THE BLOG
03/08/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Bathroom for Rent

Finally, the media are paying some attention to the lowly renter. But more on that later. First, I am bursting to share with you an alarming ad from Craigslist:

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I have a huge bathroom
Date: 2008-11-06, 4:01AM EST
I am a female in my mid 60's and I am looking for a room mate. Times are tight and I need some extra money. I am willing to rent out my bathroom in my 1 bedroom east village home.

My bathroom is large. You can easily put a twin air mattress in there. I only ask that when I need to use the bathroom, you or your air mattress are not in it.

I do ask that when you are in the apartment, you confine yourself to the bathroom. I do not feel comfortable with a stranger walking around my living room. This might change as I get to know you better. You may have guest [sic[ over as long as they are cnfined [sic] to the bathroom as well. This might seem a bit odd but please remember the rent is $400 and the bathroom is large.

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More on that later.

A multitude of Americans -- and people everywhere, lest we forget the havoc that Wall Street greed has played with the rest of the world -- are desperate about recent job losses. Ergo, many are desperate about unloading real estate to cut down expenses. All the talk, understandably, has been about owners and mortgages and the crash of the housing market. But we humble renters are feeling the pain too.

A recent article in the New York Times correctly stated that it is a renter's market. In my view, this is the first time this has happened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan since the building of the famous Dakota, so named because it was an outpost on undeveloped land in the wilds of New York. The article said a two bedroom recently went for $3650! For those not familiar with Manhattan real estate prices, this is unbelievable. What chance is there for me, trying to sublet my $3100 (already reduced to $2950) "AMAZING RIVER/PARK VIEW. Huge 1 bdrm, furn/unfurn NO FEE", on Craigslist, Sublet.com, The New York Times, Columbia University, a real estate agent, and anyone else who will have me?

There are 793 one-bedroom apartments in this price range being offered in Manhattan on Craigslist.

I haven't got a hope in hell. It's been listed nearly two months and only three people have viewed it. One, an older man with alcohol on his breath midday, who I think didn't appreciate the enormous foyer and the long walk from the kitchen (fridge where booze would be kept) to the couch. Another, a pregnant Russian woman who was coming here to have a baby. (Wow, my neighbors would love that. Too bad. ) She said it was to avoid the harsh Moscow winter. I think the notorious, freakish arctic winds on Riverside Drive cured her of that.

Before a viewing I do all the things they say to do when selling an apartment. Make sure there are fresh flowers. Light a scented candle. I've stopped short of baking cookies because I thought it was a little obvious and also I don't have all the stuff you need for that (isn't a flour sifter involved?). But I guess I could get that kind that comes in a log that you just slice.

My landlord of course won't let me out of my lease. I contemplated breaking it. Most people say they won't come after you to sue, but they can ruin your credit rating. Surprisingly, given my previously irresponsible financial life, I still have a great credit rating. (Note to prospective employers who have googled me and arrived at this blog: I am great with managing budgets professionally. Honestly. It is indeed an anomaly).

Many of my friends in the neighborhood have rent stabilized apartments that they've had for 15-20 years. They pay around $1500. I hate them. I missed that boat by moving abroad too often and letting go of apartments. But once upon a time, in days of yore, I lived with my boyfriend in his $60 a month rent controlled apartment. That's right: S-I-X-T-Y. Developers courted him for a couple of years to move out, starting at a $30,000 payout. He ended up with $200,000, much of which went up our noses (in the days when I still did that sort of thing, prospective employers) and for other equally unproductive pursuits, including not working. The money didn't last long, and neither did we. (The two were unrelated. Either to my credit or my stupidity, I have never gone after men for their money). But I digress significantly.

I still have income so things are not dire. This is just my version of building a bomb shelter in the back yard. Unload the apartment now. Get something cheaper. Or move abroad. Someone suggested getting a roommate. I'd rather drink bleach. Hell, I'd even rather live with my mother.

Which brings me to the Bathroom Renter. This is urban ingenuity at its finest, a real case of making lemons out of lemonade. I've sent this around to a lot of friends, all of whom responded, "I'll bet she'll get someone."

And I bet she will. Hard times.

Oh, and photos of my apartment available upon request.