Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

A Room With a View

with 6 comments

Total Black: $212.89
Total Red: $235,011.93

I’ve been reaching out to a few contacts over the past few days.  People from law school and the like, who work currently in the new location I’m headed to.  And I’ve been scanning Craigslist for apartments.  I had almost settled on one.  But then I started looking around a bit more and saw a few properties with much better amenities.  Got me thinking about finding a room with a view, so to speak.  A place worth spending a year in, rather than just grabbing the first place I spot—as I’ve always done.

I suspect there’s a reason wise persons claimed patience as a virtue.  You need to have patience to be patient.  When I moved to New York City, I was very impatient.  I grabbed the first apartment I saw.  After law school, and graduate school—and then studying for and taking the bar exam—I was exhausted.  And I was not in the mood to travel to and from New York multiple times to look at properties, and try to navigate the broker scene, or Craigslist’s craziness, to weed through the muck and find a decent place.  So, when I found a decent place—in Brooklyn, in Clinton Hill area, I grabbed it.  Without any consideration for cost or commute.  Or the neighborhood.  And I lived there for two years, paying nearly $1,800 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, what could have been a three-bedroom even—by myself.  Alone.  So silly in retrospect.

Similarly, when I moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I ended up in that same boat.  I had to leave the Brooklyn apartment because the person I sublet from gave up the space after twenty-some years there.  The owners were converting the building into condominiums, so I had no option but to buy or leave.  I left.  I knew I wanted to move to Manhattan to get that experience “out of my system,” so to speak.  I did.  But I also got the city into my system too.  But that’s a separate story.  And once again I avoided weeks of looking for a place.  Instead I told myself that I would allow myself one day to look at apartments with a broker and then select an apartment from those I saw that day.  That was it.  One day.  And that’s exactly what happened.  I settled on my current apartment the same day I saw it.  I put in a bid and the landlord accepted immediately.  No haggling, no back-and-forth—which to this day makes me think I offered too much.  Luckily I ended up liking the area I moved to.  And the place was nice enough.  Well, until the bedbugs surfaced—a story I detailed back in It Just Bugs Me.  But financially its been an albatross around my neck.

And now I was poised to repeat the same pattern again in the new location.  Sight-unseen, just grab a place I found through Craigslist.  Well, that would be a first, actually, but yes, I was prepared to sign a lease and send off checks for an apartment I saw in pictures, but not in person.  What made pause though was a clause in the lease that stated that the tenant is on notice that the property is for sale and that, if sold, the tenant would have to vacate within sixty days.  When I read that, I thought—what’s the chance, right?  But then I thought it through; I’m only being reimbursed once for moving costs.  And I certainly am looking to move part-way through a one-year clerkship.  So I started looking at some of the other apartments in town.  And slowed myself down a bit.  I found a few awesome apartments in better locations with amazing views, and figured—yeah, if I’m here for a year, maybe I do want to take my time this time, find a nice place, within my budget, and with as many pluses as I can get.

So now, on May 10th, I’ll leave New York for two days, fly roughly 1,600 miles away to my new stomping grounds, and scope out the scene.  I found a fairly cheap flight (it’ll be reimbursed anyway), so I’ll schedule appointments with brokers and see a few apartments.  This way I can actually see if the water runs or the toilet flushes, or if the apartment smells or the roof is leaking through.

Patience, as I mentioned at the outset, is something people in debt seem to struggle with.  Many of us are very impatient to get our debts paid off.  Hence this blog, right?, as an example.  Others are too patient—fearful of some rainy day that will come down on them like the final coming of Christ, and leave them washed away into a financial Armageddon.  But really, if we instead take time to think things through, calmly and rationally.  And map out variables, and play out the “what ifs.”  If we “lawyer it”—as a law professor once advised me vis-a-vis problems with our law school.  Then, we’re bound to make a better decision.

So perhaps when I post from the new location on May 10th, I’ll let you all know where I’m at.  We’ll see.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

April 22, 2010 at 23:22

6 Responses

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  1. I certainly hope that you are getting the cheapest place possible to live in in new-clerkship-land. This new job is a short-term gig, so you wouldn’t be committing yourself to a lifetime of living in a crackerbox — just a year. However, a “real”, job, clerking, is an imperative for you if you want to return to permanent legal employment. Fair or not, doing contract attorney work is sort of a kiss of death in the legal field, and rare indeed is the individual who manages to fall from full-time permanent employment to contract attorney work and rise again to permanent work as an attorney. You have been given one of the few available tickets out of a life of being a temp. attorney, and you were right to seize it, despite the hit your income will take. That said, however, you MUST mitigate your own damages, so to speak, as much as you can by locking in the lowest (safe) available housing you can find in your new area — housing costs are what has been killing you throughout your whole blogging period, and they are the single biggest thing that you can control about your new budget in your new location. If you suddenly stop buying lunch out all the time, but have saddled yourself with high housing costs again in your new location, little frugalities (though useful for the mindset of concious spending that they create) can’t save you.


    April 23, 2010 at 17:38

  2. I hope you’re perusing the craigslist roommates listings, you may find a place already set up where all you need is to furnish a bedroom (or, you might even find a place with a ready furnished bedroom). Right now you only have this clerkship for a year, so it would not be unusual to jump into shared housing.

    If there’s a law school or university in this region, how about finding where shared housing is posted? Any former peace corps people in the region who might be able to help? In addition to saving on rent, you’d save a lot if you don’t need to drag household furnishing across the country or buy new stuff.

    it certainly makes sense to seek the best you can get for your budget, but in your situation, renting an furnishing an apartment is not the prudent if there are alternatives. I’d be looking for the cheapest safe place so there’s more money for debt reduction. Given the financial crisis, you may find someone who desperately needs a roommate, so it could be a win-win situation.

    Good Luck!


    April 24, 2010 at 08:26

  3. I’ve done the cross country move four times now, each time without lining up a place in advance. Each time I did just fine finding a good place.

    While a look-see is a good idea, unless you’re absolutely blown away by a residence, I think you should wait until you hit town to reserve a place. Move your stuff into temporary storage, or have it moved into temp storage (or, as I did one time, drive around with a Uhaul trailer for a couple of days. Just make sure you don’t have to back up to get out of where you park). Stay in a hotel for $30 a night while you give yourself a few days to get to know the city and the immediately available rental market. The best places in smaller towns are owned by private landlords, and they don’t open up months or weeks in advance. They go fast. By deciding you have to decide so far in advance, you pidgeonhole yourself into having to go with a corporate landlord, and you’ll pay a premium for that (dis)pleasure.

    Grandmother houses. Mother-in-law houses. Garage apartments. That’s what you want. Not a corporate apartment.


    April 24, 2010 at 23:46

  4. I don’t think LoL can live in a low-budget apartment, based on everything thus far.

    Good or bad (and it is definitely bad), he will almost surely get a really nice pad with amenities, and he’ll pay for it (long and short term).



    April 29, 2010 at 13:10

  5. Yeah . . . um . . . let’s just go with LL, shall we? If your name is Mary-Jo Browne—your initials would be MB. My life is comic enough without this LoL catching on.

    That aside: low-budget? Depends on what that means? A cheap apartment? Sure. I don’t care how much Heinz ketchup costs, for example, but I still want Heinz ketchup. Not Shop-Rite or A&P brand. Same for apartments. I’m fine paying the cheapest I can find, but I’m not about to get some tin-roof shack just to save money.

    There’s more variables to consider than just price tags. Does it include a washer and dryer? If not, is there laundry in the building? If not, is there a laundromat nearby? Do I want to pay the extra gasoline and exert the time carting everything to/from a laundromat? What about utilities? Included? Why not get a place for $1,000, for example, that includes utilities and washer / dryer rather than one for $800 and have to pay for everything separate. Not just price tags to consider.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    April 29, 2010 at 16:13

  6. Oh, I agree–consider the total cost. You definitely need to do that.

    I know you’re an optimist–just prepare yourself for the possible reality that it is going to be VERY VERY DIFFICULT to make ends meet after you move.

    You may seriously have to reconsider your allegiance to Heinz ketchup (or swipe the packets from local fast-food joints…)



    April 30, 2010 at 11:13

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