Monday, October 8, 2012

Memory Lane Monday: My Shit-hole Apartment (Part 6.5)

So, remember that time I mentioned that I escaped from New Jersey by the skin of my teeth? This is a quick story about that.

Living Away From Home Year 6-ish
Escape to New York
(Real Estate Brokers and Other Shady Dealings,
Or: Boyfriend the Hero)

There's an old adage here in New York that says "You're always looking for an apartment, a date, or a job." It's funny because it's true. Towards the end of my tenure in the New Jersey house, I got a job as a hostess at a really swanky fine dining restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. I was making more money there than I ever had in my life, with the potential to have health benefits for the first time, but between the pain-in-the-ass commute from Weehawken, paying twice as many state taxes, and Boyfriend living in Queens, I decided it was time to leave NJ.

I spent the first months of 2008 before my lease was up looking for a new apartment. I was looking in Queens where the prices were better, but also so I could be near Boyfriend. Every place I looked at was either too expensive, not at all what I wanted, or the broker I was dealing with was an idiot. With only a little over a month left before I needed to move, I started getting nervous and desperate. I decided to contact a new broker, and he showed me a couple of places that were waaaay out of my price range, but then he showed me an apartment that had been completely gutted.  At first I was about to scream, but he showed the intended floor plan and it looked great. It was a cozy 2 bedroom, railroad style with 2 entrances and was a block from the train, and one train stop away from Boyfriend. The owner/landlord was an active firefighter and part-time contractor. Other than the fact that it was under construction, I could see its potential and it was within my budget. Trying to sound casual, I asked the broker when they were planning on having it completed. He must have smelled my fear and desperation, a talent reserved for the slimiest of used-car salesmen, brokers, and lawyers (no offense to all of my lawyer friends/relatives.)  He dilly-dallied around an exact answer but asked when I needed to move. I told him I absolutely had to move in by the end of the month and without missing a beat, he guaranteed it would be done for my move-in date. Remember those red flags I was talking about last time? Clearly, I did not learn that lesson well enough, because this one was a doozy. But, it didn't stop me.

I said that only if it was going to be done before my must-move date would I be interested. He, again gave me his word it was going to be done. So, I went back to his office to do a credit check and put down a deposit. My second red flag should have been the fact that they told me that my credit was fine. My credit score was not fine. It wasn't terrible at the time, but it wasn't "good" by any stretch of the imagination. I should have run away, run far away, and never looked back at this shady broker's office, but I did not. I put down my deposit for the apartment and paid the broker his "finder's fee" and skipped merrily home to continue packing, and to e-mail my buddy from college who had agreed to be my roommate.

The first wrench in my plans came a week later when my college buddy said she had changed her mind and was moving in with her boyfriend instead. So, on top of working 40+ hours a week with a 3 hour round-trip commute everyday, I also had to find time at home to pack up all of my stuff, and find a new roommate. The universe was throwing red flags at me left and right, but I was too stubborn to see them.

Fast-forward to 3 days before I had to move out of the NJ house and into my new roommate-less apartment. I had enough money saved that I could float myself without a roommate for a couple of months. (I had rationalized it would be easier to find a roomie with the apartment finished anyway.) Boyfriend and I went to my new apartment to do a last-minute inspection and for me to sign the lease. I walked in and was less than impressed. The floors looked beautiful in the living room/kitchen, and the drywall was up and the wiring was finished, but there were no appliances, and the bathroom wasn't complete. Red flag. The first bedroom looked fine. Then we moved on to the "master" bedroom which was to be my bedroom. It looked great, except that the floor was slanted. Not just a little slanted.  We're talking fun-house slanted. If you put a pencil at one end of the room, it would roll smoothly all the way to the other end. SLANTED.

Boyfriend whispered to me, "I'm getting seasick. You can't live here."  

But I didn't want to believe it. I asked the landlord about the floor and his response was,
"Oh yeah, it's definitely not level."

After seeing the look of horror and disbelief on my face he continued, "Well, they said you needed it by the 30th so that didn't give me enough time to level the floor properly." 


Oh yeah, I can totally make this work.
Clearly the universe had grown tired of attempting to subtly tell me things and instead decided to beat me over the head with its message. Boyfriend and I booked it out of that apartment with me practically in tears. I couldn't live there. No one in their right mind would pay $1600 a month for that place! I had to move in 3 days. I couldn't extend my lease in NJ, there were already new people set to move in on the first of the month. How was I going to find a new place to live and finish packing everything in 3 days? Boyfriend took me to a diner across the street where I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, and had panic attack before I could even attempt to eat lunch. After I spoke with the owner/landlord about getting my deposit back, we deduced that the broker had screwed both of us. The broker had told each of us a different story just to make the sale. I called the broker once I had calmed down and ripped him a new one. He had deliberately misled me into thinking that the apartment would be livable when I needed it. I felt really bad for the owner because he seemed like a decent guy, and he had worked overtime trying to get the apartment ready since he was under the impression that I "loved it and needed it done." But the reality was that I liked it just fine, and could see it's potential, but wasn't interested unless it was livable. The landlord was angry that he'd been swindled, but he was honorable and refunded my deposit immediately.

I spent the rest of that day trying to hunt down the broker to refund his share of my money, while trying not to completely lose my mind.  I hate moving. Hate. It. I've had anxiety attacks about moving months in advanced. Yes, that's right, I have preemptive anxiety attacks about packing things in boxes and moving them.  To say that it was a miracle that I was able to keep it together and function during these 3 days is the understatement of the god damned century. (Boyfriend disagrees with my definition of "keeping it together," he claims I was more like a zombie than anything else, but this is not about semantics.)

After lunch at the diner, I'm pretty sure I just blacked out inside a giant anxiety hole because I don't really remember those 3 days before moving out of NJ. But, while I was effectively losing my proverbial shit, Boyfriend sprung into super-awesome-boyfriend-action mode and conjured up a miracle. He somehow found a studio apartment for rent just down the street from his apartment. He set up a meeting with a new broker for me on the morning I was supposed to move out of Jersey. Miracle. Boyfriend stayed at my NJ house to finish packing my stuff and loading up my U-Haul truck, while I hauled ass over to Queens to look at the apartment and meet the broker.  She wasn't too pushy (for a broker) and actually seemed a little air-headed, but in typical broker fashion, she showed me 2 or 3 crappy apartments before she showed me the one we had asked to see. The more icky apartments I saw, the more stressed out and upset I became. When she finally opened the door to the studio that Boyfriend had originally asked about, I was so relieved, I almost cried. It was a huge studio (by NY standards) on the 6th floor of an older building.  It had an elevator, a trash chute, and a lovely view of the Manhattan skyline. It was close to the train which was both a blessing and a curse.  It was slightly out of my desired price range, but otherwise, it seemed perfect, and I wasn't about to be too picky. I texted pictures of it to Boyfriend to make sure that I wasn't just seeing it through desperation-tinted lenses.  He agreed with me that it looked great and we both breathed a huge sigh of relief. Boyfriend had worked a god damned miracle of miracles.

Super Awesome Boyfriend Action Hero.
*Now available with karate chop action!
I told the slightly-air-headed broker that I would put down the deposit right then and there. After a bunch of paperwork and phone calls at her office, I finally had the signed lease and key to my new apartment. I couldn't actually move in for a couple of days because they needed to do some minor electrical work and re-glaze the bathtub, but at the very least I was able to move all of my stuff into the apartment and just bunch it all up in the corner. Boyfriend not only helped me move all of my stuff to Queens from New Jersey (a delightful 6 hour process complete with getting lost in Northern New Jersey) but he also let me and my ferrets stay with him until I was able to move into my new place. He's a motherfucking hero. In hindsight, I probably should have just put all of my stuff into storage and moved in with Boyfriend and his roommates in the first place.  I would soon realize that my "perfect" apartment was a polished turd if I ever lived in one. But how was I to know what 2008 would bring?

(I'll give you a hint: It rhymes with "recession" and "psychotic neighbor.") 

 To Be Continued...

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