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In Which 39 Apartments Are Seen, Uptown and Downtown

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If reading The Hunt stokes your deepest hopes that someday everything in life could work out, then you, too, are obsessed with the New York Times Sunday Real Estate section. Join us as we venture into the depths of this weekend's installment.

Jason Zaler was desperate to find a one-bedroom or studio in the Financial District or Harlem (an odd pairing, but whatever floats your boat) for under $2,200 per month. He saw a ridiculous amount of apartments, clocking in at 39 by the time the hunt was over. Inflexibility, bad luck, and the unfortunate apartment-got-sold-after-you-decorated-it incidence made this one seem like a frustrating hunt. But, worry not. A condo on 116th street offered just what he wanted, and he managed to snag the place for $2,150 per month.

He decided that if he rented a condominium from an owner, he would almost certainly get a nicer apartment at a lower price than if he stuck to ordinary rental buildings. Such a place would very likely come without a broker’s fee, too. His maximum price was $2,200 a month. Mr. Zaler, who is from Arizona, flew to New York last spring for a few days of intensive pavement-pounding. He found a studio at 1 Carnegie Hill on East 96th Street for $2,100 a month. The building’s lap pool was a bonus.

But when he returned to California, he was informed that the owner had decided to let a relative stay there instead.

Again he flew to New York. This time, he focused on two different neighborhoods, the financial district and Harlem.

He thought he had a deal for a one-bedroom at the Morellino on West 118th Street, but negotiations went nowhere. The owner wouldn’t go below $2,300, and Mr. Zaler wouldn’t go above $2,200. “That’s a principle thing,” he said. “I am a fantastic tenant.”
On Streeteasy he found a listing for a 500-square-foot alcove studio at a building on South William Street, renting for $2,300. He negotiated the price to $2,250.

But “after I furnished it and made it look fantastic,” he said, “the first person to see it wanted to buy the unit and wanted their son to occupy it immediately.” The buyers paid $495,000, and Mr. Zaler negotiated a buyout for himself, to cover the hardship of moving and a few months’ rent.

Now he had two weeks to move. This time he decided he would rather live in a one-bedroom uptown than another studio downtown.

Then he found a Streeteasy listing in a condo building on West 116th Street. He loved the quirky construction, with the building cantilevered over the mosque next door. The 630-square-foot one-bedroom had a washer-dryer and even a linen closet. “I thought, this is too good to be true and I better move on this fast,” he said.

When he walked into this one, the 39th of all the apartments he had seen, “I knew it was where I had to be,” he said.

He offered $2,150, emphasizing his reliability. “I will take care of it like it’s my baby,” he said. He was told that a couple was interested but their credit wasn’t as good as his.
He had a deal.

· Proud to be a Renter [NYT]