Play Ari Lennox’s “New Apartment” while you read!
Do you remember the classic Carrie Bradshaw line: “In New York, you’re always looking for a job, apartment or a boyfriend.”
Well, I’ve been on the hunt for all three since graduating college in 2014. Finding an apartment is hard. But, finding an apartment in New York is an entirely different ballgame. From years of applying to the housing lottery to searching the pages of Craigslist and saving cribs on StreetEasy, it’s felt like there’s no place for me to go—unless I choose to live with multiple roommates.
Before Rona (B.R.), I had decided Fall 2020 was the time I make my move. Mentally and pretty much financially, I was on point for my goal. I had no plans on moving to Brooklyn as most my friends wanted. My goal was right over the bridge to The Bronx. It made sense for me: close enough to Harlem yet far enough to have my own space. Not too far from my family or from the train. And most importantly, walking distance to the little community I’ve created for myself uptown. The problem? My dream one bedroom apartment—in a building that has a swimming pool, a laundry room, gym, and more—is $2700 a month. My plan B apartment—a studio with the most beautiful natural lighting and a terrace— is $2300 as most of the apartments in the Mott Haven area start. Even my plan C apartment, another studio, started at $2700. Now, I’ve been lucky enough to have landed some projects this year that afforded me the opportunity to even save up for an apartment. But, as a full time freelancer, who’s work for the unforeseeable future is now currently on hold, that’s just not realistic anymore.
I’ve always had “champagne dreams and a quarter water budget,” but at some point I’ve started to wonder: Is the housing system created for us to actually live some place we want to or just some place we have to? While on pause, I’ve been taking this time to re-evaluate my wants from my needs when it comes to my apartment search. But, I’ve also been curious to what the housing situation will look like after Rona. Will rent be affordable? Will the second wave of gentrification push the rest of the NY natives out of the city? Will I be able to score a $700 a month apartment like the good old days?!
I spoke to licensed real estate professional and creative freelance photographer Jazmin Samora about the buyer’s market, current tenant laws, and more info on effectively apartment hunting during these times.
1) It is most definitely a friendly buyer’s market!
Within the last week alone, there was a surge in offers being made and accepted. During this current climate, very smart buyers and realistic sellers are taking this as an opportunity. I strongly encourage to take advantage of the low interest rates, less competition and an abundance of inventory.
2) For renters, please stay abreast of the ever changing tenant laws.
A lot has been in place since June 2019. Check online and with the source of how long really has the apartment you’ve been looking at on the market for? (Plot twist: If it’s been more than 14 days, ask why. You might have negotiation power here!)
3) Prices for Condo/Co-op have dropped significantly in volume.
High end developments are having aggressive incentives in order to close deals. Mortgage rates have been at an all time low. More price friendly rent stabilized apartments are inventory. The overall cost has gone down just within the last few months. If you see something that fits and you can afford it, run and get it now.
4) 2/3 of NYC residents are renters.
If you have been laid off, work has been limited, or no definitive time to return back to work and have documentation to sustain this, let your landlord know too. It is likely they will provide a rent credit as there is an entire protocol for a national pandemic that they have to follow.
Regardless of what happens, band with your fellow residents. The eviction moratorium happened because residents all banded together. We should be able to do the same for rent freezes across the city! Call on your local officials if you need more help check here.
5) If you’re still looking, keep checking out apartments— virtually of course!:
Check the notice for all tenants— it’s usually by all the mailboxes or nearby—take a photo, and follow up with those details online. If you happen to be around when another tenant is present be sure to ask questions! Most brokers can’t answer specific details about the neighborhood or building anyway. Ask about the repair protocol, is there a ticket you have to place with management? Document everything. If you’re hunting online, be sure to save the listing and ask the realtor for photos/video of the unit you are interested in.