It's a tough real estate market out there in New York. It’s a series of tough decisions, difficult choices and commitment. It’s a web of Craigslist ads, Gypsy Housing and friend-of-a-friend recommendations.
I’m back in that world right now, and in just a few short months I had forgotten what a trek it can be.
For the newcomer to New York, there is no warning about how tough it is to find an apartment. My introductory rigmarole started with about 9,000 apartment viewings, some with Hasidic Jews who were practically forbidden from looking at women which made the entire experience completely bizarre. In fact, four female friends of mine rented a place in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn from a family of Hasidics and had to invite one of our male friends over just so the deal could be sealed with members of both sides actually making eye contact.
I eventually found somewhere within budget and within transit limitations that had been completely stripped bare. No paint, no carpets, no furniture.
But the landlord assured me it would be livable in three weeks so I signed the dotted line, mailed my aunt in California to sign on as a guarantor – a title that was not in my rental vocabulary until that point in time – got my roommate to hand over a double-deposit to compensate for her lack of a guarantor and hauled myself to IKEA.
I had moved to New York with all of my savings, hoping they would get me through two or three months. Within four weeks it was all gone, primarily on securing and furnishing an abode. And yet, I was assured that this was normal.
So why hadn’t anyone warned me? It’s now the FIRST thing that I tell people before they move over here.
Back then, I was moving in with one of my best friends who I had already lived with for two years. We knew each other inside out and it was the least stressful experience of all time.
However, since coming back to New York earlier this year, I’ve been thrown into the dark and scary territory that is sub-letting.
Initially unsure of how long I would be staying in the city this time around, I was reluctant to sign onto a 12 month lease and sub-letting seemed the best way to go. This time around, I was lucky. Incredibly lucky.
I found the perfect place, the perfect timeline, perfect budget and perfect roommates. I’m already devastated to be leaving them and their beautiful apartment on June 1. But I haven’t always been that lucky.
Nearly four years ago in Dublin I rented a small but superb apartment in Temple Bar. I was just out of college and had grown accustomed to living in Trinity College so was entirely unwilling to live any further out of the city than absolutely necessary.
I found this place with my most amazing friend who would turn off all the lights, push back the furniture and demand that we dance to Madonna’s greatest hits in the dark. And then after just four months he abandoned me to go on a whirlwind African adventure. I had to find a sub-letter.
Like an idiot, I took the friend-of-a-friend recommendation. He drank red wine and loved to read. It looked like a match made in heaven and I couldn’t wait to meet him but oh, how descriptions can be deceiving.
Within 24 hours he had removed 90 percent of the furnishings from his bedroom, including the curtains and bedclothes. All that remained was a salt crystal lamp. It was like a scene from Criminal Minds -- an easy post-homicide clean up.
I came home from work on day two to a mind-bending smell of bleach. Staggering into the living room, I found him scrubbing the walls with a bucket of watered down bleach. I stared in awe as he cheerily remarked, “Don’t worry, this is just me!” Oh, how I worried.
His habits baffled and disturbed me. He was up at 6 a.m. reading The Economist and The Financial Times while listening to political radio before going for a run and making an intensely milky banana milkshake.
I would find him in the evenings smoking a cigar. He rarely wore more than boxer shorts. He often stretched in the kitchen and would hug me while I brushed my teeth.
It all came to a head when one day he sat me down in our living room and lectured me about why I only had an undergraduate degree and that by waitressing I was wasting my life. It wasn’t long afterwards that he decided to move out.
Another friend came to the rescue as my second sub-letter on that lease, and he was full of spontaneous surprises like Art Day and cooking for me when I forgot to feed myself and helping me to bury my hamster when he died because I forgot to feed him too. I needed a friend who would take care of me, not bleach my walls and criticize my life choices.
I was 22. My needs, thankfully, have since changed.
Needless to say, I was somewhat apprehensive throwing myself into the subletting pool over here. I am going to view some places this week and have carefully combed through Craigslist’s finest making sure to only respond to ads with photos, correct spelling, full addresses and absolute no use of CAPS or excessive exclamation points!!!!
You learn things pretty quickly. Anyone who says they’re not anal about cleaning is definitely anal about cleaning.
Anyone whose pet cat is “very friendly” will actually try and scratch your eyes out as you sleep. Anything “snug,” “cozy” or “full of character” is miniscule and probably lacking fresh oxygen.
My application letters have been carefully constructed to portray enough of my personality to let people know that I’m not a sociopath or a wall-bleacher, but not giving too much away so that they can’t tell straight away how much talking, late-night snacking and showering I’ll be doing. A girl’s got to put her best foot forward.
I hope none of my prospective roomies are reading this right now. Wish me luck.