Instead of “Uncoupled,” Netflix ought to call its new romantic comedy series “Unattainable” — at least where Manhattan apartments are concerned.
The show, co-created by Darren Star who turned “Sex and the City” into the best NYC tourism promo since the I Love NY commercials, stars Neil Patrick Harris as Michael, a lovelorn broker who competes for luxury listings that can only be described as real estate porn.
Although I loved all eight episodes about getting back into the dating game after a long-term relationship goes kaput, I found myself less interested in the character’s social entanglements, and more invested in the open houses hosted by Michael and his partner Suzanne, and the team’s inventory they show to high-end clients.
There are duplexes, triplexes, chefs’ kitchens, outdoor spaces that are bigger than my first apartment, sunken living rooms (a particular favorite of mine), and a pied a terre with a wrap-around terrace that could house a family of five. And then there are the views that offer a tenant with a powerful telescope glimpses of the Great Pacific Northwest.
Although it was worth all the tissues I used to wipe the drool off my chin, I was reminded once again of how New York-based TV shows often give the wrong impression of living here.
Oh, all those poor, disillusioned souls who thought they would move here to find a place like Monica’s inherited two-bed-with-balcony on “Friends,” or more recently, Selena Gomez’s character’s massive, albeit in the midst of a gut-renovation, pre-war on “Only Murders In the Building.” Even Carrie’s modest East 73th St. studio-cum-one-bedroom required a $30,000 down payment.
According to Douglas Elliman, the median sales price in Manhattan has skyrocketed. As far as rentals are concerned, Elliman reports that in Manhattan prices have risen to record levels.
But what if you’re not Claire, the resident millionaire (literally) on “Uncoupled” who bought a Gramercy Park penthouse that wasn’t even on the market? (“I told you, Michael, everything’s for sale.”)
“Roomies are still a thing,” says Barbara Finnerty, a Real Estate Sales Agent at Bond New York. “With rents soaring, I have no idea how anyone in their first job — without a trust fund — can meet the criteria by themselves.” Said criteria: if you don’t make 40 times the monthly rent, you need a guarantor who makes 80 times.
“There are companies now that can be used as a ‘guarantor’ if people can’t or don’t want to get a personal one. Insurgent is one of these companies. You pay them a fee obviously, but it’s certainly another option, although not all buildings accept this kind of guarantor.”
On top of that, Finnerty advises being prepared. “I’ve always told renters to have their paperwork at the ready: tax returns, recent bank statements, letter of employment, etc. before they start looking. And now more than ever this is a must given the record low inventory and all-time high rents. In fact, many people are applying sight unseen because places are going so quickly.”
Hey, there’s always the lottery, and I’m not talking Take 5.
The NYC Housing Lottery gives lower- and middle-class residents a 600 to 1 chance to snag a below-market-rate apartment. As E.B. White said: “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”
Speaking of lucky, when my 99-year-old mother came to live with us in early 2020, right before lockdown, rather than leave her L-shaped co-op empty, my 24-year-old daughter Meg moved across the street, where 20 years ago, my mother moved so she could help me take care of Meg and her older brother Luke.
For less than a grand a month, my younger child lives roommate-free in an Upper East Side doorman building, and yes, I remind her every day of her good fortune; that is, when I’m not threatening to evict her if she doesn’t do something I want her to do.
Perhaps this is a subject they should address in Season 2 of “Uncoupled”: don’t mess with the landlord.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the new novel The Last Single Woman in New York City.