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I'm looking for a new place to live. It needs to have two or more fairly large bedrooms, counter space in the kitchen, washer/dryer hookups, and offstreet parking. It also needs to permit cats with intact claws. I would like it if it had interesting architectural features: bay windows, wood moulding, hardwood floors. I have a target rent in mind and I'm also bearing in mind the utility costs.

I saw a perfect place last night. It was a house, late Victorian, with a fireplace in the front room, a remodeled kitchen and bath, and finished attic. The rooms were large, the windows tall and elegant, the kitchen had wooden flooring, new cabinets, and room for a kitchen island. The garage had a door opener. The landlord was charming. It was bang on my target rent.

It is, however, in a somewhat rough neighborhood. Up at the other end of the street, there are houses being renovated by urban pioneers, and at my end there's a building being turned into condos by an architect the landlord knows, but the middle of the street is a mixture of staunch homeowners and rundown rental property. There are kids playing everywhere -- it's a lively block -- but it's definitely a poor neighborhood. The landlord told me a woman up the block had a man trying to break into her house while she was there: the fact that the police came quickly and caught the guy is not as reassuring as he intended it. She had a large dog: I have a dandified orange cat.

My sister toured the neighborhood with me today and said that it looked like it'd be a charming place in another two years. It's in a part of town that mostly has poor people, activists, and students. There's a lively night life, with restaurants and taverns and the usual live music, record stores, import stores, and tattoo parlors, but I'm not sure I'd feel safe walking home at night (even though when I was there last night I saw families out for ice cream and kids riding scooters down the street.) There are still occasional muggings; there is still drug-dealing in parts of the area, said the landlord. It reminds him of his native New York. My father is from Manhattan but I myself grew up in a town of 4000.

It reminded me (and Serena agreed) that urbanites go around with a constant awareness of potential danger. As a (reluctant) suburbanite, I lack this. I'm anxious enough that I keep an eye out for danger when I'm out at night, but it's not something I expect. I've never been mugged. I was menaced a couple of times while at university, living in a similarly dubious neighborhood, but never assaulted or robbed.

I visited another place today with my sister. It was in a much more manicured neighborhood not more than a block from where my sister lives. It was a nice place: smaller but handsome kitchen, exposed brick in the living room, new carpet, a bay window in the dining room, three small bedrooms, two small but full baths. Cats are OK. There's a deck and a porch. There are washer/dryer hookups in the (damp) basement. No garage but some off street parking. Price is $75 more than the other place, utilities would be somewhat lower.

I took an application form from the landlord, mostly to be polite. The bedrooms were small enough that I'd have to split my bedroom set between two rooms (I'd have a dressing room!) It was certainly a handsome place, and on a fully gentrified street, but it was smaller, and was more modern in style than I generally tend to be.

My sister advised more shopping around, to get a better feel for what my rent will buy me in various parts of town. We toured the east side of the city (Eden Park, East Walnut Hills), looking for "for rent" signs. There was one house I said "I like!" in front of, just before we spotted a "for rent" sign, but we didn't have a pencil with us!

Maybe I should have siezed the day, and phoned right then and there (one of us surely had a charged phone) but I was fatigued and feeling like finding a good place was going to take far more legwork than I really wanted to do. My sister told me about a service (really designed for corporate transplants) where you tell them in detail what you want and they drive you around to places they've picked out, for $300. That seems shocking to my frugal soul, but if a service could quickly find places that matched my desires, including for space, safety, and hardwood floors, for the rent I want, it might be worth it.

If I'm giving notice, I have to do so by the end of the month. I put an ad up on Craigslist stating what I was looking for, and got a number of replies. (The house in the dubious neighborhood was one of them.)

I really loved the house in the dubious neighborhood. It was what I would want in a house if I were buying one for myself. (When the landlord said he was going to wait a few years and try to sell it, I had the thought that if I were still his tenant I might buy it.)

Tomorrow I'll try to find that neighborhood that Serena and I were in where I saw the house I really liked the look of, and write down the phone number. And in the meantime, I'll start going through the rentals on Craigslist. If I have to do a lot of legwork, I might as well get started.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 13th, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC)
There are so many decisions involved in a choice like this aren't there? My feeling would be to go with your gut instinct. When you see the right place - you'll know it.

And when you do ... we want pictures!
Oct. 14th, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)
The place in the dubious neighborhood felt like the right place. I couldn't believe I'd get all that for a measly x dollars! My sister commented on how ready I was to dismiss the neighborhood as a factor. She said the landlord must have been a great salesman!

Tomorrow I'm looking at a place that's $150 less, in a better neighborhood (to judge from Google Maps StreetView) and is considerably smaller. Nice kitchen, though, to judge by the pictures. Negatives: navy carpet throughout, and a large chunk of the living space is in the attic.
Oct. 15th, 2008 11:02 am (UTC)
Attics can be quirky-cool ...
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )