Searching for a new apartment is a matter of factors. Which neighborhood do I want to live in? Can I afford it? What amenities am I willing to do without? What is an absolute must have? I’ve come to several conclusions about what I need in an apartment. So let’s give them a little run-down, shall we?
First off, while having a quick commute would be nice, it is not at all necessary for me. I enjoy the time I spend on the train in the morning, mainly because I have the ability to get a lot of reading and sometimes knitting done. I realize that this is partly because I’m blessed with being the second stop on my subway line, which means I’m pretty much guaranteed a seat every ride. Your mileage may vary on this one.
I’ve done a rough accounting of my possessions, and there is simply no way I can deal with living in a studio. I’ve acquired quite a bit of furniture, and I’ve gotten quite used to having a palatial 3 bedroom apartment for 7 years and I’ve seen what real estate agents have the balls to call a “1 bedroom” in New York City. So because I have no desire to live with a roommate again and all the risks that implies, it’s got to be a one (or more) bedroom for me. This leads us to…
Cost is probably the biggest factor people consider when they move, and I’m no different. I had to force myself to look honestly at my budget. Sharing a place for 7 years without the burden of owning (and paying for, and maintaining) a car has been a real boon for my bank account. I don’t make a ton of money, but I’m able to put away a fair amount every year thanks to my relatively hermitic lifestyle. But let’s not go nuts here. I won’t be able to afford anything over $2,000 and even something close to that is probably pushing it once things like utilities… and food… are taken into account. I’d like to be able to continue saving money and also have the ability to go out to dinner or drinks on a frequent basis.
“Neighborhood” is a pretty interesting term because it encompasses so many things. It relates to both the community around you and the built environment around you. Because I work in the architecture field, built environment is really important to me. I’m always drawn to neighborhoods with “character” that have a very clear visual identity. If you showed me a picture of a city street, chances are I could identify the neighborhood where it sits due to the distinctiveness of the buildings, sidewalks, landscape, etc.
But neighborhood more commonly refers to the community: the networks of people and businesses that make up a place. While I’d love an architecturally significant neighborhood, I’d probably rely more on proximity to a decent grocery store, a drug store, a bank, some restaurants and bars, or even some decent shopping. When a neighborhood has these things and you don’t have to rely on traveling somewhere else to get the necessaries, life becomes a bit easier.
Let’s face it, living in New York you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. I’ve lived in The Bronx and Manhattan for the past 12 years and I like to think I’m relatively savvy, but that doesn’t mean I want to be clutching a rape whistle or pepper spray on my walk home from the subway at night. So I’m going to be honest, there are neighborhoods that I, as a little white girl, am just not going to be comfortable living in, especially since I’ll be living alone. My current neighborhood certainly isn’t perfect. There’s been a string of muggings and rapes, most of which are to some degree aided by proximity to the several parks in the area. But, again, this is New York. You run the risk of being in these situations by living here, and sometimes it doesn’t matter how safe you think your neighborhood is. It only takes one time. So you need to be alert and aware no matter where you are.
Moving away from the scarier aspect of modern city living, let’s talk about something more fun: amenities. I have to say that I’ve enjoyed having a first floor apartment. It makes getting in and out of my building easy, especially during moves or acquisitions of new furniture. But it leaves much to be desired in terms of light and privacy. It would be great to leave my windows open and not have to worry about people being able to see me while I read in bed (and make comments on the book I’m reading). And while stairs would be a great work out, I don’t particularly relish climbing three or four flights with groceries. So I’d put an elevator at the top of the list.
Second in importance, would be a laundry room. Most apartments I’ve encountered in the city simply don’t have a washer or dryer in the unit, so I won’t even bother looking for that. But a laundry room in the building is pretty much a necessity.
This next one is where it gets tricky: pets. I don’t have one now, but I’d really like to keep open the option of getting a dog (or a cat) if only to make the aspect of living alone a little less lonely.
Finally, we have outdoor space. This is something where I’m very flexible in my interpretation. I don’t mean that I want a back garden or a balcony, though that would be lovely (and expensive). I’d really settle for proximity to good outdoor space. Inwood has three great parks plus easy access to the Manhattan Greenway along the Hudson River. I consider myself really spoiled by the access that I have to these spaces especially in visiting other neighborhoods where even street trees are a rarity.
So where does that leave me?
All of these things have been factored in and basically I’m staying put. My neighborhood isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn great, especially once I consider the type of apartment I could get for my budget.
I kicked off the official apartment hunt this week with a visit to a realtor. So far I’ve seen three apartments and while I haven’t found a place yet, I’m feeling pretty good about the prospect.