When you search for a rental apartment on a listings site, don’t expect all of your results to match the number of bedrooms you chose in your search parameters. A two bedroom might actually be a one bedroom with a den that’s unsuitable for use as a bedroom. Or you may get a listing that says a basement rec room is a bedroom—when it’s not really safe to sleep down there.
Listing agents are being aspirational when they market apartments—and you as an apartment hunter need to be aware of this when you sort through listings. No one is really policing whether the number of bedrooms in an apartment listing is accurate, among other listing details—you have to be your own cop.
This apartment, 32 St. James Pl., #3 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn is listed as a four-bedroom, two-bath duplex but there are some major caveats here. If you read the description, you’ll find the apartment is actually a three bedroom that can be converted to a four bedroom. But here’s the thing: Only two bedrooms are legal size. The third and potential fourth bedroom have dimensions smaller than 8 feet, which means they are too small to be considered safe, legal bedrooms (and so shouldn’t be rented as such).
Turns out, the apartment only has one bathroom. The listing says the landlord can add a second bathroom—and will adjust the rent. Similarly, a dishwasher and a washer dryer are listed under apartment amenities, but the description says these can be added—for a higher rent.
The apartment is very spacious at 1,500 square feet and is asking $4,000. Split four ways, it’s pretty reasonable for living this close to downtown Brooklyn
If you can navigate all of the above, there are some pluses here: High ceilings, a large living room, large dining room, decorative fireplaces, and walk-in closets. Pets are allowed.
The neighborhood has a lot going on in and around it: It’s about 15 minutes to the Barclays Center and Atlantic Terminal. BAM and Fort Greene Park are also nearby. And there are lots of restaurants, cafes, and bars in the immediate neighborhood.
So, what do you think? Would you take the apartment as is, or haggle with the landlord to get the amenities?
As always, when weighing New York City apartment listings, we turn to our Take It Or Leave It experts: Constantine Valhouli, founder of real estate research and analytics firm NeighborhoodX, freelance writer Lambeth Hochwald, and myself. And if you want to go behind the scenes on this column and hear more tips and tricks to analyzing online listings, tune in to our Take It Or Leave It episode of the Brick Underground podcast.
But first, here are some photos of the apartment.
Pros and cons
“A spacious apartment like this doesn't come along everyday and the decorative fireplaces are epic but am I wrong to say that the apartment as a whole seems extremely randomly put together? The kitchen has these odd cabinets, some of the rooms feel basement-y and the rent is confusing.” —Lambeth Hochwald
"So, if the listing is being honest, this is a very spacious two bedroom, one bath. But they're tweaking it a bit to be a four bedroom (ok, we get it, we've all been there), two bath...but wait, the landlord won't add the second bathroom unless he can adjust the rent higher. Realistically, this is a four bedroom, one bath...and there's gonna be a liiiiiiine for the bathroom—just like that time the Strokes played a secret show at that bar on Rivington.” —Constantine Valhouli
“I’m a big fan of this vibrant neighborhood—there’s a lot going on here. This apartment is in a building with lots of character, and has beautiful details like those fireplaces. But what’s up with large rec room behind the kitchen? According to the floor plan, it doesn’t appear to have any windows, which is odd.” —Jennifer White Karp
Who is it good for?
“A family of four (plus pooch since pets are allowed) who are eager to be near downtown Brooklyn, whether for schools or BAM, or Barclays. " —Hochwald
“The $4,000 monthly rent isn't terrible, even if it's split between two people. But things get interesting when you split it four ways: $1,300 each for the larger rooms, and $700 each for the smaller ones. Perfect for two friends in stable jobs with two musician friends who will orchestrate epic parties in the large open space.” —Valhouli
“This apartment says ‘share’ to me. The large spaces, including the mysterious rec room, are probably good for parties, but it doesn’t feel very homey to me. I’m turned off by the owner’s intent to nickel and dime tenants for appliances that come standard in many apartments these days.” —White Karp
Take it or leave it?
Leave it. “I feel like there are way too many question marks about this place for me to get behind it." —Hochwald
Take it. “But ask how much the landlord would up the rent for washer/dryer and the second bathroom. I'm actually deeply curious now.” —Valhouli
Leave it. “I think the owner is setting the tone and it’s not a good one. The base rent really should reflect an apartment without the amenities and additions. It’s not clear how much you would end up paying for those extras, and that’s worrisome.” —White Karp