Finding Home Sweet Home

I was recently reminded of the search for an NYC apartment. If you have never done it before, be thankful. If you have, you know it’s not for the faint of heart.

Now, I have never looked for an apartment in a ‘normal’ place so I don’t know if it differs much, but I have to think so because it’s just so insane looking for an apartment in the Big Apple.

Thanks to the time I have spent apartment hunting I have seen my fair share of apartments. What about the one where I’d have to climb up a ten foot ladder to get into my bed, another I’d have to live Real World style with eight roommates, a few with no natural light (thanks to the fake walls blocking the only window in the apartment) and a couple with windows that faced a brick wall, or looked directly into someone else’s apartment.

Thanks to my leases I have actually lived in apartments with sloping floors (where a coffee table on wheels actually rolled), a bathroom so small that while sitting on the toilet you could wash your hands and shave your legs while they are perched on the tub (couldn’t really do this because I am a klutz). I’ve lived in places where the ceiling crumbled every time it rained and the stairs were removed for the better part of the weekend. I have had my underwear and bras stolen right from my dresser, lived in a building that was wrapped in scaffolding for the better part of my time there and lived with roommates found on Craigslist.

And when I wasn’t so NYC apartment hunting savvy, I took up residence in a friends spare room and lived out of boxes because a friend and I couldn’t find a place to live that met our few requirements.

I have lived on the first floor, the top floor and floors in between. I have lived above a mexican restaurant, a laundromat and a sandwich shop. My neighbors have been college students, families, crack addicts, hoarders, sex fiends and an old lady who had lived in the building for 50 years, and died there too.

I have lived on main streets, side streets and street corners (watch it if you live on a corner where a bus stops .. that beep and psssh sound every time the bus lets someone on or off is really annoying but you deal with it.)

While I had to deal with some interesting conditions, I have also had the priviledge of living with my friends and living with people who became my friends. I have lived on streets where major parades happened (getting front row seating) and I have lived where movies were filmed outside. I have lived in the delivery zone for which can bring you wine, toilet paper and laundry detergent (among other things) in less than 30 minutes. I have lived around the corner from some of my favorite restaurants and I have lived a block from the subway getting me anywhere I wanted to go.

At one point three of my friends and I were all in Manhattan. They all lived within 5 blocks of each other, a mere 5 minute walk. I was the one who was far away. A 10 minute cab ride. How many people can say they live that close to three of their friends?

Even now, I have a three block walk to one friend. Another, 10 blocks. Not too shabby, huh?

You didn’t ask for it but here are some tips for apartment searching in the Big Apple. Obviously I am not covering everything but renter beware!

1 – Postings don’t go up until mid-month, the month before you want to move. So you want to be out of your apartment April 30? Wait til March 15th or so to find out what’s free. I think in most other parts of the country, and possibly the world, you have a little more notice on what’s going to be available. Needless to say it’s a mad dash at the beginning of the month.

2 – Postings are not always accurate. Cozy = small. Historic = falling apart and management company won’t fix it. Great view = small window overlooking the street. Full size kitchen = one person can be in there at once. Steps away = 3, or 10, blocks. True two bedroom = could be, if you put in a fake wall making it two bedrooms.

3 – Postings are not always still available. Bait and switch? Have been there more times than I want to remember. “Oh, that apartment was JUST taken. Check this one out…” Either it’s way above your price range, or you would never ever live there.

4 – Appointments are not personal. Get there early because it’s usually an open call and first come, first one to put a deposit down.

5 – Don’t forget your documentation! You must tote around everything – passport, social security card, pay stubs, references, deposit, license and your first born child – just IN CASE  you find an apartment that might be the one.

There’s tons more to share but this is just what’s top of mind. I haven’t had to look for an apartment in over two years but I did the apartment search seven times in the past ten years. I’d say I am a seasoned looker.

If you have any other apartment hunting tips to share, feel free to leave them in the comments section.


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