By Sarah Binney
You’re watching your phone anxiously, waiting for the long awaited beep that will signal the beginning of something exciting and wonderful. The minutes crawl by and slowly turn into hours, and all the while your traitorous phone remains suspiciously silent. The doubts start creeping in: was I too full on? Did I look scabby at the initial meeting? Should I have conducted myself differently? These thoughts cloud your mind while your phone’s blank screen mocks you from its cone of silence.
My Australian friends and I have shockingly found ourselves in this situation a number of times over the last month. The saddening aspect of this scenario is that there are no romantic prospects or failed dates responsible for our dismay. We are simply trying to find a place to live.
Nothing could have prepared me for the reality of searching for an apartment on CraigsList – and I didn’t realize I would need to sell myself as the best candidate or be prepared to take an apartment on the spot in order to find a decent place to live. One friend had found a perfect $900 a month room in the East Village and casually mentioned since the roommates were three guys, she should send a boob pic to seal the deal – I’m not entirely sure she was joking.
While my last post outlined the difficulties in finding genuine Craigslist advertisements, I now realize the difficulties don’t diminish after you’ve overcome the initial challenge and narrowed the apartments down to your few favorites.
The truth is, people offering genuine, reasonably priced sublets in NYC are in extremely high demand, and you are just one candidate among many trying to win the coveted prize. The emotional process involved with finding an apartment is similar to dating. You may think you’ve found ‘the one’ and feel you had a great connection with the owner but the reality is: they’re just not that into you.
This happened to me last weekend (and not for the first time). I found a perfect studio sublet on the Upper West Side, close to Trader Joe’s, Duane Reade and the subway. It was very affordable, reasonably sized and had great amenities. The owner was lovely and I chatted to her and her boyfriend for a while, strongly intimating my interest in the place and my ability to pay up front (I would just need to check it over with my future roomie first). As soon as my friend woke up in Australia, we were on the phone excitedly chattering about our plans for having our own place in a nice neighborhood, and naively planning our indoor mani-pedi wine and cheese nights.
So yeah, we really wanted the place.
Fast forward two days later and I had left two VoiceMails, two text messages and sent an email. I knew I was beginning to look desperate, but nothing else matched my criteria and I had already started to revolve my entire life around securing this rental. I offered to pay the full amount up front. I would have offered more rent money, given half a chance. I hadn’t started planning my wedding to the apartment and what our kids would look like but I was well on the way.
The silence was soul crushing. Not to mention entirely confusing. All of my messages were politely constructed, with the last one indicating that it was fine if she had rented the place – but to please just let me know. At least I could then move on with my life and stop pining over lost love, eating endless tubs of ice cream and listening to LeAnn Rimes “How Can I Live” on repeat.
It was possible I was too full on, which is something I’ve heard can be off putting to New Yorkers. I would understand if I was to be sharing with her, but she wasn’t going to be in the apartment at all. Not to mention, I thought we got along really well, and having a strong interest might put me at the head of the pack. Clearly, I was mistaken.
In the end, I got nothing back from her. I tried putting it out of my mind, while moving on with viewing different apartments. I saw another gorgeous studio on the UWS, but it was impossible to not compare with ‘the one that got away’. Yes, the inside was beautifully decorated and the owner one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in New York, but it was more expensive and it was too far uptown.
I couldn’t get Apartment Number One out of my head.
Unfortunately, this situation is not unique to me and if you’re also using Craig’sLlist to find your next home, you’re likely to experience this kind of disappointment more than once. I am not exaggerating when I say the process is extremely emotional. You easily invest 3-4 hours a night searching through the plethora of rentals before narrowing it down to 5-10 , emailing them and hearing back from only a couple, organizing an inspection, finding ‘the one’ and hearing nothing back.
Then it’s time to start the process all over again.
It’s emotionally taxing to get your hopes dashed over and over again, while investing hours of your valuable time scouring the pages of the internet. I have no solid advice on how to overcome the disappointment, besides keeping in mind the old cliché “everything happens for a reason”. I have also heard stories of potential applicants showing up to an apartment with a wad of cash, ready to make a deposit. I’m not sure if I’m ready to take that next step, but if the difference between me getting the place and not getting it was a matter of hours, then it does make me wonder if this is something I also need to do.
The reality is, Manhattan has a 1-2% rental vacancy at any given time (and sometimes lower in areas like Greenwich Village) and finding an apartment that fits your requirements is time consuming and tricky. I remember back home, in the Gold Coast Australia, trying to fill a $400 a month room and struggling to get people in to see it. We were easy going roommates and we had a nice, well looked after place. When you start to draw comparisons between home and the NYC rental market, your mind can go into overdrive trying to justify the costs of living in this city.
I’m beginning to get over the studio, since my friend has sent me a couple more listings which would actually suit us better (we would get our own rooms!). The old saying “there are plenty of fish in the sea” rings true for this situation as much as it does during a particularly hard break up, no matter how much you don’t want to hear it in your heartbroken state. It’s important to stay positive!