The Hunt: Searching for Sunlight in the City

The Hunt: Searching for Sunlight in the City

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He was surprised, too, by how old-fashioned some things were in New York. To pay his rent, for example, he had to write a check, whereas in Denmark, he said, “you pay everything on the internet or transfer via your bank on your mobile app.”

For six months, the company paid Mr. Christiansen’s monthly rent of $2,300. Once he assumed the payments, he became increasingly eager to move.

With a budget of about $3,000 a month — and sunlight his primary requirement — he began looking for an apartment somewhere around Midtown. In early summer, using StreetEasy, he found a newly renovated one-bedroom with a private roof deck in Hell’s Kitchen, for $3,000 a month. He was ready to sign on.

Mr. Christiansen’s studio gets lots of sunlight — his main priority.

Credit
Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times

Then the agent asked if he had credit.

Mr. Christiansen didn’t know what that was. “It hit me that this is going to be harder than I thought,” he said. He had a debit card, but as a newcomer, no credit history in the United States.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you have in your account,” he said. “If you don’t have credit, you can’t get the apartment.”

The apartment is in a brand-new building.

Credit
Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times

Still, he told himself, “it’s impossible it’s like that everywhere,” and continued his search.

He soon found a large studio with an even larger terrace in a 2009 boutique condo building in Midtown. The terrace, however, was in the shadow of surrounding buildings. And because of the placement of the apartment’s doors, windows and kitchen, there was little wall space. A narrow hallway, described as a dressing area, seemed useless.

HELL’S KITCHEN The private roof deck was appealing, but Mr. Christiansen’s lack of credit in the United States was an obstacle.

Credit
Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times

It was easy to pass on the apartment, which was $2,500 a month.

Next, Mr. Christiansen found the website for a new building in Hell’s Kitchen, 525 West 52nd Street. He informed the leasing associate, Andrés Pellot-Ramos, of his desire for natural light, and Mr. Pellot-Ramos showed him three studios. The view from the first two, on lower floors, was partly blocked, but the third unit was higher up.

“He planned it,” Mr. Christiansen said. “Suddenly, I could see the whole city, and I knew right away.”

MIDTOWN The apartment had a large terrace, but it was in the shadow of surrounding buildings.

Credit
Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times

He also knew that in a brand-new building he wouldn’t have to worry about the heat, the cold or anything else.

“I said, ‘I am going to take this,’” Mr. Christiansen recalled. “And Andrés said, ‘Do you have credit?’”

HELL’S KITCHEN The studio was in a new building and had a view. Best of all, it was sunny.

Credit
Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times

Since he did not, the building connected him with TheGuarantors, a service that guarantees leases for renters who don’t meet rental requirements, like having a United States credit history or an annual income that meets the building’s requirement (in this building, 40 times the monthly rent). The company has a sliding fee scale, but typically charges around 80 percent of a month’s rent.

“I really wanted this apartment and was scared it would slip through my fingers,” Mr. Christiansen said. He was relieved to be approved quickly by TheGuarantors.

Mr. Christiansen’s rent is now $3,390 a month, and he received three months free on a two-year lease. (The building is currently offering two months free on a 14-month lease.)

He arrived in the summer, bought new furniture and adopted a dog, Vera. “I am going to stay here for a long time, and it is time to make it feel like a home,” he said. He has plenty of closet space and a stacked washer-dryer.

During his first few weeks, he said, he was awakened by heavy construction at 7 a.m., but now it is not as early or as loud, though work continues on the building’s interior.

Cellphone reception is spotty, he said, but apart from that, “everything works” in the building. And he doesn’t have to write a rent check — tenants have the option of paying online with ClickPay.

One building amenity, a screening room, was especially welcome. “I take my computer to the cinema screen and watch my little brother play on Danish television,” said Mr. Christiansen, whose brother is a professional soccer player. “It is like being in the stadium myself.”

He is used to luxuries like that in hotels, he said, “but not in buildings where normal people live.”

Best of all, he keeps his blinds open at night and awakens to the sunrise. “It’s nice to walk around an apartment where you don’t have to have your lamps on all the time,” he said. “It makes you happier.”

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