Monday, October 3, 2011

House Hunters

When I was younger, one of my favorite activities, to kill the time, was looking at real estate every Sunday in The Tribune, the local newspaper in San Luis Obispo. As the years passed, house hunting became a more electronic affair. Now, instead of using newspapers and magazines, most people first turn to the internet to begin their tedious search for their dream home. Over the past several years, Craigslist has become my go-to site for everything from searching for rental properties, to selling my first car. Over the past 2 months, however, I've been using everything from Craigslist to Padmapper to in my search for a new rental. I was not looking for a place to live for myself, but rather for my boyfriend.

It all began approximately 6 months ago when Alexey got his new job in San Mateo. At the time, he was still living in Sunnyvale, so his regular commute was around 30 minutes. In traffic, however, this commute could be escalated to 1 hour in the worst conditions. During the time of Alexey's job relocation, we toyed with the idea of him living in San Francisco because it was his dream to live in a real city. A group that consisted of himself along with around 3 or 4 others all decided that the most economical way to live in the city would be to rent a large house for all of them to live together. We looked at a few options together, but quickly realized that it would be unrealistic to live comfortably with a house full of 5 people where 2-3 people would each share a bathroom. I have to admit, I also did not like the idea of having to share "my" kitchen with others, even if they were not around much.

The idea of San Francisco had not faded completely for Alexey, however. He was determined to live in the city, but this time he tried to find a house with just one or two other roommates. Alexey posted several notices on Facebook and other forums where Russians in the SF Bay area could see his request for roommates. A few people responded, but, due to their price limitations, nothing was finalized.

Alyoshka and I decided that the most reasonable way for him to live in the city would be to find a studio or one-bedroom apartment, on his own, for a temporary lease option. We looked at a few options, but quickly realized what living in San Francisco actually meant:
extremely high rent, very low quality apartments (no washer/dryer, old appliances, terrible sound insulation, etc.), no parking, constant traffic, and extremely windy, cold weather. At one point, we even figured out that every time we spent a whole day in the city, Alexey would come down with some sort of sickness 2 days later! The deal breaker, however, was the commute.

When Alexey's lease for his Sunnyvale apartment expired in July, his only option was to move in with me, temporarily. At this point, he decided to wait for his future Russian coworkers to join his company so that they could get a house together in S.F. or on the peninsula, near his office. For the past 2 months, however, Alexey has been living with me and commuting from Santa Clara to San Mateo every morning and evening. From Santa Clara, the traffic doubled, which occasionally made his commute time over 1 hour, 1 way.

After driving in traffic for one hour every night, Alyoshka would walk into our home looking like a miserable, beaten dog. After I would greet him with a hug, a kiss, and a whiff of the dinner I was cooking for him, he would promptly go upstairs to our room and collapse on the bed until he could drag his corpse back to life again 10-30 minutes later. This routine has been going on since August and we are both completely exhausted. It did not take Alexey long to realize that if he lived in San Francisco, his commute could potentially be worse and that was absolutely no way to waste a life.

After ruling out San Francisco, we were really able to narrow down our search options. We were looking for a 2-4 bedroom, 2+ bath, single family home in San Mateo, Foster City, Belmont, Burlingame, San Carlos, or Redwood City. We also wanted a home on a quiet street (not near Cal Train, the S.F. International Airport, orHighway 101), with a washer and dryer, a private backyard, and nice kitchen.

With two families, we needed at least two large bedrooms in the house since Alexander would be living in one room with his wife and Alexey would be living in the other with his king-size bed. Although this seems like a simple request, it is very difficult to find a single family home that has more than one bedroom suitable for a king bed.

Another problem that we constantly ran into was the fact that there was not enough insulation between the two main bedroom walls (i.e. a bathroom, closets, or even an entire other bedroom). I'm not sure what sort of geniuses designed the homes on the peninsula, but they clearly did not plan to have any possible situations where people actually like things to be silent when they sleep.

After looking at approximately 10 "disaster" homes, we finally found one that fit our needs and our budget. A 4 bed, 2 bath home located in Foster City across from an adorable, quiet, neighborhood park. We happened upon this house by randomly walking by as we were in the neighborhood to see another home just one block over. The owner was working on the home when we first saw it and he had just put up a huge "For Rent" sign on the fence to the backyard. The house was immaculate, and it was clear that the owner truly knew what he was doing when he updated the bathrooms and kitchen. After talking with him, he decidedly liked us and we agreed on a lower rent than his asking price of $3,700. We could not, however, make a final decision until speaking with Alexander and Tatiana.

Last Friday, Alexander, Tatiana and Dmitry all arrived in San Mateo. We took them out to a Cuban tapas restaurant in San Mateo, called Cha Cha Cha, where we discussed our plans for our Saturday house hunt. We agreed to meet in the morning to view several houses together and discuss requirements and terms.

The next morning, we only had 3 house appointments, but we were still hopeful because our house on Boothbay (the perfect 4bd/2ba had agreed to give us a second tour. Alexey's coworker and his wife did not seem too impressed with any of the houses we looked at, and, after a long discussion that night, we were not optimistic for the outcome of their decision. In the end, they decided that it would be best if they found an apartment on their own.

On Sunday, Alexey and I felt so pessimistic about all of the wasted time we had spent looking at houses, but we knew we still had to find something. In an ideal situation, we would have found a townhouse or a duplex on a quiet street, not far from his work. We wanted to have at least 2 bedrooms so that he could have a place for guests and extra storage, but we knew that some of these luxuries would have to be tossed.

After looking at one apartment, then feeling turned off by another possibility, we decided to try the apartment complex located just steps away from his office. We asked for a 1 bed/1 bath and, to our luck, they had one available on the top floor in a quiet, sunny location. On our way to view the unit, I was turned off by the long walk through the outdoor corriders to get to Alexey's new potential living space. When we entered, however, I was so relieved by the vaulted ceilings and windows covering every wall, allowing sunlight to pour in. The kitchen appeared to be quite large, with lots of storage. Next to the kitchen sat a generous sized, private dining area with one window to allow natural light. The living room was a reasonable size with a beautiful fireplace and deck sitting just outside a large sliding glass door and overlooking a quiet courtyard. I'm not sure if it was the roomy, cheery apartment, or the friendly girl who showed us the unit, but after seeing this apartment I knew that was where Alexey should live.

We discussed our concerns and our delights for only about 3 minutes before deciding that we should just go for it. In a matter of minutes, Alexey's commute went from 1 hour driving, to 1 minute walking!

I'm devastated to lose my boyfriend to distance again, but I'm happy to have a normal schedule again and I'm so excited for Alyoshka's quality of life to improve. Although I won't be able to cuddle with him as much, I'm looking forward to staying with Lyosha at least 2-4 nights a week in his new home.

In the weeks to come, we will be busy buying a new couch, dining table set, a tv, and maybe even some art :) Let the decorating begin!


alskor said...

nice post, Julz. :) minor update: my daily commute it 5 minutes walking.

BWB said...

triller... :)

BWB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie said...

5 minutes?!?! Oh the horror! You poor thing... :P