Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love at second site

It is late and sleep eludes me. Time for another story.

My move to New York City was sudden and rather unexpected. I had encountered an ad for my Dream Job, applied, and received an offer a month later. Could you, they asked, start in one's month time?

That is, could you, during the holiday season, find a way to give proper notice to your current job and move to a new city in a mere four weeks?

Certainly, I said. I will find a way. No problem at all.

I quickly learned what I did not yet know. Moving to NYC is overwhelming, and there are byzantine rules that exist in no other city that I know of. Many building owners refuse to entertain your inquiries unless you are represented by a broker. The traditional broker's fee? A cool 15% of the first year's rent. Rent that is among the highest in the nation.

I had three things going for me:

1. The recession, so cruel to others, has forced a softening in the rental market, which meant that negotiation was possible in both rental rates and the broker's fee. Although Craigs List now allows the option to see some apartments without a broker, my unfamiliarity with the market and my tight timeframe led me to conclude that I needed to engage one.

2. I have friends and family in the area, and they provided much-needed advice as to where to live and where to definitely not live.

3. My sainted friend M, who patiently walked the earth with me on that first day of looking at apartments.

I traveled to New York one hopeful weekend in November, and after a series of horror-inspiring garrets found a most charming place. French doors from the living room to the bedroom, a Juliet balcony, hardwood floors. Oh, yes, it was a 5th floor walk up, but really, wouldn't that provide great exercise? It was by far the best apartment I had seen that day, and I gratefully put down a deposit. M. and I went to a French cafe and celebrated. It was only afterwords that my broker cautioned me that, well, she hadn't been able to confirm with the landlord that it was still available, but don't worry, and she'd be in contact with me on Monday.

Monday arrived, and late afternoon I received a call. The apartment had fallen through. I would need to travel to NY a second time to look. My normally kind demeanor with the broker frayed a bit. I started to feel desperate.

The next weekend brought several more visits to apartments, and then we walked into a place that was still dusty from the gut renovation. I'll take it, I said. It was a one bedroom, beautiful and well-priced. The move-in date was a week later than I wanted, but I knew I could rely on the hospitality of my sister and brother-in-law for a short amount of time.

Once again, I was about to learn an unexpected lesson. I had already relocated to the area, asked my moving company to store my belongings, and was commuting two hours into the city from my sister's home in NJ. Several days before my move, I received a call from the broker. "The apartment isn't ready yet. Con Edison hasn't set everything up yet, and they still don't have cooking gas." The new date: two weeks hence. It is during these times that one becomes ever-more appreciative of family. My sister B, her husband S and their daughter W. were incredibly gracious and allowed me to stay for longer than any of us had originally imagined.

Finally, I was able to move in. I still didn't have cooking gas, nor a mailbox, nor a working dryer in the building's laundry facility. But the heat and the electricity worked, and I was grateful. I was home.

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