virtual apartment search

Navigating stairs with a stroller, a previous deal-breaker for our virtual apartment hunter, doesn’t seem like such a bad trade-off anymore. (Busà Photography/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: Writer Jordi Lippe-McGraw is chronicling her family’s hunt for a new home in a changed New York for StreetEasy. This is part 3 in her series on their virtual apartment search during COVID-19. Look for more installments of her story here throughout the spring.

My husband and I began hunting for a new, bigger apartment after our Chelsea 1-bedroom became too cramped for us, our toddler, and our dog. Then COVID-19 hit. We’re now staying with family a couple hundred miles outside of the city, so we’ve been looking for a new pad virtually.

Although New York has succeeded somewhat in flattening the curve, normal city life still seems to be a long way off. And while my husband and I have come to like the space and quiet in the country, it certainly isn’t a permanent solution. We’ve all been rotating the same few items of clothing. I miss silly things like the Harvest Bowl from Sweetgreen. And being surrounded by his childhood furniture isn’t exactly romantic.

virtual apartment search

The author and her family. Their current NYC lease is up in May.

Our stay in the country, and predictions for city life in the future, have made us realize we need to look for something a little different in our next home. With all the uncertainty around when offices and schools will reopen, and how long social distancing measures will stay in effect, what our family needs in a new apartment has shifted dramatically.

Our Original Apartment Requirements

When we first began the search at the beginning of March, we were hoping to find a 2-bedroom or a large convertible 1-bedroom. In terms of space, we needed a living room that fit a dining table, a sleeper sofa (for the in-laws’ visits), and room for an energetic toddler to run around. Building must-haves included a pet-friendly policy and an elevator. A terrace and an in-unit washer and dryer would be bonuses. Some of those requirements remain the same, but others have become much more important amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Virtual Apartment Search: What We Want Now

While there are still a lot of unknowns around COVID-19, some experts predict there will be future flare-ups requiring people to shelter in place again. This means there’s a high possibility that my husband and I would both be working from home with some regularity. We need a space that makes this arrangement manageable, with room for our toddler too.

virtual apartment search

This Carroll Gardens home was a top-floor walkup but had enough space for a playroom.

We still want a 2-bedroom with a large living area, but details like an elevator aren’t as important to us anymore. We’d be willing to walk up a few flights of stairs if it meant getting more space. We’ve also become interested in smaller buildings with fewer residents, to reduce our exposure in the event of a flare-up. This top-floor Carroll Gardens abode caught our eye, because even though it was two flights up, it had 2 bedrooms, a living room, and a separate playroom.

Before, we would have been thrilled with a common terrace for residents. But now, private outdoor space has moved to the top of our wish list. We loved a 2-bedroom in Brooklyn Heights because it had a private yard with trees. A 2-bedroom Upper West Side pad stood out for its private entrance and outdoor space. A Chelsea unit even advertised its 600-square-foot roof deck (complete with an outdoor shower) as “perfect for social distancing.”

virtual apartment search

It’s true, this private roof deck in Chelsea does seem like a nice place to do some social distancing.

Another “bonus” that turned into a must-have was an in-unit washer and dryer. Buildings have placed restrictions on communal laundry rooms amid the pandemic, and with a messy toddler, we’d want regular washing and drying access. So this Cobble Hill apartment with a private roof deck and laundry made it to the top of our list, even if we would have to climb a few flights of stairs.

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Determining a New Move Date

As our virtual apartment search requirements have changed, so has our move date. We recently decided not to extend our Chelsea lease, which is up in May, and stay in Pennsylvania at my in-laws’ a bit longer. So our move date, originally set for early June, may now be closer to the fall.

There just isn’t enough information yet about what life will be like in the city. We don’t feel like we can choose a new place until we have a clearer idea. Plus, we’re lucky to be able to save some money not paying for rent and utilities for another couple of months. Our goal is to be settled into someplace new by August. That way, we can hopefully enroll our son in some sort of preschool program and create a routine. Honestly, I don’t think I can live out of a suitcase much longer anyway.

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