House Hunters New York

townhouse by nicole franzen

Help. I need your opinion on something. Something that’s been driving both Joe and I crazy, but I hadn’t really gone into specifics in the hopes that it would work itself out sooner rather than later. But alas, this may not be the case.

We still don’t have an apartment and don’t know where we’ll be living at the end of this month. Here’s what’s been happening: when we came to New York at the end of April, we looked at a lot of places. We applied to one place, but lost out to another couple who applied before us, so then we applied to a second place, which conveniently enough, was the place I really preferred. It’s basically my dream apartment — lovely, light, great layout for our lifestyle, and I know Lucy would love it too. We flew home from that trip thinking all was in order, and we’d get a lease signed, sealed and delivered the next week.

And then we never got any paperwork. As in, no lease agreement to sign, seal and deliver. After numerous calls, we were told the apartment’s management company was just waiting to hear from contractors, who are finishing some renovations on the space, to provide a project completion date so that a move-in (and lease start date) could be determined. Okay, fine.

But then we didn’t hear anything the week after that. By that point, we were panicking a little. Moving to New York but not knowing where you’re moving to? And husband starting a new job? And a dog? And client projects? Stressful. So we booked an extended stay at a hotel in NY (where we are right now), left Lucy with some trusted caretakers in SF, and hoped that the apartment situation would all be sorted out come June 1. Then (we hoped) we could move in, and fly back to get Lucy, so she’d come home to her new apartment, with all our furniture and things that smell like her and would feel familiar.

But sigh. Yesterday, we were told it’s likely our dream apartment won’t be ready until “sometime in July.” We’ve started looking at other apartments again, but nothing compares. I’d be so, so heartbroken to let this apartment get away, but the logistical side of me is wondering how the hell we can manage until then. We don’t want to leave Lucy in SF much longer than June 1; we also don’t really want to live in a hotel for another month and a half.  At the same time, we also know that after moving within SF just last summer and then moving across the country, we want to find a place and stay put for a while, so moving again next year is out of the question (i.e., we need to find a great place that we can grow with long term).

So I’m looking to you guys for some advice (and also, just to vent a little, because honestly, this whole thing is frustrating beyond belief and we’re not sure what to do). If you were in this situation, what would you do? Would you wait it out for the apartment you were super excited about? Or know when to fold, and settle for another space that’s doable, and move in immediately? Two sides of me — one, that can see the longterm vision of living in the dream apartment, and the second, which just wants to be settled after nearly two months of chaos and also worries about the budget — are totally at war with one another. Help!

{Image Credit: Nicole Franzen, taken with VSCO Cam}


  1. 5.21.13

    I used to live in New York and totally understand how frustrated you must be! Hang in there.

    If you LOVE that apartment and can see yourself living there long term, it is worth sticking it out. Finding a great apartment in the city is really difficult, and moving is such a pain. It would be better to wait for the place you love, than to move to a place you kinda like but wouldn’t want to stay in long term.

    Are you working with a broker? If you want the apartment make sure you can sign a lease ASAP. Sometimes people can be super shady and you don’t want to lose the place. Brokers are expensive, but sometimes they are necessary.

    • 5.21.13
      vmacandcheese said:

      Yes! And actually our broker is the one thing keeping me sane — he’s great, and is fightin’ for us! It’s the other brokerage that is sucking :(

  2. 5.21.13
    kim said:

    I definitely understand your frustration at not being settled, but I think you’ll be more frustrated (and possibly unhappy) if you settle for a place just to be settled. If the dream apartment is truly what you want, you should stick it out for another month to get it.
    You and Joe were strong enough to move across the country and you’ve done so many other things (quit your job, started your own business then started another one–wow!) so I know you’ll be strong enough to handle a few more months of living hotel style and without Lucy. I would just make sure you get a firm date to move in so you aren’t on hold forever. Good luck!

  3. 5.21.13
    sarah said:

    Ugh, Victoria, that sounds so stressful and frustrating! I’m so sorry.

    As hard as it is, I think I would try to hold out for your dream apartment. Maybe you can find a place that will sublet for just a month? Or use a site like Air b n b? I’ve heard they tend to have cheap longer-term rentals.

    Whatever happens, let us know. I’m sending positive thoughts your way!

  4. 5.21.13
    Danielle said:

    Ugh, totally understand. Finding somewhere to rent can be so exhausting, so please – vent away!!

    Honestly, I would wait it out. I know it sucks and its uncomfortable, but if you KNOW you have a great apartment I would wait until its ready. I’ve done it twice myself: just recently moving to San Francisco from Sydney, with a container on a ship as a deadline and the insane SF rental market (plus no US credit rating!) hampering every attempt at finding an apartment. We stayed in a long term corporate rental for 6 weeks, over Christmas, until we found the ideal apartment (thankfully just in time for all our things to arrive!). Also moved twice in 4 weeks when I bought my house in Sydney – had to move out of our previous rental when the lease ran out, but didn’t have the keys to the new house yet… so into a temporary rental for a month with all our worldly belongings in boxes piled everywhere. Yep, it was miserable, but what kept me going was the thought of the beautiful new place we’d be in once it was over. Both times I used the ‘in between’ time to research furniture, make lists of what things we needed to get, plan out where everything could go, explore the new neighborhood… and by the time you actually DO move in you’ve prepared ahead so you’re really *home*.

    Budget-wise: it really made sense for a corporate rental if you need temporary accommodation longer than a week or two. The one we stayed in had all the utilities/internet etc included, the kitchen was decked out (so we could cook at home) and so all we really needed was what was in our suitcases. It certainly worked out less per day than a hotel, and also saved money on things like eating out all the time.

    Good luck, it will all work out in the end I’m sure! :)

  5. 5.21.13

    This post reminds me a little bit of what B & I experienced when we first moved to SF. The unknown is SO scary. On top of it, we kept running into shady deals and “too good to be true” apartments. You seem pretty set on the place, so here’s what I’d do:

    1. Try to be pushy and get SOMETHING signed that says it’s yours once they’re finished.
    2. Move into a (dog friendly) Airbnb for the next month until your spot is ready. It’s better than a hotel, and also a better option for Lucy since a month is a long time in dog years.
    3. Get Lucy to NYC so all of your life can be on one coast.
    4. Lastly, if you have ANY doubt that this is a “too good to be true” scenario, keep looking, just not aggressively… just in case.

    Not sure if the actual city is a hard limit or not, but Adrianna lives in a gorgeous apartment literally right outside the city in NJ.


  6. 5.21.13
    Rachelle said:

    I would stay at the hotel while actively looking for a new place, because who knows if they won’t come up with another story at the place you love. I’m so sorry I can only imagine how freaked out you must me. But I say do not settle for something you don’t love. It will spoil the experience for you. Keep us updated and again I’m sorry.


  7. 5.21.13

    I kind of feel that these pre-lease agreement issues could be a bit of foreshadowing? If they are giving you the run-around now, how will it be with them as your landlords? I don’t know…I felt sort of similar to this situation when we were waiting for the army to acknowledge my marital status with Ethan. They took three months to send the paperwork, and I was up here and settled by the time we got the okay. We chose a longer commute and smaller living space, but it’s worked well enough for us. I just wanted to start living and end the limbo phase as quickly as possible!

    • 5.21.13
      Phoebe said:

      I felt this way too, when I read it. Hopefully, if you do wait it out, the landlord will not be this wishy washy when you are a tenant.

  8. 5.21.13
    Amanda V said:

    Real estate in NY can be such a headache – I’ve lived here for 8 years and I’ve been through it all :)

    AirB&B is a great resource for longer term, more comfortable stays. It’ll be nice to be in a real apartment (kitchen, etc) rather than living out of a hotel room!!

    You should also try looking at the apartments Urban Compass has to offer – they are a newly launched site that is trying to re-invent apartment hunting in the city and their process is very customer-centric.

    Good luck!!!

  9. 5.21.13
    cerrissa said:

    I agree with the airB&B comments. The last time I moved in nyc I was homeless for a month. Luckily, I had a few friends that were out of town so could crash at their apartments for a week at a time. I finally signed a lease on a place after a few weeks and moved in immediately, but it wasn’t fun. Keep looking in the meantime, because you could always happen upon something as good or better and possibly move in immediately.
    Good luck and stay positive!!!!

  10. 5.21.13
    JK said:

    Just a heads up– A court in NY just declared Airbnb illegal today.

  11. 5.21.13
    Betsy said:

    God, how frustrating! I agree with everyone else – wait it out if you can, but also push to get SOMETHING in writing from them that guarantees it’s yours when they’re done with the work at the price you originally discussed.

    When you’re emotionally done with moving every year, a few months of inconvenience are totally worth a few years of being settled! I’m there too, so I know :)

    Good luck!

  12. 5.21.13

    Urgh Victoria, don’t blame you for being stressed out! We have been in a similar scenario waiting on a ‘dream’ apartment, the estate agent kept messing us around saying they didn’t know when it would be ready because it was a new build. We held out and believe me it was worth it. I would go through it all again if we had to. Just make sure you have a signed document. In the interim if you can stay somewhere easy and cheap on a short term basis until its all sussed I think you will be happier in the long term, these ‘dream’ places don’t come up often!! All fingers crossed for you!

  13. 5.21.13
    Alexa said:

    Stick it out. In the grand scheme of things it’s not that long – I mean it seems like it is in that situation, but looking back, it won’t be. Have you looked at AirBnB? Some of them you might be able to rent for a month + and many allow dogs if you want to bring Lucy out sooner. I feel your frustration though! Thinking good thoughts!

  14. 5.21.13

    ayayay. i would be rocking back and forth in the corner. apparently airb&b is the way to go….the next month and a half might be tough, but think of the long term benies.


  15. 5.21.13

    I can speak for the NY-real estate/renting scene because that has to be cray, but I went through a similar situation. Apartment lease was ending and would have to sign a 6 month minimum lease if I didn’t find a new place. We found the perfect house on the water for same price as apartment (super cray) but the landlord wanted to keep it empty so he could do some repairs. We agreed to a move-in date but as the date grew closer I couldn’t get a hold of him. And he wanted to wait to sign the lease until we moved in. Major anxiety/craziness. A week before move-in and just two-weeks before move-out/no lease in the apartment, he responded to our 1000+ e-mails and frantic calls. He was in Texas with his family for a month and didn’t have his cell phone. Why, my heart. I aged at least a good 10 years in that process, but now I’m in love with my house- an inanimate object. They are going to make a documentary about me, I’m afraid.

  16. 5.21.13
    Kristina said:

    I’m not usually a risk taker, but I might wait it out if you think it’s a place where you would want to live for a long time. You’d think they’d want you to sign the lease though or put down a deposit or something – maybe they’re trying to be sneaky and will raise the rent or something when the contractors are finished.

    • 5.21.13
      vmacandcheese said:

      That’s what’s crazy — we already put money down and they accepted our application/credit etc! We’re like…why let us apply if it wasn’t ready?

  17. 5.21.13

    what a nightmare! you’re so strong! i can imagine how… weird, frustrating, and plain shit this must feel!

    if i were you, i would stick it out and wait for the apt. is it a sure bet that it’s yours? i would push for something signed, and then just try to enjoy the transition. although, even if it DOES fall through, and you stayed in a temp place for the entire time only to not get your dream apt… at least you will have no regrets or “what if’s” because you can’t shake that terrible feeling no matter what.

    stay strong! XO

    • 5.21.13
      vmacandcheese said:

      So true. I just came back from seeing the apartment for a THIRD time. It’s just…so good. I would hate myself if we pulled out. Every time we drive past that corner, I’d be like, WE’RE IDIOTS.

  18. 5.21.13

    Wait it out. You know how quickly time flies. Just make sure they aren’t shady. Having a back up plan is definitely a good idea.

  19. 5.21.13

    Wait it out! You work from home and deserve to be in a space you love. You will definitely kick yourself if you don’t.

    Hotel livin’ can’t be easy, so I echo the others in searching for a dog friendly Air BnB or corporate rental. Or, I volunteer my Lucy snuggling services!

  20. 5.21.13

    I would wait it out, IF I could get some kind of guarantee signed sooner than later that the place will be yours for sure. Good luck!

  21. 5.21.13

    Oh man, I’m so sorry to hear this! I’m feeling anxious FOR you. Honestly, if I were you I would do my best to suck it up and wait it out (living in a hotel – pretend like it’s an extended vacation? maybe?) I just know that for me, personally, it takes a lot to really fall in love with a place and want to call it home. That feeling is usually worth jumping through hoops over! Especially if it’s as wonderful as you make it sound. I’ve seen and heard about a lot of sub-par NYC dwellings so if you have your foot in the door on something great it might be worth holding out for. Any way Lucy could come stay in the hotel with you? Perhaps if you explain to the management they’ll bend the rules for you a touch :)

  22. 5.21.13
    Sharon said:

    I live in NYC, real estate that you love is hard to come by. i would wait it out for the place you love and will not want to pack up and move out of when your lease is up. Try for a less expensive alternative to an extended stay hotel… see if you can get an apartment for a 1 month rental, they are available, and see if you can find one that is pet friendly (again, they are available). Sometimes you can do these apartments on a month to month, therefore if you need more time then it all works to your benefit. I can’t stress enough how disappointed you will be living in a place you do not love, especially when you work from home. you will always be comparing it to your first love, kinda what women do with men! Go with your gut, good luck.

  23. 5.21.13
    kelsey said:

    oh my goodness this sounds absolutely hard to deal with and i’d have such a hard time with this too. can you lease an apartment while looking?
    kw ladies in navy

  24. 5.21.13
    Adri said:

    When my fiance and I moved to NYC with our cat, we sub leased a furnished apartment for two weeks (while searching for apartments). We were able to find an apartment while having our cat with us. It was a risk because we found the source through craigslist. But, hey it worked out perfectly!
    Good luck!

  25. 5.21.13
    Catherine said:

    We moved to New York in September and I well remember the stressful experience – hang in there!

    I’m glad you’re working with a broker. If his/her BS meter isn’t going off on this apartment (aka a too good to be true deal) then I would stick it out. It’s also possible that they’ve had previous experience working with the management company and can speak to their reliability.

    If it really is a renovation taking longer than expected, and your broker vouches for them, I would wait it out. But, in the meantime, it can’t hurt to look a bit more – you never know what you could find in the interim. And it’s good to have something to fall back on just in case.

    You definitely want to love your apartment, because after moving once to New York, I certainly never want to do it again! Especially since you work from home, you can’t treat your apartment as just a place to sleep. You have to love it.

    Good luck! And welcome to New York!

  26. 5.21.13
    Sophie said:

    Hey Victoria!

    Firstly, love your blog! Second, that’s so frustrating. I can imagine how ridiculous it would be to deal with those pushbacks! my boyfriend and I moved into our dream place a couple of years ago and we had to go through a lot to get it. In the end, it was TOTALLY worth it because we come home to a place that we love everyday. I would say stick it out if you can. But, keep in mind that if they’re shady now, they might turn out to be in the future as well when you’re dealing with repairs, rent etc! If you believe that once everything is fixed, they’ll be less shady and more available, then I say wait it out for your dream home!

  27. 5.21.13
    Kaitlyn said:

    I’ve lived in NYC for a while now and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t wish NYC apartment hunting on anyone. It truly is a terrible experience, so I definitely feel your pain!

    My advice? Only hold out for the apartment you love if you trust the management company. It sounds like they are already being shady with you and I can only imagine that things can get worse. What if you wait and then “sometime in July” turns into sometime in August?

    I’d hit the pavement again and start looking elsewhere. Everything happens for a reason and I’m sure you’ll find a place you truly love. If if that means look at another apartment, or 20 :)

  28. 5.21.13

    Hi V! The people recommending AirBnB are right – hold out for the dream apartment, but get in somewhere that will feel more like a home. I also like using HomeAway for looking at apartment / home rentals. You’re always welcome to hang out here whenever you need to get away as well!

  29. 5.21.13
    Felicia said:

    My advice is the opposite of what most have expressed in that there IS no such thing as a dream apartment in NYC unless you’re a multi millionaire. What are your priorities? To move in June 1, to be able to reunite with your dog as soon as possible? Then I would AT LEAST keep looking at other apartments that will be available sooner so you can consider other options. There’s no harm in being absolutely positive YOU NEED to compromise on move in date for the dream place… that might not exist.

  30. 5.21.13
    Lindsay said:

    Hi Victoria! I was just thinking about you, and wondering whether the apartment situation had worked itself out. I totally empathize with what you are going through as I had a similar experience moving to SF from southern California about a year ago, although it was slightly in reverse. Matt, my fiance and I, fell in love with an apartment really early – like, before I had a job in the city officially! We loved it so much that we tried to stall on signing the lease for as long as possible, but when we couldn’t hold out any longer, we bit the bullet and signed the lease, even though I didn’t know for sure whether the job would come through. Long story short – I am so glad we took a bit of a gamble and followed our hearts about our apartment. I truly love it so much, and coming home to a place that you love has such an effect on your mood and happiness. Sure, we could have found something that would have been livable, but when you know about an apartment, you just know. I know that sounds silly in a way, but apartments are to our generation what houses were to our parents – where you call home is so important to your well being. I highly recommend waiting it out, while at the same time, trying to do as much diligence as possible and trying to get the landlord to make a commitment (i.e., sign the lease now, but have a delayed move in date) so that you know for sure they won’t get out of it without breaching your agreement. And I totally understand about Lucy – I have a French bulldog as well and am pained to leave her for even 20 minutes, but ultimately, you and your family (including Lucy) will be at this new place for the foreseeable future, so a few weeks now is nothing…I am so sorry that you are going through all of this though! How frustrating! Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help. xo

  31. 5.21.13
    Annie said:

    Although I sense it’s not what you want to do, I say you keep looking at other places full force in the meantime. You’ll either:
    a. find some other place you actually like better than the first
    b. not find another place by the time this apt is ready, confirming that it’s the best/right choice
    c. find a place that you may not like as much, but it’s still a place to live, which the apt you have your eye on may still not be offering.
    Either way, I think you’ll feel better to be proactive about finding housing, and, better to have your own back than rely naively on the word of someone you don’t know, who may or may not come through for you (if you did decide to wait until “sometime in July” only to be informed at that point it’s actually going to be “sometime in august” etc that would be infuriating).
    Final thought: don’t actually know what’s possibly legally, but would be ideal if you could get the promised move-in date in writing so that you know you’re not just going on blind faith.

  32. 5.21.13

    How awful; I feel terrible for you. But if you truly love the dream apt perhaps you should just wait it out. Lucy is in good hands and July will be here before you know it.

    Good luck!

  33. 5.22.13

    So sorry you’re having a hard time! I say look at the long term, hands down. July really isn’t tooooooo far away, and I bet the time will fly by.

    If you have good care for Lucy while you’re transitioning, I would definitely wait. Let us know how it goes, and good luck!

  34. 5.22.13
    Jasmin said:

    If it truly is THE apartment and you plan on staying there for 2+ years, I’d say it’s worth the extra wait in the extended-stay hotel (if you can afford it). Also, that’s as long as you can really get them to promise (i.e. sign a lease with appropriate dates) that it will be July. Not July and then “well, might be September”. If you can’t find anything just as wonderful (or better), then holding out for THE apartment would be better. Since you don’t have kids (to worry about schooling, etc.) it’s a lot easier to do extended stay (even with Lucy!).

  35. 5.22.13

    Uuuugh! That is totally frustrating. I went through something similar in my last apartment search in NY. My advice is to keep looking while you wait for the dream place. If you stumble upon another possible dream place, and the wait for the 1st one is still too long, than go for it. Moving stinks & but being in limbo also stinks.

  36. 5.22.13
    Jor-El said:

    Sigh. NY house hunting is absolutely horrible. I’m a bit of a pragmatist so I might make folks upset but here goes….in my humble opinion, these folks are giving you the run around. If it were me, I would begin to look for alternative places that almost meet my needs and have that June 1 move in. There is plenty out there in NY and who knows, maybe something (almost) equally as amazing will turn up. But on the other hand, you could always stay at the hotel for an extended period of time or find an actual sublet that allows pets for the next two months until the dream place is ready? I don’t know! Good luck!

  37. 5.22.13
    Nnenna said:

    Oh gosh, I’m sorry to hear about your apartment woes. Honestly, apartment-hunting in NYC is the worst and I’ve almost had a mental breakdown the two times I’ve had to do it.

    If it were me and you know that your dream apartment will be ready in July, I would try to figure out a way to stick it out. It’s definitely not ideal, but when you find your dream place I think you have to jump on it and not let it go. I was stuck in a crap apartment my first year because it was down to the wire and we had no year to live and it was pretty miserable. Thankfully now I’m in a much better apartment.

    I think if you can figure out what to do in the interim and wait for your dream apartment, you may be so much happier that you did. Best of luck and hoping everything works out for you!

  38. 5.22.13
    Jillian said:

    I think you should keep looking in case you find something that will make you equally smitten but if you don’t find it, hold out for the apartment you do love.

    if you just take the next place you can get because it will be more convenient right now it will become a “band aid” situation and only solve part of the issue.

    as we get older, loving the space we call home becomes so much more important. our home is our happy place and it needs to do just that, make us happy.i say try and think “big picture”. good luck!

  39. 5.22.13

    Sending you big hugs! All I know is that no matter what the situation is, things always work out for the best. They will work out even if you don’t get your dream apt (even though I really hope you do!) and you will look back on this experience and realize how much you have learned. I wish you the best of luck my friend! It will all work out!

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