In New York, almost every living situation involves a trade-off of some kind. As Joseph Boudin discovered during his first few years in the city, figuring out how to balance the pros and cons of various locations, rents, roommates and apartments is a difficult art to master.
Since moving from Alabama four years ago, Mr. Boudin, 25, has lived in five apartments, each a brief attempt to find a long-term home. After a year in Manhattan, he moved to Staten Island to save on rent, although he was working in Midtown East. When he discovered the commute was miserable, he overcorrected by moving into a Hell’s Kitchen room-share where his rent, at $1,875, rivaled that of a studio apartment. And he still had to travel across town to work.
Then he found a $1,200-a-month bedroom in an Upper East Side walk-up that turned out to be his worst calculation of all. Going in, he knew the accommodations wouldn’t be deluxe. The two-bedroom apartment was small, shabby and on the sixth floor.
“When my best friend moved me in, she said, ‘Joseph, are you sure you want to live here?’” Mr. Boudin recalled. “There was a hole around the bathroom pipe that was the size of a dinner plate.”
What he didn’t know was that his roommate’s brother would go from temporarily sleeping on the living-room futon to permanently living there. Or that his roommate would frequently rent his own room through Airbnb to make money, during which time he would also sleep in the living room.
Making the cramped conditions even more unpleasant, Mr. Boudin also had to contend with the brothers’ Labrador retriever. Contrary to the breed’s reputation, it was anything but friendly.
“The dog was huge and vicious — it really didn’t like me,” Mr. Boudin said. “I’d come home and the dog would be barking. And I couldn’t ever be in the living room because there was always a dog or a person in there.”
Everyone, including the brothers, agreed that the setup was less than ideal. They were on good enough terms, however, to decide that finding a larger apartment together was the answer. The three were moving forward with plans to rent a three-bedroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when Mr. Boudin reconsidered.
“All the red flags were up: First of all, it was too small. Second, we’d still have the dog and the brother with us. The brother also wasn’t employed, so we would have had to pay his fee. And then there was the L train shutting down,” said Mr. Boudin, an account executive for a furniture company in Midtown.
Earlier in the search, Mr. Boudin and his roommate had found a place through Rezi, a company that leases apartments wholesale from landlords and rents them to tenants at market rate. There is no broker’s fee, and once tenants are approved they can rent any Rezi apartment their income qualifies them for — in Mr. Boudin’s case, up to $2,300 a month.
But the roommate hadn’t met Rezi’s qualifications, so they looked elsewhere. Now, browsing the company’s listings, Mr. Boudin found several East Harlem studios for under $2,000 a month. If he could afford to live alone in Manhattan, he thought, he wasn’t going to live with roommates in Brooklyn.
$1,725 | EAST HARLEM
Joseph Boudin, 25
Occupation: Account executive at Walters, a furniture company.
He immediately liked the apartment’s location: “There’s a park, a church and a school nearby — those all seemed like good signs to me. There’s also a Target, Costco, Marshalls and Aldi. And one of the No. 1 restaurants in the city is right down the street from me, Rao’s, although I’ve never been there. I asked how long it takes to get a reservation, and they said two years.”
Still, it’s fun to live near Rao’s: “You’ll walk down the street at 5 or 6 p.m. and see Maseratis, limos coming down the street.”
Except for the smaller-than-average refrigerator, Mr. Boudin loves the apartment’s renovation: “All the fixtures are so nice, there’s a washer-dryer, and I think the layout is great.”
Friends in the neighborhood: Mr. Boudin convinced a friend from Alabama to take an apartment a short walk away — also a Rezi listing — and now they frequently cook for one another. He has also started volunteering at the Church of the Heavenly Rest on Fifth Avenue and 90th Street.
In September, he signed a lease for a newly renovated, first-floor apartment on 114th Street, for $1,725 a month.
“I feel like I finally found my home. This place is a palace compared to the last place,” Mr. Boudin said, marveling that he had gone from a bathroom with broken tiles and a gaping hole in the floor to one with black marble and a waterfall shower head.
Although his new living situation is more expensive than the previous one, it is still less than he was paying for the Hell’s Kitchen apartment. And his commute, on the Second Avenue bus, takes about 25 minutes.
He also loves living on the first floor. “The building is a walk-up, but I don’t have to walk up, so it’s like living in a luxury building,” he said.
And despite facing the street, he added, the noisiest thing in the apartment is usually the steam pipe.
“One time people were talking outside — it was late — so I opened the curtains and said, ‘Boo! Can you please be quiet? I’m trying to sleep,’” Mr. Boudin said. “They said, ‘Oh, sorry,’ and left.”
Even the difficulty of making it to an Equinox gym, where he had a membership, turned out to be a blessing in disguise: He joined a nearby Planet Fitness for $10 a month, a fraction of what he had been paying.
Living alone has also meant being able to his use his Ralph Lauren china and Tiffany crystalware — packed away after several mishaps at the last apartment — on a daily basis.
“I’m definitely happy to be without roommates,” he said. “I’ve had some great ones, but I never want to go back to the burden of roommates again.”
At his new apartment, he added, he is the only one sleeping on the sofa, an Ikea model he reupholstered in Ralph Lauren fabric using a sewing machine and a hot-glue gun.
“I bought a fold-up bed when I moved in, but I never use it,” he said. “The couch is as large as a twin-size bed, and I sleep fine.”