You know the “tiny house” movement where people separate themselves from 99% of their personal belongings/personal space? Well, the hubs and I were involuntarily trendy for the past four years. What we learned after sharing a 700 square foot, 1 bedroom apartment is that we love our stuff, we love our space and we needed more.
Living in New York City, finding new digs is comically competitive (we liked one place in Brooklyn but it was gone within 30 minutes of seeing it – crazy). Since you may not live in this hyper-reality, the following apartment-hunting tips are universal and can be applied no matter where you are.
Tip #1. Start The Process Early – This is something I actually wish I had done a bit better. We started looking in November and our lease was up January 31st. I thought this would be plenty of time – but had we waited a moment longer, we might not have ended up with our dream home. That’s because, unlike a basic rental, our new place is in a condo/co-op building, and the process of applying – financial disclosures, paperwork, background checks – was way more than we’d ever dealt with in the past. I recommend saving all your important documents (pay stubs, personal recommendation, proof of employment, current bank statements, etc) in your Google Drive as soon as you start thinking about moving, that way when you find the apartment you love, you’ll have everything in one place ready to go.
Tip # 2. Consider A Broker – We had our search narrowed to a certain neighborhood that we knew really well, so we didn’t feel the need to hire a broker. However, I have had a lot of friends, family and colleagues utilize real estate professionals to aid them in their search. This is especially useful if you’re too busy to manage the process on your own, if you’re relocating to a place you’re not too familiar with or if the process of applying intimidates you in any way. Just remember to build their fees into your moving budget, because they can be steep. Get the quote – usually a percentage of your lease down payment – upfront and in writing. Oh, and if you find you don’t like or trust your broker, remember that you can fire them and hire a new one at any time. Don’t allow them to steer you into a home that isn’t what you want.
Tip #3. Make A Checklist – When you walk into a new apartment, the experience can be distracting. Maybe it’s in a location that’s to die for. Maybe there’s some crazy feature that is ultra dazzling. Prepare to be caught off guard – and ground yourself with a checklist of must-haves. We called our old apartment “the cave” because of its narrow layout and lack of windows. So, we put open floor plan, 2 bedrooms and more natural light onto our checklist. You probably won’t get everything you want – but a checklist makes it easier to decide what you can and can’t live without (similar to finding a husband). The place we chose was the biggest and the best overall value – and while other places were newer (modern was on our checklist), in better locations (we aren’t as close to our favorite restaurant as we wanted to be) and had better amenities (the doorman box wasn’t checked either), we still knew this apartment would be the best place to live (we got our windows AND a view).
Having read this, you may think I’ve got it together and our move was totally drama-free, right? Riiiiight. Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll share some of the lessons, battles and compromises we faced once moving day arrived…and I’ll leave you to guess how much wine was consumed afterwards. 😉