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New York apartments vs. London apartments: What can you get for $2,000?

NYC apartments are legendarily expensive and small. But is it any better across the pond?

By Nick Leftley and David Clack |
 (Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Steve Monty)
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Steve MontyNeighborhood 1: New hipster-ville Quick—which NYC neighborhood is the absolute most hipster neighborhood in the whole city? Did you say Williamsburg? Sorry, wrong. Billyburg has already been gentrified to within an inch of its faux-divey life, while the artists and cool kids who made the place hip have all moved out to Bushwick. Likewise, in London, Shoreditch is still known for being skinny jeans central, but in reality, most of those folk have already been pushed out to Dalston. So who’s got it better, Bushwick or Dalston? Let’s dive in and find out by looking at three apartments in each neighborhood.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperBushwick, NY apartment 1: Two-bedroom, $2,000/month This is probably the exact thing you’d picture if someone mentioned a two-bedroom in Bushwick—exposed brick, hardwood floors, a block or so from the DeKalb Ave L stop. This one has been fully refurbished and, for an up and coming neighborhood in New York City, is actually kind of a good deal. We’re off to a great start!
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperBushwick, NY apartment 2: One-bedroom, $1,850/month As if you needed proof that the area’s already on the way to being gentrified, here’s the more upscale option—a one-bedroom for around the same price, but fully kitted out in a way that would make it blend in with any Manhattan doorman building. It’s always nice to see a neighborhood with options, though.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperBushwick, NY apartment 3: One-bedroom, $1,950/month If you wanted somewhere in between the first two apartments, try this—it’s got all the old school charm of the first one, combined with the modern amenities of the second. The downside? You’re now talking very close to two grand a month for a one-bedroom in a part of town that’s still supposed to be free from the outrageous prices that have taken over the ‘burg. Let’s see if London has anything more reasonable.
Dalston, London apartment 1: One-bedroom, £1,235 ($1,998)/month On the upside, this smart-looking one-bed is located right by Dalston Junction Overground station and on the route of the 38 bus, making commutes into east or central London fairly painless. On the downside, it’s only got half a kitchen and you’ll need to bring your own furniture—if you can find somewhere to put it. Decent value if you’ve got a partner to split the rent with, but expect to be tripping over each other a lot.
Dalston, London apartment 2:  One-bedroom, £1,235 ($1,998)/month A splash of white paint can make a flat feel roomier, but no amount of Glidden can hide the fact that this Dalston Lane one-bed is what a real estate agent might charitably call “compact”. Battery hens get more personal space than this, and what the hell is up with that rug?!
Dalston, London apartment 3:  One-bedroom, £1,100 ($1,780)/month The nightspots of Kingsland High Street might be on your doorstep, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that this looks like it’s been used as a crack den. Bushwick may already be spiraling out of control rent-wise, but holy crap, at least its apartments are actually livable. Score one for New York!
 (Photographs: Shutterstock)
Photographs: ShutterstockNeighborhood 2: The family-friendly area Park Slope is obviously the number one contender for this title—despite that fact that so many families have moved here, the chances of actually getting your child into one of the local schools is virtually zero. Still, it’s a tree-lined oasis near a park with interesting shops and restaurants, so families love it. London’s equivalent is Highgate, a leafy enclave in Zone 3 (of the Tube map, it’s not a Hunger Games-type thing) by a park, with its own little village just a steep stroller-push uphill from the station. So which is better? Let’s look at three pads from each nabe and find out.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperPark Slope, NY apartment 1: Studio, $1,900/month It’s a sad indictment of a supposedly family-friendly area when a studio on the very southern edge of the neighborhood comes in at nearly two grand a month. Even a couple of years ago, you could still get a good-sized one-bedroom between the park and the 7th Ave stop for around this price, but it seems those days are already behind us.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperPark Slope, NY apartment 2: One-bedroom, $2,100/month This is a slightly better deal due to its having a separate bedroom, but it’s described as pre-war and it looks it. This shot of the kitchen is far and away the nicest picture—the rest show patchy paintwork and a very shabby bathroom that seems not to have been updated in decades. Another discouraging entry for Park Slope.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperPark Slope, NY apartment 3: One-bedroom, $1,850/month Another small pad, this is probably the best of the bunch for Park Slope’s $2,000/month range. The bathroom and kitchen have both seen better days, and although it’s fairly close to Prospect Park, it’s still a long walk to where the action is at the north end of the Slope. All in all, this was a pretty poor showing. Let’s see if London’s Highgate can do any better.
Highgate, London apartment 1: Studio, £1,148 ($1,859)/month Anyone looking to join the nest-feathering ranks of Highgate and neighboring Hampstead will need a budget well beyond our £2,000/month limit. Even couples will struggle for that amount—just look at the size of this Avenue Heights studio, which doesn’t even have the benefit of good nearby transport links. Sure, the foldaway bed adds versatility, but it also smacks slightly of desperation—the perfect symbol for London’s growing housing crisis.
Highgate, London apartment 2: One-bedroom, £1,213 ($1,966)/month It’s not big and it’s a fair trek away from the cutesy cafés of Highgate Village, but a double room with outside space is a bit of a rarity in this neck of the woods (for this price, at least). Still no space for kids (unless they’re really into camping), but a decent option for parents-in-waiting.
Highgate, London apartment 3: One-bedroom, £1,127 ($1,825)/month The cheapest of our Highgate picks also looks like the most spacious, but this could just be an illusion created by the lack of furniture (the place comes unfurnished). It’s actually closer to Archway tube station rather than Highgate, but with good pubs and the beautiful Waterlow Park on its doorstep, this could be the pick of the bunch—providing you can stomach a one-off Ikea splurge. After looking at all of the options, we’re declaring this round a draw, with families in both cities well and truly screwed.
 (Photographs: Upper East Side: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Jeffrey Zeldman / New Cross: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/I-Chi Ko)
Photographs: Upper East Side: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Jeffrey Zeldman / New Cross: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/I-Chi KoNeighborhood 3: Student town While students are scattered all around the five boroughs, there’s one part of town you’re guaranteed to run into them and, even more commonly, all of their recently graduated friends—the Upper East Side. London’s current student haven is New Cross, which is handily located close to a number of colleges and rapidly gentrifying party zone Peckham. Let’s look at three apartments in each neighborhood and see who comes out on top.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperUpper East Side, NY apartment 1: One-bedroom, $1,995/month This one-bed up in the 90s has a refurbished kitchen and bathroom, recessed lighting, hardwood floors and is basically rather nice. Take that, London!
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperUpper East Side, NY apartment 2: One-bedroom, $2,100/month In a sighting somewhat rarer than Bigfoot at Macy’s, this is a Manhattan apartment with an actual back yard. It’s still only a one-bed, though, which makes it a pricey proposition for either students or the recently graduated.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperUpper East Side, NY apartment 3: Studio, $1,900/month Another pricey studio, this one at least has a separate kitchen area and shared laundry on every floor. All in all, Manhattan is not such a friendly place for students these days. But is London any better? Let’s see.
New Cross, London apartment 1: Two-bedroom, £1,195 ($1,935)/month The lack of furniture makes it unviable for all but the richest students, but this two-bed flat, located between New Cross and Bermondsey, is a solid option for recent graduates with money to spend. One of the rooms is only a single, but find yourself a roommate who doesn’t take up much actual room and you could be onto a winner.
New Cross, London apartment 2: One-bedroom, £1,200 ($1,943)/month Lots of space, lots of light and some neat, original Georgian features make this converted terrace house a bit of a looker. Transport links are good and the building itself is Grade II-listed, meaning you needn’t worry about anyone suddenly knocking it down. Well done, London. Well done.
New Cross, London apartment 3: Two-bedroom, £1,250 ($2,025)/month The décor is pretty grim, and the bathroom’s a worrying shade of off-white, but you won’t find many two-bed flats for this price, this close to New Cross Gate Overground. It’s set back from New Cross Road, too, so while you’d have access to the area’s lively pubs, you won’t be kept awake by the people stumbling out of them. Buy a rug and some throws and it might just work out. No contest here—this round goes to London.
 (Photographs: Shutterstock)
Photographs: ShutterstockNeighborhood 4: The park NYC has many parks, but when anybody just says “the park”, we all know exactly what they mean. The neighborhoods that border Central Park vary hugely, but there’s no one that wouldn’t love a room with a view of the place. If you want to live near London’s stunning Regents Park, meanwhile, the village-y vibe of St. John’s Wood makes it the best place to start.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperCentral Park, NY apartment 1: Studio, $2,000/month While any sane person would balk at the thought of paying $2,000 every month for a studio apartment, this is, at least, a fairly pleasant one, with enough exposed brick to give the place some charm (and stop it looking too much like a nursing home). It also sits right next to the Museum of Natural History, so fans of dinosaurs and planetariums are looking at a big win here.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperCentral Park, NY apartment 2: Studio, $1,995/month Sitting a block away from the park at the south end of the JKO reservoir, this has the polished parquet floors and compact kitchen you’d expect of a Manhattan studio, along, unfortunately, with the price tag. We’re painfully aware that so far, two-bedrooms have barely made a showing for New York in any category.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperCentral Park, NY apartment 3: Studio, $1,950/month This one is half a block from some of Central Park’s most attractive scenery, but once again, it’s a studio. Even worse: The listing describes it as having a “unique layout,” which, according to the New York real estate agent to English dictionary, pretty much guarantees that the fridge has been installed above the toilet. Let’s see if London’s parks can offer something more tranquil.
St. John's Wood, London apartment 1: Studio, £1,192 ($1,932)/month Living next door to one of London’s best-loved green spaces means forgoing a few luxuries. In this case, those luxuries include a proper kitchen and a bathroom—the former comprises a sink, kettle and microwave, and the latter you’ll have to share with two other studios. Then again, if you’re really desperate, Regents Park is absolutely full of bushes.
St. John's Wood, London apartment 2: Studio, £1,192 ($1,932)/month Now this is more like it—the same rent as the last one gets you your own (small) kitchen, a bathroom and a small balcony. It’s a few streets further back from the park, but is close to both the tube and the Abbey Road zebra crossing, meaning endless hours of hilarity watching tourists piss off motorists by pretending to be The Beatles. You, uh…you may want to change the décor, though.
St. John's Wood, London apartment 3: Studio, £1,083 ($1,755)/month The cheapest of our three St John’s Wood picks is probably also the best all-rounder. Sure, it’s small, but lots of built-in storage makes it a thoroughly livable space. It’s not right on the park, but it is very close to Regents Canal, which leads into the park and means you’re never far from some outdoor space in which to do your jogging/drinking. Disappointingly, this looks like another tie, with both cities unable to offer more than expensive studios near their respective green spots.
 (Photographs: East Village: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/elen_k / Knightsbridge: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Eric Parker)
Photographs: East Village: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/elen_k / Knightsbridge: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Eric ParkerNeighborhood 5: The posh part of town New York has more millionaires than you could shake a ruby-encrusted stick at, but whenever we think of well to-do types walking their tiny dogs around while paying $20 for a cupcake, we think of the (nevertheless lovely) West Village. London’s fancy-pants neighborhood of choice is Knightsbridge, where foreign billionaires run wild and local rich people do their grocery shopping at Harrods. So is there anything vaguely affordable in either neighborhood? Let’s find out.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperWest Village, NY apartment 1: One-bedroom, $2,188/month Sitting right in the heart of the West Village is this one-bed with beautiful shiny hardwood floors and a not-very-inspiring kitchen. It’s the sort of mixed bag you’re likely to find for that price in this neighborhood (there’s a worrying lack of photos of the bathroom, too).
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperWest Village, NY apartment 2: Studio, $1,800/month The kitchen looks nice in this little place, but what the hell is going on with the rest of the space? That dark wood floor tapers to a point in the other direction, making it extremely difficult to fit any kind of bed or, really, any other symmetrical object in there. West Village, we know you’re expensive, but $1,800 a month for this is ridiculous. If we weren’t confident that London’s Knightsbridge had nothing you could rent without proof of owning a Rolls Royce, we’d be ashamed.
 (Photograph: Courtesy Zumper)
Photograph: Courtesy ZumperWest Village, NY apartment 3: Studio, $2,095/month You won’t believe us, but this is honestly the best photo they had. The others are all blurry shots of bits of wall and the overflowing insides of closets (that have curtains instead of doors, no less). It’s also right next to the West Side Highway, making this a disappointing final entry in New York’s fancy pants neighborhood campaign.
Knightsbridge, London apartment 1: Studio, £1,408 ($2,282)/month Holy crap. This is it: The cheapest apartment in Knightsbridge, and it’s still well over our maximum budget. Probably intended more as an occasional crash pad for loaded bankers rather than a permanent dwelling, it’s actually not a bad size at all, despite the combined bedroom and reception room. It’s still a hugely impractical place to live—a loaf of bread probably costs about $15 in that area.
Knightsbridge, London apartment 2: Studio, £1,495 ($2,423)/month Pricier still is this swanky studio, which is the second cheapest property in Knightsbridge, even though it’s actually closer to Victoria. It’s about the size of your average prison cell, minus the benefit of free hot meals.
Knightsbridge, London apartment 3: Studio, £1,517 ($2,459)/month The third least expensive flat in Knightsbridge has cunningly attempted to disguise its size with huge mirrors along one wall. Make no mistake, though, at less than 200 square feet, this slender shoebox of an apartment ought to trigger a claustrophobic breakdown in around, ooh, 12 seconds. It’s right next to Harrods, though, which is nice. No surprise here—New York wins simply by virtue of actually having a handful of apartments inside the required budget. London, you cray.
 (Photograph: Shutterstock)
Photograph: ShutterstockIf there’s one thing New Yorkers and Londoners can agree on, it’s the fact that the rent is too damn high. Our own awesome New York narrowly squeezes out the win here, two neighborhoods to one, with two draws against an overall eerily similar London. Sadly, since New York’s two wins were in the category of “hipsters” and “rich people,” it’s not a victory we’re especially proud of. But we still love you, NYC.
Finding a place to live in New York is, let’s be honest, a nightmare (even with the help of our weekly look at the best affordable NYC apartments). New Yorkers often wonder what their living situation would be like elsewhere, but where to look? Forget L.A.—we’ve already seen that in the New York apartments vs. Los Angeles apartments battle, NYC wins. No, this time we’re heading further afield, to the land of crisps, sarnies and pork scratchings, to see if London, England has it any better. Below, you’ll find 30 apartments—15 in NY, 15 in London—all for around $2,000 per month in five comparable neighborhoods. Who’s getting the better deal? Let battle commence!

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