Lesson #2: How to Find An Apartment

"Let's all live together," you say to two of your most loyal college pals. "I'm serious. We should get an apartment." You feel like a genius for even suggesting the arrangement, as if you've made a giant leap forward into adulthood and defeated the specter of your fleeting youth all at once. One month from graduation and everything's become so clear. The mere prospect of this scenario is sure to set off a rapid chain of events in which you and your friends find lucrative jobs, accommodating girlfriends, and a huge, loft apartment. Oh yes, it will be so big, and it will have TVs on every wall, an iPad-operated stove that automatically cooks whatever you're thinking about, and Louis Vuitton briefcases filled with Chipotle burrito vouchers and blank checks. Probably. It's all just a matter of time.

Meanwhile, your friends can't believe their ears. They're in awe. You might as well have told them they'd been invited to enjoy a decade-long massage given by a mutant, four-armed supermodel who only accepts payment in the form of lies about their high school lacrosse conquests. "Dude, that'd be sick," one chum responds. "Imagine us in New York?" the other gushes, his joyous face shaped by tragic naiveté. "Pass me my Macbook. I'm gonna check Craigslist." And, with the utterance of those fateful words, there's no turning back. Not now. Not after Steve has opened Firefox and selected "Manhattan Rentals" from that nexus of real estate trickery, that hopeful fool's Internet paradise. For better of worse, the apartment search has officially commenced. Here's how to survive it, one broken dream at a time.

1. Scour Craigslist for listings and excitedly email links to your roommates.

Like a blackjack junky at the Bellagio, making a Christmas Eve bee-line toward his "lucky table", you're relentlessly tempted by lady luck's undeniable allure. At this stage in your hunt, every listing you scroll past seems as if it holds the promise of a life less ordinary: "NEW PLACE—BEST IN NEW YORK—WILL GO FAST!!!!! HUGE 3 BDRM!" You click and wait three insufferable seconds for the page to load. When it does, you can't seem to shake the feeling that you've been had. You're no expert, but you find it hard to believe that the best apartment in New York is located in Inwood/Washington Heights and listed by a man named Monique who provides only a picture of the Empire State Building and a misspelled threat typed in green Helvetica: "Your going to ned to rent this or you never know NYC!" On the other hand, you think, there's a very real chance this place could just be the entire Empire State Building.

2. Come to terms with the fact that nothing you've seen online actually exists.

Welp, you've graduated and still haven't found a spot. You and your friends are back home with your respective parents for the time being and you live closest to New York so the search has fallen entirely on your shoulders. Every lead you've followed up on has left you stranded outside a 45th floor, East Village walk-up, waiting for a broker who may very well not exist, or, worse, inside a "2 flex 3" on 98th and Amsterdam with mauve wall-to-wall carpets that wreak of Parliament Lights and children's tears. And, to think, both of these online listings pictured the Statue of Liberty, an indoor pool, and a very youthful looking Bobby Brown.

3. Spend a Saturday going on showings with a real estate broker recommended by a close friend's half-cousin.

Phew! All that running around is finally over because you've found a broker. And not a Craigslist, I'll-offer-you-a-Percocet-before-taking-you-to-a-formerly-rent-controlled-but-not-anymore-Murray-Hill-studio-inhabited-by-an-angry, narcoleptic-Vietnam-vet-who-has-no-intention-of-moving-out-and-will-call-you-a-"daisy legged sissy" kind of broker. A real one. One who helped someone you know (or, sort of know) find a place. You're excited to meet her at first, but quickly become nauseous when you realize she's inflated your stated price-range by $600/month and alluded to her "finder's fee" before shaking your hand. You know there's no way you'll be able to pay a finder's fee, or a keeper's fee, or the first month's, last month's, security deposit, insecurity deposit, window-washing, sweet dream, or silly whisper fees that, apparently, are also required to live in "The City". But, of course, you're too embarrassed to say anything. So, off you go!

4. Realize you can only afford something very different from (and worse than) what you'd first imagined.

Okay, you've found something. It's not great, but it's clean and that matters to you now. The toilet flushes in under a minute and the windows close all the way. You ask your Realtor: "How much is it?" Only $400 above budget. You guess you can ask your parents for some help. "How soon will it be available?" you wonder. "Immediately," the broker responds before she tells you that "34 people are also interested in the place but, if you put down an application in the next five minutes, [she] can guarantee that none of them will take it." You wish she would tell you it would never be available and that you deserved something much better and that she'd turn into your mom and give you a hug and shush you while you let out quiet little elementary school sobs. You steer your eyes away from a mouse hole in the floorboards and fire off a text to your friends: "I think I got one."

5. Sign a lease for a place that's "small, but in a great area."

Look at you go. You've nabbed a sprawling 443 sq. feet in the heart of New York. Yes, maybe it will be a bit tight for three people, but there's a Chinese takeout/Death metal karaoke place right downstairs, which could be fun, and you heard Jeff Goldblum lives pretty nearby, and you're only 10 blocks from the subway, and it only takes 15 minutes to get anywhere in Manhattan by subway, right?..right?…RIGHT??!!!!!