Worth the Wait.

If you recall from my last post, the NYC apartment hunt had been quite the nightmare. I compared it to dating, and that still rings true. To recap a bit, we thought we'd found our dream apartment, but it fell short--literally. The place was half the size we thought it'd be, forcing us back into the black hole that is New York real estate. Drowning in what seemed like a sea of not-quites, we settled on a place that was rough on the outside, but sweet on the inside. We made an offer.

But as we all know, nothing's a sure thing until, well, it's official. And even then, things have the potential to fall apart.

And that's exactly what happened.

The credit check normally takes 24 hours to complete, so after filling out the application and submitting our paperwork, we waited patiently for that magical email saying we were approved. We'd literally signed a lease just the day before, so we were certain approval for this one would be a breeze. But of course, nothings certain (in New York, at least). Friday rolled around, and no word from the broker. So, growing impatient, we shot them an email.

"Hi, any word on whether or not we were approved?"

After the broker replied that there'd been a hold up and we wouldn't receive a yes or no for at least another week, we snapped. I sent a snarky email, something about me doing my own credit check if it was too great a task for the landlord. (It was a little petty Betty, I know, but I was frustrated!)

Ignoring my sarcasm, the broker said, "It's out of our control, really. The landlord has his own credit check process and doesn't allow potential tenants to submit their own. If you're in a time crunch, I have this other unit available. It's in your price range and near the same neighborhood. I'm available to show it tomorrow."

Confused by the photos she sent along, Michelle and I set up the appointment and hoped for the best.

And. It. Was. The. Best.

Natural lighting throughout the entire apartment, exposed brick, and in a brownstone--not a building. The landlord, one half of a young black couple with two small children, showed us around the place, proud of the work she and her husband had put into it. We were sold.

I kept my poker face, though, unsure of what Michelle thought. After thoroughly inspecting the place and searching for a flaw in the brand new kitchen (there were no flaws), Michelle turned to me.

"I...kinda love it. I love it."

"Me too!" My poker face soon became a smile that stretched from ear to ear.

Needless to say, that place is not only ours, but we move in NEXT FRIDAY! My mom calls me every day recapping her decor plans, and my entire family is coming up a week after we move in to help with it all (my dad's much more accepting of this "adult" apartment than my current situation.).

It's been a roller coaster, and one that I appreciate so much more now that it's over. I've also learned a great deal about New York real estate from the first agent who helped us.

So...what have I learned about apartment hunting in NYC? These tips will help anyone in a big city who's looking to move:

I found its really helpful to build a relationship with someone who will walk you through the process, find out what you're looking for and will send links to all apartments that measure up.  Even though we ultimately went through a different agency, Lamonte Ball from Apts and Lofts was a godsend. Agents in general (or maybe just Lamonte, who knows) offer an honest perspective, and will tell you if your goals are too lofty given your budget. They also help you prioritize your needs.

Prioritize your needs. Top of our list was proximity to good restaurants (really, our favorite restaurant Peaches), new appliances, and proximity to trains. We got all three, thankfully. Maybe you want a newly renovated building or new appliances, too. Or perhaps you want to be closest to the train you take to work. Maybe you have a favorite neighborhood or want natural light (crucial for good selfies). Starting with standards and a clear idea of what you want prevents you from wasting your time. You'll know what's not a good fit the minute you view the apartment online.

Google is your friend. Seriously. Google EVERYTHING. If you're responding to a Craigslist ad, ask the lister for the cross streets. Then Google Maps that shit. It's amazing. You'll be able to see an overhead view of the neighborhood, and Lord Google will show you what restaurants, coffee shops, churches, even project buildings are nearby. Then, if you really wanna get specific, do a street view and inspect the block. Because you'll have written your standards down, you'll be able to either confirm an appointment to see the place or tell the lister no thank you. See? No one's time was wasted.

Bedbugs=deal breaker. This is a pretty obvious one, but it's not so obvious when a building or unit has a bedbug history. The landlord or broker sure won't tell you. So again, GOOGLE IS YOUR FRIEND. One day, we set up an appointment to view a listing, and once the broker gave me the address, I entered it into Google. About 5 or 6 results down, I saw that the building was listed on bedbugregistry.com. Delete delete delete. I canceled the showing, and was able to go into work the next morning instead of wasting time at the apartment.

Have your documents ready before you even start viewing apartments if you know you're looking to make an offer soon. Because NYC laws are set up in the tenant's favor, landlords require LOTS of documents to prove you're a credible tenant with good credit, solid income, clean sexual history, etc. One of those may or may not be true. Have the paperwork already with you, because apartments go off the market quickly, and time waits for no one. You could see a unit one day, go home to get your paperwork ready, and by the next day, someone's seen it and made an offer. It happened to us! So come prepared.
  • Renters usually require a copy of your latest W-2, your last 2 pay stubs, last 2 rent receipts, your last 2 month's bank statements, your most recent tax return, an offer letter from your job stating your salary and position, and sometimes even a reference letter from your current landlord. I know...a lot. 


Money Orders, NO Personal Checks. Make sure you're prepared to have 3 months worth of payments in your checking account, ready to withdrawal via money order at a moment's notice in case you need to move fast (which you probably will). Landlords, agents, and/or brokers don't take personal checks when processing your initial payments, so be ready with your money orders when making a deposit or signing the lease. 

If you have time, check out unfamiliar neighborhoods during the day and at night. Michelle and I knew the ins and outs of our neighborhood because we spend a good amount of time there, but had we gone with some of the other options, we'd have some research to do. What's the neighborhood like at night? Is it safe? Does the block get loud? Based on your preferences/priorities, these are things you may want to consider.

So that's pretty much it! The apartment hunt in NYC isn't easy, but if you do your research, it's SO worth it. There are some gems out there, so you don't have to settle. We sure didn't.

Our new place was totally worth the wait.  


Any more questions? Leave them in the comments and I'll help you out. :)

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