Wednesday, January 14, 2009

But what about my Manolos?

The dream: finding a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in an elevator building with a doorman in the West Village for under $2,000 a month.

The reality: never going to happen.

Let's face it, we all want the Sex and the City apartment. We want the brown-stone stoop à la Carrie Bradshaw and Holly Golightly, the Magnolia cupcakes around the corner, the cobble stone streets and 'the closet'. But consider this. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in the West Village is more than $3,000, a studio is just over $2,200, and the average rent for a one-bedroom in a doorman building anywhere in Manhattan is close to $3,500.

So, we started looking in Williamsburg. We checked our expectations at the door, grudgingly decided to raise our price limit, and looked for places with a roommate, and no closet.

We quickly learnt that renting in New York is not like renting anywhere else.

It's not uncommon in New York, for example, to have a convertible one-bedroom - which is not a one-bedroom at all but a studio that has a wall/curtain put up to create a bedroom. It is also quite normal to walk through someone else's bedroom to get to your bedroom or the bathroom. This is called a railroad style apartment. We learnt to avoid those.

New York landlords don't help matters much; they turn the most sanguine first-time renter’s outlook grim. It seems landlords only want tenants who earn at least 35 times the monthly rent, which means a $70,000 annual salary for a $2,000 per month apartment. According to census data, graduates aged 22 to 28 living in New York have a median salary of $35,600.

On top of this, landlords frequently ask for a security deposit in addition to first and last month’s rent. At this point Bruce and I were starting to realise that the elusive $2,000 one-bedroom apartment can be found, but only in Harlem.

Competition for a desirable apartment is nothing less than intense, and after weeks and weeks of craigslist searching, seeing apartments with mouse droppings on kitchen counters and cockroaches running along ceilings, dodgy neighborhoods and some pretty weird flat mates, we finally found our Lower East Side humble abode. Tucked away next to a cupcake bakery, one of Manhattan's best bars Chloe 81, and lots of vintage boutiques, I am finally one happy camper.

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