Dearest blog followers!
Right after we applied for the social security number and had openened the bank account on Tuesday, September 23rd, we started with our apartment search (by the way: Daniel's social is still not here and it's getting problematic for us, because we really do need it! Please pray that it comes very soon).
Sadly this whole apartment journey was quite a challenge in the beginning. The lady from NYC Navigator (that as well had helped us with the social security number), emailed us a list with brokers. All of them were specialized in Manhattan. Obviously all of the people from Deutsche Bank that come to NYC want to live right in Manhattan and accept to have not a lot of space (or they earn tons of dollars and can afford it...). But Daniel doesn't earn tons of money and I don't want to live in a tiny apartment surrounded by tall buildings, like we are living now. Hardly any daylight enters and that's so depressing! Also a one-bedroom apartment is too small for us (also because I am working from home - so I need an office space).
Through all those months always Brooklyn came to my mind when I was thinking about where to live in NYC. I really wanted to live in the neigbourhood Park Slope (that would have been my dream at least). I knew that this neigbourhood is secure and good.
Somehow I had imagined the whole apartment search more glamorous. I thought we are telling the broker our budget, the place we want to live and how many bedrooms. Eventually she would send us a list with possibilities and we look at the ones we like. Decision, signing the lease and ready for moving. Home sweet home. To paint the picture even more for you guys... Gee, it would have been awesome to been picked up with a car and being driven to look at those places (I am watching too much HGTV!). A broker that is spoiling us and helping us like in the business-class of the aparment search (Airberlin business class I do miss you so much!). I think I had those strong desires because I was just out of energy. This city is a very loud and dirty one. Always on the run, always from one "tent" to the next and not really arriving home (well that's just how I felt).
The broker sent us the lists for the neighbourhoods that we could actually afford: East Harlem, Queens, parts of Brooklyn. We searched through more than 40 apartments in the internet and prioritized them. In the end we picked 15 that seemd worth looking. We called the brokers for those special apartments (because most of them didn't want to co-broke with our broker). In the end we could see six apartments, the others one were already gone.
What did we learn?
If you have a budget from 2,000 to max 2,500 dollars for your monthly rent, want to live in a secure neighbourhood, have a max 40 minutes commute and want to have 2 to 3 bedrooms, you can forget that! One of those things you have to throw over board at least!
Isn't that a bummer?! The rents are so incredibly expensive. We knew that before, but some of the things you just realize when you are standing inside of a real building and see it with your own eyes. I am German and I really do like quality. I think it's a must to have an apartment with windows that don't let a storm inside your living room. I also think it's important to have a bath room that doesn't make you want to throw up when you see it each morning, because it's so disgusting (sorry for being so direct, but that's how it is). I am a good cleaner, but some of those apartments you can't rescue with cleaning. You have to renovate them and sadly we don't have a budget for stuff like that (maybe I should start the lottery?).
Also the apartement sizes and the room sizes are quite a thing. It seems that in NYC a normal room has 10 square meters or less (107 square feet). We are having a king size bed - I wonder how we are getting that in such a tiny room (and goodbye my sweet night stands... it would have been just too good to have you near my bedside)? But we would have done it, if there would have been at least more closet space. Goodness, we are so spoiled with our wonderful basement room in Elstal, where we could store suitcases and camping stuff.... *storageparadise*. And those mean brokers with their fancy cell phone cameras that create the impression of spaceous rooms. And those filters that make ugly and torn down kitchensn look like brand new and shiny (CHEATERS!!!). But the moment comes that you arrive in the reality of aweful apartments and have to make the decision if you want to live there and raise your future offspring (no, I'm not pregnant, but I intend to be in the future). Who paints over a rusty pipe? Who does that? Where's the quality? My broken German quality heart needs to go to therapy (but with those food and rent prices I can't afford even that ;-)!
And last but not least it depends where this special apartment is located. One apartment was gorgeous. A nice brownstone building (I actually love brownstones... yes, obiously I grew up with the Cosby Show). Even our bed would have fitted and there was a washer and dryer hook up (most of the apartments don't have that and it's not allowed to bring it into the building - you just can go to the laundry mat). But there were quite some awkward people in the neighbourhood. A man just peed on the tree beside where we were waiting - during daylight! I am used to stuff like that in dark subway corners in Berlin, but not on a tree lined street with family buildings. The brokers aren't allowed to tell you about the crime rate in the neigbourhood neither the square feet of an apartment. Because they could be sued. Another lady that was interested in the same apartment and she said that at night she would want to be dropped by taxi close to the door. Well, I think that says already something about the area.
Truth is, that I don't want to be surrounded by weird people that pee on the trees in my street, because they are caught in their own drug-addiction-world. I don't want to be scared for Daniel, when he walks outside in his nice suit. You never know what could happen if somebody is in the mood for a fight.
More thän 2,500 dollars for rent we can't afford. That's already our maximum. For that money we could have moved into a better neighbourhood as well, but just for tiny space. That's why the commute time had to go over board. The apartment we'll be moving is quite distant from the Financial District. But the area is safe, we have lots of closet space and even a third bedroom. Also we will have our own washer and dryer already inside the apartment!
Here's a little bit of what we saw in those past weeks. You can click on the street names and google maps will pop up. I don't want to share our new address in the internet, but I'll update you when we really live there (or you also can ask me for it via the contact form). The pictures are in our looking order.
Number 1: Columbia Street
The apartment was directly on top of a store place that is going to be a bar or a beer garden (yay, I imagine how that would be with lots of drunken people underneath us every night... so the expression NYC night life gets a deeper signification ;-).
The view out of the kitchen was a part of the harbour (thumbs down)...
... AND the skyline from Financial District (thumbs up)! That was really cool, but the good view can't make an ugly apartment prettier. The broker was such a nice guy, but that didn't make the horrible ceilings, broken floors, an aweful bath room and the tiny rooms better. Don't get me wrong the apartment had definitely potential - but not without a proper renovation. The best thing on that apartment was the short commute - just 20 minutes to Wall Street. It is a tricky thing to get what you desire... in the end the whole package has to be acceptable and not just the view and the commute (gee, being a grown up isn't an easy task).
Number 2: Clifton Place
That was the place where the broker had that fancy cell phone that made the rooms look so much bigger (and he even showed us his phone and told us about this awesome feature... tz tz tz... no wonder that they don't let you know the square feet in the internet ad). The whole place smelled as a giant ashtray and the bath room would have to be renovated as well (aaahhh, give me a renovation budget and I would have easily done that... yes, I am really watching too much HGTV - no doubt!).
Number 3: Putnam Avenue
This apartment was so pretty (altough the house doesn't seem that awesome from the outside look)! Super proper renovated and cute (with exposed brick walls in it). But sadly no closet space and as well no washer-dryer hook up. If I would be a student again I'd love to live there. Also the people in the area seemed normal and there was a "Gospel Hall" at the end of the street.... it could have been a new choir for us. To some apartments you can say easily "I never wanna see you again!", but to others - like that in Putnam - it was sad to say goodbye.
Number 4: Grand Avenue
A real Brooklyn-Brownstone-Building, but the neighbourhood wasn't so friendly (it was the area with the tree-marker-guy). The apartment was as well too small. The kitchen dining area could just fit a table with chairs and no sofa at all. And it had just 1,5 rooms.
Number 5: Vernon Avenue
This building seemed like a little wind would blow it away. The apartment was in the basement. Do you see the bars at the yellow footing? That would have been our living room. Isn't it charming? ;-) The entrance was underneath the red steps. There was also a back door at the apartment and even I could have broken into it... so I just didn't feel safe in that place, although it had more space than what we saw before.
Number 6: Bayside Queens
Ta ta ta taaaaaa - may I introduce our new apartment?! :-)
This one we saw at the very end. The evening before Daniel had to start his job - so it was quite a last minute thing. The house is over 20 years old, but in an awesome shape, because the owner takes very good care. We will live in the ground level. The left garden door is ours and our entrance is a the very left side from the house. You can get a glimpse on the photo. The gorgeous and big entry way is for the owner and he lives right on top of us. Here we have three bedrooms and everything is clean and proper constructed. Washer and dryer are coming with the apartment and even a vaccum cleaner. The room sizes are ok and we have lots of closet space.
We had to make a quick decision if we want to take that one, because the market is so fast that you have to make up your mind quickly. I am still torn apart, because of the long commute for Daniel (at least one hour for one way). It wasn't an easy decision for us but in the end the safe environment and the space of the apartment won us over. The lease will be for a year and we can find out if we like it and want to stay there after one year or if we would make a change.
We still have to wait for the cargo-plane to arrive that brings neccesary items like blankets, pillows, kitchen stuff, towels etc. We shoud get it in one week. It's our plan to move on Friday, October 17th into the new apartment. Until then we need to get electricity and gas, internet, cell phones and apply for my work permit. For the container with our furniture we have to wait at least one more month, so we also need to buy an air mattress. You see we aren't getting bored.
Thank you so much for all your comments and emails!
I am always happy to hear from you! :-)
PS: Maybe some of you are interested about the Brooklyn neighbourhoods and where it's safe to live: click.
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