It was love at first sight: one quick tour of the one-bedroom, third-floor apartment on Nassau Street, and my future roommate and I knew we had to have it. We hadn’t expected it to work out this way. In the days leading up to our visit we had all but convinced ourselves that unless the apartment was like heaven on earth, we should not spend $1,700 per month on a place that did not come with laundry or parking. That was, until we saw our other options.
We were looking for something between a studio and a two-bedroom as close to downtown as possible and wanted to spend no more than around $1,800 per month. We quickly found eight or nine possibilities by browsing local real estate agencies’ websites, craigslist, and Google.
Apartments are easy to find. What is hard is finding apartments whose pleasant descriptions match what you find inside. We rejected the “cozy” (read: closet-sized) $1,300 – $1,600 per month studio apartments in Palmer Square and made appointments to see six apartments. We kept four of those appointments after one apartment was rented and we were told another would likely be uncomfortably small for two people.
One, the top floor of an old house on Vandeventer Avenue, was actually two apartments combined into one. It was plenty spacious, but its bizarre layout and oddly slanted ceilings made it better suited to a haunted house – and it would have cost a small fortune to heat or air condition in addition to the $1,700 of monthly rent.
The second, part of a house on Wiggins Street, was a tiny one-bedroom with an even tinier kitchen that any normal-sized person could only fit into by walking sideways. It was less expensive than the other options ($1,450) and included a parking spot, but it was too cramped.
Finally, we visited a “ground level” apartment on Nassau Street out by Harrison, also $1,700. “Ground level” in fact meant basement, and if we wanted to live in a cave, the apartment would have been perfect. But the lack of natural light at 2 p.m. in the middle of the summer was depressing even for the five minutes we spent there.
This left us with the first apartment we looked at on Nassau Street. You couldn’t ask for a better location, right downtown, on top of the restaurant Zorba’s Brother. The living room’s large windows look out over Nassau Hall (a big plus for two Princeton alumni), and the interior really is the 850 square feet advertised. The living room and bedroom are spacious, there is an actual kitchen with room to move around, and as a bonus there’s an attic/loft space meant for storage. We signed the lease as quickly as we could.
This left two headaches: parking and laundry. With my parents a mile down the road, laundry will be quarter-free and not much of an issue. The only other possibility would have been the laundromat at the Princeton Shopping Center.
I called Princeton Borough to ask about parking options and was disheartened to hear the Spring Street garage offered as a “great option.” The 25 cents per hour overnight and up to $23 for 24 hours of parking, with no monthly permit option, hardly sounded like an affordable long-term arrangement.
The next best option is a little bit of a hike, but for $25 per month we are eligible for a permit for the Park Place West lot. There’s still a catch – you’re not guaranteed a spot, and the permit is only good from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m. – but it’s better than nothing and certainly more palatable than the $150 plus for parking in the garage.
We’re moving in this weekend, and we’re pretty sure we got lucky. It’s no luxury townhome, but given the constraints of our age and a town as expensive as Princeton, it’s as close as we’re going to come.