Nothing is easy in NYC—and getting an apartment is really not easy…..
When you go to get an apartment in Los Angeles, you pick a few buildings you like—or look on a site called Westside Rentals. You call the number or just show up at the building, they tell you what units are available and in what price ranges, you look at the different apartments (along with the pool, gym, parking space, outdoor spaces) and pick the one you want. Then they tell you that you get one month free; you sign a lease, pay your deposit, and move in.
So in December 2007, when a new job had me moving from my 2,700 square foot house in walking distance from the beach in Venice Beach, California, I assumed that I would do the same thing in NYC.
But alas, that is not the case. I quickly figured out by looking online that every rental apt is “controlled” by a real estate person. A person that you have to use, and as I was to find out, have to pay. A lot—15% of the first year’s rent. (This, of course, is only the first of many things I figured out you have to pay.)
I looked at apartments online that I liked, picked the downtown areas I wanted to live in—Tribeca, Soho, etc.—and flew to NYC. I only had one day to meet with my whack-job real estate person and look around.
One day to find an apartment—how hard could it be?
The first apartment I saw in my budget almost made me cry. There was some term for the place, like “junior four,” which is the NYC way of saying $3,500/month for four tiny useless rooms. I immediately had to raise my budget by $1,000 just so I would have a kitchen, a closet, and a bedroom.
Finally I was shown an apartment way downtown in the Financial District in a beautiful old building that used to be the J.P. Morgan Bank building, and was now a converted condo designed by Philippe Starck. It was a 1 BR/1 bath (in one day I had learned to mentally downsize). But it was beautiful, had doormen, amenities etc… Okay, I could live here. I said I’d take it.
I ran out the front lobby (in a torrential downpour), soon learning how hard it is to find a cab with all of the district’s “pedestrian-only” walk streets, and then raced to the airport to fly back to LA. It was brutal, but my one-day apartment hunt in Manhattan was a success: I had an address, which considering I had to move in 3 weeks time was what I really needed.
Now I had an apartment but everyone wondered “Why there?”
I quickly learned a bunch of new things about getting a NYC apartment. It was a condo building so even though I was just renting I had to fill out a board package for approval—another $600. Then get some owner’s letter, then provide every financial paper I own (actually more paperwork then I had when I bought my house in Los Angeles).
My rental was in a part of the city that, in 2007, absolutely every New Yorker that I told I was moving there said, “Why there?” Because, as you see, for the last 80 years, nobody actually lived in the financial district. Since a thousand banks, brokerage firms, and assorted financial institutions were there, people came to the area during the day, worked, then high-tailed it out of there. So as a result—on nights and weekends—the streets literally rolled up and nothing was open.
Yes, getting a NYC apartment is not easy… but moving is even harder. I called five moving companies—three of them, when they heard “NYC,” said they didn’t move people to NYC. Fun. But that’s a story for another day.
Quiet island living—really!
After finally getting someone to move me, I stayed in “my first apartment NYC” for 6 years, moving in late 2013 to another high-priced rental in the same downtown building. It has more square feet—and most importantly a second bathroom—because as you will learn in NYC, everybody you have ever known in your life comes to visit and they can’t afford the $500/night hotel rooms.
I stayed because this area now has become a fast-growing residential area—with water very near on all sides and lots of pedestrian-only streets. That’s great because of no traffic noise, sirens, or other all-day-and-night city noise—other than the short stint of Occupy Wall Street, which symbolically decided to set up noisy camp outside my building, even though I tried to explain to them that not one banker lived there, and if they wanted to annoy bankers they should go camp out on the Upper East Side.
But that’s another story…
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