Apartment Hunting in NYC Part 1: Every Apartment Has A Catch

First and foremost, APOLOGIES for my long absence. Everything has sort of ground to a halt at home lately as I get busier. We did take a short trip to Washington DC for Memorial Day weekend just to get away for a bit, but that’s about the extent of “happenings”.

In case you were wondering, the apartment is a mess at the moment. A real mess. I would take a picture but it is actually embarrassing. Good news though, this weekend is dedicated to sorting out the place. Also, we have let the management company know we will not be renewing our lease so we really have to get the apartment organized for visits from prospective tenants.

So, yes, we have been apartment browsing (the hunt can’t really begin until we start to see more late July listings) and so far we are not impressed.

There are countless articles on the internet about apartment hunting in NYC and they will all tell you IT IS A PAIN IN THE ASS, a gauntlet of bullsh*t, an exercise in frustration, etc etc. So far I have found nothing that leads me to disagree with these assessments. It is part of why we gave up last year and moved to Jersey.

The biggest issues I have with renting in this city are: overpriced apartments, fake rental listings, pushy real estate brokers, and the apparent lack of pet friendly apartments. If it made sense we would just purchase a condo/coop in Queens or Brooklyn. However, we don’t know that we will be in New York long enough for that.

After our last experience apartment hunting in NYC, this year we have set a hard limit on our rental budget. Last year’s search was about finding a place on short notice. Although our current apartment is great and comes with amenities–it does have a catch…or three. First, it is expensive. Second, the train service on weekends just sucks. Third, there is never really anything to do on weekends.

So far, in our search, we have seen a lot of strange listings. For instance, there was a 1 bedroom “apartment” in Soho with the shower stall located next to the kitchen stove and a “bedroom” that could only fit a twin bed. This was priced at $1900 a month and listed as a great deal. This apartment is no longer available so somebody must be living there.

This year we are looking for reduced rent. This will, of course, mean giving up a few things–mostly proximity to the city. However, the rent reduction will allow us to save more money for other things–important things.

At this point, I believe we will end up somewhere in either Queens, Upper Manhattan, or Brooklyn (depending on our comfort level with the neighborhood and the commute). I don’t honestly know how viable Brooklyn is. There are some great parts of Brooklyn but, the area is now so “hip” that rent prices in even the “bad” parts are officially ridiculous and have been for some time. I blame TV.

So, what do we need?:

  • Dog friendly 1-2 bedroom apartment.
  • Reasonable rent.
  • Decent amount of living space.
  • Reasonable commute to our offices
  • Good neighborhood i.e. we can walk RJ at night with an expectation for safety
  • No broker fee.

This may not seem like a lot but that last bullet point is the real kicker for our search.

In NYC many brokers charge a fee of 15% of annual rent for finding an apartment. So, if the monthly rent for an apartment is $2000/month to move in you would need:

  • 1st rent payment: $2000
  • Last rent payment: $2000 (maybe)
  • 1 month security deposit: $2000
  • 15% broker fee: $3600

Lots of people pay the broker fee and I don’t blame them. However, we refuse to do this.

I am perfectly fine living on the outer reaches of the city if that is what it takes. If the neighborhood is safe and the apartment meets our standards, I can deal with a long commute. We’ll see.

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