Saturday, March 5, 2011

Park Slope, Here I Come - 2011 Apartment Hunt

Okay, it worked out today...  And I don't have the nagging feeling at the back of my head, "uh oh, I may have made a mistake," that I had when I last got an apartment in September.

Late in the morning I got an email from the broker from Rapid Realty, Jason, asking for my phone number.  I emailed it to him, but he didn't call right away.  After a while I got antsy and impatient sitting in the apartment, so I called him up and he asked me some questions about what I was interested in and then we arranged to meet at Rapid's 4th Avenue & 21st Street office at 2pm.

I ate a quick bowl of soup and then got dressed and headed out.  I got to his office around 1:50pm or so and the receptionist told him I was there.  He was still organizing things and getting some keys ready to go out.

Once he had all that he said a new broker, Rico, was going to shadow us to learn the ropes.  Rico ended up having a car, so we drove everywhere instead of walking or taking the train.

The first apartment we looked at was right on the same block as his office, on the corner of 4th Avenue and 21st Street.  It was four or five (I lost count, I was out of breath) floors up, without an elevator, and it wasn't a really nice building.  In the apartment the living room and kitchen combination was tiny.  It had two bedrooms, both fairly big, and a huge bathroom with a fabulously huge window looking out over Brooklyn, and it would be easy to imagine showering in there at night with the lights off and looking at the city, without the city looking back...  One downside was the kitchen was tiny and had almost zero counter space or cabinets.

He said he wasn't sure I would like it, but it was close to their office and he said getting a client into an apartment and asking what they do or don't like about it is an important first step, often more valuable than talking on the phone.

Rejecting that one, for several of those reasons we then hopped into the Rico's car and went a few blocks up to another apartment building on 17th Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues.  Rico has kids so he had a child lock on the door, so when we parked I couldn't get out.  Jason was walking away, not knowing the door couldn't be opened from the inside and gesturing to me to come out, while I shrugged and made a face because I couldn't...  Then Rico apologized and opened the door from outside...

This building looked like it had been grand and luxurious at one time, once very wealthy accommodation, but was fairly decrepit now.  Lots of old carvings in the stone of the building, but long faded and dulled, some cracked off.  Jason was on the phone and using the intercom to try and get us into the building, but no one answered the intercom to buzz us in.  He kept trying and trying until some people were just coming out and let us in.  The lobby was like the outside, really fancy, with grand tiles and details on the moldings and ceiling, but worn out, broken, dirty and obviously not maintained.

We were stuck in the lobby, as we couldn't get in the next door to the hallway and elevator without someone buzzing us through.  Again, we got lucky and some people going out, actually another broker and client, let us in.  Jason asked "where's the elevator?" and they said there isn't one.  He said he was told there was...  He asked me if I wanted to walk up five flights of stairs to see it, and I said forget about it, not another long stair case, not that far up.

Back at the street he asked me a few more questions about what I was looking for, whether I wanted to look at more of the apartments in that part of the neighborhood or what.  I said I wanted to be on lower numbered streets, closer to the top of Park Slope, in a somewhat better building than he'd shown me, and he asked if I was flexible in my budget because that would cost more.  I said I could go another $100 or even $200 a month for something better.

So, we went back to the office for him to do a bit more research on the computer.  I sat in a room by myself he while he did a computer search out in the main area.  After a few minutes he came in and said he wasn't having much luck, as most things that I was really looking for were all not available at the time, with notes in the computer listings like "don't show till May" and stuff...  He said he'd check a bit more and then let me know if there were any options or if it would be a bust.

He came back again and said he found one that wasn't yet listed in the computer on 8th Street, between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue.  That sounded promising, that's in the heart of Park Slope, a great location.  So we hopped in the car and Rico got lost, he mixed up the Avenues and Streets, but then Jason corrected him and we found it.

It turned out to be the least attractive building on the block, the only one that's not a classic brownstone, but an apartment building with hardly any character on the outside...  At first I thought "ug, oh no..."

We went into the first part of the lobby, and Jason kept trying to buzz people on the intercom to let us in.  Inside the locked door it looked somewhat fancy, modern and rich, so that was more promising than the outside.  Jason was talking to the building superintendent on the phone who was telling him to try buzzing one apartment after another on the intercom, 2C, 3C, 3D, 2D, 4C, 4B and so forth, but only one person even answered their intercom and didn't stay on the line to talk to us...

Eventually some people were leaving, yet another broker and client, in fact, and we went through the door as they left.  The elevator was pretty fancy for an apartment building, with doors on both sides of it, quite high tech, and that took us up to the 2nd floor.  Stepping out of the elevator was like being in the hallway of a nice hotel.  Of course, once away from the elevator, the hallway was a bit shabby...

The apartment itself was nice, though.  It's big.  One bedroom and a large, large living room and dining area.  The dining area has mirrors on the walls which make the room seem a lot bigger than it really was, and helped reflect light from the windows so it was quite bright in there, despite being cloudy outside.

The bedroom was big, the bathroom was good sized.  The kitchen had a lot of cupboards, with shelves low enough for me to easily reach them, and a lot of counter space.  It even has a dishwasher (but since I prefer to hand wash dishes, it's still useful as a drying rack without taking up counter space on a drain board).  There were a couple of closets in the apartment, including one with a hookup for a washer and dryer, which aren't included, but can be purchased.

So, I said I'd take this one.  And it's still a couple of hundred bucks a month lower than my initial maximum budget...

We then drove up to one of their farther offices in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where they have a debit card machine and I filled out some applications.  I paid a month's rent to reserve it for now.  I have to supply some financial paperwork, bank statements and salary slips, and then if my credit check passes we'll arrange a time over the next two weeks to actually meet with the landlord and sign the lease and I'll pay the rest at that time.

After wrapping up at their distant office, in a part of town I hadn't been, Rico gave me a lift back to a more familiar neighborhood.  We had an interesting chat in the car.  He works half the year doing movie making stuff, but now that he has two kids wants to do the real estate brokerage work to earn money the other half of the year.  He asked me a bit about India and said that his 6 year old daughter picked India as a place to visit, and he told her if she could find it on a map of the whole world, then he would save money to take her there, and she instantly pointed right to it, so now he's saving money to go there.

After he dropped me off I walked around a bit in Park Slope, then at 9th Street I took the subway home.

So, that's that...  It's a great location, just a block and a half walk from cool restaurants and shops on 7th Avenue and a good neighborhood.  It's not on the "fringe" but right in the heart of it.  Close to two subway stations a couple of blocks either direction.  A big park, Prospect Park, is also nearby.

Here's a link to it on Google Maps.

7th Avenue, to the right of it is the key restaurant and shopping street, with 5th Avenue and 4th Avenues to the left of it being a bit less classy shopping and restaurants, but probably lots of useful things, including 24 hour small food shops and take-away delicatessens.

For me it's probably about an hour walk to the office, though that could be reduced if I learn my way through the park.

Rico and Jason

Jason in the doorway

There's Rico on the left

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