Seeking a Sunny Manhattan Studio for $2,000. Which of These Would You Choose?

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Bored with the ‘cookie-cutter’ homes in California, a renter journeyed east to New York, where ‘every space has a story.’ Here’s what she found.

The New York Times - Real Estate

Elizabeth Azadi first moved to New York in 2007, after working in construction management and interior design in her home state, California. She stayed for eight years, then returned to the Bay Area.

“I was there for four years longer than I planned or hoped for,” she said. “I got bored quickly, so I decided to come back to New York, because that’s where I was the happiest. I moved back just in time for Covid.”

Ms. Azadi, 41, briefly sublet a friend’s place in Battery Park City while she looked for work. “Nobody is going to rent you an apartment if you’re unemployed,” she said.

She landed a job in business development and, in the summer, went on the hunt for a studio or one-bedroom, scheduling visits during lunch breaks with difficulty.

For a monthly rent in the low $2,000s, she was looking for a sunny place on the East Side, centrally located, preferably with a street view. What she found were apartments with views of ugly courtyards or someone else’s windows. Some one-bedrooms were converted studios, making it hard to arrange the space.

“I needed one larger space I could work with,” she said. So a studio it would be.

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Listing photos offered little help: In real life, the places she saw felt much smaller, and it was tough to figure out what the immediate neighborhoods were like. “There were things I didn’t like about every apartment,” Ms. Azadi said.

With little time before she needed to move, she saw a listing from Soraya Selles, an agent at Bond New York, and got in touch. Ms. Azadi told Ms. Selles she wanted a short walk to a subway, which meant a place south of East 77th Street and west of Second Avenue.

Few apartments required a broker’s fee, thanks to the damage wreaked on the Manhattan rental market by the pandemic. “There were so many vacancies,” Ms. Selles said, noting that the fee these days is generally paid by the building management, which also sometimes offers concessions of a month or more of free rent.

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