Well, hard to believe, but my first lease is up and as much as I hate to do it, I must say goodbye to my current swanky West Village apartment in the legendary Patchin Place.
Whenever I tell long time New Yorkers I live on Patchin, they ask “how the hell did you get a place there?!”. It’s one of those cool alley streets that people take tours to go see (a couple of times in the summer I remember waking up to tourguides outside my window saying “EE Cummings would sit on that fire escape up there and gather his thoughts”. That’s the same fire escape I see out my front windows – a view I’ve come to love. Sure, the floor is concave and if I take my foot off the floor while sitting in my rolling office chair, I start to drift to the center of the apartment. That, and I can’t find a place to store my shoes, but aside from that, it’s been a dandy little pad. I wanted my first year in New York to be memorable, and man, it sure was.
Anyhow, as lovely as it is, it’s too damned expensive. So I began the search today for something cheaper. “paycheck to paycheck” was cute when I was 22 but it’s a little silly for somebody my age!
Once again it’s back to Craigslist – this time, I know a little more about how it works so I can do my best to avoid using “agents”. 15% of your YEARS RENT to a guy who understands how to use Craigslist and (sometimes) has a key to the front door of a building. WOW! Seriously, the available suites are all empty and unlocked anyhow (for the most part) so really, you’re paying (on a $1,500 a month apartment, which is on the low side for a bachelor / studio downtown-ish) $2,700 for a guy who opens the front door.
Well, I guess there’s more to it than that. Here’s how it seems to go for me:
1: You reply to a listing on Craigslist (under NO FEE / BY OWNER) for an apartment that sounds promising.
2: You show up at the appointed time (if it’s still available, as some of them are amazingly “just rented” when you get there) and see the place – it’s a tiny, windowless dump, or it faces the garbage cans on the ground floor, or whatever) and the agent says “well, i’ve got another one just down the street, but that’s a fee apartment”.
3: You agree to see the “other” apartment. The agent stands at the front door trying each of his fifteen keys until he realizes that none of them fit. He goes real slow hoping that someone will exit the building during this time. Hopefully someone does.
4: Once inside, he says “this suite is great” and walks toward the wrong door. Tries it, it’s locked. Tries all fifteen of the keys before some terrified female voice says “can I help you?” from behind the door. Or some gruff guy yells “it’s the one across the hall, idiot!” through the door.
5: THAT suite is OK, but it’s more than you want to pay, plus you have to pay the fee, and even when you say “well, it’s a recession, can we cut the fee down and drop the rent a hundred bucks”, the owner wants 4 months up front or someone to guarantee your lease for the year because you’re a shifty Canadian and the US landlord is still miffed about us burning stuff in 1814.
Dude, let me yell you, there are some seriously shitty apartments out there. Like, I have three things I’d like to have in my apartment that I consider essential: My desk (which holds my computer, which I’m using right now); my couch, which should face a wall of some sort so I can put up my cleverly flat mounted TV thing on poles which has a tiny little footprint so that I can continue to play Xbox and waste my life, and a space for my bed. That’s it. That’s really all I’m looking for. Well, being able to stick my little kitchen island / bar combo thing that I made would be great, too, so that I might have a place to eat my Kraft dinner:
See how I painted the bottom to match the stools? Yeah, I thought that was a nice touch too – it matches my shag rug, too!). I found a few apartments in my range that could have any of my essential TWO things, but not THREE (and certainly not all FOUR!) except for ONE studio on 14th Street & Third Ave, which had a fee, and a miserly owner who hates Canadians and their shifty visas.
Thankfully, it IS a bit of a renters market; however horrible it is, people are losing their jobs, more units seem to be are available so people can be choosy, which means brokers are getting a little more flexible on the commissions. Some clever landowners have realized they need to come down on the rents because of this, so the rents are actually dropping (my unit at Patching is now an amazing $100 a month less than it is now). the owners who are in denial about the recession are refusing to budge have found themselves sitting on empty apartments for weeks or months at a time (or three months, as was the case with the Canadian hater who owns the one studio that I saw that didn’t suck).
So, while I didn’t find anything THIS weekend, I’ve got the market working in my favor, which means I can stick a couple of other caveats in there while I’m at it (and before desperation sits in):
It can’t be more than (2 long, 5 short) blocks from a Subway station, a diner of some sort should be within 2 (short) blocks, I need to be able to get SOME sort of coffee within a block, and a bar (or better, six bars) should be within stumbling distance. Two or more delis within as many blocks is also essential. Where I am now, I can literally walk out my door and be at one of four delis in less than 2 minutes. I’ve seriously cooked about 10 meals at home in a year. Which COULD be why I’m looking for a cheaper place!
Oh, and downtown is, of course, better. Brooklyn is… well, I didn’t move from Vancouver to live in Burnaby, you know?
See? I’m a reasonable man.
I’ll let you know how the search nets out.