- Budget: $2,400
- Neighborhoods searched: Morningside. Anywhere near Columbia
- Websites used: Craigslist, Naked Apartments, StreetEasy
- Been hunting for: One month
- Number of places seen: 20+ apartments
- Biggest peeve: Bait and Switch. Sometimes agents advertise fake apartments in order to attract renters. Then, when a renter inquires about the listing, the agent will say it was already rented and try to sell them a more expensive, but lower quality apartment. (At Naked Apartments, we kick brokers off our site for doing this. Just sayin’…)
When Megan Meza and Desiree Chavis met at a job interview for Manhattan-based ad agency Ogilvy and Mather, they had no idea of what awaited them. The two soon-to-be roommates are recent college graduates from rival schools Duke University and University of North Carolina (respectively), and have bonded over what they refer to as “the harshness of New York City apartment hunting.” Their road to renting has been full of twists, turns, and dead ends created by the labyrinthine nature of New York City apartment hunting. This journey has led them through over 20 apartments in the past month and it all started with a scam.
“It sounded really reasonable at first and we even came back to New York thinking we had a place to stay.”
Like the majority of rental scams, the Craigslist post seemed too good to be true: well within their budget and a bargain compared to the average neighborhood prices. But the moment Megan and Desiree had entered the city and wanted to meet in person, the seller became increasingly difficult to contact, and his story began to change.
“The rent was suddenly $200 more, we couldn’t get in contact with the owner of the building, oh and he only accepted cash.”
Luckily, these red flags were enough to arouse suspicion, even from first time apartment hunters. The two insisted on receiving a copy of identification from the seller, who then proceeded to cease contact with them completely.
While cases of shady dealings and poor communication like this are not always outright scams, it is nerve-wracking to think what could have happened. Had Megan and Desiree not seen the warning signs, they might have handed over thousands of dollars in cash only to find out later that they had been duped. Needless to say, the duo no longer felt comfortable hunting on Craigslist.
Nevertheless, it is easy to momentarily suspend disbelief, especially when hunting within a tight budget. Several of the other posts that the duo responded to were significantly lower quality than they had been expecting. They walked through hostile neighborhoods and endured countless catcalls only to find refrigerators with black mold and dead roaches in cabinets.
“It has definitely been a reality check for us.”
Possibly even more upsetting than viewing an apartment with plants growing in through broken windows, is that over the past few weeks, whenever Megan and Desiree found an agreeable apartment, it was soon forfeited to the quick pace and high level of competition for rentals.
“Unfortunately they go away so quickly, but that’s just how New York is. We’ve worked with one broker where in the time of seeing other apartments, we lost the ones we were really interested in to begin with.”
A preference for renters with guarantors has also plagued Megan and Desiree’s hunt. One of their favorite listings, a spacious 2-bedroom on 119th, enticed them with a beautiful kitchen and close proximity to vibrant nightlife. They went through the application process and were immediately approved, only to find out that they could not go any further without a guarantor.
“It was so sad to see that one slip through our fingers.”
Even though their apartment hunt has been temperamental (to say the least) Megan and Desiree have persevered. This last week, when they visited a luxury apartment building in Harlem with a gym, laundry, and a great view, all within their budget, they knew what they wanted and they knew to jump on it immediately.