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Love the one you’re with

December 18, 2009

Apartment hunting in New York City is very much like another kind of hunting–dating.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve helped a friend with his apartment search. We’ve looked at dozens of apartments, from cramped railroad-style walkups to airy two-bedrooms. As with dating, this has been an exercise in frustration. It’s not surprising that these two types of searches share many common features.

With the multitude of options available, you have to narrow down what you’re interested in. How many bedrooms? Walkup or elevator building? Age? How do they feel about pets? Kids? And with both, the three magic words: location, location, location.

Once you know what you want, it’s time to start looking. Both apartment hunting and dating nowadays start in the same place–the internet. For the majority of my friend’s search, we used Craigslist. It’s much better for apartments than it is for dating, but one should still approach the results with caution. A good ad requires photos, however, if something sounds good enough, it might be worth it to roll the dice and see it anyway. Don’t build something up too much in your head based on the photos. A little anticipation is a good sign, but don’t assume the photos are 100 percent accurate or you’ll set yourself up for disappointment. If you suspect any Photoshop trickery, you’re probably right, and you should think twice. Those rooms [or your date] might not be the size you want.

It’s always better to test things out in person as soon as possible. NYC brokers are flexible; they’ll meet you at a moment’s notice. Most online daters are not as willing to drop everything, but the best dates I’ve had have been those where I’ve met someone within 24 hours of the first contact. In both cases, the offline litmus test can make or break it. My friend and I saw several apartments that looked great online but turned out to be busts in the real world. I’ve experienced many similar disappointments in dating.

There are also things that you won’t find out in the ad. One apartment looked just like it did in the photos. We walked up and down the length of the place several times, exchanging hopeful glances. The location was right, the price was right, the rooms were good. And then we saw the bathroom. It was so small that you could barely turn around. Sitting on the toilet was nearly impossible with the door closed. That teeny-tiny bathroom was a dealbreaker.

At least we found out sooner rather than later. If only dates could be that transparent.

Sometimes you find a place that wows you. On a Friday, we looked at one apartment that was potentially The One. We got excited and started planning for the future, thinking about where the furniture would go and move-in dates. When the broker finally got back to my friend after the weekend he said that the current tenant decided to stay. Great. An apartment with a clingy ex. We got to this point with another apartment, but the management company wanted to renovate first and then rent it for more later. Perhaps that’s the real estate equivalent of emotional unavailability.

With apartments and dating, it seems like all the good ones are taken. After an intense period of searching, my friend decided to renew his current lease. Sometimes, you’ve just got to love the one you’re with.

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