Sales Market

Renting vicariously: what we learned from a live-blogged apartment hunt

By Virginia K. Smith  | August 26, 2014 - 12:59PM

Watching someone else hunt for a New York apartment is a major source of either sympathy or schadenfreude, and Dave Infante, an editor at the lifestyle blog Thrillist, provided us with a healthy dose of both, extensively live-blogging his recent search for a rental with his Denver-based roommate.

At the outset, the goal was to land a "lower-ish" Manhattan two-bedroom for $2,800 or under a month, no higher than a fourth-floor walk-up, with a dishwasher and sans broker's fee. In the end, 24 days of searching later, Infante and his friend Steve ended up in a $2,500/month Fort Greene two-bedroom, a second-floor walk-up with a dishwasher, as well as mounted A/C units in every room. However, they also paid a $2,500 broker's fee and an undisclosed extra deposit to make up for what the landlord deemed "less-than-stellar" credit. You win some, you lose some, even as a seasoned New York renter.

Below, a few secondhand lessons we learned from Infante's search:

  • In an apartment search, you'll do things you never thought you'd do. Whether it's moving to an outer borough or clearing your savings account to lock down an apartment—both of which Infante ending up doing—go into your search knowing what you are and aren't willing to compromise on.
  • Don't underestimate how thoroughly the hunt can exhaust you. Mentally and physically. "It just wears you down to the point where you can't tell if you're being smart or stubborn," writes Infante. 
  • Sometimes, you just need to throw money at your problems. Between first and last month's rent, a broker's fee, a security deposit, and the extra money the landlord requested to compensate for the credit issue, Infante and his roommate splashed out $10,000 to land the first apartment they actually liked. Is it ideal? Of course not. But it is a good reminder that an extra infusion of cash can solve problems like bad credit or deficient paperwork.
  • Don't stay loyal to just one website. They used NY BitsPadmapperUrban Compass, and StreetEasy ​for their search, and Infante makes one very good point about all the new listings sites that've been cropping up in the past few years: "The bottleneck isn't at the interface level; it's at the inventory level," he writes, meaning that the problem lies with New York's out of control market, rather than any one search method. "And until a brokerage or landlord starts making serious, consistent money by not screwing over, deceiving, and otherwise bamboozling renters, that bottleneck will persist." Cast a wide net.

With their apartment locked down for Sept. 1, it looks like Infante and Steve have officially wrapped up their search, and even with a bit of time to spare. But we're all ears if they decide to live-blog the moving process, too...


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