“Are you f**king serious?”

That’s the question I often asked myself while browsing Craigslist ads for apartments in New York City. I had just arrived at the big Apple, fresh of the boat, to spend a year here as an Atlas Corps Fellow. A long-cherished dual dream of serving at a nonprofit in the US and of living in New York City was being realized through the Fellowship; and I just couldn’t wait to start living the New York life that the 90s sitcom Friends depicted.

But clearly my bubble was set to burst. Well, at least just a little.

Day 1 of the housing search – I mailed a bunch of folks, after much shortlisting. Not furnished, won’t do. Too far from the metro, nah. 4th storied and no elevator, I’ll pass. No laundry/grocery close by, skip. Long love letters describing exactly the kind of person I was and what I wanted in a potential roommate(s) went only to a select few.

This trend continued till day 3 because three days and no responses later, I realized I needed to be more flexible. An increase in budget and lesser filters later, and my inbox was alive again!

Response 1: I’m Shawn I don’t smoke nor drink. My apartment is furnished – two bedroom apartment but am only renting a room with a private bath and toilet for $700. You can make use of the kitchen as well, utilities included in the rent, located in West Village. The reason why I am renting out the other bedroom is because currently am here in North Carolina taking care of my sick dad the keys to the apartment are here with me. I need a good tenant who can take good care of the whole apartment. I will be here for 6 months, you can Google map the address to see the exact location in order to forward the pictures of the interior in my next email. If the location is fine by you, get in touch if you are interested and tell me little about yourself.

$700, all utilities included, apartment in the West Village. I had scored!

Many emails later, just as I was about to transfer the first month’s rent, I smelt a rat as he refused to sign the agreement till the first month’s deposit was made. Moreover, a visit to the building made me think how this was just too good to be true. So I spent many hours that night looking up Bethay Shawn only to learn 3 hours later that he was a fraud, pulling off the same scam for many years!

Oh well! Back to the search then…

Next response took me to a Jewish landlord. As I stood outside, waiting for him to open the door, a bunch of bikers zoomed past, roaring on their bicycles; followed by a couple of cars of teenagers with loud music! As he opened the door, I was greeted to a waft of weed. He then advised that I go to the closest ATM and put down the first month’s deposit, so that he could buy the microwave that’s included in the utilities for the house!

Then, there was Erica (name changed to protect identity) who was looking for a roommate for her 2-roomed pad. Located on the 19th floor of a Washington Heights building, the room (and view from it) were just as the ad described. What was missing though was the second room of this supposed 2-bedroom. And some other very important details like the fact that Erica sleeps on a bed, behind the sofa in the living room. She works from home and never goes out as she is a self-described ‘anti-social’. It is for this reason that guests can NEVER come over!

It was day 7 and my emails had shortened to simply – I’m a nonprofit professional here in NYC for a year, on a Fellowship. I’m a 33 year old female, from India. Is your place still available?

Not only had the length of my emails gotten shorter but the filters lesser too. All I wanted was a decent roof over my head. Nothing else mattered.

And that’s when I got a reply to my one-line email from Craig and Derrick – “Thank you so much for your interest! You sound like a great fit for us! It’s available indefinitely – you can stay till whenever you like. Just give me a heads up when you are looking to come by to check it out.”

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My room, taken the minute I walked in. Will be more homely in the months to come 🙂

Seemed like a perfect match! And that’s exactly where I’ve moved. The hall fits literally nothing beyond a sofa, half the house doesn’t get much sunlight, but it comes with a great pair of roommates. It’s cozy, it’s safe and most importantly, it’s home!

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