Dec 5, 2013

How Not to Find an Apartment Sublease in NYC

January is coming up and, with it, Harvard's J-Term.

Either because the deans are feeling particularly giving at this time of year (no Scrooges in the lot!) or because they know they work us to the bone the rest of the year or just because they don't feel like coming to work until after MLK day (even deans gotta sleep off that New Year's Eve buzz, ya know), we don't have class again until around the last week of January.

There are a lot of options for what to do during that month off from school, post-holidays, and lots of people do lots of different things. I'm doing my different thing (auditioning like nobody's business, I hope) in NYC and am thus on the search for a two to three week sublease in one of the most expensive cities in the US.

Wow, I'm moving to New York. The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. How exciting!

Yes, I am already crying tears of financial pain at the thought of paying rent for a Boston apartment and a NYC apartment at the same time. So much waste.

Anyway, I need to find out an apartment. And, believe it or not (believe it, I told you to), it's harder than it sounds to find a tiny apartment for 2 grand or so for 2.5 weeks.

After all, you don't want to be the poor fool who gets stuck with the teeny tiny apartment for 3 grand for 2.5 weeks.

11 Going To Your Room
That looks just about right
There's probably some impish mogul with a heaping helping of schadenfreude somewhere, sitting over his iPad mini and cackling as he randomly moves decimal points around on NYC real estate pricing, adding a zero or three here and there.

12 Kiss Your Savings

There are probably many ways to go about finding an apartment (and the more money you have at your disposal, the more enjoyable the hunt will be). But there are also a number of ways not to go about your hunt and I'll list a few here.

DON'T post a 'housing wanted' ad on Craigslist with a full-length photo of you at the beach.

Believe it or not, I've seen it. Obviously putting up a photo of yourself in a bikini (=about as conservative as lingerie, beach setting or not) is only going to attract a bunch of creepy old skeevs trying to lure you into their would-be dens of immorality.

Do The Creep
You'd have better luck trying to live in the underground, the perv factor probably couldn't be much higher.

DON'T contact a real estate agency.

Unless Trump is your daddy (and if so, can we be friends?) a real estate agency probably isn't the way to go. They're generally trying to lease apartments for longer term so that they can collect that hefty commission. Likelihood of them being impressed by you showing up with your piggy bank and hick-town dream budget?

21 Everybody's Looking At You

Approximately equal to the likelihood of a 60 degree day in February in Boston.

DON'T try corporate housing.

See above, re: bathing in champagne lifestyle. For those among us who are a little more normal...

What It's Like Apartment Hunting In NYC

Moving on.

DON'T expect to get an immediate answer from the dream property that you finally find after hours of scouring Craigslist.

Not to be a total pessimist, but the place that you think is perfect and a total bargain (by NYC standards, that is) probably looks the same to everyone else and someone is likely bidding to go higher than the posted price, depending on desperation levels and the size of the windows.

Large windows = lots for sunlight = keeps you from wanting to fling yourself out of a window. Small windows = super dark and depressing lair = makes you want fling yourself out of said window -> window isn't big enough to fling yourself out of, you'd get stuck with your butt in and your head out (pretty awkward position to call for help from, so you likely decide to skip it and take a nap, instead) = YAY but brings you back to the beginning of the cycle (a vicious circle to continue until the end of your stay).

Anyway, this is one of the few times where quantity might beat quality. Especially if you're in a rush to find a place, you probably don't want to just reach out to one place at a time.

DON'T try to barter.

'Your Hell's Kitchen (sounds awful, is actually a very desirable location) studio for my services as a breakdance instructor/pancake maker/chicken wrangler' isn't likely going to get you far in a city where the same studio can easily go for the aforementioned $2,000+ per month.

The only exception is if you're looking for a room in exchanging for your child wrangling services. People seem to value that more than chicken wrangling in the city (seriously, the offers you find on Craigslist) but it's still highly improbable for a short lease. Live-in nannies tend to get hired for minimum stays of several months and, more often, years. Further, you'll have very little time to yourself to do whatever it is that you wanted to do in NYC. Unlike chickens, you can't just feed children and put them in their coop for the rest of the day.

This dad who just wants his kid to appreciate the great outdoors.
Though you could always put the kid in a pair of overalls and take it with, like this guy
That's probably breaking all sorts of general child-rearing expectations and it's a pretty sure-fire way to get fired in less time than it takes for a certain children's television channel star to flip the switch from wholesome to traphouse outcast.

But it's worth it. Because when you finally find a place?

20 Getting In Subway Calm

You feel like that.

Do you have any advice for how to actually go about the business of finding an apartment?

When was the last time you moved?

What's the craziest thing you've ever seen on Craigslist (or any other sort of wanted ad)?


  1. This. I'm going to be in grad school next year in NYC and I'm ready!…not….

  2. That's so funny and impressive. I like teaching and it can make my students motivated so they can go abroad.

  3. congrts,really funny.i like this school.

  4. You've managed to make some very sensible advice funny, I was laughing through this but aggressively nodding my head at the same time.


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