Friday, July 27, 2007

A View to Kill

My favorite part of being a broker puppet is when they trick you into meeting them at their office. I keep drifting to the broker listings because the prices are real and the scams less pervasive than in the No-Fee area. I still can't really afford one, but at least I can see what's out there.

Broker try #4 involved Citi Habitats, a firm which has seems to have a good reputation. The ad was for a Gramercy studio for $1595/mo. at 23rd and Park, aka Madison Square Park, home of Shake Shack and one of my favorite lunch spots from my last job. I managed to catch the ad about 15 minutes after it was posted, so I had a decent shot. I called the broker's cell and he told me the place was "HOT" and would go fast. Yeah, I know, I replied. Meet me there now with an application. He told me to come to 250 Park Ave So. Only 2 blocks away from work - perfect.

I thought I was going to the apartment, because that's what I thought we'd agreed on. But upon arriving at Park Ave I was completely confused because the apartment was at 23rd and Park (or so the ad said) but the address was more like 19th and Park. When I got to the building I realized I was at the broker's office, and I was MAD. I went upstairs determined to tell the guy off, but I chilled while waiting for him. We were only 6 blocks away.

George, the broker, asked me to fill out an application, which I scribbled on incoherently. I had to cross out one side and fill out the other because I'd started listing my work address as my home address by accident. Finally, he said it was time to go.

The building was in fact at 23rd and Park, on 23rd St next to Live Bait and Quizno's, or Subway or whatever. Which worried me, because I don't want critters. It was a walkup, which I expected, with two sets of front doors. That would make me feel safer except one of the doors had a cracked pane. It also smelled musty when we walked in. Up one flight of stairs, George said he had two to show, right next to each other.

2A was first. We walked in to a bright, airy, decent-sized studio. Two large windows at the end had a KILLER view - Madison Square Park in all its glory, and the Empire State Building. I'm not gonna lie, I was amazed and a "wow" escaped. I would guess there was 300 sq. feet of living space - enough for my bed, dresser, the couch, the TV stand, and if I wanted to be cluttered, my small pub table and desk.

The kitchen wasn't updated, but was workable - a newer stove/oven, and OK sink and dark wood cabinets that I would have requested a new coat of paint for. But the fridge was out in the apartment, which ate up a lot of space. The bathroom was a disappointment. It looked at least 30 years old with outdated fixtures, it was small and the tub was missing caulk, the toilet looked nasty and the room felt dingy.

Then George showed me the walk-in closet, which by NYC standards could have easily doubled as my office. It was huge! Maybe even more closet space than I have at my house. Suddenly the place didn't seem too bad.

But there's always a caveat in Manhattan. George was very upfront about this, which I appreciated. When I came to his office to meet him, he told me the apartment was way below market rate because there was scaffolding outside. It turned that this meant the scaffolding was on the same level as the apartment, which meant I'd have to cover the huge windows for any kind of privacy. Goodbye, amazing Madison Sq. Park view.

The other apartment was 2B, right next door. It had an entryway and felt larger overall. The fridge was also out in the apartment, but they were painting the kitchen. George and I realized this meant that the crew had pulled the fridge out. Aha. That opened the place up. 2B had the same huge walk-in closet, but an older stove in the kitchen and an equally yucky bathroom. It also had the same view and the same scaffolding.

At first I was talking myself into the place, but as we were walking back to Citi's office I realized that the scaffolding was a big problem, and the yucky bathroom was a bigger problem. It didn't feel right. I told George my worries, and he said he would ask about the scaffolding. But in my head doubts were starting to creep in, while the devil's advocate in me said location, location, location, and decent rent.

I waited in the Citi conference room for about 15 minutes while he checked (thank God my work has been so understanding). I knew something was up, and he came back and told me that both places were gone. I didn't believe him - I think he could feel my hesitancy, but I was OK with it either way. I had made up my mind that I didn't want the place. George asked me what I wanted and I told him, and he said he thought he had another place for me. I told him I had to get back to work, and gave him my cell number.

George called me a couple more times but I have not called him back yet. A broker is my last resort (though I say that a bit less convincingly as time goes on). Overall, Citi Habitats earns a B- from me. George was pretty good, except for the whole conning me into going to his office thing, but he was upfront about the place and kept after me. Still, Citi is a broker's office. And that means they just want my money.

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