Stasha O’Callaghan and Michael Aufses celebrate the day she was matched with New York University for her medical residency. Time to apartment hunt!

Love stories in New York City are not complete until a couple finds a place to live together.

In the case of Stasha O’Callaghan, a Massachusetts native who attended medical school in the Bronx, and Michael Aufses, a native New Yorker who had been living in a small 1-bedroom, this milestone was reached when they landed their first apartment together in the East Village – a 1-bedroom on the third floor of a 4-floor walk-up in a small building of 12 units.

At StreetEasy, we’re interested in how people navigate the apartment search process. In the case of this twenty-something couple, who had been dating for two years and were ready to take the next step, the end result is that they now have a place that can fit all their friends on the couch. And we mean all their friends. Here we speak with O’Callaghan and Aufses about the process of finding that dream NYC rental together.

Q. What were you looking for in your new apartment?

Stasha: We love the East Village so much, so we were really only looking there.  It is convenient for each of us to commute to our respective jobs in Murray Hill and Herald Square.  We wanted a 1-bedroom, since a studio wouldn’t work when I am on nights and trying to sleep during the day.  We figured out our budget, based on one-third of our combined income, and then made a price range based on monthly rate, and searched on StreetEasy only for places that fit in that range. We really wanted a building with character, rather than a fancy new building, even if it meant not having a doorman or elevator. 

O’Callaghan wanted character in the building and natural light. The pigeon was a bonus.

We did have two bottom lines. For me, lots of natural light. For Mike, a dishwasher. StreetEasy made it super easy to search for those things with their filters.

Is a Dishwasher on Your List, Too? See Apartments With Dishwashers! Article continues below

Mike had to have a dishwasher, and he got one.

Q. What Was The Hunt Like?

Stasha: We had heard horror stories, so we started looking right after residency match day, when we got confirmation I would be at NYU. I spent a few days customizing my searches on StreetEasy and messaging agents, then I looked at six apartments in two days.

Unexpectedly, I fell in love with the fifth one I saw. The exposed brick, huge windows, big living room, and storage space were calling my name. I asked the real estate agent if I could bring my boyfriend to come see the place. He set that up the next night, then Mike came and also fell in love with the place.

Thinking it wouldn’t be easy, and that we would probably not get the first apartment we applied for, we put in our application. After a month of meetings, document signings, acquiring references, co-op board interviews, etc., we were thrilled to have been approved for the place! So it took a little while, but we got the first apartment we applied for.

O’Callaghan and Aufses eagerly dressed up the place with their stuff.

Q. What did the landlord or leasing agent want from you to close the deal?

Stasha: The management company of the building wanted two personal and two business reference letters for each of us tenants.  They also wanted a guarantor in the end, since our incomes would meet the minimum, but I didn’t start work for another few months. They ran credit checks on each of us and our guarantor.  They also wanted letters of good standing from each of our employers and prior landlords.

There were many fees as well; first and last month’s rent, brokers fee, management fees, move-in/move-out fee. It was thousands of dollars, so make sure you have some savings ready! The broker organized all of the documentation and communicated with the management agency, and the management agency communicated with our direct landlord and the co-op board for our building.

Q. What was your reaction when you finally got the apartment and moved in?

Stasha: When we moved in we were overwhelmed about unpacking, but for the most part, extremely excited. Since we weren’t moving far, we were able to go see the place three times before we actually moved in and chatted with the tenants who were moving out.  They had given us some tips, and we bought some furniture they were leaving behind.

It’s even better than what we imagined, we really love it. The first morning we slept in our new bedroom, we woke up to the sounds of birds chirping and a view of sunny trees, it was heaven compared to our Mike’s old bedroom without windows. Our other favorite part is how big of a living space we have to entertain our friends. It really feels like a home.

The East Village apartment is big enough for a dining room table that seats 10.

Q. What advice do you have for apartment seekers in NYC, based on your experience?

Mike: First, no matter what, you are going to have to make compromises, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the perfect place. Just decide what your bottom line perks are, use the StreetEasy filters to guarantee you will have those, and be open to changing everything else.  

If you see something you like, go all in. Things move very quickly!

If you live in a walk-up, spend the money to get movers! It’s so worth it.

If the friends fit, you’re fit to live in it.

Q. How soon do you think you will do this again?

Mike: I can imagine going through this again, but hopefully years from now.  We are so happy with our current spot that we have no thoughts of moving any time soon.  When we do though, we will definitely use StreetEasy again.

A New York couple starts the next big chapter in their lives, living together in a lovely East Village apartment.

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