The Broke Girl's Guide To Apartment Hunting In A Big City
I'm currently combing through Naked Apartments, hunting for one-bedrooms that cost somewhere between “an arm and a leg” and “those toilets better be made of gold with how much I'm paying."
I'm not even looking for myself. Somehow, I landed the role of “apartment whisperer” amongst my friends. To me, apartment porn is, straight up, the best kind. I read the New York Times real estate section like it's the Bible.
I've even drawn out a full-fledged map, designating where each NYC neighborhood begins and ends. Naturally, I consider myself a bona fide expert on apartment hunting in the city.
I might not have been doing this for a long time — three years and counting — but I'm the ultimate real estate wingwoman, and these are my commandments.
1. Lower your expectations. Then, lower them more.
If the only exposure you have to big city apartment life is what you've seen on “Friends” and “New Girl,” you're in for a rude awakening. Not only are city apartments virtually a 10th of the size of what you see on TV, but you'll also be paying at least a trillion times more than they're worth.
First off, the closer you are to the center of the city, the more you can expect to pay. Same goes for being close to a mode of transportation that gets you close to where most of the action is -- businesses, nightlife, restaurants.
Your best bet will be exploring less-popular neighborhoods, which also offer a sort of charm you might not find in more commercial areas. Grocery stores, coffee shops, salons and restaurants are generally cheaper in lesser-populated areas. Plus, you get to avoid annoying tourists.
Chances are, your first apartment won't have a doorman. It probably won't even have a video intercom. Just be excited if it has locks on the front door.
2. Lose the claustrophobia.
Afraid of small spaces? Too bad, because you're going to be living in a place your mom and dad call a walk-in-closet with a sink and fridge.
On the plus side, you'll find methods of space-saving you never even knew existed. When you only have one closet, you start to learn just about anything can double as a storage unit if you cram it in well enough.
The most important thing is taking advantage of every nook and cranny. Keep the area serene and minimalistic, with plenty of color (hey, it works for Brad Goreski). If you must, get a storage unit, if only just to store your summer clothes in during the 9-month-long New York winters.
3. Leave your dog at home.
There's nothing quite as hard as being a pet owner in the city. Not only do you have a whole slew of factors to consider (parks, pet stores, veterinarians, dog runs), but many buildings also don't allow pets. The ones that do often have weight limits and breed restrictions for pups.
Generally, this includes pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers, German Shepherds and Rottweilers. Owning a pit bull in the city is like committing real estate suicide.
The alternative? You can lie, sneak your pet in and hope your landlord doesn't find out. If that sounds like too much of a stretch, you can fudge the weight or breed, seeing as most places don't actually check.
Personally, I like to cut to the chase and tell my broker I have pets. Don't worry about sounding difficult. Brokers are businesspeople, it's in their best interest to get you in the apartment as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
4. Don't be afraid to negotiate.
The biggest mistake I've made apartment-hunting is not asking if my broker if he or she could talk down the rent.
While this isn't a sure-fire way to pay significantly less, it can work, especially if something needs fixing. A little water damage might not look like much to you, but can be a bargaining chip. An extra hundred bucks off your rent is an extra hundred bucks you can spend on important stuff, like shoes and chicken-flavored ramen.
5. Trust no bitch.
Studios are expensive and generally tiny. If you want to save money and get more space for your buck, your best bet would be to find roommates.
Seeing as I've had enough roomie drama to last me several lifetimes, I'm all for keeping roommate relationships as business-like as possible. Friendships go awry real quick if you're living together.
The most ideal route is finding a friend of a friend -- someone who's not so close to you that your social circles are virtually identical. Check Facebook groups as well as sites like Symbi and Roomster, which connect to users' social media accounts for easy stalking.
It's important not to get discouraged by the process. Once you find that perfect apartment (or the roommates to endure the hunting process with you) it'll all be worth it. Now go out into the world, apartment hunters, and sublet away!