In most cities I've lived in, apartment hunting isn't all that difficult. You sign on to craiglist or some other rental place and start calling or emailing. In bigger cities, they run a credit check on you and ask you for first months rent and a security deposit. Sometimes there is a small fee to apply to rent an apartment. In smaller cities, there is usually an interview with the landlord and more likely reference checks with past landlords.
I've rented in:
Brooklyn is tougher than all of them. First, craigslist has so many apartments that you can't sort through them. Once you do take the time to go through with them, many of them end up being scams. You end up going to a realtor instead which means paying one month's rent in fees. Now in places where one month's rent is $500 or $600, that makes sense. $1900? On top of coming up with not only first months rent and a security deposit, but also last months rent? That means that you need $7700 to rent an apartment. I don't know about you, but I think it is the rare person who is looking for a rental property that has an extra $7700 in their bank accounts.
Me, for example. I have a savings account. It doesn't have that much in it. Besides, I have to get my security deposit back from my current apartment. That's $1800.
Fortunately, I've now been here for a year. David and I are moving in together at the end of the month. We've been looking for two bedroom places for under $2200/month. I thought that was reasonable, but every realtor that I spoke with told me I was crazy. I was determined to find place.
What we wanted:
a.) An apartment in Brooklyn for under $2200/month
b.) Some type of outdoor space whether shared or private
c.) Two bedrooms, so we can have guests or use airbnb to make some extra money
d.) Location within 45 minutes of both of our jobs.
e.) Less than an hour commute via subway to Times Square (so if we want to see a show on a week night it doesn't spoil the next day).
f.) Someplace safe for both of us.
Thanks to a bunch of Facebook's creepy big brother stalking, it somehow knew I was looking for an apartment. It kept advertising renthop.com
I started looking three months ago. Every time I spoke to anyone, they said I had to wait until mid-February to sign a lease for an apartment for March 1. I've not had that experience anywhere else either. Most places know when their tenants are moving out, plan 1-2 days to clean the place (if they plan to clean it at all) and then give you a move in date.
Well, this weekend David and I had some success. I spent a few hours bookmarking apartments on renthop.com that we could afford. Most of them were a little bit further than we wanted to be from either work or Times Square and were in poorer, more diverse neighborhoods with mostly fast food and bodegas as sources of going out to eat. Friday afternoon, on the off chance that something new was posted, I tried expanding my search. I found a few apartments in my price range in a neighborhood I'd never heard of. Given my relative newness to Brooklyn, this isn't a shock.
I found a place that is a bit older that what I'm in now. It's in an old elevator building in Windsor Terrace. Windsor Terrace is a neighborhood on the south side of Prospect Park. It's as close to work as I live now. It's a bit further for David's commute. The apartment has one small and one large bedroom (they call it a junior two bedroom). It's got shared outdoor space off of our living room (a rooftop deck). We have a separate kitchen and a large living room. There is laundry in the building. The rent includes heat, hot water, and gas. We just have to pay electric and internet.
The best parts:
a.) only 45 minutes by train to Times Square and the train is only two blocks away instead of a half mile
b.) Great pub, diner, coffee, shop, and some sit down restaurants right on the same block.
c.) Prospect Park is less than 10 minutes away on foot, so we can bike, run, and spend time there.
d.) It's just five minutes from a major expressway so getting there won't be bad.
e.) The realtor's fee is paid for by the leasing company
f.) They only wanted security and one month's rent plus a small application fee
g.) They mistakenly posted the rent for a two bedroom, so the rent is $120 cheaper/month
h.) They want us to move in a week before my current lease ends (it will cost me an extra month's rent, but I'm ok with that).
This is a huge relief. We are in a better neighborhood than either of us live in now. We are well within our price range and paying just a little more than I paid monthly to live alone. We have more space. David and I both had prayed about this and feel like those prayers were answered. Now I pray that the move costs less than I expect and that it all goes smoothly.