Finding an apartment in Albany

It is almost mid May and that means something very important. It’s time to apartment hunt, and realistically for most, it has been that time for a while now. I’m completely making this up, but most apartments are rented in the months of June, July, and possibly August. It makes sense, right? School is out, and you’ve finally realized that you’re sick of living in the dorm, or with your freshman year roomies in a party house, and you really don’t want to go back to your useless hometown. You’d like to stay here for whatever reason, grad school, a great job, or maybe you just don’t want to leave. So you search Craigslist for apartments.

The actual advice:
Find an area/neighborhood you like, go there and walk around. Chances are you’ll be happier with your choice if you’re familiar with the area and know a landmark or two, (e.g. Bombers, Spectrum, Mahar’s). Don’t rent from a company/renting agency or anything of the sort. Also be on the lookout for the slumlords with multiple properties (unless you’re into that sort of thing). A good example of a landlord who doesn’t care is someone who shows the same apartment to nine different people simultaneously. These apartments seem to be laughable in quality. If the landlord has turned a showing into a competition, a game of ‘who’s gonna sign first’ – just leave. No one needs that. Don’t rent from the moonlighting landlord whose day job is practicing law; they will likely sue you for damages done by the previous tenant and you will never find the pictures you didn’t take at the time of moving in.

There are a few ways of finding a place: exploring by foot, craigslist, living with friends, friends of friends/acquaintances – I think those are most of the common ones.

By foot:
Let’s say you pick a neighborhood: Center Square, Hudson Park, Park South, etc. (commonly known as the Lark area). Can’t find anything for June 1st? But you found a perfect place for August!? EVERYONE LIVES AT THE KNICKERBOCKER ONCE. It’s okay. Just go month to month there, everything is included in the rent. There are other options, but I’ll get back to that.

There are plenty of beautiful places in Albany and you can often find some good stuff on Craigslist. This is what you should look out for:

Look for repeats. You can save yourself a lot of time by going back a few months and looking for duplicates. If you see a place up multiple times, there’s probably a stellar reason it has not yet been rented. Often it has to do with price or location. Take that as a warning.

Watch out for confusing language like “garden level apartment – honestly, that sounds so lovely and flowery. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s in the fucking basement, and there are half windows and there’s no natural light ever… I wish they would just say that.

No companies, renting agencies, or anything like that. The rent is often low, but you have to pay thousands of dollars in first month, last month, a middle month. And sometimes you get a free month somewhere if you sign for a 13mo lease. It gets ridiculous. There are astronomical fees for things like light bulbs missing. Light bulb: $12 -REALLY? I can buy a 7 pack of those swirly, weird, energy saving ones for $12 at Lowe’s (that’s where they get you). 432-RENT aka RENT CITY is completely out. They are complete rubbish and will rape you with fees, security deposits, etc. Don’t rent from Kurt [link to one of Kurt’s post] – he is everywhere with his beautiful old brownstones. The problem with Kurt is that he is a strange man who just talks about the historic value of your potential apartment, but you want a place to live, not a place where Martin Van Buren took a shit (Madison Ave. @ Robin). Just so it’s noted, I’m dead serious about the Martin Van Buren thing. Also, did I mention Kurt is a liar? Yup, a huge liar. He works for a renting company (Madison Associates) and his job there is to woo you into signing that lease by playing the fatherly figure that you trust. The company is never mentioned until finances are discussed and he makes up all the prices on the spot based on what you look like.

Okay, enough bashing and ranting. The dos:

With Craigslist, just specify your search. I know this sounds like a dumb and obvious suggestion but put in a street name: Dove, Lancaster, Hamilton, Hudson, Willett, etc. It’s easier to look at a list of apartments when there aren’t as many. Search Lark and you get quite a few more posts because people will always write “walking distance to Lark street. If you like the Spectrum area, try searching that; there are a bunch of wonderful little side streets down there off Delaware Ave. If living on a bus line is necessary for your transportation needs, search for that.

If you’re not a go getter. Here’s what you do, you post a wanted ad for the exact apartment you want. Apparently there are plenty of landlords who look at the wanted ads. The rough estimate is six creeps per every good reply. I don’t know about those numbers…

Think of the big picture. Get heat and hot water included. If H&HW are included, you have just set yourself up to get the best possible financial deal. Heating is expensive and Albany homes are old, drafty, and not insulated well. Electric is easy to manage and easy to deal with. I don’t usually suggest you get an apartment with it included because it seems to offset the bargain you’re getting with the H&HW. This is generally the case, unless it’s a huge apartment building.

This is extremely important! You’re always a grad student. Tell everyone that. Make it up. Either that or you have the most lucrative job in the world and say big words like “social networking consultant and drop trendy sounding names with z’s in them like Potratz or something.

Separate suggestion: Live in a nook or a garage for a while. If you really loathe the idea of living in the Knick, you can take the cheaper approach and ask your friends if they have a place for you to stay. Post it on twitter. It’s hot out… live on someone’s back or front enclosed porch. Put up one of those weird, folding, Asian samurai decorated room dividers and pay the utility bill for the month. Or better yet, rent a one bay garage for $75/mo. and put a tent and sleeping bag in it. Just make sure it’s not too musty. Make sure it has an electric outlet. I made the mistake of getting a garage with old electricity and after replacing the fuses twice, still nothing works. Ask your friends if you can come over in a towel and shower at their place. Think of how much money you can save if you spend $75 a month on shelter. I mean, you’ll be unbelievably uncomfortable, but it’s definitely illegal and would make a great story.

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