Brooklyn Life: The Apartment Hunt

Although I could write an entire ‘how to’ on the general do’s and don’ts of NYC apartment hunting, I’ll save that for another day.  Today, I’m going to write specifically about how our hunt went and what led me to ultimately choosing the place that I did.  Warning, this is a long post… it chronicles my two day-28-apartment-hunt.

Firstly, I accepted my job in New York about 3 weeks before my start date.  I had less than 21 days to secure a place to live and childcare for Maeve.  It seemed to be a catch 22 that had me spiraling.  I couldn’t move without finding childcare, but I couldn’t find childcare until I found a house.  I didn’t even know where to start when it came to neighborhoods to begin the search and I couldn’t do as much from Ohio as I wished I could.  I reached out to an old friend who lives in the city part-time but still has a lot of friends with children in the area.  He gave me a handful of neighborhoods to start with, and these ‘hoods were where I completely based my entire hunt.

I did a ton of research online.  Safety stats, school reviews, accessibility to playgrounds and entertainment, proximity to transit, etc, etc.  I even just got on google street view and virtually ‘walked’ around these communities.  After researching the areas online, I landed on 3-4 spots I would focus my search.

Next was how to find a place.  The rental market in NYC is notoriously brutal.  Apartments come and go in a matter of minutes.  Some don’t even make it to the market and are rented on word of mouth between friends of friends.  Some are on the market forever and you wonder what is wrong with them (bedbugs? rats? roaches?!) Most landlords and renters use agents who come with exorbitant fees. The feels are usually 12-20% of your yearly rent.  We’re talking about five grand in just fees!  That doesn’t include deposits or anything like that.

After more online research, I found a handful of websites where you can specify to only search for ‘no fee’ apartments. This means that either the landlord pays the agent fees or that the apartments are for rent by owner.  The main sites I used were Naked Apartments and Street Easy.  I also know that a TON of people here find their apartments on craigslist, but I needed little more hand-holding and both naked apartments and street easy were really helpful.

I booked a flight to New York for a weekend and started combing through the websites for places I wanted to see.  For each apartment that I found and liked (or wanted to check out) I contacted the listing agent and set up an appointment to see the place during my weekend in town.  Since apartments move so quickly, I did this in just the 2-3 days prior to leaving for the city.  Even then, about half of the apartments I scheduled to see fell through because someone else rented them in the meantime.  Based on the quick turnaround and our lack of having care for Maeve, I went to New York alone to find us a place while Matt stayed back in Ohio.  It wasn’t ideal to do the hunt alone, but I had done the majority of the research and was much more in-the-know than Matt, so we both felt comfortable with me going solo.

I landed in New York at 9:00am on a Saturday morning and began my search in the Park Slope/Cobble Hill area.  I knew it was going to be a hectic two days, so I created a checklist for the apartments on my list.  The checklist had a basic list of things important to me in a new home and I planned to go down the list and give each line item a rating of 0-10, then average out the scores to help me make my choice.  I hadn’t printed my checklists, so I asked the cab driver to drop me at a Kinkos near my first appointment to print them out. The reason I mention this point is because while walking from Kinkos to the apartment, I fell in love with the area.  I walked past gorgeous boutiques, quaint restaurants, and tons of families out and about.

The first showing was amazing.  The neighborhood was adorable and I was ready to sign on the dotted line had it not been about $700 over  budget. It was a new build, and two bedrooms, two baths, a chefs kitchen, washer and dryer all shoved into 700 square feet.  Oh, and it had a killer back yard.  This because my gold standard to which I would compare every other apartment.

From there, my day started blurring together.  I saw 14 apartments on Saturday.  During the morning appointments, things went from great to bad pretty quickly. I even saw a ‘garden level’ apartment (i.e. basement) which had a ‘back yard’ that was actually just the crawl space underneath the upper tenants deck.  You couldn’t even stand up under there.  My cousin (who lives in the area and was helping my hunt) and I looked at each other with wide eyes.  She has lived in the NYC area for years and I think that was a first for her too.

There came a time about 3/4 of the way through the day that I basically felt I had made the worst decision in the world.  The apartments here getting worse than the one before, we were creeping further and further outside of my preferred neighborhoods, and the budget was going up and up.

It was about 3:00pm and I had already seen 9 places.  I took a small break, grabbed a bite to eat and collected myself.  I had a 3:30pm appointment in a new neighborhood that I was a little on the fence about, just outside of Park Slope.  We arrived at the building and it was a pre-war, brick building on a quiet street.  We got into the building and the agent took us up two perilous flights of marble steps.  I kept thinking about lugging a stroller up these stairs.  The apartment was spacious and had a ton of character, but was a little weathered. While we were headed out of the building, the agent said that he did have another unit in the building, but it was on the ground level, and did I want to see it.  Um, yes.

We walked into the unit and it was automatically impressive.  Big rooms, gleaming original wood floors, white walls with antique baseboard molding.  It had a lot of original details but had a completely renovated kitchen and bathroom, a dishwasher, washer & dryer, and amazing closets.  I had actually seen some apartments that didn’t have ONE closet, but this one had FIVE.  It had giant windows, lots of light, and at 1000 sq feet was the biggest apartment I had seen.

I told you it was a new neighborhood, right?  So although I LOVED the apartment, I was unsure about the location.  I ended up walking around the streets of the area and taking note of the playgrounds, the proximity to transit, the restaurants, shops, bars, and everything in between.  It was a good spot. I liked the apartment, but still had another full day of showings and didn’t want to make a pre-mature decision.

The following day, I headed up to Williamsburg and saw another 14 apartments.  Much like the day before they started ok and progressively got worse and worse. The agent who I worked with for a big part of the day was such a wreck she didn’t have the keys to half of the places we visited. Although it was fun to see places in yet another neighborhood, I found myself comparing each place to the ground level pre-war unit from the previous day.

After the end of the second day, I knew I’d made my decision.  I called the listing agent and made my offer.  They immediately put in my application and the next thing I knew (after jumping through a billion hoops) the place was ours.

So, without further ado… Here is the place.  These are the ‘before’ pics that I took during the hunt.  I’ll go through each room with you!

Something that no other apartment had was a great entryway.  Most places, you just walked right into the living room or kitchen.  This apartment had a large entry area with a coat closet and room to park a stroller.

Off the entry is the main living area.  It is the heart of the apartment.  Two big windows let in a lot of light.  Off the living area was one bedroom (below).  It was the larger of the two bedrooms, but had the smaller closet.

The second bedroom was smaller, but had a large double closet with good built-in organizers.

Ok.  Onto the kitchen. This is an absolutely terrible photo, but you can see there are good details.  The kitchen had dark gray/black stained cabinets with white stone countertops and slate floor tile. It’s small, but actually has much more counter space and cupboard space than our farmhouse… so that is a big plus! Also, the stainless appliances were brand new.

The bathroom is so tiny that it’s almost impossible to actually get a decent picture of it. So, here is a random sink pic.  You’re welcome!

And the cherry-on-top is the washer/dryer combo in the unit.  Our of 28 apartments, I only saw 4 with washer/dryer… So believe me, it’s a giant perk.

Here is a layout of the place. You can see how small it is, but also how clean and bright it looked.  At this point in time I really wish I had photos of the deck crawl space apartment for you to compare.

So this is the place! We have some mixed emotions on the building now (we’ll get into that later) but for the most part, I really love the apartment itself.

Next, I’ll show you guys how I have the place set up, but I’m fairly sure that this is more than enough Erin for one day

See you all next Monday!





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