After some disappointing news about a job I really wanted but didn’t get, I thought it might cheer me up to do something I’ve been dreaming about for years: find a new apartment.
Apparently I am too stupid to remember how much “fun” (read: not fun) apartment hunting is.
Here’s our situation. Our current apartment is relatively cheap, in a good location, and has some really nice amenities (1 covered parking spot, air conditioning, in-unit laundry, a huge master bedroom). The problem is the decor hasn’t been updated since the Reagan administration – and no, I’m probably not exaggerating.
The beige carpet, aka the bane of my existence, is ancient and grimy and only marginally improves with professional cleaning. The walls are also beige and the lease says no painting. The doorknobs are brass and the cabinets are Euro-style. It’s lacking in closet space and gets little light. I know there are worse apartments out there, but there are some days when I look around me and want to cry about the blandness, darkness, and overall tiredness of the space. I’ve tried sprucing it up with new curtains and light fixtures and colorful pillows but it just feels like putting lipstick on a pig. Also, we would really love more space for guests and/or our own elliptical machine.
I’ve been itching to move for a couple of years, but we haven’t pulled the trigger (see: good location, relatively cheap rent, plus my husband is totally content here). This year I decided to dip my toes into the water and see what was out there.
So far? In the past week, we’ve seen four apartments — not a huge number, I know, but enough to get a sense of what the market looks like. And so far the market looks … not promising. My escape from Planet Beige is feeling increasingly unlikely. Send help. And maybe also pies.
The story so far
Apartment 1. A super-cute condo, slightly more square footage but no extra bedroom, in a less desirable but still workable location. $550/month more than our current apartment. We like it, but it’s not enough extra space to move out of our neighborhood for, and we’d have to get creative to make the slightly late move-in date work for us. Still, worth seeing, as it makes us seriously consider whether we’d move just for nicer finishings (answer: probably not).
Apartment 2. First floor of a two-family home very close to Apartment 1. Technically it has one more bedroom than our current place, although it turns out there isn’t much more square footage than what we have now because the bedrooms are small and the living room is even smaller. I’m digging the hardwood floors and front room light, but it’s not the extra space we were hoping for, even at the bargain price of only $200 more in rent.
“Would you be interested in the upstairs?” asks the broker. “It’s available in June. It’s $700/month more than this apartment, but it’s a lot bigger.” Which leads us to …
Apartment 3. The sun shines through the front windows. The hardwood gleams. Angels sing. The rooms are big, the updates are great, and there’s so much sun! It’s perfect even before the broker shows us the in-unit laundry (with brand new red washer and dryer!) and the huge attic space that would make a perfect guest room.
Econo Man and I go home, talk it over, imagine hosting Thanksgiving there (that might have just been me), agree it’s totally worth the extra $900/month, and call to say we want the place. The broker then gently breaks the news that the landlady contacted him and is “reconsidering” the lease terms she wants.
Eight hours later, the landlady decides she wants an additional $500/month in rent and an April start date, meaning our rent would go up by $1400/month and we’d have to pay 3 months of overlapping rent with our current place.* I’m seriously bummed when I have to tell the broker that this won’t be possible for us. We counter-offer for a June lease at our maximum rent, but I’m not surprised when she says no. I am, however, a bit surprised when she ups the lease price to $1700/month above our current rent.
Goodbye, amazing apartment. I hope your new tenants love you as much as we would have. (OK, maybe a tiny part of me hopes your new tenants are deadbeats who make your landlady wish she’d compromised and rented to that nice couple with the awesome credit.)
Apartment 4. The online pics show a sun-drenched apartment with adorable parquet floors. No extra bedroom and only a slight square footage upgrade, but it’s in my dream location and the building promises a state-of-the-art fitness center and other “luxury amenities.” It’s $1000/month more and therefore at the top end of our budget, but worth seeing, right? (Stupid, stupid PC.)
We’re still disappointed about Apartment 3, and I also manage to completely eff up Econo Man’s schedule by not asking him about an appointment time change. So we’re maybe not in the best frame of mind. Even so this visit is kind of a disaster.
The manager takes our IDs while we tour the building (um, what?). He then says something that makes me wish we’d never come here: “So, the pictures online were of a similar unit. This unit is carpeted.” I feel my face fall. He hastily adds, “But sometimes we rip up the carpet when someone moves out.”
The apartment we tour has even grosser carpet than the apartment we have now. It’s a better layout than our place, but it doesn’t get much more light, the kitchen is tiny and hasn’t been updated recently, and oh my god the carpet is so gross and I think those are visible cat pee stains.
The “luxury amenities” turn out to be vastly oversold. The in-building laundry charges $2 per wash and has suspiciously few washing machines. The in-building gym is fine, but a far cry from the glorious fitness paradise the ad implied.
When the building manager asks if we’re interested, I ask if this unit will actually be getting its carpet ripped out. He hesitates and admits, “Well, usually when the units have been carpeted it’s because the parquet is too damaged to repair. But we’ll have it professionally cleaned!”
I think he can tell from my face that this is not the right answer. Actually, I think he can tell from my face that it’s a good thing there are witnesses around.**
Mortified, I spend the walk to the car apologizing to Econo Man for sucking at life and for dragging him to that colossal waste of time. I’ll be seeing that carpet in my nightmares.
So in conclusion: If you need me, I’ll be over here Googling “how to get your neurotic, beige-loving landlord to let you paint your ugly but affordable apartment.”
* Our lease forbids subletting in clear and slightly threatening terms.
** Dear landlords: Posting pics of a much nicer unit than the one you’re actually renting? Dick move. What do you think is going to happen, we’ll walk in and say “Oh, look, a squalid hellhole that bears no resemblance to the apartment in your ad! We’ll take it!”?