Out of the ten or so apartments we've looked at, three have risen to the top as contenders. They each have their pros and cons, and I'm starting to feel like I'm on an episode of the HGTV show "House Hunters." I guess it's nice to have options, and if one of those three were to call today and say that they're already taken, it wouldn't be the end of the world.
Coming from Jersey City, space was very tight. We had a 600 square foot apartment that was packed to the ceiling with stuff. I felt like we could never really clean up and put everything away so that our apartment looked really tidy because we just didn't have enough space. I think this added to a feeling of unhappiness in our home. It was frustrating and we always talked about moving to a bigger apartment. I hoped the move to Seattle would satisfy that desire. We definitely need either more space or less stuff (or both!).
Another concern I have, that I didn't have in Jersey City, is having enough space to allow guests to stay over. Being far from "home" and our friends, I think it would be nice to be able to say to any of our friends "Come any time! We've got plenty of space!" and mean it. Maybe this is something I shouldn't be so concerned about. Even if we had one guest per month, for three nights, is it worth, for example, $300-400 per month to have a spare bedroom? For the same cost, we could put our friends up in a nearby hotel and the months we don't have visitors we could use that money on something else. I don't know.
One nice thing is that all of the places we've looked at have their own laundry in the actual unit. I feel like this will make it so much more convenient to do laundry and save us money.
One thing that no Seattle apartments or homes seem to have is air conditioning. I'm curious to see how it is in the summer, but we've asked about it, and the answer we usually get is that it's not worth installing air conditioning for the one or two hot weeks per year. We've also been told that there's always a nice breeze in the summer, so I guess if you live somewhere quiet enough and safe enough to sleep with your window open, you should be ok.
They would all allow a dog. (I don't have a dog yet but I'd like to adopt one once we find a place to live.) They all have size or breed restrictions (I'm amazed that no place here allows pit bulls whatsoever) and additional deposits.
Here are the three contenders along with what I see as the pros and cons.
1. Condo in Columbia City - 2 bedroom, 1 bath
This is an individual owner of a condo (not a management company) looking to rent out his place because he's buying a house nearby. It's a little under our budget which means, yay, a little extra discretionary funds. The location is pretty cool - it's just a little off a main street that has cool shops, bars and restaurants and there would be a lot to walk to and do. Columbia City is definitely an up-and-coming neighborhood that has been highly ranked as a "best neighborhood" for a few years now. The condo is very nicely maintained. And I think the owner would be easy to get along with and he cares about the condo a lot. It has a washer/dryer in the unit and it has a separate large storage unit which could be nice for storing bikes and off-season stuff. It has a nice little balcony (overlooking the parking lot) that you could have some outdoor furniture and a grill on. The landlord said that all of the other tenants are really friendly, they all know each other, so that could be nice for helping us make friends and meet people. It's on a top floor, so there's no one over you. The landlord said he never really hears his neighbors. The utilities are really low. There is a parking spot included.
The downside is that it's kind of small. I think that once all our stuff is in this place, space is going to be tight. And I'd like to have more space. That's probably the only downside. That, and I think the neighborhood is a little sketchy a few blocks in either direction, but you're going to get that in a city I guess.
2. House in Ballard - 2 bedroom, 1 bath
This is a whole free standing house! With a backyard! And a fireplace! And a full basement! And we like Ballard, it's one of the key neighborhoods we're interested in. I like that it's an individual house, no stomping coming from the ceiling or hearing the neighbors.
It's on a residential block, but there were a couple of little cafes a block or two away.
The house itself is older, maybe a little outdated, I would guess that there are 50 coats of paint in the kitchen, but I think that once you move everything in and decorate, that will be less noticeable.
It uses oil heat - which I think is going to cost us more in the long run. That is something I have to look into more.
As for the price, it's a little over our target price, but not by much. The main floor of the house isn't particularly huge, but we'd have a lot of extra storage space in the basement, which I think would make up for it. There is a bus line right in front of the house, the commute is about 30-40 minutes on one bus directly downtown. There's a little driveway that maybe we could park in, but the woman who was showing the place seemed confused as to whether it was for us to use or for the neighbor to use. Either way, it was very easy to park on the street in front of the house.
3. Fancy building in Belltown - 2 bedroom, 2 bath
This is an apartment in a fancy building. When I say fancy, I mean that the building has a pool, a fitness center, and a hot tub, and a resident lounge with a 90 inch flat screen TV.
The apartment is huge, with two large bedrooms and a walk in closet. I would definitely feel like we have plenty of room to entertain and to have overnight guests.
It's great. The front office will sign for packages and it seemed like a lot of people there were having their groceries delivered by Amazon Fresh.
Belltown is kind of a downtown neighborhood in Seattle. We could walk to a lot of cool things, including Pike Place Market, and my glassblowing studio. There are a lot of cool restaurants and bars, but there's also a few homeless guys hanging out on the corner. My best guess is that they're harmless but it might be an issue walking a dog late at night.
Another potential issue is that the side of building this unit is on faces a large firehouse. So far, Seattle has seemed pretty quiet to me, I haven't heard many sirens or anything, but I can definitely imagine that being an issue.
The final con with this place is the price. It's really over our budget, but we could make it work if we gave up a lot of other fun things.
By nature, I'm someone who would rather spend the least and have the extra money leftover to save toward buying a home or to have in case of an emergency. I'm not one to splurge. So it would be really against my nature to choose the fancy building and really in my nature to choose the condo. I also feel like we're pretty good at making a small space work, and that over the next year or so, that extra few hundred dollars per month could go pretty far in allowing us to pay for other fun out-of-the-home things like sightseeing within Washington and the surrounding areas. I definitely want to do some of the touristy Seattle things like museums and I know Jon loves to go to sporting events. We've talked about doing a weekend in the wine region, maybe going to Vancouver or Portland, and checking out some national parks this summer. I'll feel better doing that knowing we're not breaking the budget.
So, condo it is? Maybe. We've got a few more place to look at this week, but that is the way I'm leaning right now.