Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: The Perfect Place--Guest Post!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Perfect Place--Guest Post!

This week, we are lucky enough to have a new Fordham graduate student as a guest blogger: Andrea McCrary.

The Perfect Place
Finding Housing Near Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus

It’s really intimidating, it’s seemingly complicated, and it’s absolutely necessary — I’m talking about finding a place to live while attending Fordham University.

I’m from Florida, so the housing market of the Bronx wasn’t really one of my specialties. I will tell you upfront my story has a happy ending. I am currently a comfortable resident in my very own one bedroom apartment situated two blocks away from campus. This blog entry is about my journey; I’ve filled it with helpful hints I wish I had known from the beginning.

It all began when I decided I was going to attend Fordham for graduate school. I was really excited because NYC is a big change from a small city in Southwest Florida. Just to give you an idea, at my previous university I walked past alligators on my way to class. I had a friend from college that moved to Manhattan and she gave me some helpful tips, but I quickly learned the Bronx was a different beast.

I decided exactly what I was looking for early on. I wanted my own place — either a studio or a one bedroom. I also wanted it to be within walking distance to the Rose Hill Campus. Laundry in the building was a preference, but not a deal breaker. If I had decided on roomies there would have been a few extra steps to the process, and I’d have to factor in my roommate(s)’s preferences.

My first attempt happened in May. I Googled “Apartments in the Bronx near Fordham” and other variations of that phrase. That got me a bunch of funky websites that showed me expensive places to live. It was hard to narrow my search and I really wasn’t pleased with the sites that popped up.

I then turned to Craig’s List. Ah, Craig’s List, home to many-a-creature of the virtual underbelly. But the most annoying are the scammers. It was easy to locate places near Fordham through CL, but I detected a few scams along the way.

(Important Aside: A few indicators you are being scammed: 1. The landlord claims to be from or currently in another country, especially Africa. 2. They would like to mail you the keys once you send them money through a bank, such as Western Union. 3. You’ve seen the same pictures listed more than once for different places.)

I called and e-mailed a few places from CL, but none of them really panned out for me. I’ve heard those lovely stories of people finding exactly what they want on CL, but it’s reminiscent of finding your spouse through an online dating service — it doesn’t work for most people. By all means, go for it. It helped me familiarize myself with street names and the streets neighboring Fordham when I Googlemapped the apartments from CL, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

I knew I wasn’t going to get anywhere by sitting around scanning the internet all summer, so I booked my flight for early July and went to New York. I decided to stay with a friend in Manhattan while searching for my apartment. Hotels in the area were expensive and shady. I’d recommend staying in Manhattan or the Westchester area if you must stay in a hotel, but it would be cheaper and safer to stay with a friend.

I’m a very lucky sort of girl, so, of course I arrived during the freak heat wave when it was 100+ degrees outside. It was difficult walking around the neighborhoods when I felt like I was going to die of heat exhaustion. No worries though, folks. I took many breaks in the shade with a big bottle of water. The lesson: Be prepared for the elements, whatever they may be.

The most helpful thing I did was talk to Nicol Gotsis, Director of Student Development. She gave me a big list of places that were renting out to students (a list that is available to all students), and she gave me some advice. After my first day revealed no luck, I wanted to get a broker. I was hot, exhausted, and my spirit was just ready to take the easy way out. Nicol encouraged me to keep trying on my own. She’d lived here for a while and told me that though it was intimidating, it was not impossible to find a place.

I continued on, calling a few more places on the list I was provided. I walked the streets and called the numbers on posted signs that read, “Fordham Student Housing” and other similar phrases. After making appointments and visiting a few studios and one bedrooms, I was able to narrow it down to the two places I liked the best by my third day of searching.

A word of advice: Every time I tried to bargain with a landlord about the monthly rent they would go down in price. Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst they can do is say is no. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Take pictures of places so you can review them at the end of the day. Measure the rooms and windows. Make sure you don’t leave without all your questions answered and information gathered. It will help you in making your decision.

Some questions I asked were: Is there a problem with pests in this building? How noisy does it get during the week/weekend? Has there been a lot of crime in the building or nearby? How big does my air conditioner need to be to cool the room/apartment? Do you allow pets?

But let’s not beat around the bush, people. I know you are wondering about prices. The roomie option will definitely give you something reasonable such as anything from 300ish-700 bucks per person, depending on how many people you want to live with you, the size of the place, etc. I took the more expensive route. The places I looked at (studios and one bedrooms) cost anywhere between $800 and $1,500.

And don’t forget to factor in utilities. Keep in mind different places make you pay for different things. Heat, electricity, gas, internet, and cable can be your responsibility. Most places cover heat and some places cover heat and gas. In most cases you need to pay for your electricity, cable, and internet.

After the arduous search, make sure you are happy with what you’ve found. Ask yourself some important questions such as: Do you feel safe? Is there enough space? Is there laundry in the building or a laundromat nearby? Do the police patrol your street? How far do you have to travel to get where you need to be for work and classes?

If you aren’t happy, don’t just sign the papers because you think you can’t find anything else. There are people who back out at the last moment and a landlord might cut you a deal so they can have all their units filled. Just make sure you are satisfied with what you are getting — you’ll be living there, after all. Also, when signing your lease just make sure it’s at an office or a public place.

To find the perfect place you’ve just got to get out there, make the phone calls, visit the apartments, and put on your bargaining hat. And, of course, know what you want (what are your deal breakers?). It might take a few days, but I’m pretty certain you’ll walk away with a place to live. I wish you the best in your search and don’t give up until you’ve found what you want. 

Andrea McCrary is from Fort Myers, Florida. She is currently a graduate student in the Public Communication program.

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