Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Leopard Chair

Last night I signed a lease to turn over my apartment, the home I own, lovingly decorated and agonized over, the subject of endless furniture placement floorplans and sketch renderings of a mythical walk in closet I swear I'm going to build someday, to a complete stranger. Now, it's been many years since I've been in the rental market in New York, but back in the day it was notoriously cut-throat. I remember waiting at a newstand in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning to get the latest edition of the Village Voice and a jump on that week's rental listings. Then one had to pay finders fees and deal with bloodthirsty brokers who charged fees to the tune of 20% of the first year's rent that the renter, not the landlord, pays. I vowed back then if I was ever a landlord I would not support the racket that is the New York rental market.

The Internet and more and more buildings being converted to co-ops or condos thereby creating more individual owners, not to mention the building boom of the last decade that seems to produce sky-scrapers full of luxury rentals on a weekly basis along the west side, has eased the market a bit. Those no-fee apartments once almost unheard of have given way to new buildings with the phone number of their rental office posted outside on a 4 story banner. Craigslist has replaced the Village Voice for the best apartment deals in the city. It's free for no-fee apartments and apartment rentals by owner to post an ad. So, that's what I planned to do: post an ad on Craigslist. Easy, right? I'll have an open house and have this place rented in an 2 hours, maybe three

I made some calls to my building manager who instructed me to get x, y, and z financial and legal information from an potential tenant and of course a credit check should be done. I spoke to my boss, a smart, well-to-do, old-time New York "dame" who has been the owner of a couple of rental apartments over the years. I told her my plan to use Craigslist. "Are you crazy? Do you want every lunatic in New York parading through your apartment? Turn it over to a broker--it's what they do. You tell them exactly who you want in there and they'll find them. And it's free for you! You have enough to do before you go away." She had a point.

So, I gave in. I broke the promise I made to that idealistic out-of-work 23-year old actor so many years ago and called a broker. Thank god I called the broker I did though, because I was immediately reminded of why I never wanted to use them in first place. The aggressive tactics and fast talking. It was as if I could feel a claw like hand reaching through the phone ready to snatch up my listing. Before I even had a chance to ask anything, she knew the address and all my contact information. Finally I took control of the conversation saying I wasn't sure when the apartment would be ready to show, but I would let her know. I hung up and immediately started writing my Craigslist ad.

The ad produced a couple dozen email responses all expressing interest in the open house. I spruced the place up getting it ready and I must say, it looked fabulous. But in the end, only a handful of people showed up, including the perfect candidate. He gave me a scare over the weekend, almost backing out of the deal, but finally showed up to see the place one last time, checks in hand, ready to sign the lease. While he did one final walk through, I gave him ideas on how to increase storage space and we discussed furniture placement. But when he agonized over just where to place his leopard chair, I knew the place would be well taken care of and in good hands. I will be able to rest easy in Washington.

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At 10:35 AM, Blogger judy said...

I'm proud of you for being one of the good guys. I'm glad you didn't fail that 23-year-old idealist, and I'm sure that good Karma will go a long way in taking care of your beloved home on the Upper West Side. Good luck in D.C.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Diane said...

He sounds perfect. If you were to use a broker (and I'm glad you didn't -- rental brokers in particular are just AWFUL), you would have said "find me someone who will obsess over where to put his leopard chair."

At 9:34 AM, Blogger Scott said...

Sounds like you found the perfect renter! Congrats!

At 9:49 PM, Blogger LSL said...

I'm catching up again on my favorites - I feel so out of it knowing Manhattan Chowder is in DC! - and am so glad to hear you had the perfect candidate show up. Here's hoping for a smooth year!


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