Immigrant stories · Lifestyle · newlife · Travel

On Renting – To Live In/Short Term Visit To America/NYC

I was finally moving!! I was going to New York City. Well! Close enough- Jersey City!

Where will I stay? How will I deal with realtors ( my image is that of a shirtless creep showing me homes in Hyderabad, India when I was apartment hunting there)? Will it be safe? How will I commute (a valid concern since I was used to a car and in the United States it was going to be only my feet.)

One of the biggest concerns when I was moving across the world was finding a place to live! How will I get one? Where will I stay when I land and then how will I find a place? How much will I pay?

My outlook on renting and apartments has grown since I first moved (I, now sort of, know what is available in America.)  But I am still very much a city girl, having grown up with (literally) a billion people around me. Besides, I have only had summer all my life; snow and the tasks that surround it seem massive! So, my take on this whole finding a temporary or permanent home in New Jersey, just out of Manhattan is going to be from that perspective.

Everyone suggested I look at Craigslist. So I did. I mailed so many different people on it. Most of them though I was a gullible fool! One wanted me to make a wire transfer money ‘as soon as possible’, from India. Another wanted my bank details and yet another decided to play a bidding game with me and another guy on Skype! I have realized that unless I am in the country/state or area and can be physically present, craglist is a complete NO! NO!

I decided I would arrive in New Jersey and spend a few days in a hotel, scout around Jersey City, where I was going to work and thus live, and then decide on where to rent.

My boss at the school and my future colleagues tried to help me and suggested a few places I could live in. A studio, a home without an actual bedroom, for $1700 was unthinkable to an Indian mind! Obviously as all people who first move from India, I was converting dollars into Indian Rupees. Sitting thousands of miles away, I didn’t realize that the rent to stay in a city is a little crazy.

I was coming alone, to a place I knew nothing about, was not going to have transport, and wanted a place close to work. What would I do? Anxiety began to set in.

A day before my departure from India, for the United States, my boss arranged for me to stay in a serviced apartment for two weeks while I house hunted and settled down. This was my first exposure to long term rentals or extended stays here in the United States.

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Furnished apartment! Everything included!

When I landed and by and by I learned a lot more about housing in and around New York City and Jersey City.

Brownstones I learned were row houses. Often with less light, no door man ( When I first moved I didn’t see the advantages of this person. I didn’t need a door man! I mean, I could open my own door right? Well, that’s not what they do. I love that my building has a doorman – oops, I mean concierge! ) The deal breaker was they had crazy narrow walkups that I would have to lug my groceries through and I would have to shovel my own snow in the winter!!

Photo May 19, 6 45 42 PM
Beautiful brownstones in Jersey City.
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Ahhhh!!! The perils of snow. I cannot handle shoveling!

I could rent a cheaper home away from the school which was in Jersey City’s down town area. There were areas like Journal Square and the Heights. But, at the time I was not ready to venture to those parts of town. (Now I know they are safe and would gladly live in an apartment there.) I can’t remember why I did not pick Newport though ( Possibly my legs would have found the walk too far 😉 )More importantly, I needed an easy and quick commute to work.

Next- the suburban houses. Seeing how far they are from the city and with the added disadvantage of shoveling. No thank you!! My transport condition was not satisfied. I mean, the bus stop is a walk, then to actually take the ride and walk from there to work. That was not for me either. Granted I would have a cheap living with more space, but my criterias were not met! I would dread every morning ( Not to say I didn’t anyways. But that’s a whole different story.) Oh! And besides, I think the loneliness of a big house and barely any neighbors would possibly kill me.

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Big houses in the middle of nowhere! (This was in CT, but NJ is like this as well! )

I settled for – The expensive high-rise apartments. This area is crazy! There are buildings dedicated to ONLY renters!!! No permanent residents. People who own in high-rises have their own building which are condos. And if they wanted to rent it out, they might offer it for a few hundred dollars cheaper than the dedicated rental buildings, through a realtor.

My studio apartment was tiny. But it had everything I needed. I got a fridge, cooking range with oven and microwave (Yes, I have to cook with electric stove. No! I still do not like it.) There was an ac unit to heat and cool the place, a washer and dryer came attached. The building had a lovely pool, gym and lounge with free Wi-Fi (one expense saved, at least for a while.) The best thing is it was safe, was clean and well maintained and came with a promise of shoveled sidewalks in the winter. Man! Did I have to pay the price?! It still pinches me, but I would do it all over again for the convenience and mental and physical security of a new immigrant.

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The floor plan of a general studio. Can’t remeber which apartment it was for. I saw way too many back when I arrived.
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The facilities at a high-rise

I can see more advantages of this sort of high-rise building. Today, I love having my door man/concierge to collect my packages, greet every morning and just chat with when I want to meet another person. It’s fun to see and chat with new people every time I ride the elevator. I would like to know more people and meet them often, possibly build a relationship with them. But whose to say that any other housing will be any different. To me the only down side is the cost. Oh! And that my unit does not have a balcony.

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High rises come with beautiful views.

I pay more. But I am mentally free and among lots of people, restaurants, shops and transport to Manhattan. That is my choice for now!

____________________

My Take:
For NYC/ Jersey City renters/visitors:

  1. When I first arrived I stayed at 225 Grand in Jersey City. Corporate housing was great for me; it was totally furnished. The kitchen was stacked with dishes and the bed and living room with furniture. I had a connected TV with cable, a phone and WI-Fi. All-city in Jersey City and New York are really great and effective in renting out apartments units that are furnished. I have used Furnished Quarters as well. To stay there is super convenient when you are scoping out where to stay and what to do. But for long term, their rent works out to double that of what the apartment usually rents out for.
  2. In Jersey City, there are several apartment buildings that are solely rental! I never heard of that anywhere else. A leasing office is dedicated to rentals in such places and they show you several different units before you have to decide. I have used the KRE group ( 225 Grand, 18 Park and Grove Pointe in Jersey City) and have been very happy with the leasing office, management and general upkeep of the buildings. Obviously there are many many more!
  3. I started of with a studio- a home that did not have a separate bedroom and have moved up since. One bedrooms are often as big as a studio, but the bedrooms have the privacy of a door. Of course two and three bedrooms are regular apartment. Although, now the newer units are getting smaller in size, more rooms ad higher rent. That’s NYC’s real estate market!
  4. Many brownstones have heaters that are controlled by the building. It’s pro is that heating cost is often factored into the rent. The con: Often no A/Cs and the heat runs, by government law, for a certain time during the year, no matter how warm it is outside. You are not in control of heating and cooling of your apartment.
  5. The best thing about high rise apartment buildings is they do not come with the one month broker fee!! Hurray! Brokers have the in on condos that may have a cheaper monthly rent, but come with the high signing fee.
  6. On a side note- Jersey City is just across the water from Manhattan, NYC. It’s super easy to get there if you wanted to work/study there.

Happy house hunting.

Write me a comment if this helped with looking for a place.

 

P.S: This is not promotional. It is an article based on my experiences and what I have learned about rentals so far.
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