Guo: Little House on the Hill

by Clara Guo | 5/10/17 2:10am

About a month ago, my roommate Flora and I made the following list of must-haves and deal breakers for our future apartment:

(1) Price: Is the apartment in our price range? Are utilities included? How about other fees?

(2) Location: Is it walking distance from work or close to the T-stop?

(3) Laundry: Are there washers and dryers in the building?

(4) “True” two-bedroom: Does the apartment actually have two equally-sized bedrooms, or is it a one-bedroom flex?

(5) Miscellaneous: Does the apartment have natural lighting? How responsive is the landlord? Is there a nearby gym and grocery store? DOES IT HAVE A S--T BATHROOM? (Yes, we wrote this in all caps.)

Last week, Flora and I officially started apartment hunting. We scoured realtor websites and Craigslist for a two-bedroom within our price range, ideally located in Beacon Hill, Massachusetts.

After several hours, the apartments began to blend together. The prices were reasonable enough, the bedrooms big enough, the locations close enough. Everything was “enough,” but nothing stood out.

We sent an email requesting a showing for several apartments, only to realize that one realty company owned all three of the apartments we requested.

The response email read:

Good morning,

Thank you for contacting [insert realty company

name here]! What time tomorrow would you like to see this apartment for rent? Please answer the following questions, and I will plug them into our [sic] rental database and show you the listings that match your search criteria.

A total of 17 questions followed, ranging from straightforward requests for names and co-signers to more difficult queries on price cap and amenities. Flora and I found ourselves struggling to answer even the most basic of questions. We wondered, are heat and hot water normally included? We definitely shouldn’t hope for central air, but what if the building doesn’t allow residents to install window units? Should our price cap include all utilities and other fees? Do “other fees” encompass anything besides a broker fee and cable/internet? Is cable/internet even an “other fee” we should be considering? Are we “students?” Right now, yes, but in a month (knock on wood), we won’t be. Should we answer “n/a”?

In five hours, we had confirmed a date and time for the showing and received application instructions. “Please bring your checkbook,” the email advised, “in case you want to apply after seeing our apartments.”

My immediate reaction: Who in the world would apply to an apartment immediately after seeing it?

My delayed reaction: Probably someone who has seen many apartments and understands the fickle nature of the Boston housing market.

My delayed, delayed reaction: What if all these apartments are off the market in the next week and a half? Is the turnover for Boston housing that fast?

Apparently so.

Fast forward a few days. I bussed down to Boston on Friday for a New Hire event and spent the morning apartment hunting with a different realty company. Here’s what I saw:

Apartment 1: Pros: Great location, with only a 23-minute walk to work and a four-minute walk to the Red line. Cons: No laundry in the building, and no heat included.

Apartment 2: Pros: Laundry in the building (two washers and one dryer), heat included and lots of windows. Cons: Third floor walkup with a poorly designed bathroom mirror.

Apartment 3: Pros: Spacious and cheaper than alternatives. Cons: Bad location (45-minute walk to work!), no laundry in the building and general old, worn-down vibe.

A part of me wondered if I was focusing on the important attributes. What if I was missing something essential?

That morning, I sent Flora photos of each apartment and my handwritten list of pros and cons. When the showings were over, I called her.

“Thoughts?” she asked.

“Love apartment 2. Definitely not apartment 3,” I responded. “Apartment 1 is fine. But no laundry or heat, and layout, in my opinion, is worse than 2.”

“Yeah, I just want to have the option to do laundry at, like, 4 a.m., y’know?” Flora said. “Not that I’ll ever actually do laundry at 4 a.m., but options are important.”

“Agreed.”

We paused.

“Should we apply?” I asked.

Flora wavered. “I think so.”

“But you haven’t actually seen the apartment. What if you hate it?”

“I literally didn’t see either of the two places I lived in during my internships until I moved in,” Flora countered. “If you like it, I’ll like it.”

We hung up, 90 percent sure that we should apply, 70 percent sure that we actually would.

On Monday night, Flora and I grabbed Collis dinner to go and sat on my bedroom floor, scanning the Beacon Hill area with Google Maps satellite view. We imagined our weekends spent at the nearby art gallery and pool (the latter of which we will most likely not have access to).

We contended with our fear of commitment before finally deciding that, yes, we should and would like to apply for the apartment.

As of Monday at 11:30 p.m., our bank accounts are drained, but our spirits are high.