There’s a lesson here, isn’t there?

Apartment hunting is some crazy business, let me tell you.

It’s particularly crazy since I just came on board this venture with a couple of fellow Interior Design majors, oh, two days ago or so. It happened sort of all at once: there I was in studio, minding my own business, not knowing what I’d be doing for housing next year, as long as it wasn’t the dorms, because enough already; the next thing I knew, there were phone calls to realtors and viewing appointments being made, “Well, it’s $475 per person per month, but that includes utilities” this and “Oh man, I’ve never even heard of that street” that. It was just so sudden, and the market here moves so fast (so, naturally, we’re trying to keep up), that I’ve spent the past couple of days wandering around muttering things like “Furnishings included, no pets” to no one in particular and having dreams about palatial, Pottery Barn-esque houses with jacuzzis in all the bathrooms.

(Ironically enough, I initially mistyped “no pets” as “no poets.” Hee.)

Needless to say, those dreams are a far cry from reality, as Shannon and Leah and I found out yesterday, when we met with a realtor from one of the off-campus housing companies for a few viewings. This realtor’s name was Norm. Norm was nice. Norm was a fairly normal (…I know, I know) guy. Norm didn’t seem to be trying to lure us poor college students into any traps. But Norm’s houses, the three of them we saw, were less than stellar. Let’s take a look:

House No. 1: House No. 1 was a medium-sized Victorian wanna-be with a slanting screen porch tacked onto the front. The street was pleasantly tree-lined, the house in decent (but not great) repair. There were nice hardwood floors, an awkwardly-placed potbelly stove in the living room, a nice kitchen, and great off-street parking. The bedrooms – one downstairs, four upstairs – were decently-size, except for The Teeny One, which would definitely generate some room-picking fights. Some furniture was included, sofas and beds and mismatched dressers and such, but most of it was a little shabby. Low ceilings upstairs. House No. 1 was pretty nice, in an older, student-living sort of way, but it was a bit small and we could probably do better.

House No. 2: Upon entering House No. 2, we discovered a biiig living room with a working fireplace, three ugly and very large sofas, and a freestanding bar (o…kay) that was currently serving as home for the occupants’ junk, like, hi, nice first impression. The eat-in kitchen was good-sized and bright, but the counters and floor were all peel-y in places and the range looked like it hadn’t seen the business end of a 409 bottle since the ’60s. The ceilings were high, even upstairs, and the bedrooms were all pretty evenly matched. One had an outdoor balcony, another a fireplace, another a bay window; all were attractive in some way. All things considered, House No. 2 was probably a lot better than House No. 1, and Shannon and Leah both liked it a lot, but…for some reason, I just wasn’t feelin’ it. I couldn’t tell you why, and I could probably handle living there just fine, but the spaces were…uninspiring. Plus, the house was on a corner lot and had very limited parking right on the street – in that neighborhood, that’s kind of asking for a midnight body job on your car. It was a mite farther away from campus than I would’ve liked, too, but still, it would seem pretty damn nice once we’d seen…

House No. 3: Well, yes, all of the porches in this neighborhood slope a little bit; that’s a matter of course when you’re dealing with older houses. But when you can strap on some kiddie skis and have a nice ride from your front door down to the lawn, it’s a little extreme, don’t you think? House No. 3 had such a slanty porch, and was, shall we say, less than enchanting in curb-appeal terms. And, unfortunately, the interior matched the exterior pretty well: the rooms were big, but dull in that half-hearted-’80s-remodel way, the kitchen was pretty useless, and the entire house was in a state of slow, paint-chipping decay. Also, it was currently inhabited by four messy, boozy guys, at least one of whom smoked. No, thanks.

So, all things considered, the general consensus was in favor of House No. 2 (although I still, inexplicably, had a sort of fondness for House No. 1), and Norm said he would email us copies of the lease, to look it over in case we were interested. We – Shannon and Leah and I – agreed, sort of, that we should probably act fairly quickly on the house if we wanted it. An appointment was made to see House No. 2 again on Saturday so we could bring Brenda this time.

But then, the lease was…a little sketchy. I obviously don’t know much about the legal matters involved in renting a house, but I’d sent it to Dad for him to look it over, and he brought up a number of good questions that Norm will have to answer before we sign. Also, we had an appointment – that only Shannon and I would be available to keep – for today, with a different realtor from a different company, to see House No. 4.

And oh, House No. 4.

House No. 4 is gorgeous from the sidewalk – well-proportioned, nice windows, recently painted. The front door has sidelights. There are hardwood floors, nicely maintained, and a beautiful oak staircase. With a stained-glass window, Arts-and-Crafts-movement style, at the landing. High ceilings, bay windows. The kitchen has a newish fridge and range, the one bedroom downstairs is absolutely massive, the bathroom upstairs brand-new. Everything is pretty clean, in good repair, and the included furniture actually matches. It’s nice stuff, too. One of the bedrooms upstairs is a bit small, but honestly, the rest of the house is so great that I probably wouldn’t mind getting stuck in it. Generous parking out back – well off the street – and the best part? The laundry machines in the basement are not coin-operated.

House No. 4 is a little more expensive, rent-wise, than Houses Nos. 1-3, but oh man is it ever worth it. Shannon and I, the whole time Judy was giving us the walkthrough, kept catching each other’s eye and grinning. There’s a floor-to-ceiling spice rack in the kitchen. There’s available summer storage in the attic. We’re in love with this house. It’s not perfect (it’s an old house, after all) – there are ceiling tiles in the living room, a few wonky doors here and there. But who cares? There’s a built-in dishwasher. We’re in love with this house.

The funny part is that we nearly canceled our appointment with Judy in order to move ahead on House No. 2.

I think you can imagine how glad I am we didn’t do that.

Nothing, of course, is settled yet – we have another appointment with Judy on Sunday to show Brenda the house and discuss things further, and we still have to jump through a few administrative hoops to get copies of the lease to show our parents and figure out how our fifth roommate, who is currently in Ireland, is going to sign and blah blah blah. But, knock on wood, maybe those Pottery Barn dreams don’t have to be too off-base after all.

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