Friday, July 14, 2006

1 Year Wake Up Call from NYC- Ouch.


So, my boyfriend Tom and I have decided to move in together after being together for almost a year. For both of us, it was quite a shock moving into group houses (2 or more roommates) when we had both lived alone before moving to New York. While we adore our roommates (and mine, in particular, rock) there is something enchanting about the idea of having our own place. Up until now, I have sort of been in a holding pattern. Once I knew Tom and I were serious, I stopped thinking of my current apartment as “my” place. I stopped trying to improve upon it and stopped feeling connected to it. So, we have been waiting for just the right moment to make the move so we can really have a home we can call our own.

Our trip to Norway is really what clinched the move in my mind. We have proven, over the year that we have been together, that we can handle nearly anything that is thrown at us. With Norway it was a combination of going to a foreign country and spending 2 weeks almost exclusively with his family (many of whom speak only Norwegian). So much happened during those 2 weeks that it is almost too difficult to tell it all. If you have specific questions about Norway, feel free to leave a comment and ask. At the very least, I will say this:

• Due to it’s latitude in the summer, it never got completely dark at night
• Due to it’s (nearly) socialist economy and high sales taxes, it was very expensive to visit
• It was one of the most beautiful countries, with the nicest people, that I have ever been to

Ok, so onward to the topic of today’s blog...

So, it’s no big secret that it is very expensive to live in Manhattan. But we figured that with our two incomes, we could afford to get a one bedroom apartment (usually between $1400-$1700 and up) in “the city” which is considered an upgrade from Astoria, Queens, where we live now. We knew that we would have to provide a security deposit, the first month’s rent, and since apartments are typically rented by brokers (like real estate) we would owe a broker’s fee. We had heard that the fee was typically one month rent (ouch!) but since we knew about it in advance, we knew to be somewhat prepared.

But, holy shit people, we were wrong. The going rate for broker’s fees is 15% of the yearly rent. 15%!!! On $1500/month rent, that is $2700. In addition to the deposit and the 1st month’s rent! On a higher priced apartment you might be able to get that percentage lowered, but for a lower priced apartment like we are trying to rent, there are dozens of people waiting in line willing to pay full price, so we have no negotiating room. The thing that really sucks is that for this apartment, there wasn’t an agent that could work exclusively for us (vs for the owner). This owner using one rental agency exclusively, so we are paying $2700 to simply have the agent open the door and take us to his office to sign paperwork. No searching or negotiating on our behalf. The agency is getting paid on both ends (by the owner and us), and there is nothing we can do about it.

Not only that, but trying to get an apartment rented is just as difficult as trying to buy a house! We found an apartment that we really like on the Upper East Side. $1500 for a one bedroom, with great storage, lots of space, in a great neighborhood. We can afford it financially, but can we afford the headache of the application process? Here is the list of things we had to provide when applying for the apartment:

• Application with 3 business references
• Legal Photo ID
• Letter from my current landlord saying I have been a model renter
• Letter from my current employer verifying my salary, length of employment and position (and since I am an independent contractor as well as an employee, I had to get letters from all of my consulting clients as well)
• 2005 Tax Return
• Last 2 pay stubs
• Bank Statement
• Letter from your CPA (huh? Who has a CPA?)

In addition, they will be calling all of our references in addition to the letters we worked so hard to collect, plus they will be doing a search for our names in the landlord/tenant court system.

Man oh man. What a racket! It sucks to think we have to do this because the people of New York have not stood up to the city to complain about how outrageous this is.

Maybe I should just become a real estate agent...

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