“May the odds be ever in OUR favor…”
The emotional fuzzies that were produced after my boyfriend and I decided to move in together were quickly eviscerated when the reality set in that apartment hunting season was about to hit full swing in New York City. Much like Katniss in “The Hunger Games,” I would prefer to run away from the cornucopia of annoyances, hide in the woods, hope for the best and get a financial sponsor (or two).
Moving in general is stressful enough, but anyone who has been through it in New York understands that there are a host of additional complications like mafia-trained brokers, 1% vacancy rates, realtor fees as high as 15% of your yearly rent (plus first month, plus last month and plus a security deposit), “charming” apartments as small as dollhouses and hidden idiosyncrasies that brokers call “personality “ but really just mean no heat in the winter, garbage trucks outside your window at 3am Monday through Friday and an old bedbug problem that has “most certainly” been resolved.
One learns to read into real estate listings like horoscopes. I have learned that the following words and phrases should be avoided: junior, alcove, cozy, up and coming, easy approval, money saver, big bang for the buck, commuters dream, and safe neighborhood…we promise.
Whenever you tell a fellow New Yorker you are looking for an apartment, you usually get one or two leads, but mainly you get a lot of “shared experience” horror stories. One friend was recently offered a $2,800/month one bedroom apartment in the East Village that did not have a bathroom. Another friend found a gem of an apartment that conveniently placed the bathtub in the kitchen and was told by the broker, “I hope this isn’t a deal breaker for you.” It was.
When I first moved to New York five years ago, I landed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighborhood known for its abundant hipster population, patchouli-scented streets and a less-than-stringent hygienic code. I realized that wearing a suit to work and listening to Mozart on my iPod made me look like a Log Cabin Republican to these kids. Without the requisite tattoos, piercings, fixed-gear bike and skinny jeans, I would always feel like an outsider. Never mind the fact that a one-bedroom apartment started at around $1,800/month – the illusion of living like a bohemian was important and something I couldn’t afford to pull off while working as a modern dance agent.
I then moved to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, a neighborhood so far south on the subway that its location necessitated riding the R-line for one stop, transferring to the N-line for 7 stops, transferring to the 2 –line for 3 stops, and then transferring to the 1-line for 4 stops to get to work. Much to my horror, a new reality show, “Brooklyn 11223,” was just piloted to mock all who preferred to dwell here. When the Oxygen network starts to feel superior to you and your surroundings, it’s time to reevaluate your life.
My boyfriend and I began our search in the East Village in a residential community that houses 30,000 young adults and much of the NYU population. Much like trying to choose a prospective assisted living home, group tours were offered on the hour to show off three model units and to explain the advantages of communal living.
A slightly manic and very loud woman who bore a startling resemblance to Bette Midler’s body double in “Hocus Pocus” monopolized the sales associate and tried to prove her social standing by referencing her two nannies and two housecleaners who would need 24-hour access to her apartment. Who was she kidding? By virtue of the fact that she was looking at the same apartments as we were, and ostensibly aiming for the same price range, she was more likely working as nanny than employing the services of one. While communal living has its advantages, a 5-minute ride on the subway provides me with enough crazy for one day; I don’t need it at home too.
We decided to leave the fake grunge of the East Village and search the suburban-esque Upper West Side. After viewing a few apartments, our broker cleared his throat, and awkwardly asked, “Um…I don’t mean to pry…but are you two…partners?”
Given the fact that we had only looked at one-bedrooms that day and accounting for my general flamboyance, I didn’t think he needed to ask. When we answered affirmatively and asked if that was going to be a problem, he sighed relief and said, “That’s GOOD. The owners love gays. You guys take such good care of your apartments.”
Then, after a momentary pause, he looked at my boyfriend conspiratorially and added, “…and Orientals pay their rent on time!” Good thing my English is so good, otherwise the compliment (?) might have slipped by.
Much like a Real Housewife, had I a glass of Pinot Grigio to throw, an airport table to tip or, at the very least, a cheap weave to pull, an altercation certainly would have ensued. However, since none of these items were readily available and I needed to fool my boyfriend into thinking I was sane at least until we started cohabitating, I bit my tongue. I cannot promise I will be so restrained next time.
Million Dollar Listing