June 22, 2010


my ordinarily cheerful disposition is being terribly, uncomfortably marred by this apartment search. I recognize that it might seem particularly angst-ridden -- how hard can it be to find a new apartment, for crying out loud? -- and therefore I am here on this blog today to come to my own defense.

My current apartment has two bedrooms, hardwood floors, granite countertops, and new fixtures. There is free wireless internet. I paid no deposit on the place, have two cats, and do not pay pet rent. It's two miles from the office, and a stone's throw from the main route I use to go from the office to the barn. It's a 16-unit courtyard-style building that, despite being inhabited primarily by young 20-somethings, manages to keep pretty quiet. It's within a one-block walking distance from two bars and a sushi place, and a mile's walk from Trader Joe's. My half of the rent: $500.

When I moved into my current apartment, the place I was moving from was 10 miles from the office, located in a semi-iffy suburb right next to a mall, in an admittedly nice apartment with unfortunately tissue-thin walls; depending on which neighbors I had beneath me, I could hear people having sex, people fighting, people listening to Mexican dance music, or people snoring (no joke). Cost of that apartment: $675. Therefore it was significantly easier to find myself a place that felt like a step up -- and even then, last year's apartment search was also horrible. I found an apartment for my July 1 move date on June 17. I didn't sign the lease until June 22.

common scenarios encountered while searching for an apartment

1. Last Wednesday: I drove out to southwest Portland to see an apartment that looked promising in the ad. I arrived to find a TINY apartment in a dilapidated building; the apartment had windows on both sides of the living room, and because it was so small it felt quite literally like being in a zoo cage.

2. Yesterday: I had two appointments scheduled in the afternoon to see two apartments, both in or around the neighborhood I'm in now. I called to confirm my 2:30 appointment at noon, but they called me back at 1 PM. "The apartment hasn't been cleaned yet," she said, "so can we make it Wednesday morning instead?"

I was, in fact, a little relieved, because my next viewing was at 4:15 and I wasn't sure if there was even going to be time to return to the office (in any useful way, at least) between the two appointments. Then at 3 PM, I got a phone call from the other guy. "We rented the apartment this morning," he said. Never mind that I'd made the appointment with him on Friday, and easily could have shown up in the morning hours instead.

3. This morning: I arrived at my 9:30 apartment -- $675, in a great neighborhood, across the street from a cute brunch place -- to find 4 hipsters standing outside the building as well. I silently considered how best to go about annihilating all of them so I could get the apartment first. This scenario -- having to compete for an apartment as if it were a job -- is very, very common in this town, and I never know how to play it. Race in the door first? Scream "I'LL TAKE IT!" the moment I come in?

We were all let into the apartment and I knew right away that I would definitely like to rent it; hardwoods, built-ins in the kitchen, lots of closet space, nice windows, a good sized living room and bedroom. And then, within 15 seconds -- that is not hyperbole -- of walking in, the guy showing us the apartment got a phone call from the leasing office saying that someone had walked in and applied for the place sight unseen. "I'm so sorry, guys," he said. "It's a waste of your time and a waste of mine."

4. I troll craigslist and find a cute apartment only to discover that it's an income restricted property; when I check the income restriction rate for one-person occupancy, it's roughly $2000 under what I make in a year, making me too poor to afford the better apartments and too well-off to qualify for help.

5. I find a great apartment somewhere on the internet and it says "one cat is welcome," or, of course, "sorry, no pets."

Can you understand how this would get a little discouraging?

ETA: To top matters off, I got to work this morning to find this news: summer cancelled?! I read it out loud to my mother and I very nearly cried.

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