Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In Which I Draw a Shaky Comparison Between Apartment Hunting and Dating

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: I’m moving. For the people who know me, this is nothing new (and no, I won’t ask you to help me move this time). In this most recent process I noticed something…apartment hunting is a lot like dating.

I spent hours trolling Craigslist and Padmapper for the perfect place that had all the things on my checklist, much like I used to hit up Match.com or OK Cupid looking for a guy who fit all the characteristics which I believed to be “my type.” Some of those ads are misleading at best and downright lying in the worst case. (In real estate speak, “charming” means “tiny,” just like a guy who claims to be six feet tall is actually barely 5’10” while wearing hiking boots.)

In the past month I’ve responded to nearly 40 ads for apartments. There were so many I had to create an Excel spreadsheet to keep them straight. Some never wrote back, for whatever reason, and you try not to take it personally. Some gave a curt “it’s already been rented” response (a.k.a. I already have a girlfriend) or said something to the tune of “absolutely no pets allowed (you crazy cat lady).” One even stood me up for our scheduled appointment, and then ignored all calls.

And then there were those that I went on the first date with. I lost count, but I think there were approximately 10 in the span of 3 weeks. The expectations were high for each, but I rejected most immediately for reasons both superficial and substantial – too small, unsafe neighborhood, a washer and dryer in the creepy basement where I’m pretty sure Saw was filmed, drop ceilings with fluorescent lighting panels, all-around ugly with no redeeming qualities.

Pictures don’t always tell the whole story either. It’s cause for suspicion when there are four pictures of the kitchen but none of the bedroom. Turns out it’s because the carpet is stained and there’s not a single closet in there. Why is that guy wearing sunglasses and a hat in every picture? That’s to hide the early signs of male pattern baldness and his beady rat eyes.

A couple places I liked and wanted to further the relationship with, but I was the one who got rejected. In one case, someone else swooped in and put in a rental application while I patiently waited for the second visit that the landlord promised. Then there was the house where the landlord decided to let her son live there instead of renting it out…ok, on second thought, that particular case is nothing like any dating scenario I’ve experienced, and I hope no one ever does.

My boyfriend, who will be living with me, has been a big help through this excruciating process. He’s been the one to ask a lot of the tough questions of the landlords. Like, “can you install a deadbolt on the front door,” “it looks like there’s some water damage here - what are you going to do about that?” and “is the rental price negotiable?” Much like a best friend will interrogate and ruthlessly judge your prospective significant other upon their first meeting.

On the other hand, he also tried to convince me to consider places outside of my rigid geographic boundaries. What about Federal Hill? Well, that place looks nice and has everything on my checklist except for the fact that it’s in FEDERAL HILL and I hate everything about that popped collar douchebag infested neighborhood. That would be like a friend setting me up on a blind date with a guy who is tall, has all his hair, and doesn’t smoke, but upon inspection of his iPod I discover he has purchased the entire Nickelback discography.

It only gets harder as you get older. In my early 20’s, I didn’t have a lot of requirements when it came to apartments or boyfriends. Is there a refrigerator? Is there a place to plug in my hair straightener? Can I have a cat? Check, check and check. Where do I sign? Hey, this guy has a pulse and most of his teeth! Let's get married!

As I stare down the creaky old age of 30, the conditions have to be just right, which means the process takes a lot longer than it used to. Last week I set an appointment at a house on a quiet street in the right neighborhood mere minutes after the ad went up on Craigslist. I liked what I saw and immediately put in an application, as the policy was first come, first served. That application was approved and I’m going to be moving to my fifth new place in seven years at the end of October. Here’s hoping for a long and happy relationship!