Moving: 7 things I learned while apartment hunting in NYC
“In New York, you’re always looking for a job, a boyfriend or an apartment.” This quote is from Carrie, in Sex and the City, it never made much sense in my life.
I think I may not have mentioned this fact here on the blog, because I am a little superstitious about some things: I don’t like to spread the words that are not 100% sure. It seems that something could happen – like envy! – and the thing can not happen anymore. So, I waited to sign the lease and get the keys to be able to say that: we are moving! Later this week, we will be in a new place, which and which we hope will make us very happy. Currently, we live in a one bedroom apartment and we wanted more space. But as Carrie’s phrase suggests, do not think that was an easy process. It was a search that lasted for weeks and caused much concern – and even nightmares.
When I arrived here in New York in early 2014, I wrote a post telling a little bit about our saga hunting for apartment. It was not easy – but it’s amazing how my mind blocked it and it seems that I had simply had forgotten all the stress that the search for an apartment can cause. For those who are reading and think I’m exaggerating, believe me: to find an apartment in New York is an arduous task that requires a lot of time, patience, strategy and mood (besides money!). Even the real estate agents – the brokers – agree. Whenever I met one of them, the conversation was the same: New York is a tough city in this regard.
At this time, you may be wondering why it is so tough. Simple: more than 8 million people live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. High demand – and a lot of people wanting to make a good deal – that is, find your perfect apartment in a limited budget. Oh and this makes me remember something really important: if you have an unlimited budget – you probably do not need to worry about it. Now, in our case, we wanted a two bedroom apartment with a living room, elevator, laundry room, located in Manhattan and that was not above 100th St, with a limited budget, believe me: the task becomes very complicated and almost impossible. Next, I will tell you 7 things I learned while apartment hunting in New York City. By the way, we were looking for renting, no buying!
1. You will get in shape
You don’t need a diet, you don’t need a workout. Hunting for an apartment in New York will help you get in shape. First, because I don’t know about you, but when I have a problem to solve, I lose my appetite. Anxiety consumes me – and I end up eating very badly. Not to mention that there are days when you make an appointment with a different broker every hour – which leaves you with almost zero time to sit down and eat something. Also, there is no glamour. It’s all about walking over there, come over here, running over there, run over here. There was a day that I walked from 96th St to 59th St. I never met a fat broker. Oh, and there will be times when you will have to literally run: run to not miss the train, run to not leave anyone waiting for you – all this because you think you are a badass that can handle 2435363 visits in an afternoon.
2. You will learn to lower your expectations
When we started our search for an apartment, we had some requirements: laundry in the building, elevator, two bedrooms, living room, light, location – and no broker fee. As we met with brokers and saw the options available – and listened to the brokers saying that what we wanted would be hard to find – we started to lower our expectations. At the end, I was no longer prioritizing elevator – it could be a a walk up (but just to the 2nd floor!) – and no laundry (after all, there are laundromats on every corner and I could also buy my own machine). After all, this is New York.
3. You will learn that when something is too good to be true – it’s because it’s probably too good to be true
On the first day of our hunting – wow, a damn luck! – we visited a wonderful apartment. Huge, I could run inside – no lie, those who knows the apartments in New York know what I mean, space is a luxury item here. It had two bedrooms, a huge living room, a wonderful kitchen, a million of closets, elevator, laundry and even security! All this for a price less than our current rent and no broker fee. I was enchanted. I talked to Thiago: “We need to fill out the application, we will not get anything better for this price.” I was already imagining my life there – because at this time, I still created expectations and dreamed high – but my husband’s face was saying: there’s something wrong here. I sent the video to some friends and Thiago researched the building on the Internet. We found several reviews of the place – all bad. The former residents were emphatic: don’t rent an apartment here. While no one denied that the apartments were good, apparently the place was not the safest: somebody was killed there, somebody was robbed, there were reports that people smoked, used drugs and peed in public areas, the management office was incompetent and security was no good for anything. How could we rent an apartment knowing these facts?
4. You will discover your willpower
“I am Brazilian and I never give up” – this is a famous quote in Brazil and it became my mantra in the search for apartments. I listened to brokers telling me that I should increase my budget or go uptown, because this would make the process easier – but they didn’t convince me. I knew that was not easy, but I looked at their faces and said, okay, I’ll keep trying. In two years in New York, we had two great opportunities to move to apartments with all our requirements – so why now we would not find something cool? I tried to convince myself that everything would be fine soon, but sometimes, I confess, I was desperate. Why is this city so tough? One day, Thiago told me: “Without emotion is not funny.” And a broker concluded, “in New York, no one has feelings.” That explains a lot, believe me.
5. You will learn all the tricks!
First mantra: I only believe seeing in person. It is because it is very normal to find wonderful pictures on the websites. It’s very common that the apartment will not look like the pictures – so you learn to lower your expectations. By the way, when you get in touch with a broker to see an apartment and he will show you at least 4 units – and you may not even visit that one that you asked to see it. Another thing: photos with fisheye lens, stretched photos, pictures with details that do not matter, but only hide that the apartment is too small. You will also find that 2 bedrooms filter does not always mean 2 bedroom apartments. There are those that I named “fake 2 bedrooms”, because they have two bedrooms, but they do not have a living room and there is also flex apartments, which actually are 1 bedroom apartments, large, with a living room that can be converted to another bedroom: you can make a wall – a not smart solution that costs you money. No, thank you.
6. You will rethink your entire life and question yourself a thousand times
I must have visited at least 30 apartments during my search. As time went by, I learned to hold my thoughts and not let my imagination ruin my days. That moment when the brokeris opening the door to show you an apartment used to cause a lot of tension, I imagined 1 million of things. I started to not hope for anything – or maybe just bad things? One day, sitting near Central Park while I was waiting for a broker to see an apartment, I began to wonder if everything was worth it. Do we really need to move? Does the fact that it is so hard to find something means it’s time to give up? Moreover, how can we know when to give up? It may seem silly, but this process made me rethink many things – and I think that if we had kept the search for a while, we would have given up.
7. You will learn to act fast and to trust your instincts.
Choosing an apartment, for me, it is very similar to the process of choosing a wedding dress. Really! You try several dresses, you like some, but you just choose one as the favorite. With apartments, it is the same thing: I discarded many, like some and love a few ones. When I got in the apartment that we are moving to, it just took me ten seconds to realize that it was the one. And, to be clear, when it comes to New York, there is no time to go home, think about it for a few days and then decide you want the apartment. If you do this, you probably will lose it. This is because here it works like this: first come, first served. I saw the apartment at 4:30 pm and at 6pm Thiago was in the office filling out the application. You have to know exactly what you want to be able to make quick decisions – I made sure to fill out the application the same day because the broker told me that somebody would visit the place later that day.
Did you like my story? I will write another post with everything you need to know before you start your search for apartments in New York – but I think this post has given you an idea that is not an easy process, right?
I want to say something clear about our budget for this apartment: I don’t mention prices. Don’t ask me how much our rent is, because this is the kind of information that only concerns us and I do not feel comfortable disclosing it. And apartment rental prices depends on many things: amenities, number of rooms and location. A quick Google search will give you some answers. But keep in mind: it is not cheap!
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.