A while ago I wrote a quick blog about the fact that I hadn’t had time to blog because I had thrown myself face-first into apartment hunting, so the blog was just about the shitty experiences we’d had so far on craigslist and looking at apartments and so on and so forth. It was more of a blog for my friends who wondered where I’d been, but amazingly, it’s one of the most viewed and most commented-on blogs that I’ve ever written. Wary craigslisters everywhere have been googling names and/or phone numbers of odd-sounding deals for apartments and discovering that they are scam city, and I think that is awesome. Quite a few of the commenters have asked how on earth you do find a good apartment in Brooklyn, and even though this is not something I am an expert in, I thought I’d tell you some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
We did find an apartment, by the way, in East Williamsburg/Bushwick, and we love it.
For our first apartment in NYC, moving here from Chicago, we just came up one weekend, got a broker, and the broker found us an apartment and took care of everything. We had little to do with it, other than looking at it and going “ok, this is cool”. If you’re coming in from out of town and can afford it, brokers are the way to go. That’s ONLY if you’re living elsewhere. If you live in New York, using a broker is sacrilege. It’s simply too wasteful and too iffy to trust douchebag brokers with your money and your home.
So here’s what we did. (This is mainly going to be Brooklyn-centric, btw.)
1. Get a general sense of where you want to move. Think about places where your friends live, think about where you go most of the time, think about the trains you take for work and for play, and from that, come up with a few neighborhoods.
2. Research those neighborhoods you chose. Print out maps of the areas, figure out exactly where the trains are, and look at the police blotters for those areas. Embarrassingly, wikipedia is very helpful in just getting the lowdown on any Brooklyn nabe.
3. Figure out the max amount you’re willing to pay for rent. You should always know this number, and have it tattooed on your forehead, backwards. Be realistic. EVERYONE wants to live in Williamsburg or Park Slope, but few people can afford it. If your max rent is $1600 or less, you will not find an apartment in either of those areas. Readjust.
4. Reality check- you may not be able to afford Williamsburg right off the Bedford stop, but the L has a plentiful amount of stops, and Williamsburg is expanding at a terrifying rate. Be willing to be a little flexible and be close to exactly where you want to be if you can’t be where you want to be. Train stops are always a good place to start looking.
5. Go to the areas you are thinking of looking in at night. I can’t stress that enough. Places look very different by the light of day sometimes. Make sure it’s a place that you would feel ok about walking around in. Look for places that are open 24 hours, baby boutiques, pet stores- all these extraneous things imply extraneous money and safety.
6. Decide on a list of absolute essentials that your apartment must have. How many bedrooms? Any amenities? Closet space? After this, make a list of things you would like but are willing to bend on.
7. Look at craigslist every single day. Go through all the ads that come out each day, or if you like, search for the neighborhoods that you’ve picked out or the train stops that you’ve picked out. Email or call every ad that you like and go and see as many apartments as you can. This will give you a sense of how apartments are in the areas you’re interested in.
8. Trust your judgment and don’t panic. If a place seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t pay money before seeing any apartment, and be wary of apartments that list as amenities things that they legally have to include (heat, stove, floor). If the person showing you the apartment doesn’t have answers or doesn’t seem to care about your questions, don’t take it. A lot of apartments don’t become available until the last minute, so don’t feel like you have to nail down a place super early. You usually won’t be able to.
Hrrrm, I think that’s about it. Going to the nabes you’re interested in and looking around is really the best advice I can give you. Good luck and live well.