In reality, this post could also be titled “Apartment Hunting: the real reason CMQ hasn’t posted since mid-March.” So, dear readers (who at this point may only include my mom and several family friends because I’ve really lost all semblance of normal post scheduling…) I’d like to heartily apologize for not being more capable of maintaining a blog while hunting for an apartment.
As it turns out, real estate searches in Boston are no joke. They’re even less of a joke if you’re like me and are: a) extremely picky, b) highly unlikely to just settle, and c) apparently looking way before your preferred rental date. With that in mind, my four months of psychotically trolling Zillow and having 4+ realtors in my “Recently Called” list at any given time has led me to a few helpful lessons that might also be valuable to you, should this journey be one you’re about to embark on yourself. If you’re happily settled into a permanent home or apartment, my insight might not be as useful, but I encourage you to read on and allow yourself a congratulatory pat on the back for being out of the deep, dark forest that is the current rental market.
1. You will think you’ve expertly described what you want, but will later realize how specific you actually needed to be. For a while, I was really proud of myself because I had a well-articulated vision of what my roommate and I were looking for: a two bed / one bath with updated kitchen and bath, good natural light, and hardwood floors in the $xxxx – $xxxx price range. As the process wore on, it came to my attention that there were apparently many things I’d forgotten to include in that description, such as, “Not garden level” or “Not creepy.” Personally, my favorite thing I didn’t realize I had to specify would probably be, “Must have all kitchen cabinet doors attached.” Seriously. That was an option at one point.
2. Regardless of how good your description is, when a realtor asks what you’re looking for, do not assume they will actually show you anything meeting that criteria. The unit with the muffed up cabinet doors was a great example of this – I gave the aforementioned description, and the realtor thought a “good” option for comparison would be a unit with barely any kitchen at all (literally just a wall in the living room that had a fridge and a sink) and a bathroom that featured several bare spots where tiles had fallen off. Good thing neither of us wasted our time there! Oh wait…
3. If you venture into Craigslist, ALL CAPS and wEirDly tYp3D descriptions are the norm. Ditto exclamatory statements. I swear, it’s like the people posting felt the need to be strange because it’s Craigslist. One of the more memorable listings I recall touted its property as being “somewhere you can get weird” — I’m sorry, come again?? I lost count of the ones that began with statements like, “Oh my gosh!! Unbelievable!!” and then provided you with pictures of a ramshackle space that clearly had been driven into the ground by unruly coeds.* The only unbelievable thing about it was that the landlord thought someone would pay $2,200 for it.
*Shoutout to those places though: I was a big fan of you in college and am forever grateful I will never have to call you my home.
4. People never clean up before the pictures of their apartment are taken. As I scanned through property listings, I began to feel like an anthropologist studying the living habits of Bostonians. My main thesis would have to be that the messiest demographic of humans in Boston are those whose apartments are being listed for rent. Seriously, is it that hard to put your dirty clothes in a hamper? Perhaps pull the sheets up on your bed? What upstanding person capable of paying at least $1,000 a month in rent would willingly sleep in a room like this? Mystifying.
5. Never give up hope, be willing to compromise, and when in doubt, tweet it out. After several discouraging months, people started telling my my expectations were too high. They insisted that what I was looking for didn’t exist within my price range and suggested I bite the bullet and settle for less. Obviously, since I am extremely stubborn as well as hopelessly optimistic, their advice rolled off my back like water hopefully would off the granite counters I was so desperately seeking. As an avid fan of The Secret, I’m a firm believer in visualization as well as asking the Universe for what you want. Naturally, the medium I chose for this was Twitter: That was on a Monday (also Derek’s birthday!). Two days later, we were viewing an apartment, and within six days we’d signed a lease on a beautiful 2 BR with granite in the kitchen, a gorgeous tiles bathroom, great natural light and *BONUS* a washer/dryer in-unit, all for about $250 less a month than we’d expected, within a 2 minutes walk of the part of the city we’d wanted. Personally, I think it was the #please that did the trick.
Where, you might ask, was the compromise? Our floors have thin carpeting over the wood. It’s also a third floor walk-up. Worth it, for all of the above.
Moral(s) of the Story: Hard work and patience pay off. It’s important to explore what you really want. People can be confusing sometimes. Believe in your dreams. Clean your apartment before someone takes pictures of it.