clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Upper East Sider Seeks Brooklyn Rental for Under $1,600

New, 3 comments

In this year's Renters Week rental diary, an Upper East Sider of two years shares her search for a new home in Brooklyn.

I'd never fully committed to New York, shedding jobs, apartments and roommates every year or so. When what started as a casual fling lapsed into a five-year relationship (still going strong!), I realized I wanted a place that I could comfortably call home and that I no longer needed to share with at least one other person.

I spent the last two years on the Upper East Side, where certain things almost defy parody, so when my lease was up, I was eager to move back where I first started: Brooklyn. (Yes, it, too, defies parody.)

Ideally, I wanted a one-bedroom or studio; I expected to adjust any requisites depending on location or amenities. Proximity to a subway was critical?a 10-minute walk that once seemed reasonable became outrageously far after I moved two blocks from the 6?but the commute to my job in Midtown Manhattan would likely be 30 minutes at best. And given that I'd eventually be priced out of certain neighborhoods, I was more interested in areas like Crown Heights, Prospect Heights or Bed-Stuy, where my dollar could be stretched for more. Estimated budget: $1,100 to $1,600. The lower, the better, considering the electricity, gas and Internet bills I'd have to cover on my own.

My one experience with a real estate agent was traumatizing, and most of what she showed was available on any rental site. So I opted to go it alone, scouring listings on StreetEasy and NakedApartments as well as setting up RSS feeds for some local rental companies. I also hoped this would help eliminate broker's fees, but as I later discovered, that was optimistic.

The first several apartments I looked at were good?great, even. A rent-stabilized one-bedroom in Park Slope with a terrace, all for $1,562? My commute to Midtown clocked in at half an hour, and I was familiar with the area, having had a number of sublets there. But the kitchen was impossibly tiny, fitting only one person at a time, and what had been listed as a one-bedroom was closer to a studio.

Other rentals were less promising, including but not limited to a dark, cramped studio in Greenpoint for $1,400 (Dad accompanying his daughter to the place, without a hint of irony, "Wow! This place is nice") and a studio in Brooklyn Heights for $1,495 that would likely fit little more than a queen-size bed and a dresser ("It's a great starter apartment"?the broker). Sure, there was a separate kitchen and bathroom, but the railroad layout meant the bathroom opened into the kitchen. Awkward.

The neighborhoods themselves were the biggest draw, and even then, the train access wasn't ideal. I wanted to avoid the L if possible, the G would only ever be a last resort and, well, I'd prefer not to be somewhere served by only one line. The more depressing realization? Recent college graduates would be angling to snap these places off the market by virtue of their location, and the competition that would ensue justified an otherwise overpriced space. (Welcome to New York.)

There was also the narrow, carpeted $1,600 one-bedroom in Navy Yards?conveniently advertised as Fort Greene?far from any subway ("We don't promote the on-site laundry otherwise we'd be swamped with responses"?the owner) and the ground-floor Crown Heights apartment for $1,275, whose bedroom included an odd platform by the window.

At best, I started getting a better idea of what I wanted my next place to look like: no first-floor apartments, ample storage space and decent building upkeep. At worst, constantly browsing listings persuaded me that extraneous add-ons like tin ceilings and roof access were absolutely necessary.

Finally I landed on a $1,525/month one-bedroom in a Crown Heights townhouse that gets a lot of light. The one negative? There was no way to avoid paying a commission because a real estate company was showing the place on behalf of the landlord. Not to mention that the broker in question stood me up because of a scheduling mishap, and the departing tenant gave me a tour of the place instead. Pluses include easy subway access, walk-in closets, bike storage and a spacious eat-in kitchen. The landlord lives on site, which is a positive. The building's maintenance was guaranteed to be better than my last place, where a steady stream of cockroaches made more frequent (and reliable) appearances than the super.
· Renter Reports archive [Curbed]
· All Renters Week 2012 coverage [Curbed]