Friday, April 11, 2008

You had me at "dishwasher included" - an odyssey

For the last two weeks, I've been completely engrossed in Craigslist.

No, not missed connections*, but the equally skeezetastic world of apartment listings. And good LORD. I feel like I've just emerged from Satan's armpit.

Considering that I'm moving out of a tiny place I share with five other girls, my roommate Adam is schlepping it in from Jersey and my other roommate just fought off a bedbug infestation in Queens, we thought our housing demands were pretty simple. We totally acknowledged that we were bound to get screwed somehow, we were just trying to minimize it.

So here's what we wanted:
-Three bedrooms. We're friendly, but not that friendly.
-Location over space (so Manhattan/nearby Brooklyn rather than having a boccie ball court in New Jersey)
-No more than $3000 total rent after any fees, etc.
-Move in May 1st

First we learned that the Internet lies. You search Craigslist for "landlord only" and not a single one of those listings that we looked at was void of a middleman. They suck you in and waste your time showing you a place with walls that look like the surface of the moon and scabies in the bath tub and then say, oh, PS I want 15% of that noise. And it costs 4K a month and even though we're on Avenue D I hear that the bums are really friendly over here and the raping is only seasonal. Fair enough, you've got chilluns to feed, but how am I supposed to feel about doing business with such a blatant liar? It's not so much the lying, it's the fact that they think I'd buy into it. Bad acting, whatever the context, is always offensive.

Second, we learned that brokers might be nice people, but in general, they suck. Stating the obvi, I realize, but we had one broker who showed us "something in our price range" with a scenic view of a brick wall and one bedroom for the three of us. My roommates are great, but not great enough to have a pig pile with every night. Some of my favorite broker quotes:

"This is below market. I mean, you're lucky I showed it to you."

"You're NEVER going to find anything in that price range."

"Oh, you guys met in college. That's so cute. What's your credit like?"

"Really, Ave. D isn't any cheaper than Second Avenue anymore. I mean, people LOVE it here. It's ALL East Village now."

"I know the market. I can tell that you don't know the market."

"Yeah, I had to move in with my boyfriend. I kind of like him, but even I can't afford this market. Ha!"

Phew. One afternoon after looking at a "soon-to-be-renovated" job on Ave. B, my roomies and I sulked over slices of Two Boots Pizza. We might as well have been talking about angsty twentysomething relationships - the right one will come along, it just wasn't right, change is scary, I didn't trust it, I just smelled too much like patchouli, and so on. We were a bunch of sad pandas.

We looked at dozens of places, then my roomie stumbled upon a GEM in the Lower East Side. We wondered; could it be The One? It's under our budget, even after fees, spacious (a walk-in closet! my shoes rejoice!) and in Manhattan. Okay, so I have a view of the FDR, but I also have a view of the Manhattan Bridge. We pounced. Our lease-signing is on Monday and my obsession with Ikea seems slightly more rational now that I have somewhere to put that bookshelf.

We sucked it up and ended up paying a modest broker's fee. But soon it felt justified. When googling for her fax number, we learned that she moonlights as a stand-up comedian. They say that it's not necessarily wise to be choosey, but I want some jokes with my keys, dammit.

*I've always secretly wanted to BE someone's missed connection. It doesn't have to be anything John Cusack-worthy, but just a "hey, you seem rad" shout-out would make my day. In high school, my friends and I would write cryptic free personal ads to each other in the pages of Eugene Weekly. Does that count?