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Here’s The Situation

16 Jun

If you’re an out-of-towner, you probably think my recent posts about rental prices in New York are ludicrous.  You’re thinking, “No wonder this girl is in the process of moving!  No one in their right mind would pay so much money for a shoebox apartment!”  You’re right:  it is totally crazy-pants.  But for folks who are familiar with NYC apartment pricing, the prices I’ve mentioned are par for the course.  And it may seem odd that two gainfully employed adults (Agent Owens and me) can’t afford $1000/month, each, to continue living in an apartment they love (read all about why we’re moving here and our new Clinton Hill place here).   If you’ve been reading Happy City Living, you probably also know that in the past I paid $1300/month (by myself) to live in Sunset Park and $1600/month (by myself) to live in Harlem.  So, why did I recently put myself through all the agita of apartment hunting, over $1000/month each?

Well, for Agent Owens and me, our living situation recently took a pretty drastic turn.  Agent Owens got a great new job offer within his agency – YAY!  But it required working in Philadelphia for the next two years – BOO.  To be honest, though, we were both thrilled for him to get the job, and he loves Philadelphia almost as much as I love New York.  So, overall, it was a great turn of events.

Us, in front of Independence Hall. Taking photos outside of the building is as close to an historical experience as I need to have. History and me - not BFFs.

Although I’m crazy biased and in love with New York, I should be fair here and tell you there are some things to really love about Philadelphia.  First of all, it’s close to New York, haha!  Ok, but seriously.  It’s a clean, vibrant, walk-able city.  Plus, there’s a great path for biking and jogging along the Schuylkill River (try saying that name 3 times fast – or, even one time!), that leads to the Wissahickon Park (where do they GET these names?????).  For bike-a-holics like Agent Owens, this quick escape from the hustle-bustle of the city is an amazing amenity.  The city also has fun going-out spots, pretty neighborhoods with historic buildings, and all the conveniences of big city living.

And, most notably, the aptly named Philly Cheesesteaks the city has to offer are Out. Of. This. World.  I’d eaten some bullsh*t cheesesteaks here in NYC at some point, and as a result I thought I didn’t like cheesesteaks.  I’ve never been more wrong, and my growing waistline (acquired since our Philly stint) is proof of that.  If you can’t get to Philly, try Carl’s Steaks in NYC.  They’re pretty amazeballs, and they’re the best you’ll find in New York.  But if you reeeeeally want the best of the best, hit up Jim’s Steaks in Illy.  Yes, I said Illy.  I’m a half-resident of that town now, and I’m allowed to use that name because that’s what the cool kids say. I think.  Anyway, Jim’s is on South Street at the corner of 4th Street.  Every Philly-goer has their fave cheesesteak spot – you might have heard of the more famous Pat’s   and Geno’s – and Jim’s is our go-to.  The line wrapping around the corner of the building at busy times is proof that we’re right.

It's hoppin' at Jim's! See the mob by the front door? That's the line.

But wait…apartments…how did I get so far off on a tangent?  Food always seems to do that to me!  Well, as I was saying, Agent Owens now spends a good chunk of time in Philly each week for work, necessitating a second apartment.  The need for that second home (which comes with an oh-so-fun second monthly rent payment), combined with The Gate’s recent rent hike, was just too much for our poor wallets.  So, we had to make a move, and in a short two weeks I’ll be off to the suburbs tree-lined streets of Brooklyn.

As I get closer to moving into the new digs, I’m actually getting more and more excited. The thought of more space, a roof deck, and a fairly new building makes me a little giddy.  Although, I haven’t been giddy enough to start packing yet. Hmmm, maybe I should get on that.

So, the happy city couple is now straddling two cities. Is it a little bit annoying to have to ever step foot into another city that ISN’T New York? Yes. But, truthfully, Agent Owens carries the brunt of the travel burden. So, I should stop being whiny.

Plus, I always remind myself that when I’m in Philly I’m right around the corner from MODG’s house. Oh you don’t know MODG? She’s the hilarious Philadelphia-area blogger behind Martinis Or Diaper Genies, who weighs the pros and cons of her former responsibility-free lifestyle and her current life as a new parent.  You should check her out right here. Hers was the first blog I ever became addicted to, and you’ll become obsessed, too (mostly if you’re a 20/30-something female). I try to relay the hilarity of this blog to Agent Owens, but he’s firmly on the “Martinis” side of the MODG debate, and he gets a glazed-over, comatose look on his face when I mention the words “baby,” “child,” or “kid.” Plus, he doesn’t care about high heels or Suri Cruise, which are two other hot topics over in MODG-land. But 1 zillion fanatical readers (and me) can’t be wrong.  I love MODG, and I tell myself that if I hang out in Philly long enough I’ll totally run into her and we’ll become BFFs on the spot. It’ll be fate. Fo shizz.

MODG: Ninja? Mom? Shoe-a-holic? All of the above.

So, tell me.  Anyone else juggling two apartments? Or two cities for that matter? Anyone think Agent Owens and I are nuts for renting two apartments in two of the most expensive cities in the country? Heck, I think we’re nutty half the time!  If you can offer up a cool new Philly activity or place of interest you’ll totally get bonus points…in the game of good karma and life in general. Deal? K.

Xoxo,
Happy Double-City Rebecca

 

Images:  (1) Rebecca for Happy City Living, (2) Jim’s Steaks, (3) Martinis or Diaper Genies

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Clinton Hill, Here I Come

5 Jun

Well folks, I made a decision. You may recall from my last post that I was deciding between three apartments, since my lease at The Gate is up at the end of June.  Just to recap, here were the choices:

  • Option 1:  Stay in Battery Park City and pay $200 more, per month, in rent.
  • Option 2:  Sign a lease on a large, well-priced 1BR apartment in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn that boasts some nice outdoor space.
  • Option 3:  Save some money by moving back up to Harlem, where the rent at my old place (Riverton) is now around $1400/month.

Painful as it is to leave our beloved Battery Park City, we just could not justify paying $2050/month for a studio (call us crazy!).  And since Agent Owens and I had decided to leave Harlem a mere 14 months ago, we felt like we just weren’t ready to go back yet.  That said, the decision has been made to go with the apartment in Clinton Hill!

Wikipedia offers a great map of the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Clinton Hill is in the northern, central part of the borough.

Trust me, over the course of the weekend there was plenty of bellyaching on my part about the fact that I didn’t know which option to pick.  I think Agent Owens was prepared to break up with me if I uttered the whiny phrase, “I just don’t knoooow what to doooooo!” one more time.  It’s hard to give up living in an area you love so much, and it’s equally hard to pass up a chance to pay $1400/month in rent, for a large 1BR.  But still, I was being a little bit Scarlet O’Hara.

Fortunately, for everyone involved, the decision needed to be made relatively fast.  I have to tell The Gate whether I’m staying or leaving, by tomorrow.  And, I needed to submit an application on the Clinton Hill place ASAP, if I was going to go that route.  Time was a-tickin’.

In the end, we chose Clinton Hill, and I think we made a great choice.  Truthfully, Clinton Hill (as a neighborhood) is a big unknown for me, which is a little scary but mostly exciting.  Turns out, though, that we’ll be with family in the new place.  Agent Owens’s brother and his wife live about 4 blocks from the apartment, and they gave us a little tour of the immediate surrounding area today, en route to brunch.  Plus, I have some family friends in the neighborhood, and we have several college friends within walking distance.  Party in Brooklyn!

If you're familiar with Brooklyn, the Clinton Hill neighborhood is outlined here.

As for the apartment itself, we’ll be renting a condo from owners who are moving to Connecticut (where I’m from!  Seemed auspicious!).  The finishes are beautiful, the space is large, and there are 3 (count ‘em, 3!!!!!) outdoor spaces.  We have a private balcony, a shared back patio where everyone BBQs, and a shared roof deck.  Seeing as we are currently in the season of sunbathing, grilling, and letting-the-fresh-air-in, I am beyond excited.

All that’s left now is for the other agent to run my credit check and for me to actually sign the lease.  I am hoping that will all happen in the next couple of days, and I will certainly keep you posted as to how that goes.

So, without further ado, here are the pics:

When you walk in, you're facing the living room and the sliding glass doors onto the balcony.

This photo doesnt do it much justice, but the bedroom is quite large.

Double closet in the bedroom. Big plus? Oh, yes.

Hall Closet next to the bathroom, which has a linen closet, marble floor, and heat lamp. Ahhh.

The kitchen is at the back of the living room. Yay for lots of cabinets and a dishwasher!

Looking out onto the balcony, from the living room. The balcony overlooks the patio/garden.

Shared patio. Bring on the BBQs!

Picture me up here, in my beach chair, with a gin & tonic, gazing at that skyline. Yes, please.

When I sat down to write this post, I x’d out all of my Criagslist, MLS, and random apartment listing tabs on my browser.  It was beyond therapeutic!  And now, I’m off to watch the rest of the NBA finals in peace, with a beer, knowing that I have a place to rest my head next month.  Ahhh.

Cheers!

Images:  (1) Wikipedia, (2) Google Maps, All others Rebecca for Happy City Living

Get Up Offa That Thing

4 Jun

…and dance till you feel better! (Just kidding.)

I’m sure you might be wondering why, in my posts about apartment hunting, I’ve been talking about sitting at a computer rather than actually going out to see apartments. Well, I wasn’t just being lazy, and I did always have plans to get up off of my “thing” to see potential new homes.

The reason I did so much online hunting is that apartments don’t typically become available for a July 1st move-ins (the date I need) until June. Listings you find in May will most likely be for June move-in dates, and once you mention that you want to move in July, you’ll quickly get shot down by the listing agents. There are exceptions, but for the most part, landlords want to rent out their apartments ASAP. And, in the summer months, when inventory is flying off the shelves, finding a new apartment and signing a lease can literally all happen within one day.

Being a Type-A, plan, plan, plan kind of person, waiting until the last minute to apartment hunt can become extremely frustrating for me. So, here’s my plan of attack, which allowed me to get the ball rolling a little bit earlier…

2 months prior to moving:  At the end of April slash beginning of May, I began poking around listing sites, to get an idea of what types of apartments were currently available in my price range. Since I wasn’t tied to one neighborhood in particular, I tried to see what I could get for my money in a variety of areas.

1.5 months prior to moving:  In the middle of May, I started paying attention to apartments that I saw posted over and over again. Now, these units may have something wrong with them that’s preventing renters from signing a lease, but it is likely that the units are just overpriced. In the summer months, with so many apartments up for rent, renters are going to notice if a unit is listed for too much $. I started to make mental notes of unit’s I’d seen being continually posted. These might be good units to see, and there might be room to make a deal.

1 month prior to moving:  Last weekend, I started seriously looking. At that point, June was upon us, and the units on the market likely did not have a June 1st tenant moving in. As a result, brokers and landlords were willing to talk about July move-ins. I started calling agents to see if their units were still available and if they’d show the place to July tenants. Typically, I got one of three responses:

  1. The unit has already been rented.
  2. The unit is still available, but we’d like to get it rented right away. Would you conider June 15th?

I often lied and said I would consider the 15th. Hey, if the place were truly amazing, maybe I would settle for a pro-rated month. I started making appointments and noting the dates of any open houses that were offered.

Then, it began. I saw a whole bunch of apartments this past week – more than I’d care to recall, in fact. Remember those two days that were 90+ degrees with 100% humidity? Oh yea, I was trucking from crappy apartment to crappy apartment. There were two types of apartments: nice places that were immediately spoken for by someone willing to move in within the hour (ok, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much) and utter sh*t holes. It was a week of pure, unadulterated frustration.

3 weeks prior to moving: this is where we are now. I’ve narrowed my search down to three options. I could move to back up to Harlem (Riverton has apartments starting at $1400/month!); I could sign a lease on a cool place I found in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (with great outdoor space and real room to move); or I could stay put in Battery Park City (my true-love neighborhood). I still haven’t decided which way to go because I haven’t finished negotiations with the Brooklyn apartment agent, but I’ll be sure to tell you all about it once I do make a decision.

So, what should I do? Stay in my beloved Battery Park, gazing at the skyline and the river? Try a new neighborhood, and gain a little square-footage and outdoor space? Go back to a place I know to save a few bucks? Damn decisions. I’ve always sucked at making decisions like this, and somehow, it hasn’t gotten easier with age. I think I need a cup of tea…or 5 cups.

 

Images: Rebecca for Happy City Living

Video: YouTube

Spoke Too Soon

17 May

Remember my last post about my lease renewal saga?  Remember at the end of the post when I said, “I’m actually relieved that the leasing office came back with such a definitively high number because if they’d countered around $2000 I wouldn’t know whether to stay or go?”  Well, when I didn’t accept $2162 and expressed how disappointed I was with their lack of willingness to work with me, they responded.  The woman I’d been emailing with told me she was going to pass my request along to her boss, the leasing director.  About an hour later, I got a new counter at $2050 with a note that this was their final offer and that this renewal would not be considered again.  Basically, take it or leave it.

Ugh.

Now, here’s where I am:  I COULD pay $2050/month, but I really don’t WANT to pay that much.  On the other hand I love living in Battery Park City, and really had not planned on leaving so soon.

Hard to see how great it is via photo, but I reeeeally don't want to give up my city skyline view - one of 50 things I love about my apartment.

For the moment, I have jumped feet first into searching for a new place.  I want to make sure I know all my apartment options before making a decision.  Unfortunately, I am in the middle of the crazy summer real estate market (read more about the seasons of apartment hunting here).  Prices are high and inventory is flying off the shelves.  Not an ideal set of circumstances for getting a great deal.  In fact, when I called a listing agent about an apartment this morning, it had already been rented BEFORE the open house, and the agent said, “If you don’t have to move right now, don’t.  The market is red hot.”  Wonderful.  That makes me feel great about my search.

Anyway, now that staying put is an option, and now that it seems like moving may very well be a hugely un-fun task (since it’s high season for renting in NYC) here are the pros and cons of STAYING at the Gate:

PROS:

  1. I wouldn’t need to front a bunch of money for a new place (security deposit and first month’s rent, up front).
  2. I wouldn’t need to shell out $400 for moving.
  3. I wouldn’t need to pack all my stuff and live in chaos for a month, while I leave one place and move into another.
  4. I love my apartment and would really love to continue living in it.
  5. I love the view from my apartment and doubt I’d find something like it again, in my price range.  You can really become picky once you’ve lived on the 30-something-th floor!
  6. I love Battery Park City, and don’t want to leave here so soon!

CONS:

  1. It’s tough to save money when you spend over half your salary on rent.
  2. If I ever want to NOT be a renter, I need to start saving more money.  See reason #1 for the reason why that can’t happen at The Gate.

Obviously, there are way more pros than cons.  But saving money is a key consideration here, and it may outweigh all the pros in this situation.  Man, it sucks to make smart adult decisions.

And now, like a mature adult, I’ll show you a few more pictures to sway you over to the “you should totally stay in your apartment” side of the debate:

Another part of my view overlooks Ground Zero. Obviously, I need to be here to monitor construction progress.

Even on a gray day like today, my backyard is beautiful! Gotta love being down by the water.

Vader clearly doesn't want to move. He's clearly going to lie on all boxes to prevent me from packing. He's also clearly crazy and seems think he's a dog with that lying-on-my-back-waiting-for-a-belly-rub stuff.

Anyone else in a situation like this – hashing out the great save-money-or-live-where-you-love debate?  Tell me what you chose to do! Please!

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

You’re Joking, Right?

11 May

…that’s what I thought to myself when I read The Gate’s email response to my rent-lowering request.  In case you missed the lease-renewal-negotiation scenario, here’s a quick recap:

  1.  This past year I’ve been paying $1857 for rent.  That price was the net effective of one month free on a 14-month lease, with a base of $2000.
  2. I received a lease renewal letter in the mail.  The Gate offered to renew my lease at $2200 for one year or $2310 for two years, making my monthly payment at least $343 more than I currently pay. Oh, hell no.
  3. I wrote the leasing office a lengthy email stating why the rental market did not justify the raised cost.  I also listed a bunch of reasons why Agent Owens and I didn’t feel we’d received all the amenities we were initially promised.  To start the negotiations low, I asked the building to compensate me for the lack of follow-though on the initially promised amenities.  I asked the leasing office to REDUCE my current rent to a base of $1900, with a month free on a 14-month lease (net effective of $1764).  Fair to receive compensation for services not rendered, and best to start low when negotiating, right?

And today, they laughed in my face.  Wanna know what their counter offer was?  $2162. !!!!!  WTF?!  They lowered their initial offer by $38/month.  And they claimed it was their final offer.

Great size for a studio, but $2162 is just not happening.

Needless to say, I will not be paying that much.  I immediately emailed them back, letting them know that I was extremely disappointed with their counter and that I could not believe they wouldn’t be more interested in working with their current tenants.  I reiterated that there was no point in offering new tenant incentives, only to price those new tenants out the following year.  I’m sure they’re not at all fazed by my virtual hissy-fit, but let me tell you, I. was. pissed.

So, *insert big, giant, dramatic sigh*, now begins the hunt.  Who knows if the leasing office here at The Gate will respond to my email.  But it’s becoming quite clear that I need a back-up plan.  This means that for the next month or so, I’ll be living and breathing apartment listing sites.  Did I mention that I’m Type-A crazy/obsessive?  I am.  Poor Agent Owens.  My head will probably be buried so deep in my computer that he won’t even be able to pull me away from the screen for dinner.  Yea right, who am I kidding?  Even a stressed out girl needs to eat pasta!  But beyond apartment hunting and eating pasta, there won’t be much else.

In a way, I’m glad the counter-offer was so definitive.  Mentally, I’d figured that if the renewal price was below $2000, I could afford to accept it (not happily, but it’s better than packing up all my things and moving, yet again).  I’d also figured that if the counter was above $2100, it would be a definite no-go.  The only tricky situation would have been if they’d offered something in the $2000-range.  That would have thrown my budgeting for a loop.  So, no harm, no foul, right?

Riiiiight.  Keep telling yourself that, Rebecca.  I’m off to pout and sulk now.  You can find me in the corner, if you need me.

The corner nook in my apartment where I sit on my bed and sulk.

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

Comin’ Out Swinging

10 May

I am of course the one punching the lights out.

The rent negotiation battle has begun.  Last week, my building management company sent me a lease renewal  proposing that if I want to stay in my apartment, I should pay over $300/month MORE in rent than I currently pay (!!!!!).  And since then I’ve been coming up with 8,371,734 reasons why I should NOT pay that much.  Ok, not that many reasons, but I’ve certainly come up with a bunch.

Lease negotiations tend to be much more flexible when it comes to renewals, than they were in your initial lease signing process.  When you’re first signing on with a building, the landlord has determined a price that the apartment is listed at.  Assuming that price is reasonable for the area, he will keep the apartment on the market until he finds an applicant who will agree to pay the requested sum – and it usually doesn’t take too long in this city.  However, once a tenant is IN an apartment, negotiating the renewal price is somewhat subjective.  Here’s why:

  1. The landlord would rather keep the existing tenant (assuming it’s a good tenant), than spend the time and money searching for a new tenant.  He definitely doesn’t want the unit to go unoccupied (unpaid months), if he can avoid it.
  2. The landlord still wants to make as much money from the existing tenant as he’d make on a new tenant lease (assuming the new leasing price would be more than the previous year).

So, there’s a fine line that landlords try to tread between making the most possible money and expelling the least effort.  In a building The Gate, with tons of units, negotiating flexibility will mostly depend on how many vacant units the leasing office is dealing with.  If they’ve got a ton of units that they’re worried about filling, they’ll probably play nice with me and come down on their renewal rate.  If the apartments are flying off the shelves, so to speak, they’ll dig in their heels and ignore my pleas.  The fun part is that we’ll never really know the hand they’re playing with.

I’ll spare you the long-winded epistle that I composed and sent over (I’m sure you don’t have a full hour to read this post), but here are the points I made to argue for a lower rent than the building’s initial proposal:

  • Comparable listing prices – other apartments in my area that are renting for $2200-$2300 are 1BRs, not studios.  If I had $2300 to spend, I’d live in a larger place.
  • Building amenities – apartments listed at these higher prices offer amenities like roof decks, fitness centers, laundry on every floor, etc.  The Gate does not offer any of this.
  • Tenant inconveniences – we lived through a full lobby renovation and main hallway renovation  in the past year.  There was construction for months.  Also, the laundry room constantly has broken washers and dryers, and we’re always losing money to machines that don’t spin the clothes dry.  (SO ANNOYING! But I say to myself, “Self, at least you’re not hauling your laundry up a hill in Sunset Park.)
  • Rent increase rate – as someone who signed a lease during a lower market, my rent rate is significantly lower than the management company is now charging.  However, if you’re going to offer incentives to make the apartment affordable one year, it doesn’t make sense to then price those same tenants out of the building just one year later.
  • Good tenant status – I made sure to reiterate, at the end of my novel note, that I am a tenant in good standing with the building.  I pay my rent on time.  I play nice with my neighbors, take care of the apartment, and I’m quiet as a mouse (Vader is NOT, but I am).

TIP!:  When possible, look to move into buildings that are rent stabilized.  This means that the rent cannot increase beyond a certain percentage in any given year.  I believe in 2010 the Rent Guidelines Board ruled that rent stabilized apartments could go up 2.25% on a 1-year renewal.  If your lease does not include rent stabilization, your landlord can raise the rent as high as the blue sky, and you can’t say shit about it.  In other words:  if you don’t go the rent stabilized route, you’ll be begging and pleading for mercy, right alongside of me.

Basically, negotiating renewals is all about establishing fair market value, which involves a combination of all the above items.  In other words, it’s pretty subjective.  Still, here are some items your building will definitively NOT be concerned about:

  • You didn’t get a raise this year.
  • You lost your job.
  • You incurred some unusual set of expenses that put you in the hole.

You care about your money issues, I care about all your money issues, and I’m sure your mom cares about them, too.  But the landlord doesn’t.  Sorry, Charlie.

Anyway, I thought I made some good points in my negotiation.  So, I emailed off my hopeful letter.  It’s in the hands of the lease cyber-gods now.  Cross your fingers and toes for me, please.  If you don’t, there will be a lot of blog belly-aching about having to pack up all my crap belongings again.  Nobody wants that.  Crossies!

Image:  Flickr-ClaudioGennari

Stop! In the Name of Love

29 Apr

Somebody made me stop blogging tonight, when I got home.  Well…two somebodies.

Johnny begged me to pull myself away from the laptop and please come snuggle…

…and Vader, well, as always, he took a more literal approach to ending my blog writing:

Yup, he plunked right down on my lap as I was typing.  Guess that puts an end to that!

Sometimes life in this city is so fast-paced and busy that it makes your head spin.  So, it’s great to be reminded to take a breather and just relax at home with the people (and furbabies) you love.  Good job, kitties.  Good job.

xoxo

Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

Roach Motel

22 Apr

I am not a bug person.  I understand that most insects serve some type of environmental, circle-of-life purpose, but I don’t want them serving that purpose anywhere near me.  New York City’s most famous bug, of course, is the cockroach.

By the time I lived in Harlem, I’d been in NYC for 5 years, and I’d heard oodles of stories about infestations throughout the city.  “Killer roaches” had been described as being big enough to bench press the bar of soap on your sink.  Most of these stories were grand exaggerations.  However, I’d seen cockroaches face to face, and they DID look pretty big (as bugs go) and prehistoric.

I’d never had a problem with roaches, though (read:  they’d never shown up at one of my apartments).  While I am by no means a clean-freak, I do always make sure not to leave any food out.  I don’t want to give any bugs or rodents a reason to visit me.  And this method of prevention had always worked for me.

So, imagine my surprise one night, when I get out of bed, go into the kitchen to get a glass of water, and see something scurry across the countertop as I flick on the light.  Insert momentary freak-out.  I couldn’t see where the roach went, but I quickly concluded that there must be some food container open in the pantry or something sticky on the counters.  I resolved to clean the kitchen, top to bottom the next morning.

EEEWWWW!

After attacking my countertops with Clorox Clean-up (my go-to), and going through every food item in the fridge and cupboards, I figured I had probably taken care of the issue.  But then, that night, I heard a rustling sound coming from the kitchen.  Yet again, as I turned on the light, a cockroach scurried across the floor.  Then, I noticed another one moving up the wall.  I would have completely panicked and admonished myself for being a filthy person, but plain old common sense had me befuddled.  There was NOTHING for these bugs to eat.  So, why on earth would they be here?!

I went out to the store the next day and invested in 3 different types of roach traps, plus poison (don’t worry, I didn’t have my kitties at this point), and a few bottles of Raid.  I put the traps and the poison out everywhere, and I kept the bottle of Raid handy at tall times.  If a roach showed his face, I was going to spray him to his demise, right there on the spot.

The magical red can. Raid actually makes eco-friendly big-killing products, but roaches need the baddest of bad chemicals.

After weeks of this, there seemed to be more roaches, rather than less, and I just could not figure it out.  They never left the kitchen and front hall, as far as I saw, but they seemed to be bringing more and more friends with them every single night.

Then, I started seeing cockroaches in the hall, by the elevators.  That’s when it finally crossed my mind that maybe I wasn’t the one bringing on the roach infestation. Maybe it was one of my neighbors.  Now, this would present both relief to me and also a big problem.  I wasn’t a dirty girl (PHEW!), but I also couldn’t go in and clean everyone else’s kitchen to try to stop the problem.  I let the management company know about the bugs, but as you may remember from this post, they weren’t big on solving issues for their tenants.

As the roach quantity increased in the hallway, I sprayed a line of Raid across my threshold every day.  Then, one day, I met my next-door neighbor (also my favorite neighbor) in the hall.  I got off the elevator, and she was spraying ammonia all over the walls.  “I’ve had it with these roaches!” she yelled.  Amen, sister.

She then marched over to another neighbor’s door and started spraying it.  As she did, I could see that there were little roaches all around the doorframe.  And worse yet, they were crawling in and out from under the door, too.  This was the source.  My friend doused the door with ammonia and killed off the insects we could see.  But you could see a filthy rug sticking out under the door, and the roaches seemed to come from it in a never-ending stream.

Get the 411 on cockroaches in the city here.

There was no simple fix.  The woman was ancient.  She lived alone, and there seemed to be no one checking in on her.  I’d seen her pushing her walker around in the courtyard and often been scared that she’d go tumbling right before my eyes.  She’d lived at Riverton for decades, but she was now so old.  And she was alone.  She probably couldn’t even see the roaches, let alone clean up enough to make them leave.

I called building management again, to no avail.  My neighbor did the same.  Little did we know what it would take before someone was sent in to clean that lady’s apartment up.  We’d soon find out.

Any of you city-dwellers ever have a problem with cockroaches?  How about mice or rats?  Or worse…bed bugs!  How did you solve your issue?  Is your skin crawling just reading about this?  Mine, too.

 

Images: (1) Therysma, (2) Flickr-KentaHayashi, (3) Walgreens, (4) NYC DOH, (5) YouTube-Showmanlee

Exactly What I’m Talking About

27 Mar

Yesterday, I was in the elevator of my apartment building (The Gate), and I overheard a conversation that convinced me that starting Happy City Living really could be a good thing to do (read what it’s all about here).  There was a real estate agent taking a client up to see a listing on the 16th floor.  The facts he was spewing about the apartment complex were jazzed up a bit, but mostly correct.  The problem came when he told his client he would “try to find” her a no-fee apartment here at The Gate, adding that it might not be possible.  It was a complete lie – all the apartments here are no-fee.

The scene of the lie...don't let it happen to you.

I should explain something before I go any further.  All apartments in the city are technically no-fee.  (Yes, you read that correctly).  If you were to rent an apartment directly from a building-owner or a management company they would not charge you a standard fee.  The reason you pay fees is so that if you’re using a real estate agent, they get paid for their work.  When building owners and management companies list their buildings as “no-fee” they’re really just saying they’ll pay your agent a commission of one month’s rent, so that you don’t have to.  This situation is also referred to as an OP (owner pays) in the real estate world.

TIP!*: Standard apartment fees should be either one month’s rent OR 10%-15% of the year’s rent.  The only other fee you should be charged is an application fee, which covers the cost of the management company running your credit check.  This fee exists whether the apartment is a “fee” or “no-fee” listing, and it should be between $50 and $150.

Real estate agents get a bad rap because of people like the agent in my elevator.  There are plenty of agents who will lie to make the sale or bend the truth to try to get more commission dollars.  In fairness, realtors put in a lot of time and effort, and if you don’t take one of the apartments they’ve shown you, they don’t make a cent for their troubles.  But there are a ton of great realtors (I’ll tell you about some great ones in future posts), who can serve you well, and they really deserve their commission, whether it comes from the client or the building owner.

A few years ago, when I took the courses to become a licensed real estate agent, I figured that even if I never sold or rented an apartment, the knowledge I’d gain from the coursework would be worth the time and cost I’d put in.  I was right.  When I search for apartments now, I am an educated renter.  I know the standard procedures, and I know when someone is trying to pull the wool over my eyes.  What I’ve tried to do since getting my license is to help friends with their apartment searches, as well.  I don’t usually serve as their agent because I’m still working full time in the corporate world.  Instead, I answer questions for them and encourage them to run situations by me if they seem fishy.  This way, they too can benefit from the info I learned.

I feel like a pretty lucky girl to be living in New York.  After 8 years, when I walk down the street to the beat of my ipod, I still catch myself drifting off, in awe of this city.  Actually, in those moments, I’m usually picturing myself as Felicity from the cult classic 90’s TV show, but that’s neither here nor there.  So, since I love this place so much, I also think it’s great to see other people loving it here.  I’m hoping that my little tid-bits on this blog can make at least a few city folks’ lives easier when it comes to starting or continuing a life in New York.

This is where I live! Wow, right?! My neighborhood is right in the middle on the left side of the photo.

That said, if you have any specific questions about your apartment hunt, or if you know someone else who does, please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.  ‘Til then, I’ll be here sharing some stories and offering up some tips, living happily over in my corner of the city.  Happy city living to you, too!

*Throughout my posts, I’ll try to insert useful tips to highlight some key information.  I’ll make them bold so that you can find them without much effort.  Deal?

Images:  (1) Rebecca for Happy City Living, (2) The Denver Post