Getting an apartment in New York City can be an exceptionally difficult practice that involves much foot work, guile, street savvy and generally understanding how things work in NYC. And while horror stories do abound, they're not always the case. The most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with brokers and the entire system is patience.
In order to give you, the gentle reader, some feeling that things sometimes turn out all right in the end I'm going to tell the story of how The Compound found its home - which wasn't painless and wasn't easy, also wasn't a nightmare.
...And since Purvis' step-by-step format is so right on that I can't improve on it, I'm just going to use it myself for ease of reference.
- The apartment we live in was listed in the paper. Right there in the back of the Voice... "2,500 sq ft loft space in Williamsburg, near trains, no broker fee, $2000/mo." Often these listings are something of a lark, sometimes they're not. I know many people who have found fantastic apartments through the paper. They really are some out there, I promise. And in this case, it was true. Or rather, mostly true. The square footage was exaggerated by about 600 sq ft and the apartment isn't really in Williamsburg and it's not really what comes to mind when one thinks of a loft. None of these elements was an issue for us...
- Our apartment was listed by a broker who didn't charge a broker fee. How's that for bizarre? To be honest, I've never heard of that before... The only reason I can think of that it went down this way is that the broker is also the manager of the building. He receives a percentage of our rent for care-taking it, so it's in his advantage to have people living in it... especially since he doesn't do a damn thing involving "care taking". Should you waste your time looking for "No Broker" apartments? In my experience, yes. Again - patience.
- There were three of us who were going to be living in this apartment, one of which wasn't even a NYC resident at the time. On the initial visit with the broker and the actual signing, two of us were present. At all other times we had to be there, it was good enough for it to just be one of us. The broker honestly didn't seem to care who was there, as long as it was someone. Credit: my credit is terrible, one of my roommates doesn't have a bank account. We look like ruffians. The broker never batted an eye. We offered a co-signer (my retired mother), which he accepted but never actually went through the process of making legal. I think he just wanted the extra $50 check for a credit check he never did.
- We saw the apartment well before we went through the credit check loops. Hell, we'd seen more than one from the same broker and got our pick.
- Our apartment is beyond huge, in an unpleasant looking but safe neighborhood, 1 block from the train, 15 minutes from Manhattan, and very reasonable. We have an office big enough for three people to each have a 7 ft long desk - and the room will still sleep 10.
- We were the only people looking at the place. Why? Everyone seemed to think the listing in the Voice must have either been a mistake, or a joke. Let me say that again... We were the only people to look at that apartment. The other (nearly identical) apartment that borders ours did not fill up for another month and a half. Security was the biggest I've ever had to pay - 2 months rent. The only places in NYC that charge 4 or 6 months rent for security are co-ops which are looking to make some quick money by renting out a few apartments before they spruce them up to sell. Don't rent an apartment from a co-op.
- We're young, white, scruffy-looking males. The broker didn't care. He said,
"I have many people just like you living in my buildings. Are you going to pay the rent?" Except for the list of naughty things we're allowed to do in our in space, that conversation was nearly verbatim to the one I had with my prior landlord. They just want you to pay the rent. That's it. If you're moving into some place ritzy - that might involve them being choosy about you. If you're moving into a poor neighborhood, simply the fact that you've got a paycheck coming in is often enough for them. Sad, but true.
"Fine. Drugs, loud music, girls, wild parties... I don't care. Pay the rent."
- We shall see about the rent going up again. I have a strong feeling in my gut it will be staying the price it is right now.
...Now, there are all sorts of things wrong with the apartment that make it less than perfect. Our super is a joke, as is the idea of our broker "managing" the building. We do all our own repairs - there isn't really anyone for us to call if small things fuck up. I prefer it that way. We didn't have hot water for almost three months. Hell, we didn't have lots of things for almost three months. That was bad. But that part is over now, and a lot of the kinks are ironed out. Enough of them for the space to be very live-able, and very desire-able. The neighborhood is extremely inexpensive and friendly. Manhattan is right next door. The trains are easy and reliable. And our apartment is one of the quietest I've been in in NYC. Except when we're playing loud music at our wild, drug-infested parties and cavorting with the lewd women our broker warned us about.