If you've ever hunted for an apartment in NYC for any period of time, and trudged through a bunch of places that were just awful in every way, you probably felt a huge relief when you found "the one." But sometimes the feeling sours after you move in when it becomes clear that you didn't scrutinize the apartment carefully enough.
Lots of problems with NYC apartments aren't immediately obvious so you need to look them over closely. Having lived in numerous hastily built New York City apartments, I can testify to a great many examples of corner cutting. Below are some of the most egregious ones I’ve experienced. Bookmark this list for the next time you are checking out a potential apartment, and maybe you won’t have to end up gritting your teeth every time you spend a few hours in your very own place.
Crappy building materials
If something can be skimped on, it often will be. This includes the materials that go into making the actual apartment itself. Flooring and countertops are among those you can actually see, but the most troubling areas where developers skimp are not visible to the untrained eye, like using cheap pipes or sand to fill out the building’s foundation. When making the final decision about an apartment, learn what to ask about or find someone who does. (Here’s a checklist for how to tell if new construction is quality construction.) Yes, it’s a hassle, but it is way less painful than having to file a lawsuit when your shoddily installed balcony collapses.
The worst (and most common) variety of corner cutting is the kind that remains a secret until you’re all moved in. It seems crazy that developers might shortchange something as basic as a functioning door, but it happens frequently. The worst example is when the doors to two separate rooms are arranged in such a way that they can’t both be fully opened at once. And then there is the door that doesn’t quite properly fit, either running up against the jamb or scraping along the floor. Nightmare. Always check your doors.
My colleague had the experience of checking out an apartment and noticing the closets were unusually puny. She wasn’t even sure they were closets because they were so small. A friend who lives in the building confirmed that yes, these shallow recesses were indeed the closets but not to worry, tenants there had come up with a solution: Child-sized hangars for their clothes. Can you imagine what that does to a suit jacket? Just no.
Who in the world designs apartments with shallow drawers? And why? The answer is “sadists.” This offense is especially egregious when those insufficient drawers are located in the bathroom. Truly, is there anything more annoying than a puny little drawer that can’t even hold a hairdryer? Or, possibly worse, a vanity where you can barely fit an electric toothbrush? Why even bother?
Worse yet, fake drawers
Fake drawers are to an apartment as fake pockets are to a pair of pants: a cruel tease that is so much worse than simply not acknowledging the possibility of drawers/pockets in the first place. I once spent a year living in an apartment with fake kitchen drawers, and not a day passed that I didn’t try to open them. I’m not sure if that says more about the apartment or me, but let’s just say it was the apartment.
You might feel embarrassed asking to turn on the shower in an apartment you’re checking out, but tell me: Do you want to spend the foreseeable future walking around with a head full of partially rinsed shampoo? Do you want to come home at the end of the day and try to take a nice, restorative rinse and find that your insufficient showerhead will only burble a couple drops at a time? I bet you do not.
The truly alarming thing about poor insulation is that you don’t really know about it until you’ve spent time in a place without it, particularly in winter. Sure, an apartment can seem totally fine from the outside (and even inside!) nine months out of the year. But if the insulation is installed improperly or missing materials, you’re going to know about it when the first frost hits. And you’re really going to know about it when your energy bill is through the roof. Either that, or you’re going to have to get used to wearing a lot of sweaters.
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