Sunday, November 30, 2008

State of the Apartment Hunt

Well, here I am. Still in the same apartment. With the mice. I ended up backing out of the Astor Place place so I am back to square 1...again.

When we last left off, broker I had told me that Astor Place place was insisting on a guarantor. I negotiated some free rent out of the deal and decided to move forward. I talked to my sis and she was cool with it so I had the application emailed. Good thing I checked it first because they had jacked up the rent in return for the free rent. Yeesh. Did they think I wasn't going to notice? The broker said "well the management company is paying my fee so I can't really negotiate." What kind of BS is that? The worst kind if you ask me. So I said no way.

Now I am sitting here with a chunk of change in my bank account that I can't spend, and though I'm sure everything will be fine I'm kind of hoping that I still have my place because I had to leave a message for my management rep earlier this week that I would be staying another month. I am 99.9% sure that she hasn't shown my place yet because 1) it's been a disaster area and 2) I'm pretty sure I'm the only one with keys to my door locks. The locksmith changed them after I moved in. I've tried calling every day this week except Thanksgiving and always get voicemail. So hopefully I won't be tossed out on the street tomorrow night because that would really suck! (Though it would also be just my luck lately.)

Between the crazy market and crazier management companies this 2nd NYC apartment search certainly has not gone the way I envisioned. Despite it all, I am optimistic I will find a great place. I'm lucky to have an understanding job and some flexibility in my living situation. Now we are entering the slow period both for new rentals coming onto the market and the amount of renters looking. The tough thing now is leases -- I don't want a lease that expires on Dec. 31! So I'll probably need to negotiate a 13-month lease.

The other option is to take a month or two off from apartment hunting. But every time I convince myself this is the right move (and logically it probably is) one of my neighbors will crash around or keep me up overnight or I will see yet another mouse scampering around and as my mental health slowly wears away I realize why I have to get the hell out of this apartment ASAP.

In one last-ditch moved I emailed Broker S back about the Tribeca place. Last week I had drinks with a friend who is a broker and he asked me why I didn't pitch my sister as a co-signer instead of a guarantor. The bad thing is she would be treated as a roommate instead of a guarantor. But the truth is it's mostly a moot distinction. So I wrote to S last Monday. Have not heard back: he either just laughed at how pathetic I am or he was on vacation last week. It's a longshot but you never know.

So for the meantime I am: 1 - hoping I still can stay in my current place for at least another month! 2 - hoping Broker S writes me back with good news and 3 - searching for anything that measures up to the Tribeca or Astor Place places. Maybe I'll just move to Queens.

Adventures in...Tofurkey

After all the drama of apartment hunting (still hunting) I was happy for the Thanksgiving break to have something else to think about. I spent the week before mentally preparing myself to gain five pounds in potatoes of the mashed variety, stuffing and turkey. Then I got an invitation I just couldn't pass up. Friends H & G were attending a vegan Thanksgiving and invited me along.

At first, I was like, no turkey? You must understand that I see a dish and think, "hmm, how could I add some meat to this?" I am very much the steak and potato kind of girl. But I was intrigued by the idea of tofurky...tofurkey...whatever. Not real turkey. I knew the stuffing would also taste different. I was in anyway.

Don't tell anyone, but I'm a big tofu fan. The only reason why I don't eat it more often is that I can't stand the smell of it raw. Give it to me grilled or cooked somehow and we're all set. I curious to see how it would hold up vs. turkey.

We met up at the restaurant around 4:30 on Thanksgiving. Soup to start with lots of veggies -- carrots, celery, peas, onion, yum. I kind of missed chicken or turkey in the soup but it was just a starter. Then we lined up, buffet-style for the main course. The side dishes were a'plenty: mashed regular or sweet potatoes (with pecans), stuffing, sweet potato pie, green bean casserole, noodle pudding, mixed veggies, cranberry sauce, some kind of bean dish, vegan gravy.

Then we finally got to the Tofurkey. I was trying to picture what it would look like. Would it be shaped like a turkey? Would it be rectangular? Would it resemble spam? Truth is it looked more like a ham -- big, ovular, kind of pinkish brown. A server cut into it with the classic turkey knife to reveal the stuffing in the middle. I took a slice on my already full plate and headed back to my table.

H & G watched me take my first few bites and waited for the reaction. It took me several bites before coming to the conclusion that it was pretty damn good! The tofurkey had the same consistency as turkey -- kind of moist, easy to break apart with a fork and a little bit tasteless. In no way would you ever mistake tofurkey for turkey but it was a suitable replacement. The stuffing was a bit of a disappointment (something to be said for sausage and the like as flavoring) but in the end the meal was delicious and I stuffed myself just as much as I would have with the real thing. Shopping on Black Friday was predictably a disaster. Nothing fit. And that's the way it should be -- making me buy nothing on Buy Nothing Day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all

My bad luck string with apartments continues. On Friday the no-fee broker (I) called to let me know that my offer had been approved for the Astor After being burned by Tribeca I have learned that doesn't mean much, so I wasn't surprised when the broker called today to let me know that the management company changed their mind and is now requiring a guarantor. It's kind of bullshit and I'm mad that I keep getting told I'm approved only to find that there are more asterisks than a baseball line score during the steroids era.

The reasons why I'm balking at a guarantor are: 1 -- I am more than likely going to make 40 times the rent I need for this place (I've started freelancing again for some extra cash and though it's iffy I'm sure I'll have no problem clearing $10,000 in freelance work for the year); 2 -- they freakin' told me I was approved! Seriously management companies. Your apartments are sitting vacant for weeks on end for a reason. I know you usually require 40 times the rent but that was during the boom times and guess what? The boom went ka-boom. Now we're crashing back to earth and your rents are going to have to come down if you insist on keeping these ridiculous rent requirements. Building value be damned. Take us as we are or let your apartments drive you broke! It makes no sense to me; buildings would rather take no rental income and uphold these draconian requirements than get rental income a bit under market.

I'm balking at the guarantor clause because of the shaky economy. I don't mind chancing ruining my own credit if I was unlucky enough to lose my job but there is no way I'm taking my sister down with me. That just ain't fair. Just this week two of my friends were laid off and I admit it shook me up a little bit. I wonder if this is a message from a higher power -- don't waste all your income on rent. I really want to move but the cards just don't seem to be aligned for this. Broker I told me he'd talk to the management company and see what they could do. I'm not holding my breath. At least I've already gone through this once so I'm not too upset. I just hope non-Super will let me stay in my current place.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Goodbye Tribeca, hello Village?

I gave up on the Tribeca apartment yesterday. I had finally convinced the leasing agent that I was qualified and he passed along my application to the central lease processing office. A day and a bit later, they told me I hadn't satisfied their requirements. They offered me two non-sensical options and finally I said ENOUGH! Yeesh. Seriously. So, moral of the story is don't work with Manhattan Skyline Apartments! They are rough mofos. Luckily I didn't have any trouble re-depositing my cashier's check.

I was disappointed most of yesterday but woke up this morning ready to look around again. With winter coming on there are fewer new listings each day. Really the market won't pick up again until after the 1st of the month. I really want to get the heck out of my apartment. I am motivated.

I had talked to broker S about continuing to work with him. He said that would be fine but I haven't heard from him since. I found an apartment listed by his firm but called the broker listed on the ad, I. I and I (heh) met up at the Starbucks at Astor Place to see a Greenwich Village 1 BR.

There were 3 apartments available in the building. Of course I'm now measuring against the Tribeca place...the Village place also has a doorman, also has an elevator and also has laundry (on each floor instead of in a room). It does not have a gym and I'm not sure about the roof deal. The first apartment was pretty cute. Two large closets when you first walk in. A tiny kitchen but I don't mind especially since it had a dishwasher! But all of the apartments are lofts. Which literally means you climb a ladder to the sleeping area. The ceiling was too low in the first and second apartments' lofts.

The third apartment was juuuuusssssttt right. It was by far the largest and its kitchen had a pass-through. The loft's ceiling was high enough to stand up in. Since the building is a converted warehouse the walls are really thick. Oddly enough, my broker used to live in the building so he knew tons about it. Of course, it was also $150 more expensive, putting it at $2500. Not only is that the tippy top of my budget, it's also $100 more than the Tribeca place. But it was 100 sq. feet bigger than Tribeca and...well...I need a place to live. The broker laughed that I hardly even peeped the bathroom. (He's right, I hardly did. But it has a tub and was pretty clean so I don't care at this point.) So I applied for it.

The best part? The broker filled out my application for me! And the only documentation I needed to apply was: two paystubs and a letter of employment. That is 80% less paperwork than Tribeca. I'm liking this place already. I find out tomorrow. My fingers are crossed and I hope yours are too!

Monday, November 17, 2008

I think I lost my next apartment

Well it looks like Manhattan Skyline Management is going to fuck me out of the apartment they said I could have last week. I spoke to the leasing rep today who gave me three options: 1 -- get another guarantor (can't); 2 -- contact some bond company and get them to co-sign with me (sounds like a scam, no fucking way) or 3 -- put up some kind of asset worth $15,000 as collateral for the apartment (fuck no).

The best part was this paraphrased quote: 'We're not worried about whether or not you can pay the rent. You have good credit and we know you'll pay the rent. The issue is whether or not you meet the qualifications.' So basically...even though you know I'll always pay my rent you don't want me living here because I don't meet your arbitrary guidelines? Sure, that's not discriminatory!

The leasing agent told me to send documentation about my 401k and he'd see what he could do but at this point I'm over it. I'm not giving them anything else. I'm calling my lawyer tomorrow to see if there's any recourse (doubtful though). I'm also in deep shit. I have already given notice that I'm moving out Dec. 1 so now my hands are kind of tied. So I have 10 days or so to find an apartment. Yuck.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Manhattan Skyline Management is making me very angry...

...grrrr. Well, there is always some kind of drama with NYC apartment hunting and here I am once again. The first time around it was adventures in cashier's checks. This time around it's cold feet on the part of the building's management company. For this building it's Manhattan Skyline Management.

Let's review the hoops I've jumped through so far, shall we? I called about an apartment that was $2200/mo but that apartment was 'gone' so instead I chose a $2400/mo apartment. I filled out an application, I put in a deposit, I paid a credit check fee, I provided all required documentation within 24 hours (copy of driver's license, two paystubs, two bank statements, employment verification letter, first two pages of last 2 years' tax returns, etc.), I make very close to 40x the rent and with bonus will be close to the 45x this building wants (ridiculous) yet I STILL provided the same amount of documentation for a guarantor, I gave a check for ANOTHER credit check fee. I have been nothing but proactive for this entire process. And now you are telling me you're not sure if I make enough to live in your building? Please. I realize it must chafe you guys a bit that you have to rent some of your apartments below market levels. Don't think of it as losing money. Think of it as paying it forward.

Let's review, shall we? The reason you had openings in the first place is because a whole bunch of people in the financial industry lost their jobs and had to move out of your building. I work in the Internet Industry's fastest growing sector -- hosting. While other companies are laying off, our company is hiring. I realize I don't make $11 billion per year (yet) but I have been living in rental housing for 7 years and in that time I have never paid my rent late. That is at least 84 on-time rent payments and counting. Above that, I'm a quiet tenant. The loudest thing I do is blog! (Sad, I know.)

So which would you rather have? A trust fund baby who trashes your apartment, is obnoxious and fucks you over before moving out by not paying the rent for a few months because they just do not care? Or someone who has been clawing for money their entire life, who gets it and knows to pay their bills? God, I am so angry right now!

Yeah, I'm pretty
upset right now.

This would ONLY happen in NYC. I don't know of any other city, village, town, incorporated area, anything that requires jumping through this many hoops. And yet for better or worse I have done everything you asked and have shown myself to be more than qualified for the apartment. Yeesh.

Here is the deal. After being told I was all set for my apartment after a long week and a half process I was just waiting for a call from Manhattan Skyline Management to set my lease-signing date. And then lo and behold last night I get a call from the leasing agent saying that they're not sure I make enough in salary. What? Seriously? You told me I was all set! I have already notified my current landlord that I'm moving out because you said I was all set. You were calling me to set a lease-signing date! That's what you said! You said my application was approved but you wanted a guarantor as backup! This is why I get so nervous about this kind of thing. Good faith is no longer good faith. I knew it wasn't a done deal until I had a signed lease.

First of all, Manhattan Skyline Management, your requirements for living in this rent-stabilized building are exhorbitant. 45x times the rent is 5x above the standard. Furthermore we have been going through this rental process for almost 2 weeks. You have had my application for 12 days. You couldn't mention this before? You waited until AFTER I gave you a cashier's check deposit? What am I supposed to do now? I should mention that your two leasing agents have been mostly a pleasure to deal with but that doesn't make up for this.

Don't answer. Because I know what I am going to do. I am going to research every damn thing I can find in the god-forsaken city rental resources and come to you on Monday armed with enough information and evidence in my favor to bury you. Let's just forget about this little performance anxiety episode, set a lease-signing date and let bygones be bygones. There is no other option. BFF M just went through this exact same thing. Her management company came to their senses and realized peeps like us are ideal residents. Want to wake up to the same thing, Manhattan Skyline?

I'm going to go stew for awhile. Thanks for ruining my weekend, Manhattan Skyline Management.

Metapost: Drawing of a spider does not count as payment

From Geekologie via the Consumerist comes the hysterical and (apparently) true story of a man, his artistic sense, and a $234 bill. I needed a good chuckle this morning.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

'Not even the government requires this much paperwork'

What a crazy week. I feel as though I have not sat still for a moment. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent being forced to patiently wait for my sister to return from Italy so she could turn over guarantor documents over to the management company at the new building. Luckily work has been more than busy enough to keep me distracted.

I was also pretty nervous about talking to my current non-Super about moving. Even though I have been lease-free since August, you just never know. My boss put the fear of god into me by saying, "You should check to make sure that your lease doesn't have a clause saying anything about extending terms automatically if you stay in the apartment, whether you have a lease or not." GULP. This was something I hadn't even thought about -- the lease automatically extending another near even though I didn't sign a new one? Luckily one call to my family lawyer shut that fear down.

I scheduled a visit with non-Super on didn't happen. (I called during dinner. Bad form on my part.) I scheduled a visit with non-Super on didn't happen. I finally ended up politely telling non-Super I was moving out by phone. Luckily non-Super was pretty cool about it. I asked about the shelves I put up in the kitchen -- could I leave them behind? Non-Super wanted to come see. I asked about my chairs in the backyard -- could I leave them behind? Non-Super wanted to come see. I scheduled a visit with non-Super on didn't happen. Sigh.

My kitchen shelves on the right --
who wouldn't want them?

On Wednesday night my sister returned, and by Thursday morning I was already bugging her. I sent her an email with everything I needed: a completed application, two paystubs, two bank statements, the first two pages of 2006-07 tax returns, copy of driver's license, employment verification letter...a singing bush and an invisible sword. (Made those last two up!) My sister balked. And I can't blame her. Really all the management company should have needed was a paystub and her SS# to run a credit check.

"Roxy," she said to me, "I didn't have to give this much paperwork to get a mortgage!"
"I know," was my reply.
"I didn't have to give this much paperwork to buy a car."
"I know."
"I didn't have to give this much paperwork to get government security clearance!"
"I know. It's ridiculous. But this is just the way it is in NYC."

Her main concern was identity theft. Really, you are turning over your life here. For a freakin' apartment. BFF M and her Dad just went through the exact same thing so I had that to use an example. My sister asked me to play hardball so I tried. I told no-fee broker S it was ridiculous! All the management company should need was two things! It was a no-go and he got feisty with me. I went back to sis, who grudgingly agreed to give me her life story. Isn't she great?

I just turned in her paperwork yesterday. Now I am waiting for the management company to call me back with a lease signing date. I have paid the deposit but still need to hand over my first month's rent cashier's check. The next steps will be calling the moving company and packing! Cannot wait for everything to be signed and done.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Woo-hoo! I have my next apartment

The lease isn't signed yet so I'm still not considering a done deal...but it's pretty much a done deal. S called me today to let me know that the apartment in Tribeca is mine! Let's relive the weekend together, shall we?

On Saturday morning I woke up early and filled out my application. I had to assemble lots of paperwork -- an employment verification letter with annual salary that I'd gotten on Friday; my last two bank statements; my last two paystubs; the first two pages of my last two years' tax returns and a recommendation letter from my landlord. I'd chosen to contact my landlord from CT because I haven't told my management company rep or non-Super that I'm moving out yet. We'll come back to that caveat.

I made copies of everything plus my driver's license and then met up with S at his office. There had been some discussion about maybe offering less than $2400/mo for the apartment. But S recommended that I go in at the full rent price because there were going to be competing offers if I didn't. Reluctantly, I agreed. I had done some more research and found out some additional details about my apartment. Turns out my apartment was the smallest one on the floor. I didn't mind because it was still considerably bigger than my current apartment and the size probably accounted for the lower price. I also found out that my closets are slightly smaller but again it was a quibble. If I lost out on this apartment the next cheapest one was now sitting at $3000/mo -- way beyond my range -- and there are only 2 apartments left in the building.

Floor plan of an apartment
to mine

S and I headed down to the building. I wanted to take some photos of the apartment and he was showing another 1 BR to a couple of potential tenants. When we got to the building the leasing office was locked. Luckily the Super was nice enough to let us in to my future apartment. It was still gorgeous! I snapped a ton of pics that later on I realized were pretty dumb: a closeup of the dishwasher! A closeup of the thermostat! (Programmable!) A closeup of the closets! It was obvious that I was delirious.

Then I had a rare opportunity. S had to take some photos of the penthouse and he let me tag along. It was pretty awesome. The apartment had 3 BRs, 3.5 baths, a fireplace and a private rooftop terrace. The finishes weren't as high-end as I was expecting but it was a very nice penthouse. I was in awe. Someday, I kept telling myself.

The leasing office was still locked when we were done so S told me he would try again on Monday. But of course on Sunday J called me and apologized for his partner not showing the day before. He asked if I could drop off the application...except that S had it and it was his day off. I tried to stay calm. I even did my dishes! But I decided to go down to the building and just do everything again so I knew it was done. Of course S called me as I was leaving the building but I didn't mind. I apologized for bugging him on his day off. J told me I could expect an answer on Thursday of this week.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got the call today! I'd tried applying by myself but they are requiring a guarantor for me because I don't quite make enough. My sister has graciously agreed to co-sign with me again...once she gets back from Italy later this week. In fact I got the call so quickly from the building that I don't have all finances in order quite yet. I had to transfer some cash from my Morgan Stanely money market account and they are being slow as molasses. My rep was great but the company itself has all this bureaucratic shit to get through.

Hopefully by this time next week I will have signed my lease and will just be counting the days until I move. My last remaining hurdle is telling my current place that I'm moving out. My lease expired in August and I have not signed a new one. So I have no ties here. But I hope they don't give me a hard time; especially after the crap I've been dealing with from the neighbors. I'm talking to my management company rep tomorrow. I'm hoping it will go smoothly.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

I think I found my next apartment

I'm almost scared to talk about because it's far from a done deal but I think I've found my next apartment.

I decided not to apply for the apartment on Houston. The more I thought about having only half a closet and a closet bathroom the less I liked it. My cold broke on Thursday but I've still been running a terrible fever. So when I saw an ad for a 1 BR on the Soho/Tribeca border for $2200 in a luxury doorman building I thought I was hallucinating.

I clicked into the ad. 1 BR/$2200 it said, with three closets, a dishwasher and breakfast bar in a rent-stabilized high rise with a gym, laundry and roof deck near the Canal St subway stations. Wha? It sounded like a scam. It was a no-fee listing by a brokerage I've never heard of -- Manhattan Connections.

It was late Thursday when I emailed so I followed up with a call on Friday morning. I had to leave a message but shortly after S (the broker) emailed me to set up a viewing at 5 PM that day. After getting some more details I learned the apartment was really deeper into Tribeca and not so close to Soho. Which made it all the more curious that the rent was so low. Also, the $2200 apartment was gone (sigh) but there was a $2400 1 BR on a higher floor. And I would love to live on a high floor!

We met at Broadway and Leonard. The building was on Worth St. It was a 16-floor high rise built in 2000. The lobby was made to look like a Colorado ski lodge which I of course got a huge kick out of. My no-fee broker S and I met with the leasing agent J. He elaborated more on why the rent was so low. They'd lost a whole bunch of tenants because of the market crash so the management company was offering a limited number of apartments at low rents so they could keep the building fill. Their loss was my gain. They could reset the rents once a day which was why my 1 BR was $200 higher than the other one. This seemed completely unfair to me but whatever. I saw their appointment book and it was full. J showed us the laundry room (huge) and the gym (free!) and the 2nd floor outdoor space. Then we went up to the 13th floor.

As soon as we walked in I was sold. The kitchen was open to the apartment on the right, just next to a coat closet. (A coat closet! I'd forgotten what those look like!) I could not believe how many cabinets there were. The appliances were white which is fine with me as I've grown to hate how hard stainless steel is to keep clean. And there was a dishwasher! It also had a breakfast bar that could easily double as a dining room table. The living room was large with a window three panes large. Across from the kitchen was a linen closet and a nice light bathroom. The bedroom was not huge but you could easily fit a queen-sized bed and a dresser. Did I mention that the apartment had 3 closets???

I knew this had to be my next apartment. "I'll take it!" I said excitedly. J and S exchanged knowing glances and we went back down to the leasing office on the 2nd floor. I got an application and "reserved my spot as 1st in line" and rent amount with a $75 good faith deposit/credit check fee. The apartment was mine! (Provided my application went through OK.) I agreed to have all my paperwork ready today. This morning I woke up early, filled out the application and got everything -- paystubs, tax returns, letter verifying employment, bank statements, the works. S and I took one more tour of the apartment today and now we're just waiting until the leasing office calls us back to submit the application. S has been awesome by the way. Nicest broker ever. Not having to pay him a fee is certainly helping my spirits.

There is so much more to tell but I don't want to jinx myself. I can say that the 1 BRs reset to $2850 today so I feel very lucky that I got in when I did. I have my fingers crossed that everything goes through and I get the apartment! Once I know I will have updates. Until then, I admit I'm a little bit queasy. Please please please let me get this place!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To apply, or to not apply

I am fighting a miserable cold that has left me sounding like Patty and Selma, but I'll be damned if it's going to keep me from apartment hunting. I should just open every phone call by saying 'hiya hun' followed quickly by that throaty grumble.

Last night I found an awesome ad for a no-fee 1 BR on Thompson St for $2300. It looked really promising -- two windows in each room, a nice but not too large kitchen (couldn't tell if there was a dishwasher), very bright and on a good block.

The ad was through Century 21 and the ad said contact the broker anytime so I did. I emailed her around 9:30 PM and she got back to me right away which I thought was cool. What was not cool at all was when she asked me to meet her at her office. Sigh. Please, I said, I work in Soho, could you please not make me come up to midtown only to go right back down? Company policy, she replied. So I confirmed with her in fucking midtown only because the apartment looked really promising. Through some creative research I found another broker listing the same apartment so I contacted him too. I figured if he agreed to meet me at the apartment I would just cancel on Century 21 and their bureaucracy.

This morning I hadn't heard back from Broker B so I grudgingly went to midtown to meet up with Broker A. I must have looked a mess. I had just left my doctor and I was running a bit of a fever. Once at the office they made me fill out your typical broker form. I didn't sign the back -- the part with the fee acceptance disclaimer. Turns out I had emailed with one of the pages and the broker was some dude. I was antsy. The apartment was a good deal and I didn't want to lose out. He wanted to look up other places for me...I said look I don't mean to be rude but I only care about this one apartment so could we just go? He started telling me about how his company gets 180 new listings each day...I cut him off and said so does everyone else, you're all looking at the same database and I'm not impressed. I'm not trying to deny you your living, I told him, but I won't pay a fee and I just want to see the apartment on Thompson already!

Oh, he said, that apartment is no longer in the database, he said. I slumped in my chair. Great. I was sweaty, feverish and had just wasted 45 minutes. Thanks Century 21!

I took a cab home and pouted. On Monday night I'd found a similar deal on Sullivan (dangerously close to work!) but when I showed up for the viewing the tenant told me she'd gotten word that her place had been rented. Dammit! And now dammit again! I worked for awhile when Broker B got back to me. Yes, the apartment was still available he said, and he would meet me there at 1. Really? Yes, really.

His company had swung an exclusive listing on the place. A-ha. So that was why it disappeared from the database. It was pretty cute. The entryway was a long hall with the bedroom off of it. It was a tiny bedroom, about 10x10. Big enough for a bed and a dresser and not much else. The kitchen was in the center of the apartment (no dishwasher) with the living room at the other end. The living room and bedroom were about the same size. The bathroom was nice and the apartment had plenty of light. But it wasn't quite the wow I was hoping for. The broker mentioned that he had another no-fee apartment around the corner on Houston.

The Houston apartment was much better. It was also a 1 BR. You entered into the kitchen, which was eat-in! With a dishwasher! The living room was off to the right. It was larger than the last place with cool ceiling molding. The bedroom completed the railroad style apartment. It was tiny like the last one and had noticeable open spaces between the floor and the baseboard. That made me kind of wary. But otherwise I loved it. So I started detail searching. The bedroom floor was pitched a little bit. That was workable -- honestly many of the apartments in Soho seem to have this issue. But where was the bathroom? Turns out it was in this closet-sized room in the middle of the apartment. It had a shower stall which kinda sucked. But otherwise it seemed OK. My nose was not working so I couldn't sniff for mold. The other issue was the closet -- there was a pantry style closet in the kitchen but only one other closet in the apartment. And it was tiny.

I told the broker I would apply and I left there planning to. I was going to ask for lower rent but I mostly loved the place. With my pub table in the kitchen and a separate bedroom it would feel like so much more space. But I knew I needed a reality check. I called T.

"Well," T said. "List the pros and cons." OK. Pros: separate bedroom. Eat-in kitchen. DISHWASHER!! Southern Exposure. Not first floor. Only one shared wall. Pre-war building. Close to work. High ceilings. Cons: Tiny closet. Tiny bathroom. Older appliances, etc. than my current apartment. On busy street. Windows had condensation on them (heat escaping? not very promising).

"Sounds like more pros than cons," T said. "But...tiny closet? Like how tiny we talking here?" I told him -- about half the size of my current apartment. He pointed out that I was already hurting for storage in my current place. And now I would half my storage? Yeah. He was right. That was almost a deal-breaker. And he didn't sound thrilled about the tiny bathroom. I think that is partly because he has literally been burned by my current bathroom. When guys, uh, use my bathroom they have to stand against a steam pipe to get enough distance. In the winter that can be pretty tricky.

So now I am less sure. I think I will keep searching and make up my mind tomorrow. Hopefully no one steals this one out form under me before then.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The lamest apartment scams I have fallen for

I am kind of naïve and known among my friends for being pretty gullible. I know and own this part of myself. So it's no surprise that I have fallen for (probably) more than my fair share of fake apartment ads. Addresses that don't exist; rents that are too good to be true; spurned lovers listing their partners' apartments. I feel like I have fallen for them all. Here are some of my greatest hits.

You can live in my apartment for 6 months if you'll feed my exotic fish.
I know; I know, just reading the summary is enough to make 99% of people say no fucking way. But during my first NYC apartment search a $1700/mo 2 BR sublet in Union Square sounded awesome. I wasn't afraid to feed a few fish. Whatever. The ad had what looked like legit apartment pics that struck just the right tone between luxurious and not attached to the furnishings. Sure enough though, when I responded to the ad the email I got in return was spam. I ended up having to ditch that email address. Which brings up a good tip -- always use a secondary email address when responding to apartment ads. You never know when some kook is going to find you or vice versa.

Please call me at 6 AM about this apartment before I go on a business trip.
Oh yeah, this was a good one. At the time I was commuting into the city from Connecticut and you bet your ass I was up at 6 AM every day. This ad was for a $1550/mo studio on the UES that included backyard space and a dishwasher -- dishwasher of course meaning WANT. So sure enough I called a little after 6 AM. And I went straight to voicemail, a message which said, "I am sorry to inform you that this is not a real bitch of an ex-girlfriend thought this would be a funny way to get vengeance." I guess a lot of people must have called early.

The apartment is at the corner of Spring & Prince.
This one is another doozy and it actually has a bit of a personal backstory. Back in college 93.3 FM in Denver had an April Fool's Day prank where U2 was playing some 'secret' show in a warehouse on the corner of 2 roads that didn't cross. Ya know, where the streets have no name and all that. Thanks to the intervention of my friend J I didn't fall for it (I told you I am gullible) but two of my friends were definitely driving around trying to figure out where Colfax and Alameda crossed. Except that they don't. Add this to the list of reasons why KCSU is 100 times better.

But back to NYC, Soho is harder to get a bearing on than the grid because everything is a street name. There aren't really avenues. So when I first started my 2nd apartment hunt I fell for a scam where I was told to meet the faux-broker at a corner that wasn't real. "Meet me at the corner of Spring & Prince at 11 AM," he said. Too bad Spring and Prince never cross. I could have just looked at a map before going down but no I thought I was the idiot. I called the faux broker's number and he kept telling me I was only a block or two away. I fell for this twice before finally realizing just how dumb I was. I'm sure the guy and some friends were in a coffee shop laughing at me. Hope they get run over by a parked car.

You can live here rent free if you clean up the apartment for me.
I didn't fall for this one but a friend did. She was looking for a roomie situation and found an ad where some banker dude was offering free rent in exchange for maid services. She actually met with him and found out what was involved -- sorting and doing his laundry, cleaning up after dinner every night, dusting at least 2x a week and passing the white glove test, etc. Bullshit stuff nobody should put up with. Sadly none of that was super off-putting to my friend. What finally drove her to say no was that she was expected to do it all in a French Maid outfit. Quelle horreur! Sadly I think he was serious.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Finally have a feel of where to live

After close to 2 months of searching, I am finally figuring out where I want to live. Not everyone searching for an NYC apartment has the luxury of time and I am happy to not be in a rush (although with each passing night of almost no sleep due to my neighbors I crack a bit more).

I have gotten to re-know Soho a lot better now that I am working down there. Things came full circle for me on Saturday when I was checking out an apartment and happened to walk by The Bitter End on Bleecker. I used to see shows there all the time and suddenly I rebuilt the mental map I used to have of the area. Most of the shops and bars I used to hit are long closed but it's great that some are still around. After that I didn't have to check my map for subways -- I knew where I was.

So in Soho I've figured out that my block of choice is Sullivan between Spring and Prince. Close to work, close to shopping, close to several subway lines. If I could afford it I'd love to live on Greene or Mercer or Crosby but those all seem to be the most expensive rentals (and one Nigeran scam that I replied to. Oops.). In Nolita Mott and Elizabeth seem to be the blocks of choice. That area is closer to the 6 train but further from work. I've also expanded a bit to include the West Village up to West 4th St. I realized that area is convenient to work, close to Union Square and that's where Washington Square Park is! With NYU close by I'm a bit wary but willing to consider it.

Washington Square Park

I saw about 10 apartments this week. Most were by-owner and the rest were broker no-fees. The good news is rents are definitely starting to come down. Everything I saw this week except for the bait and switch apartments was negotiable. In some cases the owner came right out and said it was negotiable and other times I had to ask. In two cases I saw apartments being shown by current tenants. Both were in the financial industry and had just lost their jobs. You can tell landlords are starting to get nervous. The credit standards are tougher and they want long-term commitments.

The best apartments I saw were a cute 1 BR on Thompson and a lovely studio on West 4th St. The 1 BR was one of the fired financial industry tenants. She was very nice and kindly allowed me to view the apartment one night after work. It had an old old kitchenette and an old bathroom with a shower stall (no tub) but was otherwise lovely. Exposed brick walls, built-in shelving and a bedroom large enough for a full-sized bed plus a small dresser. In total it was about the size of my current apartment. I've given up on finding a large apartment. At this point 350 sq. feet is my goal. If you want more you will pay out the nose for it. That apartment was $2300/mo but has since dropped to $2150/month. I feel that $2150/mo is pretty fair.

The West 4th St studio had a kitchen and two closets to die for. The kitchen was redone last year with Bosch appliances including a dishwasher and a built-in microwave/stove/oven combination thingy. The counter backsplash was cool glass tile. The closets were both California Closet-style and there was even a tiny balcony with a view of the Washington Square Park arch. But it was a bit smaller than what I currently have. The closets were not enough to overcome this so I passed. It was $2400/mo.

The worst apartments I saw were: a 1 BR on the Upper East Side (I had a weak moment) where the bathroom was in the bedroom and even though it was on the 4th floor every window had bars on it, creating a dark dank feel and a 1 BR on Mott St that had a bathroom that reeked of mold. I couldn't see any but I knew it had either been there or was growing in. No windows, no ventilation, no thanks. It was $2295/mo. I also saw a two-room studio on West 3rd whose only window faced another building 2 feet away and whose kitchen ran the entire wall of a narrow living area. There was no room for anything else really. It was $2300/mo.

I am going to see 3 more apartments tomorrow. I still haven't figured out how to get my finances in order in time but I am so ready to move. I can't wait to find a place!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Metapost: Tips for people who just got mugged

Via Craigslist. It's scary out there kids. Gentrify at your own risk.

Plea for a good night's sleep

I realize that people live different kinds of lifestyles. Some of us -- like my friend J -- are early risers who enjoy being up with the sun and go to bed early to get a good start on the next day. Some of us -- like my friend P -- are night owls who hit the hay as the sun comes up and then wake up ready to do it all over again.

I fall somewhere between. I like to stay up into the wee hours of the morning but I don't really like to sleep too late either. I'd classify this lifestyle as New York normative. Unfortunately for me I've been suffering from a severe lack of sleep lately due to my neighbors. Not only is my upstairs neighbor still tyrannizing me; now my next door neighbor has joined in on the act. I just can't believe how little they seem to care about anyone but themselves.

There is this John Stuart Mill quote running on MTA ads in the subway right now from "On Liberty," which is one of the most interesting books I've ever read. I can't remember the quote verbatim. So to paraphrase it says that each person should do what's best for themselves because you can't please everyone; however you can't be so selfish as to harm other people. Maybe it's silly but I wish my neighbors next door and upstairs would read this and find it self-applicable.

My run-ins with my upstairs neighbor are pretty well documented. Just...not...pleasant. Finally about 3 weeks ago I snapped. It was 11:30 on like a Tuesday or something and the sound of a rolly toy and the pursuit of it was threatening to send me away in a straight jacket. So I called my management company. The rep is just as exasperated as I am at this point. She told me she'd done everything she could do and said call the cops. So I did. And while the cops said they couldn't give her a ticket they agreed to talk to her. The cops also said I was not the first one to complain about the neighbor...yet they couldn't write her a ticket. They warned me it could make the situation worse. Well that hasn't happened because it could not possibly get any worse! I got one peaceful night of sleep and since then it's been all noise all the time. Nearly 24/7.

I mean, look, I get it. Some peeps are up at 4 AM every morning. I don't care and believe that each person should be able to do as they please. But there needs to be some semblance of courtesy. Maybe not stomping around in heels at that hour? Maybe not playing music really loud at that hour? Maybe thinking beyond yourself a bit?

My next door neighbor is like a middle schooler. She comes home every night from work and proceeds to get on the phone for 5-6 hours a night. I only know this because she yells into her phone so loudly that my wall occasionally vibrates from it. No joke. My friends call her Loudy McBitchy OMG. The best part is that she has the same conversation 2 or 3 times a night with different people (or maybe the same one? I'm not really sure). And I don't want to be sure! In fact I don't want to hear about the guy she is supposedly dating that never calls her or her jerky boss and coworkers. I just. Want. Quiet. For awhile I dealt with it by just putting my headphones on every night but lately it's been so loud that I can hear it even with my music turned 3/4 of the way up. Sometimes I turn up my stereo all the way to drown it out and I can still hear her over it. It's depressing. Her other trick is having friends over at 3 AM and then playing "who can shout the loudest." Usually this is accompanied by crappy pop music.

I just don't know what to do anymore. My quality of life is so negatively impacted. Here I am being selfish now -- I would really like to be able to sleep from 11 AM to 8 AM in peace. This is the one part of NYC living that I hate. This is why I am willing to go into debt to move. The search for peace sends me looking for a new home.