Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Homeward Bound

The rental market in New York City is tough. Actually it's nearly impossible. I'm starting to believe that the only way anyone actually gets an apartment is through kismet. I was lucky, again. I think this move has basically cost me all the karma I have and then some. I was only looking, really looking, for two days. I had spoken to a few brokers to merely find out that I can't afford them and even if I could I wouldn't want to pay them the standard 15% of my annual rent. It's a complete racket. The only reason everyone in New York isn't a broker is because most people have a conscience and can't take that much money for doing about 10 minutes worth of poor quality work.

I don't start my job until July 9th so with the help of Craig's List and the Village Voice, I decided to venture out into the world of independent apartment hunting. On Monday I went to see a "spacious studio" on West 57th Street, advertised as 400 square feet. Not even close. 300, maybe, maybe. And that doesn't mean all 300 square feet are usable. $1500. Obscene. 30 people were there and several of them would have tried to level me if I had been given the apartment on the spot. There was that much tension in the room. People are desperate.

Later that afternoon, I went up to West 103rd. Even worse. MAYBE 200 square feet. This charming space has a mini-loft bed which is accessible if you are: a.) Spider Man, b.) an Olympic pole vaulter, or c.) willing to climb up a rickety, make-shift ladder that's in what I think is supposed to be the kitchenette area. Oh, and it's dark and with a faint hint of mildew. $1300 please. 20 people there for viewing. Outrageous. One woman who was viewing the apartment was currently being bitten up by bugs that are in her sublet. She's been searching for two months to no avail. Little red bumps all over her arms. And she's a professional events planner.

I hit a low-point on Tuesday when I went back to the building with a shoe box studio (literally) to see a one bedroom they just put on the market. On the way up to view it, I asked the super what the deposit policy was.

"You must have a co-signer."

"I'm 31. I make $x per year."

"Doesn't matter. Co-signer only."

"I don't have a co-signer."

"Do you have 6 months rent up front?"


"You can't get the apartment. Welcome to New York."

I wanted to crawl into a hole. I am an ADULT. I am gainfully employed (as of July 9th). I am INDEPENDENT. I have an MBA from a very good school. I was crushed.

I do want to say that the super who wouldn't show me the apartment was absolutely wrong. Every other apartment, even the worst ones, only required that I have a certain number of times the monthly rent in annual salary. As long as I hit that mark, I didn't need a co-signer. That guy was literally just off his rocker. The sad part - he'll rent that place, no problem. It's probably already gone. The rental market is that nutty right now.

I had one more place left to see. I was completely dejected. I didn't even want to see one more space. However, I already made the appointment and I have a very hard time breaking my promise to meet anyone. So, I hopped in a cab and headed uptown to West 92nd Street. I arrived a little early so I took a stroll around the block. Grocery store, laundry mat, easy walking distance to subway, easy to reach both Riverside and Central Parks. Wouldn't this be lovely? I heaved a heavy sigh and rang the buzzer, ready for disappointment.

A friendly man came to the door, native New Yorker, a chemistry professor at CUNY, owner of the building. It's a gorgeous brownstone. Well maintained, quiet, and cool. (By the way, New York is in the middle of a heat wave - 98 degrees yesterday and humid. Terrific apartment-hunting weather - I could literally feel my make-up melting off my face. Gross.) We go down a short hallway on the first floor and arrive at a studio apartment.

And it's perfect. Decent size - one open room, with a small kitchen and a brand new bathroom. Adorable. No broker fee. Two year lease with no rent increase. He'll hold it until August 1st so I can give my dear friend Anne, whom I'm subletting from, a full month's notice. Holy $%#@*&! The only downside is he needed two months rent upfront for security and he needed them today. I moved some of my finances around, came up with some creative tactics that I wish I never had to use (more on that in a later post), and voila! I have a home.

I am incredibly lucky - I think I might just be the luckiest person in this town. That's not to say that I like this apartment hunting system. It's enough to make me consider writing to Mayor Bloomberg to suggest he put a few measures in place to clean up this housing situation. Seriously, this city is losing talent. Young, interested, passionate, creative talent because the cost of living is out-of-control and the cost of relocating here is even worse. Why aren't all tenants required to give 60 days notice so apartments don't get listed and rented in less than 24 hours, spawning a frenzy among apartment seekers? Why don't brokers and landlords take credit cards? Why are brokers allowed to charge fees that are equivalent to the highest paid DOCTORS and BANKERS in this city when broken down by amount of time worked? Okay, I've just gotten myself so worked up that I need to go write that letter. I hope you'll write to him too:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)
FAX (212) 788-8123

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