New York has seen the start of a tech boom in recent years, with Google opening an office in Chelsea, Yahoo leasing space near Times Square, and Facebook moving some of its engineering operations to Midtown East.
The city’s transformation into Silicon Valley East has brought an influx of entry-level hires straight out of college, hunting for their first Manhattan apartment.
“With social media being the way it is, people are all talking about living in certain neighborhoods,” said Andrew Barrocas, president of MNS Realty.
In addition to standbys like Murray Hill and the Upper East Side, newly established neighborhoods like Midtown West in the 30s and 40s, near the booming nightlife scene along the Highline, have become popular, Barrocas said.
And so have waterfront areas in close proximity to new hires’ Midtown and Financial District offices, everywhere from Jersey City to Roosevelt Island to Long Island City.
“I leave Brooklyn out because Brooklyn prices have exceeded Manhattan’s in some parts,” Barrocas said.
Kameron Goldman, a broker at Citi Habitats, has spent the last few weeks helping two groups of recent college graduates find rentals in Manhattan. “I haven’t worked with anyone trying to go to Brooklyn or the other outer boroughs,” Goldman said.
For one set of roommates – four young men with a budget of $5,500 a month – finding a place in the East Village, their top choice for a neighborhood, has proven tricky.
“It’s been tough to find a true four-bedroom,” said Goldman, who graduated from college not too long ago himself. “Someone is going to have to live in more of an open area.”
Goldman has also shown the group listings in Murray Hill, which is so popular with renters in their early 20s that it’s often compared to a massive college dorm.
At the same time, Goldman has been showing apartments on the Upper East Side to three women, all friends from college, one of whom commutes to work in White Plains.
With a budget of $3,600-a-month, the group has been concentrating its search east of Third Avenue. “They found a few true three-bedrooms that are nice,” Goldman said. And they managed to find a good deal closer to the 6 train, between Madison and Park Avenue.
Given their budgets, both sets of roommates have mainly been looking at older walkup buildings. “They’re young, they can handle it,” Goldman joked.
Often, it’s the apartment hunting process itself that’s tough to handle for first-time Manhattan renters, who tend to have unrealistic expectations about the real estate market.
Ameer Farraj, a colleague of Goldman’s at Citi Habitats, has worked with several undergraduates throughout his career, and found himself taking on the additional role of educator.
“I had a client that wanted a doorman-only building on Upper West Side,” he said. “You have to guide [young clients] and explain that if you want a doorman elevator building, you can find that on the Upper East Side.”
Another student he worked with was hoping to rent a 700 s/f apartment in the West Village for $1,800 a month. Farraj managed to talk her into looking at listings in the East Village, where her requirements were more likely to be met.
And Farraj recently convinced another college student, who was bent on living by herself in the East Village on a budget of $1,700 a month, to search for cheaper apartments on the Upper East Side. “I explained, ‘it’s a 15-minute train ride to the East Village,’” Farraj said.
He showed her listings near Second Avenue, where deals could be had thanks to construction on the Second Avenue Subway. The student ended up signing a lease for a one-bedroom in the 60s between First and Second Avenue within her price range, with a sweeping view of the city.
Rising tuition costs may factor into students’ budgets. “Undergrads with student loans get pushed out to areas where they might see a price per s/f in the $40-plus range opposed to $60-plus,” said Barrocas of MNS.
Beyond matters of space and price point, Farraj has had to walk students and recent graduates through the very basics of securing a lease. “They won’t have their documents ready,” he explained. “They think, ‘I can get my documents ready after I find the apartment.’”
Some recent graduates are lucky enough to have parents helping them every step of the way — accompanying them on tours, signing on as guarantors, or even purchasing them condos.
Brandon Watson, sales director at One Rector Park, a luxury condo development in Battery Park City with a gym, terraces, Hudson River views, and ipod docks in every living room, has sold several apartments at the building to the parents of 20-somethings.
A couple from rural Pennsylvania, for instance, snapped up a one-bedroom on the 10ths floor of the building for their son, who had landed his first job at an office in lower Manhattan.
With available one-bedrooms in the building ranging in price from $705,000 to $1.525 million, “the father was generous,” said Watson.
Leaving financial matters to his parents, the recent graduate brought a friend along to tour the apartment and plan out furniture arrangements.
Watson added that a couple from Florida purchased an apartment at the building for their son, a college student, as an investment.
Both sets of parents found comfort in the fact that their children would be living in luxurious quarters in a safe, suburban-style neighborhood, rather than in a dingy walkup in, say, Alphabet City or Bushwick.
“Moms love it because they come in and say, ‘there’s a real kitchen,’” Watson said. “The parents are practical. The kids are like, ‘oh, it has an iPod dock!”