Living in any part of a major city can have it’s drawbacks. Apartment living is especially difficult. In a major metropolitan area like New York City, the difficulty and bizarre things about apartment living are even worse.
City life isn’t for everyone. Especially New York. It’s like jam-packing a bunch of different people from all walks of life onto tiny little islands. It’s an especially difficult transition if you come from the countryside. Wide open spaces and green pastures are few and far between in NYC, unless you count the cesspool, rat infested Central Park. To make matters worse, trying to find an apartment in New York City is like like trying to find a needle in a haystack, only you also have to make a bet on the haystack before seeing what the needle even looks like.
Any person who has ever lived in a major city can tell you that every apartment building, old and new, duplex or condo, has it’s strange little quirks. They’re like living breathing entities, and we are all parasites trying to make a nest inside. The following list, contains bizarre facts or encounters about apartment living in NYC that most people just don’t understand.
1. Historical Listings: Some buildings in NYC come with construction dates that require you to become an overnight expert on pre-war/post-war architecture. For example, a building made in the 1930s might sound like a delightful old historic building with character, but it might also mean the difference between polyurethane insulation, and asbestos.
2. Bankruptcy Before Occupancy: A normal cost in applying for any apartment is requiring that tenants provide their first and last month’s rent. In NYC, you may also be required to fork over for a renter’s application fee, a security deposit, bankers fees, AND your first / last month rent all UP FRONT. Excuse us while we sell all our things…
3. Papers, Please: Some building managers have a very strict policy when it comes to documents before taking over an apartment. Aside from references from your previous landlords, a standard practice by all building managers is to also require previous bank statements, previous pay stubs, a resume, proof of citizenship, and even your tax returns.
4. Placing A Blind Offer: Sometimes when you start looking for apartments, a listing will go up online with very few hits. You get very excited and call to book an apartment viewing. You’re almost certain you’re going to take it, but you still want to see it first. Then, 10 minutes later you get an email telling you the apartment is taken! WHAT? How? In NYC, sometimes you gotta take a gamble and bet on a nice place before anyone else does. Who has time for viewings?
5. Roommates for Life: It’s often the case that the best apartments are one you can never afford to pay for on your own. Thank goodness for roommates. Unfortunately, you may actually end up having to rely on roommates well into your mid to late 30s. This is especially true if you’re single. It gets easier if you meet someone, settle down, and get married, but who has the time for all that?
6. No Elevators: In some old brownstone buildings, if you manage to find a really nice apartment, it might also happen to be on the 8th or 10th floor. Some of these buildings are so old, their architecture pre-exists the use of elevators in many apartments. Good luck trying to bring your groceries up ten flights of stairs.
7. Bedrooms are more like Closets: We have seen bedrooms that are literally rooms that have been cut in half to make it two rooms. Some bedrooms are considered ‘bachelors’ with the same square footage as your mother’s shoe closet. There’s nothing quite like getting to bake some cookies from the comfort of your own bed.
8. No Windows… or Doors?: Some apartments or bedrooms are so strangely packed into the big apple, that they defy most fire building codes. It’s a surreal experience waking up in your bedroom, and having absolutely no idea what time it is, given your disconnect from the outside world. Having no window, however, is preferential to having no door. Some apartments give you a small ‘privacy’ curtain if you’re lucky.
9. Fire Escapes – The Poor Man’s Patio: Most places in NYC have zero patio space or outdoor spaces for tenants. Some buildings are lucky to have an accessible rooftop, but more often than not, if you want some fresh air, you have to crawl out onto your fire escape from your window.
10. Noise Pollution: Looking for some nice, relaxing, peace and quiet? Not in New York! Between paper thin walls, to the neighbors upstairs checking out their bowling ball collection, New York is not a quiet place to live. If your neighbor’s making noise doesn’t drive you crazy, the constant construction outside will.
11. Washing Your Clothes: Having a washer or dryer that is onsite in your building is actually considered a luxury. Forget having them in your apartment. For most people, however, the only laundry facility available is the laundromat located several blocks away. Get used to packing your clothes in suitcases for the adventure to the laundromat.
12. Get Used To Smells: Living in any tight living space can be difficult, but in a place like New York City, every corner is like a new experience for your nostrils. Your roommates, for example, my inexplicably always smell like chicken noodle soup, or the person across the hall from you is boiling a lifetime supply of cabbage. The second you step outside, you’re hit with a wall of stinky cheese smell. Welcome to NYC folks, smelling gross things is par for the course!
13. Washing Your Dishes: What’s a ‘dishwasher?’ We’ve never heard of one of those? Is that a special kind of machine or something? Washing your dishes in NYC is a routine you’ll learn in time. If you’re lucky enough to get a sink, it shouldn’t be a problem. Some people end up having to do their dishes in the bathtub. It’s a good time saver though, because you can shower while you clean.
14. Speaking of Kitchens: Most units with a kitchen in New York are so small, that you can barely even call it a kitchen. Forget pantries, you’ll be lucky enough if you have a cupboard to store your dishes. Our suggestion is to learn how to be a minimalist when it comes to food. Good thing is, you won’t have enough space to entertain guests, so you’ll likely only ever have to cook for one.
15. Creative Storage: Space to store much of anything is very hard to come by. Most people resort to very clever ways to store their belongings. Kitchen pantries become bike lockers, bathroom vanities become towel closets, and any empty wall space is fair game. Bring your thinking cap if you plan to live here. You’ll find that trying to store any of your belongings becomes a challenge.
16. No Broker? No Apartment!: Unless you enjoy constant disappointment, we suggest finding yourself a broker or real estate agent to help you find a suitable living space. Trust us. It’s literally impossible to do anything else. There is the odd time you can go directly to the landlord or building manager to book yourself a listing, but a broker might also be able to tell you about other drawbacks in the area that a landlord has zero problem lying about.
17. Bad Landlords VS Really Bad Landlords: For some, having a landlord rarely seen or heard from is actually considered a luxury. This of course has it’s drawbacks if your toilet is clogged or there’s an unexpected brown liquid dripping from the ceiling onto your mattress. But for other tenants, their landlords can be downright crazy. Say goodbye to your privacy, as your landlord parades strangers around your apartment at their leisure, use your closets as tool sheds, or even stalk you to find out if you’re breaking any rules. Yikes!
18. Houses Cut In Half: If you’re lucky enough to move into a duplex or a shared home in one of NYC’s different distant neighborhoods, it is likely that you might end up in a place split entirely in two. Your bedroom, for example may contain half of a fireplace, or you might be stuck with half of a staircase. Either way, the rooms are small and it’s hard dealing with it, knowing you could have had a room twice the size.
19. Get Used To Infestations: Living cheap in NYC has it’s drawbacks, one of them being dealing with constant infestation. Whether it be bedbugs, or cockroaches, or even mice, it doesn’t matter how clean you might be, one of your neighbors could be the culprit. It’s best to take these things in stride, while also learning to accept that you need to incinerate your entire wardrobe.
20. Own A Car? Think Again: Most buildings in New York don’t have parking garages. If they do have a garage, or what some people refer to as “car storage” – vertical stacking of vehicles in a very small space, you have to literally schedule when you want to use your car so they can get it out of storage. If there is a parking garage, there are hefty fines that aren’t even built into your monthly rent.
21. If You Must Drive, You Better Be Rich: Did you know that you can actually buy parking spaces in New York City? Good news, you can… if you have a measly $250,000 lying around in your pocket. Not only is real estate highly coveted, parking spaces can take on bidding wars in and of themselves.
22. No Pets Allowed: Trying to find a building that allows pets in New York is virtually impossible. The lucky tenants that are allowed to own dogs should be extra careful when reading the fine print on the lease agreement. You may sign a lease for an apartment only to find out there is a weight and height restriction on your pets. Hope you aren’t that attached to your golden retriever!
23. Adventures in AC Installation: Living in New York City during the summer months is like spending your leisure time in Satan’s rear-end… it’s a sweaty, hot, miserable experience. Naturally, you want to install your air conditioning unit, but the only available window happens to look directly onto the sidewalk of a busy street. The risk you take putting that sucker up, may mean the life or death of the people walking down below.
24. The Heat Is On: If you manage to survive the summer months, the second it starts turning cold outside, you find yourself trapped in a fiery inferno as the landlord sets the furnace to one setting: Hell Fire. It’s safe to assume that no matter what, you’re always going to be hot and miserable living in New York. Unless your whole building has central air in the summertime. That’s when your landlord sets the AC to it’s only setting: Eternal Winter.