It’s Not You, It’s Us: Apartment Hunting in Brooklyn
May 22, 2015 4:57 AM   Subscribe

What you do when apartment hunting online, and what a lot of people do, I imagine, is you plug in your preferred neighborhood/price range/amenities/etc., and then out pops a long list of results that you further refine by imagining a very specific and very fictionalized narrative involving a version of yourself that isn’t necessarily true right now but could be true if you lived in apartment X. No, you’ve never wielded a wrench for any longer than the time it takes to pass it to your dad, but why couldn’t you fix a fixer-upper? Or be the kind of person to share one bathroom with six other roommates? Or live with a Ukrainian family that’s gone for five months out of the year, but whose kids you’re expected to babysit as per your new rental agreement?
posted by ellieBOA (23 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
What is a stand up jacuzzi? Google image search just shows regular ones.
posted by Sheppagus at 6:14 AM on May 22, 2015


Oh man the fake enthusiasm you always somehow end up exuding when looking at apartments. I loved the self loathing this article exuded, really pitch perfect.

I just finished a round at looking in north shore Boston and had some glorious experiences.

My favorite was probably the dingy first floor apartment that supposedly had a shared laundry in the basement.
"Can we see the laundry?"
"It's down stairs." The broker spoke very little English.
"OK can we see it?"
"Well the neighbor has a dog."
Silence. So...the dog is doing laundry? The dog lives in the laundry room? There is a family of angry dogs in the washing machine?
"Do you want to fill out applic--"
We didn't let her finish, just bolted.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:16 AM on May 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


It sounds like those walk-in baths (that often have jets) they market to seniors.
posted by Gin and Comics at 6:17 AM on May 22, 2015


I've never lived in New York City, but even here apartment and house hunting is hell, both for rentals and trying to buy. Things are overpriced, the condition is terrible, and on the rental side your choice is a larger management company that has strange and rigid policies or some dude who owns a couple of rentals and doesn't put in a penny in maintenance.

But if it is hell here, the descriptions in the article sound like a special inner circle of hell.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:35 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


When my husband was first looking for an apartment in Manhattan, a realtor showed him a place in the West Village (which is probably worth millions now) that had a dirt floor.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:38 AM on May 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


“I mean it’s sad,” he said, “that her daughter has cancer of the meninges, but David: You’d be a fool to walk away from that price.”

Obviously the raw material is a gold mine, but this essay is a funny (but not so much that they seem to be trying too hard), and good piece of writing. I've just rented an apartment in Toronto without seeing it. I'll know in a week or so whether I've been a fool.
posted by Flashman at 7:10 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every time we've gone apartment hunting we've encountered:

1. That one apartment that every agent has listed which you end up seeing multiple times.
2. Apartments without doorhandles.
3. Apartments with floors so wavy they would make a decent skate park. "That," said one agent, "is why they call it The Slope!"
4. Agents who, after just showing you a place with stairs that are about to collapse and visible rodent droppings, offer to show you a place in Williamsburg that "is pretty run-down compared to the one you just saw."

It is, without fail, a disheartening and frustrating process.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:59 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


None of this seems different from my experience apartment hunting in the rest of the US. Crappy apartments are crappy, and trying to find a roommate through an ad is pretty much always a terrible idea.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:59 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, from the article:

an incredibly soft-spoken girl named Sara who had the odd and distracting habit of rolling her eyes back into her head and fluttering her eyelids whenever she spoke

Those were likely petit mal (or Absence) seizures.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


The difference in New York is: if you want to move, say May 1, you can only start looking on April 1 and you have at best 2 weeks before anything marginally livable is off the market. Speaking of which if anyone is looking for a nice 1.5 bedroom in Astoria hit me up.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:29 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


My favorite crappy apartment I've looked at had the bathroom in [what appeared to be] a converted hallway. You came in through a door perpendicular to the length of the bathroom, then at one end was the toilet, the other end was the shower, and I think there was a sink somewhere in the middle. And there was another place where the only way to get to the kitchen (or was it the bathroom?) was to go through the closet. Oh, and one place had a bedroom window that opened to an interior communal hallway/lobby area. I've looked at a lot of crappy apartments, come to think of it.
posted by gueneverey at 9:02 AM on May 22, 2015


i had a place on avenue D where the tub was in the kitchen and the toilet was behind a curtain up on a weird platform in the kitchen. despite these weirdnesses it would have been actually a pretty great apartment had it not been for my psychotic roommate and the fact that the apartment across the air shaft had been occupied by a cat hoarder, all of whom had died in a recent fire. so any time you opened a window it smelled like charred fur and 30 years of scorched piss.

last time around i said fuck everything and just went with a realtor. it was 100% worth the cost, because she adhered stringently to the most important items on my househunting list, which were:

- never show me anything where one of the bedrooms is described as "oversize"
- never show me anything where any of the rooms is described as an alcove or as a nook
- never show me anything where any of the rooms are described as "extra"
- a normal sized adult human must be able to lay down in the tub

as a result i have a perfectly normal sized 2BR where both BRs have windows and more room than a federal prison cell. i did end up with a shitty kitchen but i never cook anyway so it's no great loss.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:27 AM on May 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


This reminds me of looking for a house in college in Atlanta. Just north of Georgia Tech campus is Home Park, which naturally has a large student population. Also naturally, this type of naive tenant base attracts the worst type of opportunist slumlord. We had about 5 people looking for a house to share. One house we looked at was advertised as a "6 bedroom" and when we got through 4 bedrooms we asked about the other two. The landlord led us through a bedroom to a second kitchen at the back of the house and said that it was the 5th bedroom. When I pointed out that it had a stove and sink and therefore seemed to be a kitchen, he responded, "It can be both." The 6th bedroom was in a semi-finished basement with no windows. We decided to pass on that property.
posted by dudemanlives at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


We just closed on a house yesterday (with a tin ceiling!). This post made me realize that we will never have to look at rentals again. Thank God. I've lived in 2 countries, 6 states, and approximately 20 rentals. The nightmare is over.
posted by sfkiddo at 9:48 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh is it?
posted by Flashman at 9:57 AM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree with Flashman - this was a well-written funny article of the nightmares many of us have gone through (break-ups, moving home, apartment hunting hell). I've had the most adorable apartments in Toronto each with its own quirks, but yeah, the hunt always was an adventure.
posted by biggreenplant at 10:13 AM on May 22, 2015


My favorite crappy apartment I've looked at had the bathroom in [what appeared to be] a converted hallway.

A friend of mine lived in a single family house that had been converted to three separate apartments. Which meant it was necessary to find somewhere to put a couple of extra kitchens and bathrooms in the place. Her part of it had the kitchen in a converted hallway, and the bathroom was converted from the landing at the bottom of a flight of stairs. We joked that you could economize on common household accidents by falling down the stairs and slipping in the shower at the same time.
posted by FishBike at 11:05 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


My apartment has the toilet in one room, and the shower (no tub aaaaugh) and sink in a totally separate room accessed via the kitchen.

Worth it for the height of the ceilings and the sheer size of the place, though. I'd be happier if the floors were level.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:18 AM on May 22, 2015


deliberately split bathrooms are awesome though because then you can bathe at your leisure while someone else is able to poop without disturbing you.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:39 AM on May 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


deliberately split bathrooms are awesome though because then you can bathe at your leisure while someone else is able to poop without disturbing you

This is one of the best things about my current apartment. It makes it way easier to have guests when I don't have to think about coordinating toilet and shower use. This was a neurosis that I did not know I had before I lived here, but one I'll likely hold on to.
posted by frimble at 1:22 PM on May 22, 2015


and the shower (no tub aaaaugh)

Until I moved to a tubless place, I didn't know how much I depended on a night-time bath to ease me into sleep. Sitting with my feet in a dishpan full of hot water combined with Kiss My Face Peaceful Patchouli Bath Gel is pleasant, but it's a distant second as a soporific.
posted by virago at 4:45 PM on May 22, 2015


A friend of mine lived in a single family house that had been converted to three separate apartments. Which meant it was necessary to find somewhere to put a couple of extra kitchens and bathrooms in the place.

Over the past few years, I've looked at three houses, each of which started as a single family house, got chopped up illegally and on the cheap into apartments, and then equally illegally and cheaply got returned to single family status. They had things like a main kitchen and then a hallway with about two thirds of a second kitchen still attached to the wall, or rooms with five doorways, or the place where the basement was literally laid out as a spiral -- you went room to room to room and finally ended up in a creepy isolated room in the center. (I called that place the kidnapper special.)

Another place had three doors off of the back porch, two of which opened into thin air above stairways.

When I was in college I rented apartments in the illegally divided up stage of houses, so it has been interesting to see the full cycle of how those places sometimes get returned to single family status.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:54 PM on May 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Housing is one of the nice things about living in the midwest.

The bad news was that we lost our house to foreclosure last year. I was out of work for two years. Even though I got a good job shortly before they filed, we couldn't catch up with two years of missed house payments and the bank was actively unhelpful.

The good news is that we had pretty easy time finding a better house to rent. The rent payment is pretty reasonable and I don't have to worry about maintenance anymore. When the gate to the back yard broke, I opened a ticket online and a guy came and fixed it. I didn't have to touch it. That was pretty great.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:20 PM on May 24, 2015


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