living room and kitchen of apartment

Moving in: my apartment

It seems a recurring theme – to start a post with an excuse about how busy it is that I haven’t had time to update this blog in a while. Truly though, this is not a meek pathetic clamour for an excuse to avoid updating the blog, I’m surprised myself at how busy my weeks have become. Still I will make an endeavour to update this again within the next week.

One of the biggest events to date in my time here has been finding the apartment in which I am writing this. True to that, this post will focus on apartment hunting in New York.

I feel I had already made my mind up before I moved to New York that I wanted to live in Manhattan, if only so I could walk to work – a benefit I only succeeded in accomplishing in the last 6 months of my time in London. On my first visit to New York I ended the trip in Alphabet City, an area which had been compared to Angel, my positive experience with both areas had made this the focus of my attention in house hunting. My primary searching was done via Naked Apartments, a really great website for finding accommodation in New York. Similar to rightmove in the UK, you can message brokers (UK, read letting agents) or set up a profile and receive messages from landlords and brokers.

I had already been warned that without a credit history or guarantor in the States I should be prepared to pay a couple of months or so up front. When taking into account an additional deposit and  brokers fee, (a  particular ‘feature’ of New York renting),  I estimated I would be eating Annie’s Mac and Cheese for the foreseeable future!

I was also prepared for a long and tiresome search, akin to how I found  finding apartments in London. One difference this time was that I didn’t want to share, I wanted my own apartment. I wasn’t sure whether this would make things harder (more expensive, more work for yourself) or easier (only one person to please and organize viewing time with!).

The first two apartments I saw were both in Alphabet City and with the same broker. I had initially expected to only see 1 but then he managed to get a key for the second apartment. The first apartment was I believe 2 flights of stairs up and a studio, although the kitchen was slightly separated. It didn’t really blow my mind, it felt small and a little too far east. The second apartment, actually just next door to the first, was supposed to be ‘better’. In fact it was bigger but it was 4 flight of stairs up and the increased size was almost entirely in the kitchen. The size difference between the main room and the kitchen area was absurd. I must caveat I have nothing against large kitchens but when it is 2x the size of the rest of the apartment I feel the priorities are somewhat skewed.  This is especially pertinent when the overall size of the apartment is just about big enough for a small family of hamsters.

Still, this was New York I didn’t want to rule it out given they were the first 2 apartments I saw. My train of thought was perhaps this is what I have to accept to live in Manhatttan, I have to become a ‘just add water Mac’n’Cheese eating hamster’. That was my train of thought before the broker explained the situation of not having a credit history. 6 months in advance, brokers fee and deposit.  I wanted to ask whether an IOU would be an acceptable form of currency, or whether I could convince him that 1m Vietnamese Dong was in fact a really good deal and that I could get him that money very quickly. In the end neither of us were convinced that we could strike a deal whereby one of us wasn’t having to live off Annie’s mac for the next 6 months.

Undeterred, or perhaps simply motivated by the desire to return someday to the “best Bagel shop in New York and possibly the world” I mass messaged a bunch of brokers (what’s the collective term for brokers? Aside from the obvious). I almost instantly received a phone-call off one broker who explained that the apartment I had enquired about was not available until November and that November was probably too late for my needs. This was quite a monumental moment, I was actually in 100% agreement with a broker! She explained however that there was another apartment she could probably show me that night and although it was over budget she believed she could knock the landlord down.

The apartment turned out to be 10 minute walk from work, only 1 flight of stairs up and large enough to swing a manx cat. The only downsides were the kitchen (best summarised as ‘Oh! right! that’s the kitchen? I didn’t see it at first’) and the price. It was over-budget. The broker was extremely nice and had managed to get $100 off the rent p/m, she was also confident that  the landlord would only need 1 month deposit. She explained I was the first person to see it and although she had an open house the next day if I wanted it she would give me priority. We agreed (I know, again!) that I could think about it over night. I spent that evening doing multiple currency conversions taking into account all the variables in living costs and thinking about how many days a week I would actually be comfortable eating Annie’s Mac’n’Cheese.

In the end I reached the conclusion that I was being a little harsh in my original budget estimations and that if I were sensible I could probably afford to buy a bottle of brown sauce to have with the Mac’n’Cheese.

At this point I have to heap praise on my broker and say she was an incredible help. Natwest, my UK bank however, were not. The relatively simple process of transferring money to my US account, or simply paying for something with my debit card was screwed up at every stage of the process in which I attempted to pay my deposit. In the end I was about a week late paying my deposit and have my broker to thank for her continual management of the landlord

When I finally had everything sorted out it was a massive relief , although when it came to contract signing as some of you will know I realized my landlord was an ‘interesting’ character!