In NYC, if you don't have a ton of extra cash to get a broker, you probably have to use Craig's List. Craig's List is a free website. People post ads for their apartments. Then you e-mail them with information about yourself. If they like your e-mail, they contact you about an interview or open house. Then if you meet them and they still like you they will give you a call to come talk some more or to offer you the apartment. My friend Jenny has been dating using Match.com, and I've started seeing similarities between our experiences.
How looking for an apartment online is like internet dating:
1- You read listings in which people post flattering pictures. People write descriptions that make them (or their apartment) sound good, but not so good that you'll be disappointed when you meet them/see the apartment.
2- You write back using a catchy subject line (my current favorite is "Making me your roomie would be great! Leaving me homeless would be sad.") Your e-mail should make you sound good, but reveal enough of yourself to hopefully make a good match. For example, if you couldn't clean to save your life, you'd be pretty miserable if you misrepresented yourself and ended up living with a neat freak. The same is true of if you hated sports, pretended to love them and ended up with a sports nut.
3- When you have an open house, you have to pick out an outfit and do your hair and makeup so that you look nice, but not like you're trying too hard.
4- You need to tell stories and be interesting so you'll stand out amongst the 50 other people they're seeing, but you can't seem desperate.
5- Everyone wants someone "laid back" with "no drama." (Half of the people who want a "laid back" roomie are the same people who write "MUST BE CLEAN. Seriously. NO MESSES. NO DOGS. NO CATS. NO COUPLES." Heh. Yep. You're laid back. I can tell.)
6- Sometimes people say they'll call but they don't. They're just not that into you.
1- If you take a little time to think about an apartment, someone else will probably snap it up and sign the lease. If you take a few days to think about dating a guy and call him up, he probably won't have gotten married in the mean time. (Although Jenny warns he might have secretly been married to start with.)
2- You don't have to find a man. It's nice to find a good one, but it's not a matter of survival. There is no deadline (unless you count the biological clock). You do have to find an apartment.
I have sent out more e-mails applying for and apartment than I have sent out college applications and job applications in my entire life. Yep. So far, I've found one I liked but they were supposed to call me today and didn't, one I liked but she doesn't like the idea of me having friends (especially boyfriends, I think) over, and one that is PERFECT, but they're not going to decide until the end of the week. It would be a gamble to wait on them, because in the end they might pick someone else! Oh, well.
Clara's agreed to let me stay as long as I need to to find a good place. That's removed a little of the stress. Today also helped because I went to see three apartments, and each time I walked through the park. After a week mostly stuck in my apartment packing, reading Craig's List and sending out apartment-seeking e-mails, it was so great to be out in the fresh air and green.