Thursday, September 9, 2010
New York Apartment Hunt
Whew, am I tired... Although we got off to a late start, the apartment broker, Brian showed me a bunch of apartments around Brooklyn.
He arranged for us to meet two subway stations from the one nearest my hotel, which was a ten block walk. Unfortunately, the map didn't show that it was ten blocks up hill... I was pretty tired by the time I got to the station. I bought a $20 subway pass, which is good for a few rides (anything over $8 gives a discount per ride). But then I got on the wrong train, one that didn't stop where we arranged to meet, so I had to get off at another station and wait for one going back again.
I still got there before him. It'd told him to look for me, a bit short, a bit chubby, wearing a green shirt and blue jeans. He found me alright.
We started off with a freshly renovated, very modern one not far from the hotel and my office, in Crown Heights. Inside it was quite nice, and the owner's broker was there to try and sell me on renting it. I very nearly did, but politely asked if Brian could show me some more so I could see what was out there before deciding. Brian kept saying how that one had the nicest kitchen of most of the apartments he's seen anywhere, and only $1,500 a month. He said it was a good deal.
I was really thinking about it... Although I didn't feel immediately comfortable with the neighborhood, he said it was still a safe place to walk at night.
Then we took the subway to another one near Sunset Park, on the ground floor. I liked that neighborhood better, and the entrance hallway into the building had some nice, attractive tile work. Inside was okay, one decent sized bedroom and one tiny one. The view from the tiny one and the kitchen was awful, though, the wall of the building right next to it. The view from the main bedroom was a bit better, since it was on a hill it overlooked other buildings' yards and some of the city in the distance. It's very close to several subway stations with easy access to Manhattan.
Next we were a bit early for an "open house" at another building not far, where the owners were showing four different apartments. Brian bought me lunch, a good New York style pizza at a small, non-chain restaurant. I got a root beer, too, something I haven't had for quite a few years in India. We talked about apartments and I talked about some of the differences between them and ones in India.
From there we walked up to that other building, but no one was there. He made some calls and it turned out the open house was from 4 to 5, not 3 to 4 like he was originally told. So we had some time to kill and continued walking up to Sunset Park to look out at the city. Nice view from up there.
It was around there that I got out of breath from walking up hills and it dawned on me that the first, 4th floor apartment might not be suitable... I didn't think Leena would like carrying things up four flights of steep, narrow stairs... Or my parents when they come visit me, either, especially my father.
We stopped at a small dinner he knew a few blocks away and we got some hot drinks, him a coffee and me a hot chocolate and waited around for 4pm.
Shortly before 4pm some of the other brokers started showing up outside the building with the open house, and some with their clients. I chatted with one of them who asked me how different India was and stuff. Then the owner's agent showed up and opened up the flats.
We looked at a 1 bedroom and a 2 bedroom on the ground floor. Their interiors were nice, all brand new, fresh wood flooring, new fixtures in the kitchens, great stuff. But the one in front was too close to the door, too much noise of people being buzzed in and the door slamming. No way, it would drive me nuts. The one at the back had a very weird layout, with a bedroom-like room between the living room and the bedroom, if that makes sense. But it wasn't possible to see the sky from any of the windows, because of all the other nearby buildings.
Then we looked at a two bedroom one on the second floor, and it was better. It was right over the entrance, though, so had some of the same problems with the door buzzer and slamming. Then we looked at one on the 4th floor, which had the same weird layout as the one at the back of the 1st floor, and from which the sky was visible. But again, no elevator and it was a tiring walk up.
From there we hopped on the subway to the South Park Slope neighborhood near his office. His office entrance was like a night club or Italian restaurant, with a narrow hallway and bricks lining it.
He got a key for another one not far, for which the only thing he knew was "it's carpeted," and we walked and walked and walked, all up hill till the road ended at a cemetery, and on the last block there was an old fellow doing some kind of yard work at the entrance. He asked where the broker was, and Brian told him he worked with the regular one the owner used and was showing it, and showed him we had the key.
This was a two bedroom apartment in what seemed like a house. As soon as we he opened the door we got a little dizzy. The floor was tilted at a nearly impossible angle, and dipped a little with almost every step we took in the apartment. Whenever we opened doors they were difficult to close because they didn't fit right in the frames. It was dusty all over, the carpet (yes, it was carpeted) was dark, dingy and stained. This was a definite rejection...
We thanked the old guy outside and walked back to his office, thinking of all the funny selling points someone could use for that apartment... Well, cleaning up spills could be more convenient because the water would simply run down instead of spreading all over... That sort of stuff...
By this time I'd decided on the second one, the ground floor one with the nice tiling in the entrance. Of all the ones I saw, it had the fewest negatives. Others were nicer, but no way could I see Leena or my parents happy walking up four flights of stairs, and others on the lower floors had no views at all, and wouldn't get much sunlight. It's not perfect, but it's not bad, I'll just get some drapes or blinds for the windows on the side that have an ugly view.
Brian started my application process, and then had another woman there, Charlotte take over. She walked me through all the paperwork. I put down a $1,550 deposit, which they said would make the landlord less likely to reject my application due to the oddities (no recent rental history, salary slips in rupees instead of dollars, etc...). It's refundable if the landlord does reject the application and I'll get it all back. She was pretty sure it would be acceptable, that showing three salary slips shows that I'm reliable and can keep a regular job, and the ING Vysya bank statements show us paying our bills on a regular basis, the things a landlord really wants to see, while the Kashrus employment letter shows that my new salary is in the range.
I'll follow up tomorrow and see how it goes.
This one is two train rides from the office, or a good hour walk, through safe neighborhoods. I liked the look and feel of the neighborhood, it felt safer than some of the others.
So, we'll see...
After I left their office Brian was outside for a smoke break, so we chatted for a bit. He said that the building I did pick one in has no laundry facilities, but there's laundromats nearby and dry cleaners. He said he uses a dry cleaner all the time and it only comes out to around $10-15 a week, and he wears mostly suits to work, plus they come back pressed and folded like at a clothing store.
Now I'm quite tired.
On the way back from Brian's office I got on another wrong train once. Only to get off and go across the street to the one going other direction and realize the first one was the right train. After that it went okay, and the walk from the train station down Utica Avenue was pleasant with the sun having set and a cool breeze blowing.
Some of this neighborhood is interesting. Lots of West Indian restaurants with things like "Beef Roti" on their menus. At a few of them there were cooks with 50 gallon drums converted into barbecues out on the sidewalks cooking meat, with flavorful smoke wafting all over the place. A few of those had stereos in front of their restaurants playing reggae music as well.