Finding the perfect apartment can be a thrilling whirlwind of an experience- new place, new roommates, new neighborhood. With my mom, a real estate agent, and my father, a home inspector, I’ve been able to see inside a fair share of homes on the market in the past. Each time, it’s a bit of a rush to figure out how I’d personally set up the oddly shaped living rooms, spacious bedrooms, and tiny yards. Yet, apartment hunting in New York City is a whole new beast beyond what most may experience; but this was not my first rodeo. I knew to check for the water pressure. I knew to make sure there was no leftover mouse droppings. Most importantly, I knew to walk around at night to check the noise and activity level. Armed with all my freelance documents, a checking account with money I so wish I wasn’t forking over, and a list of demands- I was ready. Or so, at least I thought.
At first, we decided to go the route of looking on our own.
A simple spreadsheet worked last time, showing the links and information for each place we found to our fancy. Turns out, there’s a thing realtors do to lure you in with fake listings. Unless it’s listed on StreetEasy, chances are it doesn’t exist. And if it is? Checking the days listed will save a lot of headaches. “Oh that old thing that’s been listed for 275 days? It’s just been signed for, but let me show you these three other amazing places not in your desired area, nor budget, I know you’ll love!” No thank you.
As our options and patience dwindled, we landed with a few people from the Bushwick Nooklyn office who worked with us the rest of the way. They found a ton of places that were completely broker fee-free, which was key. For those who don’t know, most places in the US when rented require a closing fee, typically paid by the landlord to the realtor. Since the demand is so high for apartments in the Manhattan/Brooklyn area, it’s common for the landlords let that realtor fee fall onto the tenants.
So, just for showing up with keys to an apartment, those realtors can typically walk away with an extra month to a month in a half of rent, or 4k just to open a door. It suddenly felt a lot less stressful with someone holding our hands without demanding a fee; the one time I didn’t mind a stranger to do so in this high-turnover, summer market.
Yet we saw a lot of the bottom-of-the-barrel options
In the New York City market, one can never wait to look, and we just got out there too late. Some places were honestly laughable. Realtors talked highly about these leftover places claiming, “that’s the living room size you get for the small budget you’re giving me.” Small? SMALL? It’s important to know your market and know when you’re being made a fool of.
So aside from a few Instagram stories (which you can follow me on @JetplaneJean) the final apartment is pretty much a mystery to most (as it probably should be..) except to close friends and family. That being said, I’ve always found apartment tours to be a fun post! I haven’t really seen a ton for NYC apartments, which are the ones I want to see the most, considering I’m still trying to figure out how to put all my crap into a shoebox of a space.
So in this post, I’m going to be showing off three potential apartments (we’re getting all House Hunters up in here) with my final apartment included, and it’s your job to try to guess which one we went with. Final pricing and budget will stay pretty vague as a lot of the times, the rooms are divided unevenly which means someone is always going to be paying a bit more, so this was an average of all three of our preferred budgets combined.
Neighborhoods looked at:
-Big living area
Apartment 1: Connecticut Style Apartment
Subway Line: M Train @ Central Ave
Pet Friendly: Cats
Big Living Area:
Outdoor Area: –
Located right next to an active fire station, I wanted to say no to this one right as we got out of the car. But that wouldn’t be much fun, now would it? Upon walking in, any sort of garden area was blocked off, and up we went. Only one floor to our potential apartment, and what a beauty this was.
It’s funny, how growing up around renovations and real estate gave me the chance to pick up on certain styles landlords prefer. This one screamed Connecticut: massive kitchen, even-sized bedrooms, and giant closets. But the Holy Grail (at least for me) were the ceiling fans. Aside from my previous apartment, no other apartment I’ve seen over the years had ceiling fans.
I was in love. There were a TON of nooks and crannies to put little side tables and storage. Alas, the noise from both the subway station along with the fire station had me worried. The no-go for my roommate? The landlord didn’t allow dogs. Did it end up being a deal breaker for us though?
Apartment 2: Cabin-Feel in Bushwick
Subway Line: L @ DeKalb
Price: Top of budget
Big living area: Somewhat
Outdoor area: Large roof
This was an interesting one. Upon walking in, we were greeted with massive ceilings and two bedrooms that were stacked on top of one another. The height of the place was so grand, the two bedrooms didn’t feel claustrophobic and all rooms were an equal size, essentially an unheard of thing with 3 bedrooms. One of the rooms to the back had a nice little fist hole sloppily patched up, which was a cute addition.
The living room was long yet narrow, but the amount of light and modern feel left us feeling pretty good about this one. The kitchen was on the smaller side, but that was pretty standard unfortunately. There was in fact a roof (!!) but the ladder was a little suspect. Also, I think it takes a certain kind of person to like that much dark trim, but my opinion may just be the odd-man-out here.
Apartment 3: Extremely Skinny & Affordable Apartment
Subway Line: J Train @ Halsey
Price: Below budget
Big living area: Somewhat
Outdoor area: –
This narrow beauty was certainly.. something. It seemed as if the apartment had been lived in by some less-than-clean individuals for the past few years. Paint was peeling, light plates were smashed, and screws stuck out of the wall, as if even the shelving was too much to bear to leave behind.
As we side-stepped the dead cockroach in the hallway, we saw the potential in each room. Mine would be long & narrow, the other two evenly sized, albeit a little on the small side. Yet the kitchen was large, complete with crooked cabinets, yet still functioning. The living space was large in a sense, but could be tricky to arrange furniture in. There was absolutely no outdoor space, though it did include a weird driveway that wasn’t to be used for parking in..
Now, for the good part. In addition to my top 3, I couldn’t NOT share some Hall of Famer’s of absolutely garbage apartments. These beauties were marketed as “steals” and “plenty of living space” among other describing factors. Upon entering each, our minds were pretty much made up to hightail it out of there, but not fast enough for me to at least snag a few snapshots of each.
#1: The Walk-Around(s)
We saw two of roughly the same layout with minor changes simply because they were severely under budget. Reason being? You needed to walk out into the living room from one bedroom to get to the bathroom, kitchen, living room.. I mean, just imagine if you left your towel in your room?
They were truly railroad-style apartments, yet the current tenants chose to barricade the joining doors, so we tried to envision the same predicament, just in case. For $750 each, this was not the bargain we looked for.
#2: The Tipsy Apartment
Let’s just say New York City must be the place contractors come to practice their craft. And I mean, watch-a-few-Youtube-videos-first-and-wing-it practice. This overpriced apartment had uneven walls, one bedroom you could have sworn you’d fall through the back end due to how crooked it was, and another with a water heater in the “closet.”
But don’t worry, there was a “half bath” of just a toilet in a dark room, a “living space” that was the kitchen, and a creepy agent trying to chide you for an, “impossibly small budget.” Needless to say, at $900 per person, no checks were signed for this apartment, nor did that agent get his commission that night.
#3: Marbled Goddess:
Don’t want to pay for the gym? Own little-to-no clothing? Well, this place would have been perfect for you!
Coming in hot at $900 per person, this FOUR FLOOR WALK-UP (this is not a drill folks) was beautifully re-done with ample kitchen counters and cabinets mounted up high enough for giants. It’s okay, I didn’t want to use all that extra space anyways.
Speaking of, each bedroom had a thin wall separating it from the next, and didn’t leave room for closets. I suppose that extra cabinet space in the kitchen may have come in handy after-all..
#4: Dead Cat Alley:
Upon entering the apartment, you slam directly into anyone making food as the entry door was in line with the fridge. The one window in the living room was too high to see what you’re dealing with next door (which was a dumpster) though we were told, “look how much light is in here!!” I suppose if you say something with enough conviction it must be true.
It’s redeeming features were the “half bathroom” and “large balcony.” I put both of those in quotes as you could only poop in that narrow, port-a-potty feel bathroom, but have to travel to the kitchen to wash your hands.
Alright, so I like to listen to signs as I see them. Maybe it was just because we saw apartments in the hottest months of the year. Maybe I’m just a little paranoid. But the large balcony? As we swatted large, black flies out of the way to go onto said balcony/fire escape, I spotted a white cat resting in the shade below. Except this cat was not just resting, it’s arms & legs were splayed and tongue was lolled to the side. Kait and Jimmy swore they saw it move, but if I’ve ever learned anything, it’s to observe omens when you see them and steer clear.
Honestly, this list could go on and on.
From non-existent living spaces, to cramped bedrooms, to wonky 3rd floor walk ups, it’s truly amazing to me how these places get built. And better yet, rented out for the garbage prices they come onto the market as. It’s obscene, yet I’m sure as soon as we left each, there was someone ready to sign over a few thousand to have their little slice of city living. New Yorkers (whether born here, or freshly new to the city, I won’t discriminate) are among the largest group of people I’ve seen deal with impossibly small living quarters without much complaint. We make do with what we have and can sometimes create something beautiful out of nothing.
Hell, do I remember the living area in my now-rented apartment as downright spacious when viewing? Of course. Did I really think there were that many cabinets in the kitchen? How did I not notice the lack of storage options with the pedestal sink in the bathroom? It’s hard to take it in all at once, especially when rushed and overjoyed at a place that isn’t a literal dumpster with a stove in it.
So, I’m leaving it up to you.
What do you think I went with? What would you have decided on, if any? Also, do you want to see more of the apartment I picked? Let me know in the comments, I may be the only one here excited about seeing the good (as well as the bad) of apartment hunting in Brooklyn, and would love to see if you are even the least bit curious.
Want to know what to look for in an apartment, and what I wished I checked before signing my life away? Let me know so I can get to work on another post!