Apartment No. 2: Alphabet City
Day 15, evening: Lo! On the horizon, an Alphabet City flex-two appears. There's a broker's fee, but at $2,500, it's under budget, and there's laundry in the building. I make the call. Broker Franco (not James) says I'd better come see it todayrightnow. Thrilled by the chase, and feeling ever so slightly desperate, I coordinate with Steve and 30 minutes later we're standing outside the spot, shaking hands with Not-James Franco.
The apartment is small, but relatively modern. I quickly realize that when we flex it — "you can put in a pressurized wall," Franco says, as though I know what that means — we'll effectively turn the common area and kitchen into a sunless cavern. Not great, but I've lived in worse. The current tenant is an overeager 30-something dude who tells us Seth Rogen lives in an old synagogue up the street (!?), and mentions he never wore shoes in this apartment because he'd "spent time in Asia." (??)
There's a courtyard. I ask if we have access to it. Response: unclear. Confusion reigns.
It's time to talk business. I tell Not-James we'd like to bring the broker's fee down to something manageable (10-12%, from 15%) and sign a longer lease in exchange for a cost-offsetting free month of rent. "You've done this before, eh?" He chuckles nervously, which makes me nervous. "I don't want to say yes, for sure, but we can work something out with my boss," he says.
His boss is Sami. Sami's office is in the Flatiron, and 20 minutes later, we are in it. Though he promised to meet us there, Not-James is not present. Sami is SO HAPPY to see us that he makes us sit in his office while he sends ~27 text messages on his colossal-screen Android phone. This device represents half of Sami's formidable mobile-communication arsenal; he also owns a BlackBerry (!!), because it receives email "faster". Confusion: still reigning.
I haven't seen a Manhattan listing in an hour.
"So you guys are ready to sign," Sami states evenly. It's not a question, and Steve shifts uncomfortably in his seat. Pressure tactics! I've seen Eastern Promises, and also have rented apartments in NYC before, so I know I need to be polite but firm. I explain that we don't want to pay a fee above 10%, and we'd like a month free to diffuse the cost.
"I might be able to do 13% on the fee, but on the rent there will be no concession," Sami drawls placidly.
"How about 12% on the fee, and a month rent?"
"12.5%, but there can be no concession."
"Okay, cool. That's more than we want to pay. Thanks anyway!" This isn't hardball so much as it is indifference — we're not THAT desperate just yet. We make a motion to end the conversation, when Sami catches us off-guard.
"What will you do now?"
[blinking] "Um, I'll probably leave your office and go find another apartment to rent?"
"What WOULD you do, though?" Sami is staring at me intently. I have no idea what he's asking me, so I say so. He repeats:
"The fee. What WOULD you do?"
"What about 10%?" That's Sami talking. He has reverse-negotiated himself 2.5% down from his previous offer. Confusion is a dynasty that will reign 'til the Rapture.
(We didn't take the apartment because it turned out Sami didn't really have negotiating power on the fee. When he called Franco on speakerphone — who was still on the FDR, 45 minutes after we left him in his car headed over to the Flatiron — they both agreed that we were terrible people for seeking better leasing terms. Then, Sami returned to texting on his Android flatscreen TV phone, signaling the end of our negotiation.)
Day 16, extremely early morning: Today's our big day for seeing apartments. Steve has the day off, and I am up early to knock out some work. It's raining, because of course. Follow me on Twitter to track our progress. Will update with pictures of the apartments (and the brokers, if possible) throughout the day.