Apartment hunting in NYC is brutal and being international, it’s even crazier. Many places wouldn’t consider us as we have no credit in America. Others were asking for a guarantor who makes 80 x the rent, others were asking us to engage with a company Insurent – who would co-sign the lease with us incase we defaulted on any payments (and would cost a heap of money).
Whilst inspecting an apartment in Greenwich we got into a conversation with the agent who was showing the place. We told him we had just touched down in the States and were looking for a place to rent. He said that unless we could pay 6 months – 1 year up front of rent, plus his fee, plus Insurent we wouldn’t be considered. We thanked him and left (we weren’t keen on the place) and on our way out we saw him turn to another American couple and said “they’ve just touched down from Australia, yeah, they have no idea what they’re in for“.
We then received a few emails from agents (trying to be helpful?) explaining the difficulty we would have in finding a place to live and basically telling us it would be impossible unless we have truckloads of money to secure it. Our hopes were fading and we were running out of time. We had so many suitcases with us we couldn’t find anything. The hotel we had moved into was super old (first world problems) and smelt of smoke (even though we were in a non-smoking section). If it didn’t smell of smoke it smelt of urine from the bathroom down the hall. It wasn’t quite the business-class journey we had embarked on a week earlier.
We were keen to keep going and were trying to block out all the negative comments we were getting. 1:15pm Thursday 27th we signed for our apartment and Wednesday 3rd May we were in. Moving in NYC is bloody hard. We also realised that we had touched down on Monday night and found our apartment on Thursday afternoon -in three days- so we weren’t doing too badly at all. But we also couldn’t believe it had only been three days.
Getting our Apartment:
We had scheduled an inspection for 1:45pm on Thursday, but we were early and super keen to see it. We had been told that the NYC rental market was super aggressive and that if you wanted an apartment, you had to take it then and there – otherwise someone else would. This listing had only been up for a few hours online and we wanted to get in before anyone else. We called the agent and asked if we could see it earlier. He squeezed us in before his next appointment at 1:30pm. We walked in, took a look around and really liked it. It was unusual to find a pre-war building with a dishwasher and a laundry (in the building). It also had four windows which lot a let of light into the rest of the apartment. We wanted to sign then and there – and we did. Whilst signing up, the original 1:30pm appointment arrived. Our agent went to go show them the apartment as they had travelled here to see it, and they also said they wanted it immediately. Our agent had to explain that we had just pushed in and had beat them too it! The signing took around 3 hours and during the entire time the agent was on the phone constantly telling renters that the apartment had already gone.
“Pre-war” buildings. Yep – it’s a thing. We had no idea! “Pre-war” refers to buildings created between the years 1900-1939 — just before WWII. These often have standard characteristics – “walkups” (no elevator, just very long and big sets of narrow stairs). You can assume that you’ll be using 1x ply toilet paper and there will be no laundry (in the apartment or in the building). We found this out when looking for the laundry in one of the first apartments – “where’s the laundry?” “oh it’s just around the corner on 75th”. 😐 Well that explains the copious amounts of laundromats in Manhattan.
Wednesday was move in day. We had a morning appointment with the bank to get our cashiers cheques organised. After spending three days there the previous week we knew the staff fairly well and were warmly welcomed. The private bankers came out to have a chat and tell us about an Aussie bar that serves Kangaroo burgers. When asked if we eat Kangaroo, I answered “No” and Remi answered “Yes” at the same time.
We got our cheques and were on our way back to the hotel to get all our bags. We caught a cab from the hotel to our apartment and had popped all our bags on the footpath. The worst was yet to come. Remi and I were lucky to have found an apartment that doesn’t look directly onto the neighbours or directly onto a brick wall. We did however, find a prewar building with no elevator. Our apartment is on level 4. Not so bad you might say? Wrong. These staircases are long and narrow and go forever. We carried up one enormous and butt heavy suitcase at a time.
The other thing with prewar buildings is that they’re always gut renovated but no structural fixtures are actually ever made. Some of the stairs are a bit shaky and some sink down. We’d inspected some apartments during that week that had uneven floors, where the entire apartment was on a slant or big dips in the floor – but the agents were trying to sell it as if nothing was wrong. Buddy, we see that gaping pit in the floor. I think my favourite hard sell was when an agent said “look at this beautiful window!” which looked directly onto a neighbouring brick wall. Yep, beautiful.
By lunchtime, we had made it up. We had an apartment in NYC – wooohoo! The excitement was short lived with Remi having to go off to work at lunchtime. Next step. How do you get a mattress up 4 flights of double, narrow and steep stairs? That’s something we’re yet to answer. I assume, with great difficulty, much like the suitcases. But that can wait for week 3.