Two Texans Apartment Hunting in Brooklyn

Even though I want to have the New Yorker title now, I'm not sure we've earned it until we live through our first New York winter. Until then, apartment hunting definitely made us feel more like New Yorkers this week. On Wednesday we started the hunt for a long-term apartment in Brooklyn. We have a sublease basement apartment in Park Slope through the end of August, less than a block from Prospect Park. It's an amazing location, but we need a little more space for a family of four (including our pup). We were of course hoping to find a place in Park Slope, but this week we started to wonder whether our budget would be enough to find a two-bedroom in this area that also allows for medium-sized dogs. In New York, you have to pay a 15% broker fee, so we decided that since we were going to pay anyway, perhaps we should just get a realtor too. We started working with a broker on Wednesday and she took us to two apartments - one in Windsor Park and one in Park Slope. 

As someone brand-new to the east coast and New York apartment hunting, I thought it might be fun to tell you all about some of our experiences looking for places. The very first place we saw, the apartment in Windsor Park was actually a 3-bed/1-bath, which was exciting to us because we could have a nursery and an office. Instead, they should have opened the 3rd-room and expanded the living room because it just felt like one long, narrow space. The kitchen was so tight there is no way we could both be in there at the same time. It was really close to the southern portion of Prospect Park, which is a huge plus, but the layout of the space just felt claustrophobic. 

The second apartment was in Park Slope and was an amazing location. Seriously amazing. It was one of four apartments in a coop building from the late 1800s and while I have no idea how movers would get our furniture up that narrow flight of stairs, the apartment itself had a lot of character and the living room was large and well lit. It was everything we were looking for in an apartment except a little over our price range and nothing had been updated in thirty years. If we were looking to buy, that would be a fun (challenging/expensive) gut project, but for a rental, the amount of work that place needed was overwhelming. To be totally honest though, this is the only space we looked at that I initially questioned for a few days my decision not to even try to negotiate price with the owner, in exchange for us doing some work on it. 

On Thursday, our broker scheduled three more showings for us, one in South Slope and two in Crown Heights. We had walked through Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Prospect Park South briefly the day before to scope them out on the broker's recommendation. Prospect Heights is beautiful and along with Park Slope, at the top of our location list, but we weren't as sure about Crown Heights or Prospect Park South. There seem to be pockets that are very up-and-coming but apparently it's very much block-by-block. The first apartment of the day, in South Slope, was being pushed as a two-bedroom but was still set-up as a large studio. The apartment was fine but the location was terrible, right along a very loud, noisy avenue and we walked through in about five minutes. 

Next we looked at two places in Crown Heights. The second of the three apartments was on a quiet street, in an old, run-down complex. The apartment itself was in the middle of being remodeled and I really liked the gray kitchen cabinets against the white subway tile. The size was also great for us, and the layout was a bit more open with a breakfast nook space that could easily double as an office area for Keith. The apartment totally worked, though there was nothing about it that we loved. If it had been in Prospect Heights at the same price, we probably would have jumped at it. From there, the broker drove us a few more blocks to the third and last apartment of the day: the dream apartment. 

The street the apartment was on was okay, relatively quiet though near a busy intersection, with a few trees. But the building ... oh the building. The apartment was one of many in an old brick apartment complex that interior walls had been painted salmon, probably back when faux texturing was big. But it had so much character, with arched doorways, brick flooring, and an elevator (a novelty in New York we're finding). The apartment is still a little hard to talk about. It really was the dream apartment, the place I can easily imagine being featured on Apartment Therapy or in Domino Magazine. It was 1200 square feet, with hardwood floors, arched doorways, great light, an updated kitchen and remodeled black-and-white bathroom, tons of closet space. We almost decided to go for it, before we had even walked around the neighborhood. I just wish it could have been transplanted a few blocks closer to the park, a few blocks further away from the busy intersection. We took a twenty-minute walk around the neighborhood and just didn't get a good family-oriented vibe from it. 

That place would have totally worked for us a few years ago. It's in an up-and-coming neighborhood, similar to where we bought our house in Austin, and in the next few years I bet it continues to transition and more families start moving there. But with a baby on the way, we just weren't prepared to live in another transitioning neighborhood like Windsor Park. We're hoping to be near our friends in Park Slope, close enough to the Park Slope Food Co-op (our grocery store) that we can still shop there, and of course as close to Prospect Park as we can afford. On Friday morning, we texted back and forth with our broker a few ideas on places we wanted to see in Park Slope. We had almost given up the idea of us being able to afford in this neighborhood, and then our broker set up an afternoon showing at a 3rd floor apartment in a brownstone a few blocks from where we currently are subletting, and within easy walking distance from the co-op. 

I won't go too much into the details, but aside from a lack of closet space and no washer/dryer in the building, it's pretty near exactly what we were looking for. So about twenty minutes after walking through, we made an offer and about three hours later we finished the crazy extensive application process. The New York rental application process includes a five-page credit check document from each renter, an extensive one-page application from each renter, as well as IDs, W2s, proof of employment and proof of assets. We haven't heard anything yet, which is why I don't want to give too many details on the apartment. Every hour that passes without hearing the final decision, we just want the apartment that much more. And if I describe it in vivid detail here, that will only increase. So fingers crossed we get it and in the next few weeks I get to share before pictures with you! In the meantime, I'm trying to not let myself think of too many ideas for how I would decorate the space.