Let's say an ad says "Two bedrooms." There may be two bedrooms. There may be one bedroom and one living room. There may be a tiny kitchenette with two small closets adjoining it. YOU JUST DON'T KNOW UNTIL YOU LOOK.
Of course you often don't know where to look. In New York parlance the Upper West Side ends somewhere around 96th street. Realtors take a slightly different point of view.
"It's upper west side."
"Great, so like the 80's?"
"Slightly more upper."
"You mean like Morningside Heights? Harlem? That's cool."
"More upper than that."
Then there's the fun game of "When will the realtor ACTUALLY show up?" It's a call in game.
"Hey, this is Ben. We said we'd meet at 6:00 outside the building on Wednesday, right?"
"We didn't specify WHICH Wednesday. I was talking about the third Wednesday in November. There's a coffee shop down the street if you want to grab something while you wait."
"The third Wednesday in November?"
"I'll get back to you."
THEN there's the fun of looking for cheaper apartments. These are the ones where the owners say things like "Could you come back tomorrow? Turns out I don't actually have the key to the place I wanted to show." And when you do get in there's always an angry guy living there, interrupting whoever's showing it.
"So you can see this place has four walls and a roof, which is really quite convenient."
"Get these people out of my house."
"And the molding is made of real mold, you don't see that every day."
"I'm getting my gun."
"If you'll come this way I'll show you the master bedroom. You can fit a full-size twin bed in there, if you don't mind keeping the door open all the time."
"Carla? Where the fuck are my bullets. Where'd you put my bullets, woman?"
On the plus side I'm starting to understand the phrases they put in the ads. "Lots of light" means one small window or a large hole in the wall. "Gym in building" means it's a walkup. "Doorman building" means there's a homeless guy who opens the door for you and then bites you if you don't tip. "Close to train" means you only need to make 3 bus transfers to reach the subway, or you're actually living in a hollowed out space beneath the tracks." "Up and coming neighborhood" means it's adjacent to the projects. "Trendy neighborhood" means it's adjacent to the projects and milk costs $25 a gallon there." "This place will go fast" means it's been unoccupied since the late 1800s. "Pets allowed" means you'll be sharing the apartment with 112 feral cats.
Oh and the pictures in the ads? While they are pictures, they are not of the apartment you'll be seeing. They're just there to remind you of the nice spaces OTHER people have. Yours can't be photographed without a spectral child appearing somewhere in the picture. Something about an ancient curse. Tell you what. I'll knock $10 a month off the rent. Do we have a deal?