Thursday, October 7, 2010

Traveling & House Hunting

So I flew out to California for five days for a house-hunting trip. Jonathan didn't have to work Friday, so I got in Thursday evening and left Monday morning before he went to work. Time-wise, it worked out pretty well. It's difficult to be on a different timezone for a few days, but no biggie.

I flew Continental, which was different. It was (note the past-tense, since they turn to pay-for-food on the 12th) still a full-service airline, so I was treated to a meal/snack each leg of each flight. The first leg on the way there and the second leg on the way back served a turkey sandwich, simple with lettuce on a whole-wheat roll. It also came with a bag of Fritos and a packet of M&Ms. The second leg on the way there was a delicious chicken pocket with three kinds of cheeses, peppers, and taco sauce. It came with chips, baby carrots, and a kit-kat bar. The morning flight on the way back was honey-nut chex, an apple muffin, and a box of raisins. The turkey sandwich was average. The chicken pocket was great (made by Stefano's, but apparently not sold in stores. I looked already), and carrots were a nice addition, but they were getting ready to turn, I think. The cereal was okay. The muffin was too crumbly.

Had a few small hiccups in traveling, but nothing major. I only had about 30 minutes to make my connection on the way there, but luckily it was just a few gates down. When I landed in San Jose, the strangest logistical thing happened: when you exit the airport to get picked up, the traffic goes to the left. In every other airport I've EVER been in, it goes to the right. So weird. On the way back, we land in Houston but there's no gate available, so we taxi around for about 20 extra minutes. Plus, my gate was in a different terminal, so I was hiking it. I was supposed to have over an hour, but between the taxi time and the travel time, I arrived at the gate as they began boarding economy. When we landed in Orlando, they took their time pulling up the jetway, but I wasn't in a super hurry by that point so it didn't really matter.

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Finding places, narrowing down places, looking at places, and making decisions on places is a lot of work. Especially when you're in an area that doesn't have a local website that lists everything out and allows filtering by certain qualifications (Tallahassee had this when my friend Heather and I were shopping for a place when we were in graduate school). And, since we weren't limited to a certain area in a single city (Sunnyvale, Mountain View, San Jose, and Santa Clara were all fair game), the numbers of places were staggering. Plus, add in the notion that we were looking for apartments OR houses for rent.

We made lists. We put pins on a map. We took notes. We drove around. Some places got eliminated just by driving by. We took tours of others. We called others. We made appointments. On and on and on.

Utilities were a factor - there are two different companies that handle electricity in that area, and one is cheaper than the other, but only available in the city of Santa Clara. Some places average your water bills by building, others measure it individually. Some places have shared water heaters and others have their own. Gas versus electric stoves were a factor, too. Air-conditioning was a factor, as it's not standard out there. Location and traffic were factors (we were hoping for something near a train station that would also allow Jonathan to avoid the major freeways to work). I also wanted someplace safe (areas of San Jose, in particular, are prone to break-ins and stolen cars) and clean (the apartment complex we liked the best when we toured ended up being riddled with bugs when we read reviews).

We had to have two bedrooms (or more). We had to have washer/dryer in-unit (although I started to compromise on this a little when things started looking bleak). We had to have a dishwasher (and there was no way I was compromising on that). We were pro-elevator if it was a higher floor, but that wasn't necessary, either (though people seemed to think we should have a definitive stance on this).

One of the main problems with apartments was that they wanted to push amenities we didn't really care about. Like pools (sure, they're nice, but not necessary), patios (um, if there's not enough space for a table and chairs, it's useless. and we certainly don't need two patios of useless size, either), hardwood floors (love 'em, but not a deal-breaker in any way) and fireplaces (yeah, it's nice. but it's California. We didn't turn the heat on at all when we lived there in January-February-March). And whenever you're asked what you're looking for, and we don't have a particular floor preference or care what direction we're facing or prefer a specific area within the building, they get surprised. Look, square footage of living space is our biggest priority. If you show me a bedroom I can't get both a bed and a dresser into, it's not going to work. If you show me a three-bedroom place that's UNDER 1000 square feet, it's not going to help. We'd also like a bathroom large enough where you can bend down to pick something off the floor, or perhaps be able to brush your teeth with the door open.

We narrowed down places more than anything else. And we've come up with decent back-ups, but we're both hoping that something better will work out. And it still may, as we have outstanding requests to see several more houses, which Jonathan will have to manage on his own (he saw one yesterday and was so thorough in his photos and video that I was able to recreate the floorplan and only had a single wall out of place). I'm rather shocked in general over how slow people are at getting back to you... it seems like some of these people aren't actually all that interested in renting, LoL. Or, perhaps they're overwhelmed with responses, but somehow I'm not getting that vibe. Similarly, you have to give a lot of information to take a tour (I guess so they can make sure they're not letting a felon case the joint), and we were expecting a bombardment of emails or phone calls in the days after, trying to make a sale. Not one person has contacted us, which is nice because I don't like pushy salespeople, but it's also bad, since it means they genuinely didn't care if we want to live there or not.

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