My first foray into the world of New York City apartment hunting/living was an adventure, to say the least. I was lucky, in that I’d already lived in apartment-style dorms throughout the city during my college years at NYU. As such, I knew what I liked and disliked about apartment living, which made my search a bit narrower than a city newbie (narrower = easier…well, sometimes). My sole demand of my soon-to-be-first-new-place? After living in apartments with 2-4 other people for years, I wanted my own space – and a LOT of it.
The other thing I knew was that my budget was low by city standards. (If you don’t live in or around Manhattan, cover your ears for this part. A low budget in this town is a fortune everywhere else.) My starting salary at my new job seemed completely amazing since I was fresh out of college…until I worked out my monthly budget and saw that even a $1200 rent would be tight with a capital T. Now, this was in the days when the rental market was really strong (You think apartments are expensive now? Oh no, my friend). So $1200 a month for a non-shoebox-studio meant moving to an outer borough or wayyyyy uptown.
Narrowing down the neighborhood/borough options: riding a ferry every day was NOT happening, so Staten Island was out. I knew absolutely nothing about the Bronx, and it was the furthest away from my previously downtown Manhattan life. So I nixed it, too. And between Brooklyn and Queens, I knew Brooklyn much better.
Come on, Brooklyn! Choosing a neighborhood was narrowed down pretty quickly for me. I saw a couple of apartments in downtown Brooklyn (the neighborhoods I liked were: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn Heights, Downtown, Boerum Hill, and Cobble Hill), which were small and expensive. On the other hand, I wasn’t willing to travel as far as Bushwick, Crown Heights, or Prospect Heights, even though the homes there would be cheaper and space-y. One thing I did know was that I loved Park Slope. A few of my close friends lived there, and I thought if I got lucky I might be able to find something I could afford. After only a couple of searches on Craigslist, I found a listing for a 1BR in Park Slope and went to see it that same day. (If you don’t know the neighborhoods I’m mentioning, don’t worry. I’ll do some neighborhood overview posts here at Happy City Living, to give you a snapshot of different areas.)
Here is the real estate catch, my friends: not all streets in a given neighborhood are created equal. Furthermore, real estate agents love to stretch the boundaries of desirable neighborhoods to include areas where their listings are located. You will most commonly find this in Clinton Hill/Bed Stuy, a pair of abutting neighborhoods in Brooklyn. There are about 1 million apartment listings that are labeled Clinton Hill, even though they are well within the bounds of Bed Stuy. Simply put, Clinton Hill is currently considered a very desirable neighborhood. Bed Stuy is adjacent to CH, but it is quite different in terms of vibe and feel. It is certainly up and coming by real estate standards, but not all of its streets have “arrived” yet. If you feel comfortable in the neighborhood, great! If not, you’re right to think it’s quite different from CH.
TIP!: Always take a trip to see your prospective new apartment at night. You will have to walk home alone in the dark at some point, and you absolutely need to feel safe!
But back to my search. As you may have guessed from my “not all streets in a given neighborhood are created equal” warning, the agent I met with showed me an apartment that was NOT in the Park Slope I knew. The place was pretty gross on the inside, plus it was small and in a semi-abandoned area on the western outskirts of the Slope. Ummm, no thank you.
The agent could tell I wasn’t biting, but said he had a much bigger and better place in the neighborhood “right next door” to Park Slope, called Sunset Park. We went to see the listing, and I loved it instantly.
Preview of tomorrow’s post: love-struck-apartment-searcher doesn’t think things through. Uh-oh.