Finding an apartment in New York is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever done. And now I’m doing it for the third time in just over a year.
The first stressful search was conducted from across the country. I imagined a small studio apartment, but it quickly became clear that I would be living with roommates. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but warmed up to it because it meant I wouldn’t need to bring anything more than myself, a set of sheets and my clothes. The woman I sublet from for two months even offered to sell me some of her furniture, so I ended up with a dresser, chair, bed, some storage bins, mirrors, etc. for next to nothing.
My Hell’s Kitchen (or “Clinton,” if you’re talking to a broker) apartment came with two roommates, a socially awkward super, six flights of stairs to walk up, a half-size oven. Some of the more charming characteristics were parts of the walls just left unpainted because apparently the previous lease-holders ran out of paint. The cupboard above the fridge held sweaters. I don’t know who those sweaters belonged to. There was also a closet jam-packed with stuff former roommates had left behind. We affectionately called it The Closet of Former Roommates’ Stuff. I left behind a blender I had purchased as my legacy.
But I was lucky to find 6A. I had to sort through so many strange posts on Craigslist to find a normal-sounding arrangement. One fellow wrote that the tenant, “would have access to my master bedroom.” There were tons of “shares,” which means you share not just the apartment, but the bedroom. One had a bathroom off what would be my room, so the roommates would have to walk through my room to get to it. There were ads from people warning, “BE SERIOUS! DON’T WASTE MY TIME!!!!!!!!!”
Three months ago, I moved into a luxury building on the Upper East Side. It felt like a dream with its spacious living room and bedroom. Downstairs is a small gym free for resident use. An express elevator takes us down to the laundry room. But there’s always a flip-side and this one is this one-bedroom apartment is a “converted,” which means a wall was built in to make my bedroom. That wall does not go all the way up to the ceiling, so if my roommate is out watching TV or rummaging through the kitchen, it sounds like she’s rummaging in my bedroom.
Now search No. 3 came with a new set of challenges. I flat-out rejected the idea of roommates. After this last one, I can’t do it anymore. I need my own space. To find a studio, I needed the help of a broker. Apartments are just impossible to find on your own. The assistance of a broker costs 15% of a year’s rent, which means I’m looking at around $2,800. Yes, just to find me a place to live. No further services rendered.
Here are some of the questions brokers asked me:
- Do you like to cook? OK, so this one without a kitchen won’t work for you.
- How do you feel about sharing a bathroom with another unit?
- You could have a choice of a full-size refrigerator or countertop. Which do you want?
Some of the apartments had odd features. I’m only looking at studios, but some have great layouts, like Quyn’s, where the kitchen is part of a hall. In others, I’d literally be sleeping next to my oven. The fridges could double as nightstands. Most don’t have bathtubs, which I’m fine with. But, some had showers so small I don’t think I could turn around in them, and I’d place myself on the small side of adult humans!
Several units were pretty cute, but so small I don’t think I’d have room to bring my chair. It would be my bed and that’s about it. Oh, and for the pleasure of such a teeny apartment in Manhattan, we’re talking $1,600 per month and don’t forget that $3,000 brokers fee!
But if it were easy, everyone would live in New York.
While I’m counting down the days until I’m homeless, I’d like to assure you all my broker and I are positive we’ll find something by the deadline. I’m fine. Really! Worst-case scenario, I put my stuff in storage and crash at Quyn’s until she kicks me out.