From Real Estate Heaven to Craigslist Hell: In Pursuit of a Perfect New York Apartment

The bad: Park Slope. (Kim Velsey)

A successful Craigslist hunt must be conducted with zeal bordering on obsession (fortunately I’m naturally obsessive), and for nearly a month there was scarcely a time when Craigslist was not open on my computer, hardly an hour when I was not responding swiftly to every post I deemed promising, vaguely promising or, in moments of desperation, potentially promising. I did my best to avoid the deeply depressing.

These included a shared apartment on the Upper West Side with the proviso, dropped like an afterthought at the bottom of a paragraph, “Note: room does not have an outdoor-facing window.” (Later, after viewing several other essentially windowless rooms—and no, a transom is not a window—I would admire the honesty of that particular post).

I also avoided rooms that were described as “on the smaller side,” and/or “good for someone who doesn’t have much stuff,” and any listing that described the size of a room, or rather, avoided describing the size of a room by listing the furniture that could fit inside of it. These posts brightly noted that the room was capable of holding a full bed and a small nightstand, possibly even a bureau. I have seen many small rooms, but none so miniscule that they could not accommodate a full bed and a nightstand. One of the downsides to living in, and growing accustomed to, large spaces is that one becomes a bit of a hoarder. Moving to a bad apartment would be bad enough, having to give up my worldly possessions would be even worse.

FINALLY, I AVOIDED ANY LISTING WRITTEN ALL IN CAPS. This was a much larger number than I would have expected.

This left many posts for eminently livable, definitely worth a look, possibly even undiscovered gems of apartments. Because non-smoking, pet-free professional women in their mid-20s—bland though they may sound—are a very popular bunch among the room-4-share crowd, I was invited to see many of the apartments I inquired about.

My optimism was, almost immediately, dislodged. Over three weekends, I saw 24 different apartments, all of them shared. I saw many rooms without windows—prevalent, but a housing code violation—a few rooms that involved walking through other people’s rooms to get to the rest of the apartment‚—which sounds almost charming when it’s called a “shotgun share”—and one bedroom—basement, airshaft window, Williamsburg, $925—that required taking the leaseholder’s growling pooch to doggy daycare in the mornings. It’s not that these were impossible situations, really, but what irked me is that there was no acknowledgement of their inferiority. In fact, most were among the more expensive places I saw.

From Real Estate Heaven to Craigslist Hell: In Pursuit of a Perfect New York Apartment