Thursday, May 12, 2016

Storytime: 4 days to find a place to live in NY and avoiding scamming brokers of the city

So I am now a New Yorker, transplanted from Pittsburgh! But boy was it a hot mess getting here, and the mess just keeps going, I got storytimes for day! But anyway, here is how I came to find a place to live in NY. About a month ago I came here for 4 days on a mission to find a place, the mission was accomplished but not without hurdles, lies, and some manipulation being thrown my way...

I came here having traveled overnight by bus, ready to find my apartment, all documents and finances at hand ready to make a deal. Having conversed with my broker for a month already about my situation (no job, no 40x rent, no guarantor, yes great credit, yes lots of savings), that I was looking to live in the Brooklyn or possibly Harlem areas, and having him tell me "I know what you like" (referring to the kind of apt I was looking for) I figured I would have no problems finding a place. WRONG!! That first day, all I saw were duds. Too small was the main issue, which really shouldn't have been an issue, because if there is one thing that I was clear about, it's that I have A LOT OF STUFF, and thus want large (for new york standards) bedrooms, which is why I was aiming to live outside of manhattan. But everything that I saw was small! Day 1 was a fail and thus I lost faith in my broker and felt the need to resend him my ideal apartments which I was easily finding in the various apt sites online, and in my price range. Sending him my ideals was also a fail because he told me to stop, claiming that I wasn't letting him do his job. Well in my defense, what is the point of letting you "do your job" when you're showing me crap that I don't like? You clearly need my help, and my days are dwindling! But I did as he asked and stopped sending him apartments that I was interested in, but I didn't stop looking...

Day 2 comes and my broker is busy doing other things, thus I search on my own for places. After he told me to stop searching and to "let him do his job" I found some awesome apartments in my price range. The poster/broker for those places lived nearby and could immediately show me the places. I told her my situation via our email conversation (again to be clear I have no job, no 40x rent, no guarantor, yes great credit, yes lots of savings to pay rent until I find a job) and she came and picked me up! The first place that she showed me was ideal, she even had a friend who was looking to find a roommate in the summer (I was looking to obtain a roommate later) and it was cool, I filled out the application and then she realizes "oh, you don't have a job or a rich guarantor? You will not qualify!" Well that's just great, I wasted my time doing this and on top of that, I already told you of that stuff prior, so obviously you didn't really read the emails! That made me mad on many levels; first you weren't really paying attention to what I said in our correspondence (you just saw and jumped on an opportunity to make money) second I just got my hopes up for nothing! That apartment was adorable! But ok stay calm and keep looking.

Day 3, back to my original broker. He claimed to have a better list of showings for me, more my size. What do you know, 1 of the apartments was the same as what I saw the previous day through the other girl. I saw his apartments and the best one was the one the other girl had already shown me. I said "I like this one best but the girl already told me that because I don't fit the income requirements so the landlord won't rent to me" he says "oh". That "oh" told me a lot more than that. It said that this whole time, although he knew my situation (no job, no 40x rent, no guarantor, yes great credit, yes lots of savings), and was supposed to be finding me apartments based on that, he was really just trying to do anything to make a deal, showing me anything even if the landlord wouldn't accept a working class citizen like myself. That "oh" made me lose COMPLETE faith in him. And on top of him showing me a bunch of crappy apts, he made sure they were all at the top of my price range, the price I would ONLY pay if it was an apartment with every single feature that I asked for! And so I went to the "find a roommate" websites and set up some rooms to see the next (my last) day.

Day 4, my broker will not give up! He calls himself "helping" give me a woman's perspective (his female coworker) on NY apt renting, so that I will know that I am expecting too much and need to accept less. She mentions a 1 bedroom apt (I had previously been looking at 2brs) that is a quick 30 minutes from the city. I say ok, and go on about my room viewings, promising to look up the address later to see that the area, Bay Ridge (although not the area that I wanted) is actually nice. Well the rooms were all very small and very sad dorm room like situations, multiple rooms and a shared kitchen, no living room, no friendliness, just stay to your small room and share the kitchen and all is thanks. Then I checked out the 1br Bay Ridge apt that my broker's female friend told me about to discover that it was a nice looking area, but it absolutely was not 30 minutes away, it was 50 minutes away from downtown!! What a lier!!! I called him and told him about this lie, and that I am no longer interested in his help, I'll just have to find a room for rent.

The last room I saw did seem like a true friendly roommate situation, with lots of space, although it costed a lot more the husband/roommate assured me that I would have my own large bedroom, a small living room and get to store things where he was also storing things in the basement "guest room". I liked it, it was a basement with a half bathroom, the space of a small one bedroom so I didn't mind paying considerable more for the space. So on my last day in NY looking to find an apartment, I found a room instead, but I wasn't homeless (although now I am regretting that decision).

What I learned from this experience is that all of the articles about skeevy NY brokers are right! You can't trust how nice they are because they just want your trust so that they can try to sell you a place and make their commission. They don't care if it's what you want, they will try and scare you into settling with claims of "this will go fast" "others are looking at this" "this is what the market is like, get used to it, accept it". You certainly can't tell them your budget because then they'll only show you things at the top of it, so that their commission is bigger. And, to real you in from the beginning, some brokers will post great apartments to get you to call, but when you inquire they'll say that the apartment was already sold. I'm pretty sure my broker did that to get me, and then proceeded to question me about what I wanted and act like he could certainly find what I wanted and in my price range. But no, he didn't.

For more info, check out this Huffington Post article by Hilary Rowland, 8 Truths About NYC Real Estate Brokers: Beware! I found it to be quite accurate of my 4 days spent with 3 different brokers. Although the main culprit is the one who I specifically came to NY to have him find me the place, the girl who showed me the place I wanted to rent, didn't play games, she didn't pay attention to my email, but she wasn't trying to cheat me or show me crap either. I guess if you actually do have good apartments to offer, you don't have to resort to tricks.

Do you have a related broker story to share or any bad experiences trying to get an apartment in NYC or anywhere else? Comment and let me know.

Stay tuned for my next blog post on how I am now living in NY.

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