Good morning Upper East Siders!
(Mom and Nana, that’s a Gossip Girl reference, it’s ok if you don’t get it. P.S. Nana remember when we came to New York when I was 14 and we saw them filming Gossip Girl on the steps of the Met and I was an extra?? Anyways, back to the story…)
Today’s post is all about my journey to finding my new apartment on the Upper East side.
When I moved to New York, I moved into a friend’s apartment in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn because they were looking for a 3rd roommate.
I do miss this most perfect little street!
The timing moving to Brooklyn last year was amazing, I didn’t have to deal with brokers, and I just moved right in. The apartment was spacious, and a great price, but it was very far from my office, and I spent 1 1/2 to 2 hours commuting every day 🙁
My room in Brooklyn was SO tiny but SO cozy! This is basically all of it right in this picture.
About 6 months ago I realized I wanted to move to the Upper East Side, since the real estate is cheap for Manhattan (that’s right, you think I’m fancy because I live in UES but really it was the most affordable option for me), and it’s a really quiet, nice neighborhood.
3rd Avenue around my apartment has everything I could ever need. It’s incredible
Fast forward to today, I’ve been in my apartment for 2 months now and I LOVE it, but the process to getting here was the opposite of easy. I’m excited to finally share my journey to the perfect Manhattan apartment via several tips below. The story sort of unfolds as I go 🙂
I love my new little stoop!
PRO TIP 1: Set up StreetEasy notifications early
The first thing I did several months before it was time to start looking was set up StreetEasy updates for my desired neighborhood and budget. It was important to me to get to know the real estate, so I could become an expert on the area and make sure I negotiate a fair price for what I’m getting. At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted a roommate or not, so I set two notifications, one for studios, and one for two-bedrooms. I ended up living with a friend from college, Meaghan, who is an awesome roommate. More on that later 🙂
PRO TIP 2: Decide if you want to pay a brokers fee or not
When I set up my StreetEasy listing, I made sure to check ‘no fee’. Basically in NYC, to see an apartment you have to contact the real estate broker. Most brokers charge a fee up to 15% of one year’s rent. That literally makes me want to vomit and I will not pay that, but that’s just me. Some people want to stay in the same place for years and so the fee is diluted, some people think fee apartments are cheaper, and that’s all valid. But I chose no fee, and that’s what I ended up with.
PRO TIP 3: Be prepared to see some stinkers before you find the right one
The first place I saw was a 200 square foot studio that was so small, my first reaction was to just burst into tears on the spot. And it was $1950/month??? Heck to the no. The next place was super dark, gross, right next to a construction site, and also over budget (both great locations though). I just had to have faith that no, I will not be homeless, I will indeed find a place to live soon.
PRO TIP 4: On the contrary, be prepared to pounce on a place and sign same day if it’s the right one
Picking this apartment happened VERY fast. That’s one thing you HAVE TO be prepared for. When I was actively looking, about 3 weeks before I wanted to move, I would get to work early to check StreetEasy every morning. When my future roommate Meaghan and I saw the place we’re in now, I called the broker immediately and had him meet me at the apartment that morning.
My street on the Upper East Side! It’s so quaint and quiet 🙂
PRO TIP 5: Pay attention to the little details
Here’s where I messed up: I was so wrapped up in the you-must-move-quickly-or-someone-else-will-take-the-apartment mindset that I didn’t thoroughly check the apartment. I saw it, said YES I WANT IT, and we went back to the office in midtown. Well…it wasn’t until we got to the office in midtown that I realized…wait I don’t think that apartment has an oven. I ALMOST GOT AN APARTMENT WITHOUT AN OVEN BECAUSE I LITERALLY DIDN’T EVEN CHECK. Like…this is what happens if you’re too hasty, and brokers 100% capitalize on that. I dragged my broker back to the apartment because he claimed he didn’t know if there was an oven or not. I call BS on that one. He’s the exclusive broker for the building, of course he knew, he just wanted me to sign the dotted line before I realized. We got back to the apartment and sure enough, no oven.
PRO TIP 6: Negotiate
I acted super mad and told him I didn’t want the apartment anymore (but really though I did…tricky tricky). He got all freaked out and said the real estate company would buy us a countertop oven, and we could put it next to the sink where there was a little ledge. I said no still, and to lower the rent $100. He said they couldn’t do that, but they could give us a month free, which actually saves us $120/month overall so…I’m very confused but sure buddy, have it your way.
PRO TIP 7: Compromise
So, we got the countertop oven, which my boyfriend calls my Easy Bake Oven (he also pronounces cuisinart ‘cuisine-art’, so I’m ignoring him on this front), and I built a custom countertop for it to live. (Yes, you heard that right! Shoutout to Midtown Lumber and 2 IKEA legs). It’s honestly a great little oven and I do not miss having a full sized oven. This thing fits a full 16″ pizza, and allegedly a whole roast chicken. It’s big and cooks well.
I also built those shelves, put the anchors in the wall, and installed them ALL BY MYSELF. Seriously I’m so proud. I can’t wait to show you more of my apartment! For now, the kitchen is the most ‘done’ part about it, we still need to work on the living room and my bedroom still has a few things I need to add.
I’m glad I finally got to type that all out, I’ve been dying to recap that whole crazy experience, now that my blood pressure has returned to normal and I’m safe and sound in my new ovenless yet perfect apartment 🙂