I have been living in New York for going on 4 years now, and for each apartment that I have lived in here, I either found the place on Craigslist or through a word of mouth recommendation. Last year I moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan, found that I didn’t really like it all that much, and decided to move to Astoria this summer after I finished taking the LSAT in June. Speaking of that pesky LSAT, scores should be coming out in the next few days or so, but as you’ll see in this post, I haven’t had all that much time to worry about it.
There are some areas of New York where brokers have a monopoly on all of the good apartment listings. For example, when M and I moved in together in “Manhattan Valley” (yuppie speak for the neighborhood between the upper west side and Morningside Heights), we had a broker but the economy and housing market was in such dire straights that the management company for the building paid his fee. For those who are uninitiated to apartment searching in NYC, a broker’s fee is generally equal to one month’s rent. Add on the fact that you always pay one month’s security and the first month’s rent at signing, and you’re expected to shell out at least several thousand dollars on the spot. A lot of people try to find an apartment on their own so that they don’t have to shell out that extra thousand or so, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.
Unfortunately for me, it seems to be my turn in the vicious broker cycle. The housing market in NYC is much better than it was in 2009 when M and I moved in together, and it’s prime-time real estate season, so I’ve had to try my luck with brokers because Astoria’s market is simply dominated by them. First I tried this guy, who after telling me he could work with me even though I couldn’t pay his full fee up-front (I was honest about it because it was true) but was willing to sign a contract stipulating I would at the end of the first month after I moved in and scheduling an appointment for the next day, he wouldn’t return my calls nor my emails asking where and what time to meet. Finally on the day of our appointment, I emailed him after I was done at the office stating I was going home because I hadn’t heard from him and I’d be available the next day; to which he responded almost immediately saying “okay great, tomorrow’s good!” So the next day rolls around, I contact him again after waiting several hours for him to contact me to ask him what time and, you guessed it, nothing. Lovely. Good business model.
Enter the next broker who I contacted after seeing a $900 studio on Craigslist. It should have tipped me off that her fee was less than one month’s rent ($750), but my attitude at this point was “what could it hurt?” going to see the place. So, I went out to Astoria at the appointment time of 8:00 p.m. and found that not only was she trying to show it to 4 different people at once (myself and 3 others), she also couldn’t show it to us at all because the owner was in Brooklyn at the time. She asked if we could reschedule for the next day at noon, and of course, I was working at that time. I think this was also the point where she told us “oh sorry, the owner also gave the tenant another month, so this is actually not available until August 1st now.” Well thank you for the heads up on, oh, all of these developments. The next day rolls around and she texts me saying she has some “options” for studios to show me if I was interested, and I said okay. We made an appointment for the next day, and I was to meet her at a Starbucks by the train. Fast forward to that meeting time at the Starbucks, and…she’s not there. Instead, she’s at the old $900 studio and tells me she can show it to me now. Okay fine, I replied, but you’re going to have to wait there because I’m at the Starbucks you told me to meet you at, which is a 10 minute walk away from that apartment. No problem she says, so I walk over. Guess what is waiting for me there? A very small, basement studio apartment, with zero counter space in the “kitchen” area. Yes, it’s a steal at $900 with Astoria Park, the trains, and plenty of restaurants/bars around the area, but a tiny, humid, underground space? Eh, no thanks. I actually struggled with this decision a bit because it was $900 with all utilities plus laundry included, which is unheard of in NYC, but I ultimately turned it down.
Oh, and I haven’t heard from this broker since. Luckily for me, we are currently in a house/cat-sitting arrangement that could possibly be extended through the end of the summer, so I am no longer on a July 1st deadline. I still have to get myself out of the old place next week, but with some storage options available as well as place to stay for now (rent free, which helps with that whole broker’s fee thing, so bonus!), I can put plan B into action, which is a July 15th or (more probable) August 1st move-in date. I’m currently registered with this agency who echoed what this guy also told me about finding a good studio, which is to get on it near the end of this month and beginning of next month for an August move-in because that’s when they come up and they go very quickly. They both seem to have a good reputation in the area, so I’m going to try my luck with them now. I liked the woman I spoke to from Avanguard who was very nice and the fact that two reputable agencies said the exact same thing about the best way to attack this gives me some confidence that they know what they’re doing.
However, I will say that all of this nonsense with a few of the brokers who comprise the 95% portion of asshat brokers in NYC did a wonderful job of distracting me from the fact that I don’t have my LSAT score back yet. So there’s that.