This Times article on the housing virgins of NYC brought back unpleasant memories of my first New York City apartment hunt, though I can laugh now that it's behind me. I've never enjoyed living anywhere as much as Manhattan, but I've also never been more stressed out and depressed by apartment hunting anywhere else. Finding a place to live in NYC is like having to cross a moat filled with crocodiles (real estate brokers) to find a towering, fortified castle wall with ornery soldiers up top (landlords) lobbing buckets of hot oil and flaming arrows at your head as you climb, peering in through the occasional castle window to see one horrific dungeon after another (the old, dilapidated pre-war apartments of NYC). It can cause you to question why you're moving to NYC in the first place, and in extreme cases, it can turn people away before they ever encounter the charms of the city.
The housing market may be softening across the U.S. as a whole, but in the micromarket of Manhattan, vacancy rates are as low as ever, and so property owners can foist broker fees onto applicants. It's as unpleasant a real estate environment as you'll encounter anywhere, but to those who are going through it for the first time, I urge a healthy dose of perseverance. Once you're inside the city gates, it's a beautiful thing.