Apartment hunting in NYC is a bit of a process, to say the least. It is an expensive and fast-moving real estate market, and there are just so many ways that extra, not fully anticipated (especially for first-timers like myself) costs can sneak in. Such costs to factor in could include, say, management companies being shady about security deposits and rent increases or the standard 10-12% broker fee, which could also go as high as 15%. I've spent most of the last week trekking across a few neighborhoods to look at different buildings, and I could potentially continue for another week or two. I'm lucky to be working with a price point that allows for a small but decent range of choices in a few neighborhoods I'd be happy to live in. The really hip, fun neighborhoods of NYC are off the table due to price, of course, which is generally the case for everyone I know.
I am finding, however, that I am perhaps a bit too easily suckered in by the idea of more recently renovated kitchens and bathrooms, newer appliances, and fancier amenities. Those things are, naturally enough, generally only possible at the top end of the price range. As someone who has, historically, not been very good at keeping a close eye on finances and saving, I wonder if I am making poor choices by not looking harder for opportunities for rents that would potentially save me up to $125/month (in a one bedroom share). We're also including things like a doorman, laundry in building, and an elevator on our list of requirements. Those things are probably reasonable to hope for as a fairly high-earning white-collar professional (even one encumbered by student loans) in the neighborhoods at issue. I question my own judgment on this because of my general propensity to pay a bit more for convenience than is always warranted. The laundry in building part is probably nonnegotiable for us, though.
I suppose one way to look at it is to focus on how much the savings could affect my student loan repayment. The year's potential savings of $1500 is less than one month's minimum payment at this point, and if I have no trouble affording both the loan payments and rent and various other goals, then isn't it a negligible issue? Then again, one of the lessons that I should have learned from my recent focus on personal finance is that every dollar (and certainly $125/month) is ultimately significant.
What was it like when you looked for your first apartment or home? Did you have any qualms about whether the price range you had in mind was actually right for you?