Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Moving Back Home Task Number 3: Find an Apartment in Boston

Oh man. This apartment search is not going very smoothly. I knew it would be hard. Boston is a student town an therefore most apartments turn over on September 1st. So, looking for an apartment starting now or on November 1st is not that easy. There is just not a lot to choose from.

The other deal with Boston - not sure if it's the same with other US cities, I would love to hear how it works where you live - is you usually have to pay a broker's fee equal to one month's rent! This is just money that

In other places, you either pay a small fee to the broker or the landlord pays the broker. How does it work where you live? Do you have to pay one month's rent to the real estate agent?

In addition to the fee to the agent, you also might be asked to put down first and last month's rent plus a security deposit equal to one month's rent (although with non-student apartments it is common that just 2 of the 3 are asked for). But either way, you are paying 3 to 4 months rent up front. And no matter how you look at it, that's a lot of money!

And since most of my money is still sitting in a bank account in England, fronting lots of money in cash is kind of hard for me. Luckily, I have nice parents who have fronted me the cash until I can figure out how to move my money back.

So, I came into the Boston apartment search thinking that I wanted to live in Charlestown. I had briefly lived there before and I thought it was really nice. It has cute gas light lined streets and a nice neighborhood feel. But while it's very close to central Boston, it is a bit out of the way - it's not considered Boston proper and it's not well linked by the subway. But since I refuse to take any form of public transportation don't really take subways anyway, I thought that would be ok.

So, I started seeing some places in Charlestown and I actually saw some great places including an amazing converted carriage house with in-garage parking and a roof deck with an awesome view... but there was always something a bit off. They were either not in the exact location I was looking for (Charlestown has some more desirable areas and some less desirable ones) or they were too small, or too run down.

And then I started to have a small panic about the location of Charlestown and the fact that it's not very central. I'm coming back from living in really desirable central areas of Stockholm and London. I could walk out my door and easily access shops, bars, restaurants, nightlife... My friends always wanted to come to my apartment because it was so central. Living in Charlestown started to feel a bit out of the way. I mean let's face it, besides the quaint Warren Tavern, there is really not much happening over there.

After speaking with different people, I decided to include the Beacon Hill area in my search. Beacon Hill is probably the most desirable (and therefore most expensive) location in Boston (although don't get me wrong there are other good places to live in Boston). Beacon Hill is know for its gaslight streets and brick sidewalks. It's a very charming and centrally located neighborhood in Boston. Famous former Beacon Hill residents include: Louisa May Alcott, Daniel Webster, John Hancock. Today people like John Kerry live there (as well as lots and lots of regular old normal people like me).

The problem with Beacon Hill however is that apartments are small, lack storage space and are EXPENSIVE!!! I saw a few places and was very tempted by one that was owned by a woman I work with. It was very cute but a bit less modern than I am used to and also lacking storage. And I was panicking a bit about trying to fit my 43 boxes of stuff into the small space. But it had a lot of charm and a HUGE roof deck.

I felt like it was an ok place and that I could live there and probably enjoy it, but I didn't quite feel excited about it. That little voice in the back of my head was telling me that I hadn't yet found "the one."

I decided to see a few more places. And as Realtors do, the one I was working with convinced me to see a place slightly out of my price range (although nowhere near as expensive as my London place) that was totally newly renovated and included a washer/dryer in unit. By the way washer/dryer in unit = totally awesome.

And of course I LOVED it! It occupies the whole floor of a brownstone. Beautiful cherry hardwood floors. Newly renovated kitchen with granite counters. A cute little gas fireplace. Modern bathroom. Big bright sunny windows. Good sized bedroom. Big (for Beacon Hill) living room. Nice open layout. And TONS of storage space! 3 huge closets including a massive walk in one in the bedroom.

The only small downside is that it doesn't have an outside area (many Beacon Hill places have great roof decks) - but I guess I have to sacrifice something - and everything else is perfect (and I didn't have any outside space at my London apartment as I also sacrificed that for a bigger and more modern place - and while I sometimes wished I had a balcony or a garden, I enjoyed my apartment enough not to regret the sacrifice. Let's face it, you don't use your outside space as much as you use the rest of the apartment).

But of course, nothing is really perfect and absolutely nothing is really easy (at least not when it comes to moving)... The problem with this apartment is that because it's totally new, they don't yet have the occupancy permit and they are not sure when they are getting it. They are hoping it will be all set for Nov 1, but they are not sure and therefore don't want to guarantee a move-in date. Well without a move in date, I'm not about to offer them my life savings in rent and fees... So, we are at a stand-off and since nothing is yet official (i.e. I haven't signed a lease), I'm feeling pretty insecure about the whole thing as they are still showing the apartment to other people (although supposedly, I have first dibs). Anyway, it's all a bit stressful. It will be great to have this settled. I will hopefully know more by the end of the week (as Nov 1st is Monday after all).

In the meantime, I'm kind of squatting. Single I'm attractive friend C was nice enough to let me stay at her place last week even though she was super busy preparing to run a MARATHON in DUBLIN that she ran YESTERDAY! (How awesome is that? I'm sure she did great). So it wasn't exactly a convenient time for her. But she's nice like that so she let me stay. And this week I have her apartment to myself - which is awesome. But I'm still really hoping that I can move into this new place next weekend or early next week. I've been living in limbo for 4 weeks now and it's starting to drive me mad. I just want to have my own space and to settle in and let life get started again. I feel like I'm not living life and having fun right now... I'm just planning, waiting, worrying... Ugh.

Keep your fingers crossed for me! I hope to have this apartment thing locked down soon so I can get back to writing fun blog posts about dating and discovering the USA!

Oh and as soon as I have this apartment. My next task will be to FURNISH the apartment. So, I will be looking to you - my bloggy friends - for advice in inspiration cuz this International Woman of Mystery has never had to furnish an apartment before!

Have a great week!


Average Girl said...

Fingers are crossed darlin... ! And wooo whooo on the furnishing of it.. so much fun!

Sara Louise said...

This apartment sounds really great, my fingers are crossed for you!!

And we had to pay that brokerage fee for my house here in France too, it totally surprised me especially since I don't think the broker did that much to earn the money anyway and shouldn't the owner be paying that??

It's so funny that your friend is running in the Dublin marathon. When I lived in Dublin there was always loads of Americans coming over to run it and it surprised me because it never seemed like that big of a marathon.

SSW said...

Good luck, it's super exciting to be finding a new place and such, just be patient it's also super exhausting! Keeping my fingers crossed for you and easy move!

Julianna said...

Love Beacon Hill. When I worked there, everyday I would go by the bucher shop, pick up dinner, hop the T home and cook up an unbelieveable meal. (I lived between BC and BU at the time)Plus, China town's right there, Boston Common, I could go on and on... It is quite pricy though. And parking when it snows is a nightmare. Just make sure you're parked on the correct side of the street on snow days, or the tickets/tow will cost you more than the car.