdict: MINE!

I went to bed last night with a really solid feeling about the place. I knew I had found "the one"...even if it's just for a few months! I got up this morning and immediately sent an email to them letting them know I was very interested if they thought I would be a good fit, and not 10 minutes later I received a "HOORAY! We liked you too!" reply that make me super happy. So, yes, I'll have to move again in a few months, but I feel like I found a gem. Especially when they told me they had received over 20 responses on the first day alone and weeded through them to find the "good people." :) Goodbye, crazy-drunk-smoking-girls that I'm currently living with. You were good while you lasted!

The advice I would give someone looking for a share in Manhattan? Just keep looking! Something will come along. Yes, it's incredibly frustrating and a lot of work, but it's worth it and it will work out in the end! Oh and have a good write-up about about yourself. That definitely made me stand out, from what people told me. Be willing to compromise! Whether that's on price, size, location, length of lease/sublet...something has to give at the end of the day. Last but not least: TRUST YOUR GUT. You will know. :)

[image via]


krystalatwork April 14, 2011 at 11:55 PM  

That's so awesome! I'm glad that you found a place that you like, even though it's only for a few months.

Also, holy heck is rent expensive in NYC!!!

Well Heeled Blog April 15, 2011 at 12:02 AM  

Congrats on finding a place! Doe this mean you will have to look again after 3 months?

Jessica April 15, 2011 at 12:26 AM  

Congrats! Guess you're staying in the neighborhood! Funny was talking to my college roomie who lives here now and she wanted to look for a new place this summer. I told her it was far fetched but that you were looking for a place too haha. Was thinking maybe you guys would want to find a place?? Kind of crazy I know... Good luck w/ this new place!

FB @ April 15, 2011 at 7:56 AM  

All that matters is that ONE apartment :) CONGRATS! It sounds awesome.

FruGal April 15, 2011 at 2:30 PM  

That househunting sounds crazy! I would have felt so anxious about finding the right place in the right timeframe, but it sounds like you found it. Good luck and congrats!

MoneyMaus April 15, 2011 at 6:28 PM  

@krystal - Haha, yeah rent is expensive here and that wasn't even at the top of my budget! It all depends on where you live in the city, how well you want to live, etc. But actually the NYC rent is only $275 more than my San Diego really, not bad at all :)

@WH - Thanks! Yes, unfortunately I'll be looking for a new place on Aug 1 but that's a few months away still!

@Jessica - I'm excited! Maybe once we meet up and you deem me okay we could work on the possibility of your college roomie this summer :) Thanks for the suggestion!

@FB & FruGal - Thanks! It was crazy but worth it...and soon I'll do it all over again, haha.

Carolyn April 16, 2011 at 2:10 AM  

Omg we have GOT to talk on Sunday about this!!! 3 month lease might not be that bad of a thing ;)

gem April 16, 2011 at 4:08 PM  

"It could just fit a full bed and a really small nightstand."
You think that's small??? My roommate's bedroom can barely fit her twin and a small nightstand. And we're not even in Manhattan, we're in Brooklyn, haha.

Erin April 19, 2011 at 5:35 PM  

Ah! I wish i found this blog sooner! I live in NY too and until recently was looking for apartment too!

Money Rabbit April 19, 2011 at 9:32 PM  

Wow, and I just wrote a post complaining about finding an apartment in Toronto, this is ten times worse!!! Congrats on finding a great place in your budget. I always check the bed bug registry here in Toronto too ... damn good thing too, you'd never suspect some buildings!!

Dee April 25, 2011 at 3:51 PM  

You post is so helpful. Right now a dear friend of mine is looking for an apartment in New York City. I trying my best to help her by looking on craigslist and forwarding anything I find to her email. But as you said it is soo time consuming. So far I've only found like 4 decently priced listings. Like you, she is considering a sublet, but would like something more permanent. What else could I do to help her find something?

MoneyMaus April 27, 2011 at 10:40 PM  

@gem - Haha, well one thing I refuse to compromise on is having enough space for a full bed!

@Erin - Glad to hear you found a place, though. :)

@MoneyRabbit - I read your post and laughed because ours were similar!

@Dee - To be honest, it's just a lot of luck/timing. You have to be ON TOP of the Craigslist listings...other than that, I don't know any resources for finding a room. Sublets seem to abound, though! Good luck to your friend! She'll find something :)

Anonymous August 17, 2011 at 3:41 PM  

You should check out City Maps. I was told about the site when I moved into my new neighborhood and I'm obsessed. I have found some cool spots I prob never would have walked fast that have made me fall in love with my neighborhood. Hope you like the site!

Kimberly February 7, 2012 at 9:29 AM  

To me, having a bedroom in which you can fit a queen size bed is mandatory. Last year I got an apartment rental in Buenos Aires since I had to travel due to business and the room was so big I was able to fit 2 queen size beds!

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