More people are renting today than in the past 50 years, according to the Pew Research Center, but the apartment search process can be a dispiriting experience.

Just before I emigrated from the UK, I emailed the one person I knew in Los Angeles (who happened to be a Hollywood agent so, you know, pretty well-connected). Someone in his office was moving back east, so I foolishly took over their lease after seeing just one small photograph, which didn’t do justice to the wall-to-wall 1960s-era beige carpet or the cracked French windows looking straight out onto the street. But hell, there was a pool, and it was LA: I coped, until I found somewhere else to land.

Years later, when moving to New York City, I used a broker. Not only was it hideously expensive, I was shocked by the jargon, which masked the true nature of what a cozy (tiny), original features (avocado bathroom set), “must-have” (for the desperate-only), room with a view (no elevator) on the Upper West Side-adjacent (Inwood) actually meant.

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