From Brooklyn to Central Park in 3 days

Here is the story of our search for apartment, a great one which starts at Brooklyn and ends at Central Park while everyone told us it was not possible to find something affordable.

The story began on the Internet… There are a lot of websites. It is difficult to make a well-considered decision between fake and real ones. In our case, we focused on three options:

  • Craigslist : The most-used and advised website according to several American, but it is also the worst interface ever created. It is ugly and unpractical, but we took the time to understand how it worked. We looked for some apartments on this website, but there were a lot of fake offers.
  • Airbnb : It is more practical and has a lot of good offers. Usually, all costs are included, but the sad part is that you must pay the whole thing at once before moving in. You could find everything we wanted, from a private room in an apartment already occupied to an 8-room condominium. We were looking for a flat that will fit 5 people. It turned out that there were a lot. Few of our colleagues in the Transcontinental Track actually found a room on Airbnb.
  • Brokers: They arrange transaction between buyers and sellers. This is the best option to find very fancy places with attractive prices and to avoid loss of time on websites. However, you must pay broker’s fees which are generally equal to a one-month rent, which can be high if you only stay for 4 months. There are a lot of brokers in NY. It is important to get informed. We found Jeanne who works for Urban Living, which is a French broker company. This is the option we chose.
  • Facebook: is full of group like “les Frenchies à NY”, “Gyspsy Housing NYC”, “NYC Craigslist” … but the problem is that there are a lot of scams. That’s why we didn’t use it.

Let’s get started the research:  

We heard many times that Manhattan is too expensive to live in and that it is very difficult to find an apartment there. So, we started focusing on Brooklyn. However, we finally decided to look at Manhattan. We realized that some apartments were interesting and sometimes even less expensive. Once more, it is important to know where to search and to spend hours on it, but everything is possible.

On the second day of research, it was a nightmare until 12 a.m.… Fortunately, after lunch, everything changed: landlords and brokers answered back and apartment’s visits were sprouting out all at once. One thing to note is that when you find a broker he/she offers you to show apartments that you didn’t expect, and where we didn’t expect (like the one we found at Central Park).

We spent the whole afternoon visiting apartments. Some were n3ice, others were huge scams. For instance, one broker offered us to build walls in a non-furnished apartment to transform 2 bedrooms into 5 bedrooms- this was completely unbelievable. He also told us that Pace University was only 10 minutes by walk from the appartment but it turned out to be more than 30 minutes according to Google Maps (which is going to be your friend during your entire trip by the way).

During this afternoon, only 2 apartments caught our attention: a 2-floor house in Brooklyn and a 2-floor apartment in the Upper West Side close to Central Park.

We spent the whole night to debate pros and cons regarding prices, charges, added fees (caution, broker’s fees…), etc. Was it important to pay a little more to have view on Central Park? It took us a night and a morning to answer this question. What helped us decide? A negotiation with Jane, our agent, who agreed to reduce renting and broker’s fees.

Move in? Not yet…

On Saturday, negotiations were finished ($250 granted every month on our rent and in the total of broker’s fees) and then we went to the agency to sign the contract. We were really happy. For us it was the end of an unsure life and the beginning of a beautiful one in the Upper West Side. Unfortunately, we forgot the rent payment, the caution and the fees… We needed cash, but our banks couldn’t give us the amount we needed to pay the fees due after signing the contract. We actually underestimated ceilings on our accounts. We finally paid the fees with a money transfer and the first rent in cash. Regarding the payment of the damage deposit we were very lucky. Our landlord had an account in France. It avoided us to pay transfer fees with an international transaction.

That’s how finally we paved our way to the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Here is a useful guide for necessary documents and broker’s fees:

  • On Craigslist: Rules are different regarding landlords. It should be noted that without an American “credit score” it’s difficult to prove any solvability. You may be asked to pay for every month at once – so do not forget to ask for a receipt. Moreover, there are a lot of fake offers and you may have some surprises sometimes. On the contrary, it’s possible to pay a deposit as well as the first two months in advance – here again, don’t forget the receipt.
  • On Airbnb: You don’t need anything; you book and you pay, everything is included.
  • Agencies: It also depends on the landlords. Concerning documents, they just need the copy of your passport and make you sign a contract including duration and name of roommates. The bad part is broker’s fee.

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By Léa Battaglini, Laetitia Raymond and Arthur Virte

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