In her new book, No Place Like Home, Brooke Berman describes her experience living in 39 NYC apartments. As she explains, “Moving is an incredible proposition to Americans. It is loaded with the very framework of our national mythology. We are a nation founded on ‘frontier’ mythology and on expansion as a tactic for reinvention and re-creation. Americans are taught that we can become new people by willing it to be so, divesting of old forms, old clothing and old dwellings and heading off for parts unknown. And New Yorkers are the worst, playing musical chairs with too-small apartments, always on the lookout for a better deal. NO PLACE LIKE HOME is a search for roots, rest and dwelling.“
We’re excited that Brooke took the time to share 6 great tips with you.
- Identify core values about where and how you live. Make a priority list. What’s important to you about “home”? For instance, my list generally reads: 1) Neighborhood, 2) Bathtub, 3) Natural light. I know that when looking for a place, these are the three things I won’t compromise on. Also, on the flip side, know what you’re willing to give up. I will give up space — and live some place small — in order to live in a specific neighborhood.
- And about neighborhood…. I like to be in the center of the action. So, for me, “neighborhood” means The East Village. My husband is the opposite — he likes his home to be a retreat, away from the center of things. He loved living in Dutch Kills, Queens. So figure out what you need and then, do some research Spend time in the area. Go during the day and then, go at night. And read up. Most neighborhoods now have their own blogs. LIQ City for Long Island City, Billburg for Williamsburg, and so forth.
- Roommates. Do you need one? Can you comfortably live with roommates? If you can’t afford to live on your own, consider renting a place with an extra bedroom and placing an ad on Craigslist. The right roommate is a joy. Again, though, do some soul searching and research. Do you want to live with a friend? Or a stranger? Do you want to live with someone of the same gender? Or do you not care so much? One thing I really like about living with boys: they never try to borrow my clothes. One thing I like about living with girls: the bathroom is always clean. Sparkling, in fact. Another question: can you live with more than one person? If so, you might be prime for a house or a bigger space somewhere further out. I have generally enjoyed having more than one roommate-it cuts down on the pressure to get along with any one person. Plus, it’s a dinner party waiting to happen-each roommate has just one friend over, and you’re set.
- Be realistic about rent. Make a budget and stick to it. Make sure your rent doesn’t overwhelm your monthly expenses. That said, a really great place is worth making a few sacrifices for. When I moved into my dream one-bedroom, I gave up most everything inessential in order to make the rent. I do not regret that choice-the feeling of being in the right place made up for my makeshift furniture (really, a steamer trunk with cushions can be a great couch), lack of cable and reduced social life.
- Meet the landlord. Make sure you know who you’re giving your money to and what the renters policies are. Is rent due on the first? On the fifth? Is there a grace period? Who do you call when you need something fixed? How available is the super? How friendly is the super? (Make sure to befriend the super. You will need this person on your side.)
- While looking…. don’t give up hope. It’s an arduous process, but the right place is out there. Keep looking. Eventually, you’ll find it.