Friday, February 21, 2014

What do you think?

So, even though this topic seems super unpopular (at least in terms of page views), I could use some advice on our apartment search.

Last weekend we saw a lot of apartments.  Most of them were very disappointing.  We saw one apartment in our current building, a 2 bedroom, 2 bath with a really large patio outside.  We liked it a lot, and we love our neighborhood and our building.  We were sorely tempted by this apartment, but it was well over the budget we had set for ourselves when we started the search.  We talked about making it work, financially, but at the end of the day I think that just because we could technically make it work, it would be irresponsible.  We should be saving so we can buy a house someday, and there wouldn't be much leftover for savings if we took the apartment in our building.  I had a good cry that night [ugh, seriously, I know how stupid that sounds.... all I can do is chalk it up to pregnancy hormones.  Which, by the way, made me cry last night while watching the Olympics when poor Mao Asada skated a clean free program and then burst into tears... if you don't watch figure skating, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about, but Mao Asada, who won the silver in 2010 skated a disastrous short program, and as a result was in 16th place.  There was no way she would medal again.  And she's retiring after this Olympics.  But she went out and skated what I thought was probably the most beautiful (and technically difficult - she landed a triple axel, which no other woman in the competition can do) performance of the night.  It was clear she was just skating for the love of skating, not because she could win anything, because she couldn't.  And the relief and sadness on her face when she skated the performance she knew she could skate.... great, I'm tearing up again.] about having to leave Manhattan.  I mean, I really bawled.  All those early mornings getting on the subway to go to Columbus Circle for morning monitoring.  The days volunteering at the CSA in the park that is filled with pregnant women and adorable children while I was having my miscarriage.  All those days I hoped we'd have our own kid someday, and I'd get to watch him or her run around that park.  It's all about where you envision your life, and when I would allow myself a single minute of being hopeful that we'd have a kid someday, I pictured us here.  

Alas, we do not have all the money in the world.  If we did, this is the neighborhood I would choose.  But we don't.  And the right thing to do is move on.  So I had my good cry, and accepted that we would be moving to Brooklyn.  Aside from getting more space for less money, Brooklyn has the added benefit of being where all of our friends with kids live.  

Anyway, we went looking in Brooklyn, saw some disappointing stuff, but then found an apartment on the border of Boerum Hill and Downtown Brooklyn, great subway access, across the street from a nice grocery store.  It was a two bedroom, 1 bath, and it had parking in the garage for not a crazy amount of money, which would mean we could get a car (used, of course, because I'm a big believer in buying used cars).  The major bonus - it has a washer/dryer in the unit.  It also has a storage space in the basement that we could rent.  We put in an application to hold it.

Then we got home and Jeeves spent a lot of time reading about the building.  There were some tenants who had very negative opinions of the place - mainly having to do with the heating/cooling systems being poor and pipes bursting and ruining personal items.  One person claimed to have bedbugs (uggghhhh..... if we ever have to deal with bedbugs again, I mean it this time - I'm moving back to Jersey).  

Part of the problem was that Jeeves hadn't really thought far enough ahead to actually living in Brooklyn, and I think these reviews (many of which were from 2 years ago) were enough to make him look up other apartments.  In the end, he found another apartment in a condo building next door to the rental building we had found.  Since it's a condo, it's all owned by individuals, but some of the units get rented out by those owners.  We went to look at it on Tuesday.  It's a very nice apartment.  The living room and kitchen are both larger than the rental unit.  The kitchen is more open towards the living room which would make it easier for me to cook and watch the baby, or talk to Jeeves when he gets home from work.  And it has 2 bathrooms instead of 1.  The appliances are a little nicer (but not by a huge margin).  The parking in the building is cheaper.  On the downside - there's no washer/dryer in the unit [there's a laundry room on the 2nd floor, which would normally be fine for me, since that's what we have now, but since we're having a baby, the idea of having a washer/dryer in the apartment was really a draw].  And no storage in the building, which means we would have to get an offsite storage place.  

In the iffy column is the fact that the condo unit is owned by an individual and so there can be some questions about whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.  And because it's a condo building, there are higher fees associated with the application process.  But it sounds like because it's a fancy new condo building, the super will fix just about anything in the apartment and bill the owner.  Obviously the rental building has a super and from the reviews we've read, he's good and responsive.

So in the end, it seems like it comes down to this.  What's more important?  Washer/dryer in the unit with storage space in the basement?  Or larger living room/kitchen that is more connected?

What do you guys think?  We've been asking everyone and have gotten arguments on both sides.  Jeeves' parents think we should take the condo because living space and a second bathroom is important.  Phil thinks we should take the rental because a washer/dryer in unit is a huge deal with a baby.  Wendy's mom [I'm not kidding, we got her opinion too] also voted for the rental.  Wendy, because she is my life guru, did not give me her opinion, but instead laid out many things to consider, which was helpful but hasn't tilted the balance.  I'd love your opinion, reader.  

6 comments:

  1. I think, with having a baby on the way, the size of your living space is going to be really important. And yet, so will a washer and dryer in the unit. However, if you think you can adapt to the laundry or find a way to live with it - I would absolutely say go with the condo. More space and a second bathroom (one for baby/kid stuff, the other for grown ups) would be really nice.

    I work in condos, so if you ever have any questions let me know! I know I'm in Canada, but they work the same just some of the regulations are a bit different.

    As well, an individual owner for a unit can often be better than a rental company. With a rental company, when you have an issue, you go into the queue. With an individual owner, you're their only tenant. I know there can be some bad stigma associated with it, and sometimes its true, but there are definitely perks to an owner rather than a management company (just my opinion from working with condos all these years). Something to consider, with the condo, is you also have more lines of communication. There's your owner, the Super and there's also the Board of Directors. I don't know whether you come across condos with work or not, but definitely get a copy of the Bylaws so you don't accidentally breach something. The Board and the Owner both get to have say in what you do inside the unit, so it can be a bit more restrictive.

    Having said that, my vote is still for the condo, as long as you can live without the laundry in suite. It's too bad you can't find a place with all those things AND laundry! But I know what it's like in NY. I tried to move there after University and it was just so overwhelming I decided to stay in Canada.

    Oh, and keep in mind that people usually only write reviews when they're mad. So just because there were some bad reviews, doesn't mean the building or the manager is bad. It just means there were some disgruntled people who lived there -which happens anywhere. Besides, who knows what the situation surrounding the broken pipes was. My old unit used to do that a lot, but I had content insurance and everything was covered...so it was a pain in the butt, but it happens...especially in older buildings.

    Good luck! I hate apartment hunting in a big city, it always feels like you can never find what you want within your price range.

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    1. Rach, this is super, super helpful. Thank you. I appreciate your opinion since my knowledge of condos is limited. Re: the car, we did talk about that in terms of calculating and comparing it to staying at our current building. The problem is, when amortizing it over time, we plan to have the car for a long time because in a few years we're going to move out to the suburbs, so it's a little hard to do a direct comparison. Also, there's a convenience issue with the car - we would love to have one in Manhattan because with the baby, it makes visiting our families in the suburbs much, much easier, but it's just not financially feasible because street parking is nearly impossible and a garage runs around $500 a month. Still, even when you factor in the cost of the car, insurance, gas, and garage, the price differential between Brooklyn and Manhattan is still pretty big. At least for a 2 bedroom.

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    2. Glad I could help! I absolutely understand how beneficial it would be to have a car...and it's definitely worth it if there's still a big difference in cost. I don't think I could grocery shop with a baby and no car...that's a whole lot of juggling and not nearly enough hands!

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  2. Oh and I forgot to ask...is the cost of a car (gas, maintenance, insurance) going to add up to the difference between the unit in your building and the ones in Brooklyn? Cause if it does, then I'd say stay where you are and don't get the car. You've probably considered that already, but just in case I thought I'd mention it. I know how tough it is to have to change locations from a place you love to a less desirable place for better living space when you live in the hub of a huge metropolis.

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  3. For me the biggest decision would be laundry versus second bath. Our house has 1.5 and is the first place I've had with more than one bath and even just that half bath is so so so nice. I may be weird, but I really don't like people in my bathroom or bedroom. Okay yes, I'm weird. But it's nice that we have *our* bathroom and people stay out. But your own laundry? Ughhhh it's so great! You can do ten loads in a row if you've been slacking, and no one cares how long you leave your clothes to wrinkle in the dryer or how much you hog it and you never have to track down the lady in the next apartment who's left her sheets in the wash for days.

    I am no help. If it's at all a comfort to Jeeves, remind him that people leave reviews for anything besides restaurants and hotels because they're pissed. Otherwise who thinks to review? It's rare.

    I'm sorry I'm no help. Usually I just go with the place that's cheapest or feels most like home. Wishing you luck, though!

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    1. I do not think you're weird at all for preferring guests to have their own bathroom! I hate looking at my single bathroom from the perspective of a guest. I'd definitely prefer having 2 baths, but I'm used to just the one, so it will be fine either way.

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