So You Want to Move to NYC :: Guide to Listings
For week 3 of my moving series with FlatRate Moving we’re talking all about apartment listings! Onto some of the fun stuff guys!
When you decide to move to the city chances are you’re moving here more for the lifestyle than a huge luxury apartment. If you’re working with a modest budget that is anyways. When they say location is everything, location really is everything in the city. While the city is easy to navigate by public transportation, chances are you’re going to end up spending a lot of time in your neighborhood so it pays to take the time to find one that you like.
Something that kind of caught me off guard when I first moved to the city is that apartment listings aren’t always what they seem. We’ve all seen apartment listings before that are too good to be true or places that don’t match the online photos, but I was really bummed that it happened a lot more here than I had experienced before. This is why I really suggest that you don’t rent a place sight unseen if possible. Unfortunately there are just too many scams and after seeing a lot of apartments that don’t match the online photos it’s just not worth it. It’s not to say it can’t be done because people do it – even I did – but I at least had a roommate and another friend who had both seen the apartment to make sure it was legit.
When you’re looking up apartments remember the saying “if it’s too good to be true it probably is”. You can definitely find some great places but if you see an ad for an awesome luxury apartment at a price way below market, then proceed with caution. Not all scam listings are as easy to spot just off first glance though. Watch out for any listing where the person you contact says they are out of town and can have someone else meet you and if anyone wants you to wire money for an apartment.. run! Unless you are meeting with someone to apply or sign a lease don’t ever wire or mail anyone money. If a landlord or broker really is out of town or lives out of the country they will either schedule when they are back or have someone managing their rentals for them so don’t buy into any ploys. Also be very careful with who you are handing your social security number to too. Apartment rentals do run credit checks but I wouldn’t suggest sending this info to anyone until you are applying for an apartment, which I suggest you do in person.
My best advice for looking at apartments is to schedule a viewing – which we’ll discuss next week. Between wide angle lenses or just photos that are not the real unit, you really can’t tell what a place is like until you’re in it. And to be completely honest I just don’t trust people after going through this process a handful of times.. It’s unfortunate to have to say that but it’s just about being smart about the process. It’s not always the broker’s fault either because sometimes landlords will give them different photos or photos of a “similar unit”.
Nothing is more awful in my opinion during apartment hunting than a bait and switch listing, which I can tell you a thing or two about… Boy were there a lot of tears shed when looking for my first apartment on my own. I looked at so many apartments and only one, ONE apartment was actually the same unit as the photos – which was then the building I found my 2nd Avenue apartment in. I saw an apartment that was supposed to be a “spacious, renovated studio with great light” that ended up being tiny basement apartment with no windows and that you couldn’t even access from the main entrance. Or the other one that looked so adorable online on the Upper West Side that was in my price range and an “open-layout studio with a modern kitchen”. Instead it ended up being a 10x10 room with a tiny sleeping loft that you couldn’t have sat up in with kitchen appliances that weren’t a day newer than the year 1950.
The reality was even though I felt like my expectations were realistic for the market, I learned really fast that I had to be a little pickier for what was going to work for me. My list of any apartment in x neighborhoods in this price range that are pet-friendly had to be refined to include no basement apartments, full sized fridge, oven, and good natural lighting. I learned that it’s just as important to tell your broker what your deal breakers are as what features you are looking for because it’s a little harder to fudge the fact that the apartment is in a basement if you call it out. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll totally escape false descriptions but it will help you ask better questions.
The way apartments are described certainly isn’t everything, but here’s a look at my take on what some apartment adjectives really mean ;-) I mean I guess you have to give landlords and brokers a little creativity credit to rent some of these dumpy apartments to begin with though right?
Unique= Really funky layout! Like, walk in and think to yourself, who thought that was a good idea funky.
Cozy= This apartment could literally classify as a closet in other cities. “Cozy” means you can multi-task because your kitchen doubles as the bathroom area and living room.
Loft= In other cities, loft apartments can be really cool! You always hear about how awesome NYC lofts are too.. Well, if your budget is less than 4k a loft is a storage space turned bunk-bed contraption that they insist is big enough to sleep on. In reality it’s about 3 feet from the ceiling and has a little ladder with either a low or no railing. I’m already having nightmares of falling off.
Amazing Closets= There is one maybe two small closets, but you should be thankful that you have one.
Amazing Light= There actually is a window! It’s scary when apartments have to note that they have windows, which is technically illegal BTW. Come on people, I know it’s NYC, buttttt I’m pretty sure inmates in prison have windows so you bet there better be a window in an apartment at that price!
Chef’s Kitchen= There is a full-sized oven (NYC full-sized anyways) and a full-sized fridge. No counter space, but be happy you have more than a stovetop and not a mini fridge.
Rooftop Access= Access to the jimmy-rigged emergency exit door that isn’t exactly the rooftop deck you were hoping for.
And then there’s that one thing you’re so used to seeing on rentals that you’ll rarely see in NYC. Square footage. Unless you’re looking at a larger luxury apartment you won’t see a number on the listings and if you do it’s usually not accurate. I can talk about this topic for a whole other blog post though, which ah ha, I did. If it interests you check this post out.
Of course these are all in good fun, sometimes you really do get lucky! Hey, I somehow found a studio with 3 closets, a renovated kitchen with a dishwasher andddd a balcony for under 2k. Unicorns in the city do exist! It just takes a lot of monitoring the market and a little pixie dust.
In all seriousness though, my motto with apartments is if you can find a place in a neighborhood you like, that is liveable and in your price range – you’ve won. With a little elbow grease, creative storage, and home decor you can make any place cute (especially with Pinterest for inspiration!) and functional so don’t get so caught up in the fine details. After all, you’re moving here to have delicious food, museums and events right at your fingertips – not to stay in your apartment all of the time!
So get out there.. browse online for some listings that sound good and make some viewing appointments!