For those of you who don't already know, I just signed a lease on my first apartment in the Big Apple (yay!). After a hectic year of campus housing (which consisted of a caved-in ceiling, intoxicated undergraduates, and shared bathrooms), I felt it was time to move on to bigger and better things. Thus the apartment hunt commenced. As I am quite experienced now in the realm of New York City real estate (ha! not.) I decided to compile a list of do's and don'ts of the New York apartment hunt. If you are about to begin the search yourself, take these tips to heart. If not, merely rejoice in the fact that you will never have to endure such a challenging, stressful, sleepless experience.
1. DO understand that LIVING SPACES IN NEW YORK CITY
ARE MINISCULE. A square foot in New York equals a hundred square fee
t in most other cities. Seriously,
I can't stress this enough. Remember that Geico commercial for a fake reality TV show called "Tiny House"? The spoof on reality TV where Real-World-esque contestants were forced to live in a too-small place of abode for an extended period of time and whoever could endure it for the longest time won? Welcome to Manhattan.
2. DO sacrifice any dreams of a Park Avenue penthouse unless you are a billionaire.
3. DO use Craigslist with caution. No need to explain.
4. DO take a friend with martial arts skills to all apartment viewing appointments. Male or female, you must have a bodyguard at all times. Exercise caution in all stairwells, elevator shafts, and dark hallways. Bring mace.
5. DO come to all appointments prepared to sign the lease. In New York City, living space operates in low supply, high demand. If you decide you want the apartment, there are probably others who are after it as well, brandishing wads of twenties. There is no time to dither. SIGN THE LEASE.
6. DO NOT purchase furniture until you know the square footage
of the apartment. Not just the interior square footage, but also the measurements of the doorways, hallways, elevators, windows, etc. It is not uncommon for city denizens to saw their furniture in half in order to get it inside. Save yourself the trouble.
7. DO NOT assume amenities. Not all NYC apartments are in doorman buildings with on-site dry cleaning and a private pool. If you're like me, you'll be lucky to find one with air conditioning.
8. DO maintain flexibility. Decide what is the most important factor in your search (price, location, size, etc.). Be willing to yield on everything else.
9. DO prepare yourself for vermin confrontations. There are more rats than people in New York City, and they need somewhere to live, too, right?
10. DO sustain an open mind. This is the most important thing to remember, especially if you haven't lived in the city for long and you're on a specific budget. I guarantee you will be quite shocked by some of your options.
Having survived my first New York apartment hunt in no way makes me an expert. If anything, I've realized that finding a place to live in New York City is like living on a prayer (pardon the Bon Jovi reference, but it seemed apt). I had to chuckle knowingly at a brief exchange I witnessed the other day in the subway:
Shabby hobo on bench, to well-dressed young man exiting the train: Spare a dollar for the homeless?
Well-dressed young man: I'm with you, man. Just moved up here two weeks ago. Can't find a place to live, so I'm couch-surfing for the time being. Best of luck to you and God bless!
Shabby hobo on bench: If I had a dollar, I'd give it to him.
I'm very happy that my apartment search is over for the time being. I've pretty much thrown myself into decorating since we moved in, and I'm happy to say that the whole place is starting to come together. However, by the time we're completely settled in, our lease will probably be up and we'll be on the hunt once again. At least I'll be a bit more experienced next time around.