There have been plenty of controversial issues related to apartments over the past year: micro-housing, parking issues, height regulations, but the biggest issue of all is that I’m looking for one at the moment. That’s what matters most to me, and should be the top priority on your list, too.
My first question when looking always relates to the lease. I have an entirely irrational fear of signing year leases. They scare me! If I went to hell, it would only become painful if I was asked to sign a lease. Even yearlong prison terms aren’t as bad because you can possibly rehabilitate and get out of prison early, but getting out of a lease, that’s pretty tough. You’d likely have to kill the landlord, and then go to prison.
Nine month leases scare me a little less, followed by six month leases, three month leases, and the greatest thing of all: the month-to-month lease. Month to month are my three favorite words in the English language. They’re a wonderful thing to hear when you’re looking for an apartment, and probably not a great thing to hear when you have a disease. Like an adolescent or criminal, I need the ability to take off at any moment, to leave town and never turn back, only sending word to my friends with mysterious postcards containing brief, obscure messages. Man, that would be so cool! (Cool to me; no one else would care.)
Apartments should have single-night options to test out the place. So if there was a place that you were considering, you could pay a fee and get to stay in the apartment for the night just to see if you really liked it. Because visiting a place for 10 minutes or so can only tell you so much. Everyone and everything is somehow always on good behavior. The neighbors keep quiet, the bugs stay hidden, and the ghosts take the night off haunting, but all these things manage to return the moment you sign the lease. You can feel them all crowding around you as you sign.
Parking is obviously a concern when looking for places on Capitol Hill (real profound, Chason). You don’t want to have to pay for a spot, but you also don’t want to keep circling past your building, longingly staring at your apartment, with its food and bedding and wireless Internet (though my car has those things, too). Oh, you can almost reach it. But you can’t, and end up parking so far away that you sign a lease with the building next to your spot to shorten the walk.
The other day I was looking at a place that was perfect, except that there was absolutely nowhere to park, and I momentarily considered getting rid of my car. I stared at the apartment, then back at my car, which began flashing its headlights and crying motor oil. I chose the car, which is dumb, because it randomly flashes its headlights and leaks motor oil. What’s with that?
Views matter as well, though I once lived in a tall building with a great view and only remembered to look out of the window three or four times during my stay there. Half of those times I was looking for the pizza guy. The quality of a view really depends on what you want in a view. If you like brick walls, back alleys, and people staring back at you from their windows two inches away, then most views will suit you fine. I’ve never actually found my perfect version of a view. That would be a view where one window looks over a nice tree-lined park setting, and the adjacent window looks under the sea. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s what I want.
And let’s not forget sound. The problem with apartments is that they’re mostly next to each other, and not spaced out randomly over the land, like houses. Each of those apartments contain people living their lives, which is annoying in of itself, because when you hear people living their lives, it takes the attention off of your life, and it becomes hard to think of yourself as the center of the universe.
Whether it’s music, sex, sex music, musical sex (what?), or just steps, such sounds can make it hard to relax. The other day, while seeing a place, I said to the owner, “I’m going to do something weird right now,” and then placed my ear firmly against the wall to see how much sound would come through. I can only assume that the neighbor was doing the exact same thing, because I didn’t hear anything.
It’s truly a wonder that I haven’t found an apartment yet. Perhaps if I just scale back my expectations, and understand that I can’t control everything, a place will turn up.
I’ll hate it, though, that’s for certain.