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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Home Sweet Home... Until We Move [And, The Difference Between Honest & Shady Apartment Owners]

Well, it's almost official: In about 12 hours, I'll be meeting with what should be my new landlord, signing lease papers. In addition to all the expected crazy driving of this past week, we drove back and forth from Monsey et al to Queens a number of times to check out apartments, measure rooms and furniture, and check out more apartments.

A quick story in hashgacha pratis: We checked out an apartment early last week, and it was pretty good. We were very close to taking the apartment, with our only real concern being that the master bedroom would not fit our current bedroom furniture all that well. We decided to wait another day or two before deciding, and told the owner as much. When we called him the next day to tell him it would have to wait until we measured our furniture, he accused us of 'waiting on another place' and thought we were 'playing games' with him. In truth, we were not - we simply weren't in Queens to measure our stuff, and had no other options at the moment. Anyways, even if we did, we were under no obligation to him to tell him what our other options were, if any - we are allowed to look at whatever we'd like. Meanwhile, an old friend from Milwaukee was visiting with a couple of his kids, and he called to say he was in Kew Gardens Hills. We decided to make yet another special trip to KGH to visit with him, measure our furniture, and visit another apartment we got a call about earlier in the day.

On the way, we decided we could use something to drink, and stopped at a (certain infamous) 7-11, parking in an actual spot. We picked up The Jewish Press, I believe for the first time in my life, and scanned the back to see if any apartments had come up. We found another couple of apartments, including the same one we'd been called about earlier in the day [which brings up an ethical dilemma which thankfully we didn't have to figure out - if you find something on your own and were told about it through a broker, do you need to work through the broker, or can you speak directly to the owner?]. Meanwhile, on the road, another complex nearby called us to tell us that an apartment Serach had seen that was supposed to be taken was not in the end, and that we had the first option of taking it if we wanted to.

We'd quickly gone from one option we were okay but not thrilled with to four, which meant it would be a busy night. We got home and measured our furniture - the one we'd seen earlier in the week would be a really tight squeeze if it would work at all. We then checked out the one we'd both seen and been called about, and were pretty interested, though we were bothered by two things: The broker was waiting on the street, schmoozing all too familiarly with a guy who did not really seem to be looking for a 2-BR apartment, and suddenly when he realized we were there he brought them up to show them the apartment at the same time as us. It seemed like he was trying to make it seem there was more interest than there actually was - and he was very worried when the owner (who was there) acknowledged that we'd called him on our own as well. Finally, the apartment was one we'd been told about, had been taken, and now was back on the market - only the price was $100 more per month than it had been originally. The couple who lived there and is moving out (who we know of through good ol' Jewish geography) was surprised at the price increase-to-be, and basically said that while they like the apartment, it's not worth what they're asking; the owner was also too willing to drop the price back down $50/month, before any negotiation. A bit shady, basically. But, it was a decent apartment, so we kept it in mind.

Next, we picked up the lady who would show us another apartment. We get to the apartment, and I notice the name on the door. A familiar, not too common name... could it be? As the door opens, I look at the guy and say simply, "Avi ------!?" He looks at me curiously, I introduce myself, and he - shocked - responds "Wow, I think the last time I saw you you were up to my chest!" Not only did he used to live just two doors down from my parents in Cleveland, when he himself was a teen, his sister and mine are old classmates, and she was my nephew's first babysitter - and my brother used to bring my nephew to this very apartment on occasion to be babysat along with this Avi's oldest. (Ahh, Jewish Geography...)

Anyways, we look at the apartment. It not only is a nice size in all the rooms, it has everything we wanted in our own apartment after a couple of somewhat frustrating years: Washer, dryer, dishwasher, etc. Everything was in excellent shape except part of the kitchen, including a new bathroom, and there was carpeting everywhere (but the kitchen), which is great for Elianna. The apartment is in incredible shape, especially for a couple who has lived there for 5 years with a couple of kids; we actually asked if the owner would drop the [not cheap] price they were asking and they wouldn't have to paint. Avi had nothing but satisfaction with the owner, which is a very good sign [5 years is a long time].

The very next day, the lady called us back. The owners were insistent on painting and cleaning the apartment so everything would be in perfect shape; they were willing to gut half the kitchen and install everything new; but they wanted their price. It was about $100 more than we'd wanted to spend a month... but it really was the only apartment (of many many) we'd looked into that actually had everything we wanted - and was in an area we wanted, within a block of a nice group of friends, including a few who seem to enjoy babysitting Elianna for free [hehe :D ]. We narrowed it down to this apartment or the one in the complex that had just opened up and we had the option of taking. We basically made our decision, but not without one final call to a friend in that complex. After talking for a bit, he agreed with what we thought - it was worth the extra money for everything we were getting... and we'd save a nice chunk of the difference between time saved, convenience, and having our own washer/dryer. Soooo...

In just a couple of weeks, we should be moving into a new 2-bedroom apartment. WOOHOO!!
Prologue: We called the other places to thank them for their time. The owner of the apartment where the furniture likely wouldn't have fit barely acknowledged my wife, hanging up before she could say "Thanks again". I think my brother's point about not wanting a new landlord - however nice he seems at first - is a good one. You don't know what you're getting, and if you don't need to take that risk, don't. I called the broker who showed us the suddenly spiked-price apartment - the first thing he asked was "It's not the one I showed you, right? You didn't call the owner yourself, right?" When I assured him it was not, he kindly wished us luck - but I'm still bothered by what felt like a fake-out with the other people looking at the apartment. Finally, the one in the complex we left a message for - they were kind and polite at all times, never pressuring, keeping our name even when they thought they'd rented it. It's a good apartment if anybody's looking.

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