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Moving to the Bright Side

How to work a tenants’ market: six people who’ve traded up, saved a fortune, or finally gotten away from a nightmarish roommate.


The Subject: Jacob Korman, law student
The Upgrade: A well-maintained, rat-free two-bedroom
From: Murray Hill
To: Upper West Side
The Vast Improvement: Up until September, Korman’s two-bedroom was “decrepit … beyond falling apart. We had a hole in the ceiling,” and rats. He and his roommate were paying $2,300 a month. Korman’s buddy Rob Foster, an agent at Mark David & Company, found them a two-bedroom just off the park, with skylights and bay windows, where they pay $1,350 apiece. Foster says their landlord had been getting $3,600 just a couple of years ago.

The Subject: Stephanie Horner, teacher
The Upgrade: Location, location, location
From: Gowanus
To: East Village
The Vast Improvement: In 2007, when Horner arrived in the city for a teaching job, she looked at three “absolute dumps” for $1,600. So off to Brooklyn she went, into a $1,400 junior one-bedroom. Last year, as prices fell, “I found a place that was even cheaper than what I’d been planning to spend,” she says. For $50 more than her Gowanus rent, she now lives in a junior one-bedroom with two windows facing 9th Street. “It’s small but it’s clean and cute.”

The Subject: Christopher Kromer, Halstead Property agent and actor
The Upgrade: A peaceful, roommate-free studio
From: Williamsburg
To: Upper West Side
The Vast Improvement: A divorce sent Kromer to Williamsburg in 2008, where he paid $1,250 plus utilities for a room in a three-bedroom eight blocks from the subway. “It was a complete nightmare,” he says. “One roommate was sketchy,” and pothead friends came and went. When he heard a studio on the Upper West Side was open, he jumped. It costs $1,650 a month, all utilities included, and he has a space of his own in a genteel doorman building, drama-free.

The Subject: Vidya Rao, business analyst
The Upgrade: A commute of five minutes instead of an hour
From: Hoboken, New Jersey
To: Midtown
The Vast Improvement: Rao was paying $1,600 a month, plus $250 in utilities, to share a nondescript two-bedroom in Hoboken. Three years ago, he tried to relocate to Manhattan, but “$2,800 for a closet” seemed ridiculous. This year, aided by broker Daniela Zakarya of the Real Estate Group, he found a studio in a full-service condo conversion with a pool, four blocks from work, for about $2,100 a month, with the bulk of his utilities included.

The Subject: Jessica Bannon Vanto and Jarno Vanto, attorneys
The Upgrade: Four-figure savings on rent every month
From: Roosevelt Island
To: Carnegie Hill
The Vast Improvement: The Vantos family found themselves paying $5,600 for a three-bedroom on Roosevelt Island. Then Jarno needed room for an office, just as their landlords hinted at a rent increase. “Everybody was telling us that there were lots of deals to be had,” says Jessica. They’re now in a classic six in the Nineties off Madison Avenue, with a monthly rent of $4,400.

The Subject: Russell Moss, chef
The Upgrade: More closet space, fewer tourists
From: Soho
To: Lower East Side
The Vast Improvement: Russell Moss and his wife were paying $2,400 a month for an old-school Soho loft until “our landlord decided to double the rent.” They found a comparable space with bigger closets, plus proximity to a park for their kid, for $2,000 on the Lower East Side. They say the weekend crowds were really wearying—“Spring Street is so loud”—and that parking is so much easier in their new neighborhood that they no longer pay for a garage spot.


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