Tuesday, May 3, 2011

For all my New Yorkers

Apartment hunting in New York is the single worst thing that I've ever had to do, ever.

For those of you who have never had to apartment hunt in New York, allow me to take you on a journey. (The liklihood that you will enjoy this journey is 0%.)
Here's a run-down of the top 3 reasons looking for an apartment in New York will make your soul bleed:

1) No matter how much of a "deal" you think you've gotten, you can rest assured you are being robbed BLIND. A quick search of Craigslist confirms that for the $1500 a month you're paying for your tiny studio apartment, you could be living in a spacious 2 bedroom lakefront apartment in Chicago, a 3 bedroom house (you read that correctly) in New Jersey, or a 5 bedroom MANSION in Winston-Salem.
Are you shaking with rage yet? No? Just wait.

2) Every single person who is affiliated with the NYC housing market in any way is trying to screw you over.

Every. Last. One of them.

They tell you things like "it's a great 2 bedroom on the Upper West Side," when what they mean is "it's basically a studio in Harlem that you can turn into a 2 bedroom with some fancy drapes. Or a tall bookcase."
Yep. Those definitely look sound proof.

3) When you finally find the one apartment that's just un-terrible enough to be habitable, it gets taken from you by someone else who hit "Send" 1.8 seconds before you did.
I hate you, anonymous iPad wielding girl.

I know New York City's size and population necessitate some of the hassle that comes along with apartment hunting, but I am convinced that 90% of the stress is completely unnecessary. How am I so sure? Because most people I know end up living in fairly nice places.  Which suggests that we're all bending over backwards and jumping through hoops for no real reason.

So, where do we start? Well, I can't make real-estate cheaper, or keep annoying iPad girl from getting your perfect place first, but I can do something about those pesky little real-estate people...

The solution?

A craigslist-esque website that allow users to give and access real feedback about NYC apartments.

Here's how it would work:

1) You go visit an apartment. It's not bad, but not what you were looking for.

2) You log onto my site, let's call it "ratemyapartment.com," and upload the pics you took, as well as your observations.

3) Others log on, see your reviews, and are able to make a more informed decision about whether to visit the apartment themselves.

Now let me address a few obvious points right off the bat:

First of all, it should be pretty clear that people will only want to post about apartments they're not interested in. It is highly unlikely anyone's going to post their dream place on the site for someone else to poach.
No no, don't be silly, I don't need this beautiful apartment. Take it. Please.

Given that, you may be wondering whether the posts will be good enough to warrant checking. I think the answer is yes.  People turn down apartments for a variety of reasons; maybe it's in the wrong location, or they found something cheaper, or it's out of their price range. So there's no reason to think all of the posts would be about horrible places.

Second, you may be wondering what incentive posters have to help other people find an apartment. To be clear, their desire to help would likely be entirely self-serving. It's like Yelp.  You post your reviews because you rely on others' reviews to guide you in the right direction. Ratemyapartment.com would be no different. By submitting your review, you contribute to the community of people trying to make New York apartment hunting much easier, and in return you're able to read other people's reviews to narrow down your own list of suitable places.

To be honest, I think a site like this would be useful just about anywhere. But I would most definitely start in New York, because Lord knows we desperately, desperately need it.

Let me know your thoughts.