In a city of short term rentals, diminutive steals, ridiculous deals and misleading descriptions, Charlotte shares the details of her Craig’s List-fueled search for a new place to call home.
Written by Charlotte Fassler & Frances Corry, edited by Kate Barnett
We had never picked up so many dudes’ numbers in such a short time. For nearly two months our phones read like a robust directory of drunken bar encounters, the type of contact that you save with a small token of information to recall them by the next day. (ex “Nick Lower East Side,” or “Joe Australian,” or “Max Drummer.”)
Unfortunately this crop of numbers did not belong to potential suitors; instead, they corresponded to our makeshift Craigslist real estate brokers. We quickly realized, though, that finding an apartment in the bustling world of Brooklyn real estate does, in fact, consist of a series of awkward blind dates, growing affections, and missed connections.
A Craiglist broker date first comes with the requisite waiting period. You stand in what you hope is the right location, shuffling your feet, eyes locking with anyone who passes by. Are you Joey No Fee? Is that dude Diego 2 bedroom?
When – if – they show up, the adventures begin. Our introduction into the magical world of unreliable Craigslist brokers began one weekend when we went to see a “BeAuTIFUL XXL Artist LOFT apartment.” Arriving at the door, our broker discovered he brought the wrong key. He knocked. Knocked again. Kept knocking. “They’ll answer, don’t worry.” A small child finally opened the door. He instructed us to go inside – ladies first, naturally. Several steps into the not-that-XXL apartment we were greeted by, “GET OUT! GET THE HELL OUT OF MY APARTMENT!!!”
It was a phrase that would become familiar to us. Next time, it was “GET THE HELL OFF THE ROOF!” A burly, bald, tattooed man appeared seemingly out of thin air, perhaps by way of ladder or by scaling the side of the building to share his welcome. Before we could reply, Diego, our trusty Craigslist-found broker, swooped in to amend the impending rumble, which was starting to very closely resemble a scene out of Westside Story.
“Hey man, relax, I was just showing them the apartment.”
“Showing them the apartment?” the bald man said, making frantic air quotes.
He was right to use them. The “2BR! Great Share! Won’t Last Long!” was not an open or even finished apartment, as the door was boarded up with plywood and “Under Construction” signs. Undeterred, Diego led us to the unrailed rooftop and promptly began removing heavy cinderblocks that sat on a tarp – not to murder us with, despite where our minds went, but in an attempt to “show” the apartment through the skylight. Unfortunately, the ad was right; indeed our visit did not “last long,” cut short by the visiting bald landlord.
By our fifth apartment, familiar terms became relative. Words like “normal,” “high ceilings” and “2 blocks to the L.” Along with “safety.”
Upon asking another broker if he thought a neighborhood seemed safe – an appropriate question, given that an old man had repeatedly growled and thrown Funyons at us while we waited in front of a potential rental – he responded with what all young women want to hear, “Safety is a relative term, I mean what is safety? Am I right?” He chuckled. No Sir. You are not right.
This followed an earlier viewing with Joe, (not to be confused with Joey or Joseph, all exuberant yarmulke-wearing men who drove grey minivans) who had us meet him at a condemned building, which we entered via a basement hatch on the street. “Don’t worry, the sign on the door doesn’t apply anymore, they’ve fixed the problem,” Joe assured us.
The sign he referred to read “THE DEPARTMENT OF BUILDINGS HAS DETERMINED THAT CONDITIONS IN THIS PREMISES ARE IMMINENTLY PERILOUS TO LIFE.”
Upping our savvy, we quickly became acquainted with the Bed Bug Registry, and knew our way around a crime map like a seasoned member of the NYPD. (Someone had been in murdered in March just in front of an apartment we looked at. Safety? What is safety? echoed in our minds.)
Around apartment fifteen, our hope – and our standards – hit a low point. Whatever the apartment-hunting equivalent of beer goggles are, we had them on. It suddenly seemed commonplace to have ceilings that altered your posture to the likes of quasimoto, and windows were accepted as a luxury.
Like anyone having endured a series of terrible blind dates, we’d become emotionally guarded, disheartened, and a tinge cynical. Fortunately, our determination prevailed, as old faithful Craiglist finally connected us with a gem, Joseph. He showed us 7 apartments in one morning, the safest route to walk to a train, and informed us that a neighborhood we were considering wasn’t cool anymore. (“That place is so over,” he told us.) There were no near-death experiences. To put it plainly, he knew his shit.
We’re a month moved in and it’s thus far happily ever after. We burned the sage, met some neighbors, and finally wiped our phones clean of all our failed Craigslist prospects.
Well, except “Salt and Pepper Steve.” He stayed, because he was kind of cute and maybe he will call us. Kidding?