Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Apartment Hunting: Part One

Sometimes we put things out into the world, seeking feedback from others, and later decide that perhaps it was a mistake. I had one of those moments this week.

This requires some back story...

Chris started a new job this week, which we are very excited about. He has been through a very challenging, and slow search process, and there is a huge sense of relief that it's finally over. We both tried to stay positive throughout what seemed like a very long four-five months of unemployment. It was very hard for me to not carry guilt, as he moved to Milwaukee with me because of my new job. And so although I've felt very busy since the move, with out-of-town visits, conferences, volunteering, school, etc., we were still sort of in a holding pattern. On pause, waiting for the rest of the transition to happen. Waiting for us both to be employed, so that we could find our new home.

My mom is a saint, because she agreed to take us (including two rambunctious kitties) into her home for this long stretch of waiting. And I truly love her for that. But as you might know, it is really hard to live at home as an adult, especially after flying solo for the last 10 years. And there were times where I was really crabby, if not downright unbearable to live with. All other members of my family can attest. Cats included. Home is supposed to be that place that you love. And your mom is supposed to be your mom, not your roommate. Even if she does make you delicious dinners. With Chris' new job, it is officially time to move out, so that I can enjoy going back home again (and get rid of my long commute).

So this weekend, Chris and I began our hunt for our new home. We tried to go into the experience with an open mind, some direction, and our list of non-negotiables. We knew that we had to have a two bedroom that allowed pets, and that had off-street parking for at least one, but hopefully both cars. We wanted to be closer to the city, although not necessarily downtown, in order to keep our costs reasonable. Safety was also key. We narrowed down to a few key neighborhoods, that we thought would provide some good options.

Chris' big goal was to be in walking distance of stuff. Stuff was loosely defined, but basically he was okay with being in a more residential neighborhood, but with things like a Walgreens or a grocery store close by. My St. Louis apartment was in walking distance to a Walgreens, the best Indian restaurant in town, a cupcake cafe (gasp!), a grocery store, and two whole shopping centers with a Barnes & Noble, Old Navy, Pei Wei, nail salon, Maggie Moo's, etc. Pretty fantastic. I would enjoy having something like that again.

We were of course hoping for some of those creature comforts like a washer/dryer, dishwasher, central air conditioning, storage, etc. I put out there that good windows were a must, for energy efficiency and security. But most importantly, our goal was to find a place where we could stay for awhile. We are already combining two apartments, and are moving items from two different storage locations. Meaning that this move is essentially a six-eight step process. At one point in my life, I was moving once, if not, multiple times, a year. With the amount of stuff I've accumulated at this point, I just cannot do it. I like to commit for the long haul. And we know that it will be some time before we could consider buying a house, so we wanted to find a place that we really like.

As we drove around considering different types of space, Chris leaned more towards complexes, while I was hoping for a duplex. He had previous negative experiences with independent landlords who liked to enter the home unannounced, whereas I had been in a complex with a lot of issues which made the management companies seem less appealing. I, of course, had stubbornly stayed in the place for four years despite the squirrels living in the ceiling, crappy windows that would flood my second floor apartment during heavy rains, relatively frequent siting of cockroaches and other bugs, not to mention frustrations with noisy neighbors. Moral of the story: Don't be fooled by a swimming pool, or nicely decorated model apartment - ask to see the actual space you will be living in.

We ended up writing down numbers for both complexes and duplexes. Really anything we could find that we'd identify as an apartment for rent. January is a more challenging time to be looking. We went home and looked up stuff online, which narrowed down the list, based on some really terrible reviews. We made some calls, and found ourselves with appointments to see three places...

(to be continued)

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