Help me find an apartment in New York!
February 7, 2014 10:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm a single young man currently living in New Jersey. I work downtown (near the Fulton St. A stop) and have a standing appointment in the West Village twice a week that keeps me out until 10:30 and 12:30, respectively. I'd like to move into the city proper to make both of these things easier, but I've only ever lived with family and friends (in Chicago). What would be some good neighborhoods for me to consider? How do I find room-mates? How do I find places to look at? Do I need a broker? More on my budget, desires, and lifestyle inside.

Numbers first: I'd like to stay under $1000/month and absolutely cannot afford more than $1500. (Although, to be honest, these numbers sound completely fantastic to me; in Chicago, I paid $265 to share 3BR/1BA.)

Location: I'd like to be within thirty minutes of Fulton St, and I'd like to be able to walk safely as late as one or two. I don't really care whether the neighborhood has any restaurants, coffee shops, theatres, museums, etc. My interests are pretty specific and eclectic, and I think I know where to go for most of them.

Based on my previous housing experiences, here are the things that have been problematic for me:

- I cook and am kind of picky about kitchens. Minimally, a gas stove, and an exhaust fan; ideally, a deep double sink, at least 36" of counter or non-wobbly island, and a microwave. A mainstay of my social life in Chicago was inviting people over to cook and/or eat with me. I also do my mise en place a week at a time, so a full-size freezer and refrigerator would be best. (Or, I guess, room-mates who never cook.)

- I ride a bicycle and want to store it indoors. A bike room with an immobile rack would be fine. I can also bring it into my room.

It might be helpful to add that I seem to require less personal space than most people. For three years I shared a bedroom with a friend, and then the next year I had a desk in somebody's living room and a hammock on the porch. (I actually loved that place; the people were interesting and the kitchen was great!) For a few months I shared a Manhattan studio with three other people. I would say I'm pretty good at getting along with people in tight quarters and I have low demands of the physical facilities.

But those were all with people I knew, sometimes for years. I suspect my ideal housing situation, if I wasn't already friends with my room-mates, would be some kind of co-op arrangement where I had a private bedroom and shared a common kitchen, bathroom, and dining/living space with a large number of other people.

Another problem: I've never looked for housing in New York. In Chicago I found my room-mates first and just went wherever they wanted. Craigslist has been nothing but frustration in terms of searching through the listings, arranging viewings and getting people to actually do them as scheduled, etc. Maybe there's some sort of etiquette I'm ignorant of? Maybe I should just rent a two-bedroom, post my own ad, and hope I find a room-mate before I run out of money?

So, in summary:
- What neighborhoods should I look at?
- How do I find an apartment? Do I need a broker? How does Craigslist work?
- How do people find room-mates if they don't already know them?
posted by d. z. wang to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For under $1000 you don't need a broker, you need a roommate.

I would look for shares in Washington Heights and Inwood, as well as Clinton Hill and Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. All those neighborhoods are convenient to the A or C train and will have something good in your price range.

Re your specifics.

- Gas stoves are ubiquitous in New York City. In a dozen years I don't think I ever saw an apartment with electric. A full sized fridge with freezer is assumed, unless you're thinking about moving into an SRO or something. A working exhaust fan will be a little harder to find, and you can say goodbye to the notion of a double sink. The counter space is something else you could prioritize, though I haven't seen many NYC apartments with kitchens large enough for entertaining. You might want to look for a gut renovation or more recent construction, which might offer a more open plan living area and kitchen.

- Bike room? Lol. Your living room is your bike room, unless you get very, very lucky.

- Re Craigslist, look for ads for shares that include lots of photos of the space and seem like they've been written by human beings. Ideally you want an ad written by the roommates, not the landlord.
posted by Sara C. at 10:51 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you want to be in NYC or just 30 min from downtown? Because your price range sounds more like New Jersey.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:17 PM on February 7, 2014

A few clarifications before I go to bed, just so the thread doesn't derail overnight:

- I've always had room-mates and expect to have some again. Although if I don't already know them, I'd prefer they be flat mates and not room-mates proper (like, in the same bedroom, or sharing a studio).

- Thirty minutes is arbitrary. Coming in from New Jersey takes ninety, so there's a lot of wiggle room here. Sorry I wasn't clear about that. But I would really like to be on the right side of the river, because crossing it after midnight can be tricky, especially in bad weather or when I have a bike with me. I've had some Godot-like experiences waiting for NJTransit and PATH late at night.

- If my budget is impossible, feel free to tell me how much it would cost. I'll be the first to admit I don't have a good sense for the NYC rental market.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:31 PM on February 7, 2014

If you want affordable rent, a relatively sane commute and easy access to the West Village, you should be looking in north-ish Brooklyn near the A, F, D, or 2/3 trains.

Clinton Hill, Fort Green, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill, maybe Crown Heights. For lower rent in exchange for a longer commute, the parts of Sunset Park on the D line and the parts of Kensington on the F. You also might luck out on something affordable in Cobble Hill, Carrol Gardens or northern Park Slope if you're willing to live with roommates and have good housing karma.

If you really want to be in Manhattan, you can try way up north on one of the express lines, like the A or the D. But I'll leave the specifics of those neighborhoods to other Mefites who are more familiar with them.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:02 AM on February 8, 2014

(Also: the kitchen thing is going to be a problem with a lot of the apartments you'll probably see. Your standard NYC rental in the price range you're talking about will have very little counter space, a shallow medium-sized sink, a small gas stove, and nothing in the way of a ventilation fan. You will have better luck renting directly from individuals, rather than large management companies -- the big landlords just renovate all their apartments to have the exact same mediocre kitchens. It can be a little spooky, actually. Newer construction, "luxury" apartments can be better, but those people are less likely to be looking for a roommate online)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:32 AM on February 8, 2014

To help you in your search, please know that the word "roommates" means what you're calling "flatmates". Shared bedrooms and studios are not really a thing.

I'd look in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.
posted by valeries at 4:32 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll be honest: Given your price range, the other things you describe, such as a bike room, kitchen, etc. are not going to happen, even with roommates. NYC is expensive.

A couple of options for you: Washington Heights/Inwood on the A line, Williamsburg and other neighborhoods on the L line, and then Clinton Hill, Bed Stuy.
posted by dfriedman at 5:03 AM on February 8, 2014

Do you have the financial resources to qualify for a $3000 apartment and find the roommate yourself? If you do, or can convince your parents or someone else to co-sign, I'd recommend new construction with a garage in Brooklyn or Queens. You could definitely find a one bedroom apartment at $3K or less and then you can rent out the bedroom if you don't require much personal space.

I recommend new construction with a garage because there will likely be a place to put your bike in the garage and the kitchens will be nice and meet your requirements. It's true that people renting those spaces won't typically be looking for roommates, so if you can rent the space and then find a roommate to share that's ideal.

I recommend looking in Williamsburg/Greenpoint, downtown Brooklyn or Long Island City for the largest number of those sorts of rentals. I think there are a few buildings like this sprinkled in Astoria, etc. and maybe even more affordable in neighborhoods further out in Brooklyn and Queens. Also, maybe take a look at Riverdale in the Bronx, though the commute will be much longer than 30 minutes to downtown.

Finally, avoid craigslist and look on streeteasy.
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:16 AM on February 8, 2014

Try Crown Heights off the A or 2.
posted by thirdletter at 5:21 AM on February 8, 2014

Prospect Heights and Crown Heights are where people with a limited budget and living with roommates are going.

Generally, the kitchen situation in NYC is almost always substandard because people are much less likely to cook, so people care a lot less about kitchen standards.

Since you are looking for roommates, a broker is unnecessary. But you will have more luck mining your friends for info about people looking for roommates than Craigslist. But if you gotta do what you gotta do, then you slog through Craigslist.
posted by deanc at 7:24 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

For your budget you can live by yourself in Washington Heights, or you could save money with a roommate [or get a more fabulous apartment]. It takes me about 40 min on the A to get to Fulton Street. I [female] always feel safe walking around up here at night. I found my apartment on craigslist- no fee.
posted by the twistinside at 7:39 AM on February 8, 2014

I +1 roommates in a new construction building. I briefly sublet in the Avalon LIC and my kitchen had everything you want here. Bike storage in the garage. However it was expensive as hell. So... a similar but cheaper place? Maybe Williamsburg?
posted by zvs at 7:45 AM on February 8, 2014

In my experience (and when it comes to moving around NYC, I have a lot) your budget is totally reasonable for a room in a shared apartment in most Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods. A few things that might be helpful to know:

You mention an exhaust fan and a double sink. Those things will be hard to find. They don't exist in old-construction buildings, which means they don't exist in most of Brooklyn. If you're set on having that kind of thing, your best bet is to look in neighborhoods that were designed as industrial areas: Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Long Island City. That goes for the bike room as well. If you're able to give up those things, your options will expand a lot

In addition to looking at the Rooms & Shares category on Craigslist, you should also be looking at sublets. Some sublets are long term (6 months to a year) and some can turn into more permanent situations.

Also, Craigslist moves FAST. You need to stay on top of it, and when you see something that fits your qualifications, you need to make contact right away. If you see a place and you like that and are willing to move in, make that clear to the folks living there.

Standard neighborhoods to consider: Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, Bushwick, Long Island City. If you're willing to do a slightly longer commute, you might also look at Kensington and Ditmas Park.

And if you really don't care about having nice shops etc. in your area, you can look more seriously at Queens. There are lots of cheaper neighborhoods there that are perfectly fine but not particularly "cool."
posted by Mender at 7:53 AM on February 8, 2014

I will going to go against the grain, and say you ought to consider staying NJ, in particular near a PATH stop. Hoboken, or Jersey City downtown, or near Journal Square. World Trade Center train will take you downtown, 33rd street train takes you by the West Village.
posted by fings at 12:38 PM on February 8, 2014

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