I think in the personal finance blogger realm, we like to dole out advice and tips about all our awesome saving, investing, frugal, thrifty, money wins. But sometimes we fail. And this is one of those stories.
One of my resolutions this year was to get my own apartment in NYC. It had been a while since I had to find an apartment due to my odd occupation choices and I totally underestimated the incredible pain in the butt this resolution was going to be.
But, you know, I’m an awesome, thrifty, fabulous PF blogger. I figured that with a little research and a little hard work, I could nail this. I set my upper limit at $1250 a month (knowing I could actually go as high as $1400 and not be destitute) and started looking – preferably in the $1000-1100 range.
When I started looking I learned about this awesome thing called brokerage fees. Apparently, the vast majority of apartments in NYC require you to pay a brokerage fee – which is usually a month to two months rent. Pretty much a mini-version of buying a house. Which is really madness.
Fortunately, since I’m an awesome, thrifty, fabulous PF blogger, I Googled the heck out of finding an apartment in NYC and found that there are also “no brokerage fee” apartments. They just require a little more effort to find.
So I started searching on Apartable subscribed to and Craigslist and subscribed to The Listings Project. I also joined the Gypsy Housing facebook group and seriously considered just subletting, but in the meantime I started checking out these apartments.
I started in Harlem. Mostly because an old friend lived there and I never felt like I was going to get stabbed and killed walking to his apartment. Unfortunately, turns out the no brokerage fee apartments in my price range are in the Stabby McRape-y side of town. So after a week or so of checking out Harlem apartments every day before or after work and even applying for one and not getting it, I started looking in Brooklyn.
Turns out Brooklyn has plenty of Stabby McRape-y areas too. And I think I found them all. When an area makes you feel nervous walking around it at two in the afternoon, it’s probably not the place for a girl who regularly gets home from work after midnight.
After about three weeks of long hours at work with apartment searching crammed in around them and a daily three and a half hour commute from my parents’ house in New Jersey, I was fried. I was seriously a crazy person.
At the end of my rope, I searched Craigslist no brokerage fee section one day at work and found some listings up in Inwood and Washington Heights, called the contact and made an appointment to check them out after work that day. I went in to their office and we made a list of 4 places to go check out.
They had me sold on the 3rd place. Which they also informed me had a deal where the second month was free. Perfect. We get back to the office to start filling out application fees when they tell me their brokerage fee.
Seriously. Are you kidding me? I’m completely burnt out and have finally found an apartment that doesn’t seem like a death trap. And NOW you tell me you have a brokers fee? After you’re listed on the no brokerage fee section of Craigslist?!!?
They politely informed me that some of their listings have a brokerage fee and some don’t. I had just picked one that did.
If this had been week one of apartment searching, I’d’ve walked the heck outta that place. Or even week two. Possibly even week three. As it was, I was just DONE. And at least this place had free rent for the second month. Since the brokerage fee was a month and a half rent… at least I was only paying half a month’s rent and I would be done with this whole mess.
So I put in the application and got the apartment. I went to actually go sign the lease with a different company a few days later, when THEY informed me that there was no free second month’s rent. So they get the realtor (? I guess that’s who that first group was) on the phone and fight over it and pretty much just decide it was a mistake and I could either take the apartment or not, but there would be no second month free. I got on the phone with the realtor and explained I didn’t feel I should have to pay a broker’s fee in that case, and if they agreed to that, I would sign for the apartment.
“What, do you think I work for free? I have to get paid.”
That was actually what the realtor dude said to me. So we proceeded to fight over the phone about how it is in no way my fault that he misread the paper from the leasing agents regarding which apartments have a free month. We fought for like half an hour and I HATE to admit it… but he won.
I talked him down to half the broker’s fee, but in the end, I was definitely still the one who got screwed.
This company is called Top Quality Apartments. I’d avoid them at all costs. I even found this Ripoff Report about them and Edward is the same charming fellow I worked with there.
And that is the happy story of my first apartment in NYC.