My fixation with NYC real estate started right around the time I moved here, jobless and unprepared, at the tender age of 22. A generous friend offered to let me crash at her Sunset Park railroad apartment, so long as I contributed to the cable and electricity bills. I was thrilled, even if my room was a closet where my friend was storing a broken futon. (It had a window! I still got laid! Concrete jungle where dreams are made of!) A few months later I moved to the first apartment I saw, which my mother has since visited and deemed “oh my god, it’s falling apart” and “can you please move somewhere nice?”
I love it for its charms: It’s obscenely affordable, proximate to all the bougie Park Slope shit that I enjoy more than I care to admit, and my elderly super lives in the basement. Whenever he comes over to fix something, he sports a hat that says “FBI Jesus”—“Firm Believer in Jesus,” and not, as I previously thought, “Federal Booty Inspector, Jesus.” He inevitably overstays his welcome telling me all about YouTube documentaries that claim God was planning Hurricane Sandy for three years. I tell him that if God was planning something, it probably wouldn’t take him three years. It’s like Tuesdays with Morrie without the inspirational stuff.
Like most others, my real estate experience has entirely been based on affordability, with little room for pickiness; because of this, I read “The Hunt” column in The New York Times each week with relish and fascination. The subjects are in the enviable position of having a multitude of options and no real problems. Plot twist: They think they’re burdened by ALL THE PROBLEMS as they embark on an obnoxious Goldilocks-esque quest for the perfect apartment, typically financed by their parents and with a starting budget of $3,000 per month.
While we only tend to read about Wealthy Douchebags in The Hunt, this week’s installment brought us three young graduates looking to squeeze into a 2-bedroom apartment in order to save money. The title, “The Après-Graduation Apartment,” made post-college life sound like a delightful post-skiing soiree, and not an existential hellhole fueled by cheap wine and student loans. Still, it was refreshing to find three young, seemingly practical people being profiled for a change. Maybe this Hunt column wouldn’t be a hate-read after all.
They weren’t sure where to hunt. “The only places I’d heard of were the East Village and the Upper East Side,” said [one roommate], who works at a metal trading company.
Instead of combing Craigslist for options, the girls make the #1 rookie mistake of apartment hunting and hire a broker. Rather than succumb to that money pit, they should’ve done what every reasonable college grad on a budget does: Spend hours on Craigslist and pray that whichever apartment you're about to go see isn't owned by someone who’s going to lock you in a sex dungeon. According to their broker:
Their monthly budget was $3,000 to $3,600, which was “ridiculously low” for a three-bedroom in a hot neighborhood...
What she didn’t tell them is that it’s absolutely idiotic to spend $1,200 each for an apartment in which they wouldn’t even all have a bedroom. Or that places like Brooklyn and Queens exist, where they wouldn’t have to do that.
If the bedrooms were of unequal sizes, [one roommate] who works at a home décor wholesaler, wanted the biggest bedroom so she could fit in her bed, which had a sleigh frame.
“I call it my Christmas bed,” she said.
“I call it my Christmas bed” is code for “Run away now, potential roommate. Run far, far away, because I scream at my mom on the phone three times a week and insist on always keeping a bottle of Barefoot Pink Moscato in the fridge.”
They experienced the typical pitfalls of apartment hunting—one place had a too-small bathroom, another slipped through their fingers right after they applied. Finally, they settle on a place for $2,800 (plus an additional $4,000 to Gina, the broker).
The two bedroom spaces, mirror images, had no windows. Or closets. Or doors, though they did have doorways.
One of the roommates currently sleeps in the living room, and the other two only have curtains as doors, meaning that every time one of them watches a Grey's Anatomy rerun or listens to Michael Bublé, the whole apartment is in on it.
But they get along well and try to work around one another’s schedules. Privacy isn’t a problem. “I don’t have too much to hide."
This sweet rapport will undoubtedly suffer, as the roommates tire of being within five feet of each other at all times. Their patience will wear thin as they realize they can't have sex in apartment without it being performative, or talk shit about the sleigh bed princess when she accuses the others of drinking her Moscato. I give it three weeks.
Ms. Bonner encouraged them to take it, saying that, with the low rent, “you are going to have money to spend to experience the city.”
Gabriella Paiella is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her stream of consciousness can be found here.