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Q & A with a serial mover: "It's the number one reason why I'm broke and have no savings"

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What's it like to move eight time in eight years?  Thirty-year-old Gideon Levy, part of the family that owns and runs The Levys' Unique New York! Tours, recently shared some thoughts on that and what he's learned from his peripatetic lifestyle. Hint: Friends can be the best movers, and renting a Bushwick loft doesn't make you part of the artsy crowd.

You've moved eight times as many years and all eight times were within Brooklyn. Is that where you grew up?

Yep, I grew up in Ditmas Park; back then we called it Flatbush. I lived in three-story house, which I think may have spoiled me.

Are you ready to settle down now?

Yeah, definitely. One huge factor is that I last moved in to my girlfriend's place, and now we've moved into our own place in South Slope. It's a fourth floor walk-up, which is a headache, but otherwise, it's comfortable and spacious. It's a railroad style apartment, and the bathroom and bedrooms are on opposite sides.

How much do you think you've spent on broker fees and moving fees?

I do indicate it as the number one reason why I'm still broke and have no savings account.

Did you often pay a broker fee?

Rarely, I think only twice.

Did you pay a broker fee for your current apartment?

Yes, 12 percent. And right before we were about to sign the lease, we saw there was a no-pet rule, even though we told the broker right when we started working with him that we had a dachsund. We had to put down an extra $750 pet deposit that's refundable. We got that down from $1,000.

Where were you finding most of your apartments?

Craigslist.

Any advice you'd give to Craigslist users?

The site has many repeat listings, so you may find yourself inquiring into multiple listings for the same location.

Keep track of your inquiries and list the details of each apartment. It can get very, very confusing. In the end, you may find yourself keeping more track of the brokers who do all the looking (fee or no fee) then of the apartments you find.

What's your favorite neighborhood so far?

Park Slope. The two neighborhoods I lived in most were Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy. I kind of thought there was some street cred and authenticity to those neighborhoods, now I feel like those are just nicer words for grimy, loud and frightening.

Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy were very loud at night, and there was more of a drug culture, which meant a lot of shady looking individuals hanging around the streets--maybe dealers, maybe users.

Women get harassed A LOT in Crown Heights, it's one of the worst neighborhoods for that sort of street-harasment culture. I didn't have to deal with that personally but I saw a lot of it happening and it infuriated me.


I liked Bed-Stuy a little more. There were pockets of family areas that were delightful and peaceful. 

In Park Slope it can be loud, but it's kids getting out of school at 3, not loud adults at all hours of the night like in Crown Heights.

Are there any advantages to this type of nomadic lifestyle?

No, there are no advantages, other than the sense that you're not stuck in the place. Each time, I've chosen the headache and frustration of moving over staying in these places.

So why did you keep moving?

It was often a combination of the apartment itself, the neighborhood and the roommates. Each time it was a different level for each factor but each and every time, it was simply enough of a sense of dissatisfaction and of "I can do better" that led me to look more.

What are some of the disadvantages?

Economics is a big one, there's the cost of moving (the truck rentals and movers), fees, security deposits that later didn't come back, having to take off work to take care of the situation--it all adds up.

Second is exhaustion; third is you can be taken advantage of by brokers and landlords. As a renter in New York City, you are at the bottom of the totem pole and you're at the mercy of others, that's just the way it is.

Do you think you'll ever set down real roots and buy?

Oh yes, I'd love to be able to buy something, but I can't do it if all the money I save goes to moving costs.

I'd like to stay in my current apartment for a while and save money to buy something. Maybe a small house in Brooklyn or Queens, or maybe even somewhere outside the city, in Westchester or Hudson Valley. 

You're an expert mover and apartment hunter. Any advice to our readers on either one?

When moving day's coming up, secure friends early to help. Tell them it's better than a day at the gym and just as good a workout.

Also, if you see a place you really like, go for it. Don't hedge your bets and keep looking.

If you were starting out again, how would you do things differently?

I wouldn't move to Crown Heights or Bushwick. Moving into a loft space in Bushwick, I thought I'd be part of the cool, artsy crowd. I did find that crowd, but just living near it didn't make me a "part" of it.

The reason I thought it might work was because my brother lived in a loft in Bushwick that was very friendly and neighborly which inspired a fair amount of creative collaboration between the various artists living there. My building was not the same way so I never felt that synergy take effect.

Related:

Bedbugged! How NOT to move

Serial Renter: 5 things to do before the big day

Rental Rookie: In NYC, stick with the smallest U-Haul

Goodbye Rental Rookie: Moving day and lessons of starting anew

10 Minutes with NYC mover Zvi Manor

BrickUnderground's Renter's Survival Kit

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