You can’t always get what you want. . .

15 01 2009

. . . but sometimes you do.

Yessss, I got the apartment.

What apartment, you ask? Why, the one I looked at in Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn, the one I knew I wanted the moment I walked through it. The 1BR with 3 (THREE!) closets, one of which is a WALK-IN. The one within walking distance of Prospect Park, and a coupla’ blocks off the train. The one I’m moving into next week. The one I chose not to write about so as not to, erm, jinx it. (No, not generally superstitious, but, you know. I took everybody’s luck, too. Just in case.)

So how do you find an apartment in New York City? Assuming you don’t inherit a relative’s place, or have so much money you can simply point and say ‘Want’, you do one of two things:

You go to a broker, prepared to spend 15% of the yearly rent on broker’s fees. Plus another $50 or $100 on credit and background checks. Oh, and have a coupla’ hundred bucks in cash to hold the apartment (refundable if you don’t get the place.)

The rest of us, however, use Craigslist. You pick a category (all apts, all no-fee broker and owner apts, owner apts only), check off the variables (number of BRs, critters, cost, location), and let ‘er rip.

Assuming your search parameters are reasonable (i.e., you’re not looking for a 2BR Manhattan apartment for 800 bucks a month), a lot of apartments will pop up.

Do not be deceived.

Many are re-posts (scroll down the page, and, ohp, there it is again), and a fair number are cons. You’ll know the cons as soon as you receive an e-mail in response: they’ll mention the failed attempts to find a God-fearing broker or agent to take care of their beautiful home, an unexpected return trip to West Africa, and their sincere desire to see you in this apartment. I’ve never taken it further than that, but I assume at some point they’ll want you to send them money, at which point they’ll make the keys available to you. Ha.

Other ads will note that a picture is available, but it’s only a photo of the agent, or of the exterior of the building.

Rooms described as big are not. Closets described as expansive are not. Kitchens described as charming are not. (This is not just a NY thing, I know.)

The agents or owners won’t return your e-mails or your phone calls, or will try to direct you to this other properties they manage, which they know—they know!—will be much better for you.

If you do manage to set up an appointment to see the place, he (almost always a he) will be in a rush, barely tolerating your desire to open closets, click on lights, or check the water pressure in the shower. ‘This is a very good place,’ they’ll say. ‘I’m showing it to two more people tonight, and more tomorrow. If you wait, it’ll be gone.’ He’ll be lying about the first part, but not about the second: if you find a place you like, say you’ll take it immediately.

If you hesitate, he’ll tell you about his other properties, which are likely in worse shape or more expensive than this one.

You’ll look at apartments which frighten you. Yes, frighten: all of the buildings’ windows will be sheathed in rusted, cross-hatched steel, the lights in the hallway won’t work (‘we’ll be fixing those this weekend’), the stairs will be missing a step or two, the cabinets will sag, and you’ll save yourself the trouble of looking too closely at that growth in the bathroom. When you leave the building, you may see someone urinating against the lone tree on the block.

Welcome to East Williamsburg/Bushwick—the hip neighborhood.

But then you find a place—halleluja! Step one, complete. Now, step two. Gather receipts for everything on which you’ve ever spent any money. Dig out the information for every landlord you’ve ever had. Be prepared to show pay stubs and tax returns going back to 1973. Bring passport, X-rays, and DNA sample. And a bank check.

Okay, so that’s a bit exaggerated, but not much. In GradCity, I usually filled out a one-page form, sometimes two-paged, wrote a personal check, and got the keys, all within an hour or two of looking at the place.

For my new place, I first saw the apartment, then set up an appointment with the management company, bringing all of my financial data (including, honestly, my cell phone bills), then, after the records and credit check checked out, made another appointment to hand over a bank check and sign the lease.

This is the lease:

Double-sided, of course.

Then I had to sign additional papers regarding window bars (mandatory if one has young children) and to note the receipt of information about the presence of lead paint in the building (entrance door: yes) and apartment (no).

It’s good to have this material. I will not read it.

So I signed on all of the necessary lines, handed over the check, and made an appointment to pick up the keys on Monday.

Thursday, I move.


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2 responses

16 01 2009
lucretia

Congratulations! What a horrid process it all is.

16 01 2009
Anonymous

I signed a 2-yr lease, so at least I know I won’t have to go through this again next year.

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