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In Which the First Apartment is the Hardest

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.

Abbe Ouziel and Jon Shiffmann were living with their respective parents after graduating college, but they realized that it was time for them to get a place of their own in the city. Their budget topped out at $1,600/month for a one bedroom so they knew that they'd get the most bang for their buck somewhere north of Morningside Heights. After learning some critical life lessons in New York real estate ( “I am green to this whole situation...and never considered the fact you can apply to an apartment and not get it. But then I realized that happens all the time.”), they found a suitable place over on Pinehurst Avenue in Hudson Heights. Also, take note that they've enabled a comments section in The Hunt, which makes for some interesting reading.

The couple decided to hunt for a one-bedroom on the Upper West Side for $1,400 to $1,600 a month. On that budget, Mr. Shiffman and Ms. Ouziel knew they would have to go way uptown, probably beyond Morningside Heights. One place had a “pipe with towels wrapped around it, which seemed like an ominous sign,” he said.

Early this winter, Mr. Shiffman contacted Michael Rider, an agent at A. C. Lawrence & Company, who had rentals in Inwood and Washington Heights. Mr. Rider took the couple to a handsome, newly renovated one-bedroom, for $1,400 a month, on West 188th Street. But it was on the ground floor, with two bedroom windows right on the street.

They moved on to Magaw Place, where another one-bedroom, small and unrenovated but livable, also cost $1,400. Now, however, they were starkly aware of the appeal of a newly redone interior.

Unprepared to have found a place so quickly, they gathered the necessary paperwork, which they provided to Mr. Rider the next morning.
But they were too late.

A few days later, with Ms. Ouziel at work, Mr. Shiffman ventured out again with Mr. Rider, this time to a $1,500-a-month one-bedroom on Pinehurst Avenue in Hudson Heights. It was completely gutted, with renovations about to begin.

Even in its unfinished state, Mr. Shiffman liked the space, a large rectangle. “If you are the first tenant,” he said, “it feels it was built for you.”

This time the only glitch was the landlord’s concern about having a drummer for a tenant. Mr. Shiffman allayed those fears: he keeps his drums at his mother’s house. “If you are serious about drums here,” he said, “you pretty much have to get a rehearsal studio.”
The couple signed a one-year lease on the unfinished apartment, paying a broker’s fee of $1,850.

· Trading the Nest, for a Place for Two [NYT]