House hunting redux: belt and suspenders defeat Murphy

Magician Murphy is the wizard who makes things go wrong in Castle Roogna, the third book in Piers Anthony’s never-ending Xanth series.  The original Xanth trilogy (A Spell for Chameleon, The Source of Magic, and Castle Roogna) was really funny, and I’ve never forgotten either the scene with the curse-burrs, or Magician Murphy.  It’s my humble opinion that Anthony should have quit while he was ahead.  His bank account probably disagrees in the extreme.

Magician Murphy paid us an extended visit.  After five days of sitting on his decision, the owner of the first house we applied for decided not to have our four cats as tenants. Renting a house with four cats in tow is always an interesting proposition, but generally frowned upon, as my Brisbane property valuers friends told me afterward.  On the other hand, attempting to sell a house every 2.5 years in the past 10 years would have been equally dicey.  This is certainly a case where one’s mileage varies.

After fighting down the indignation and panic, Galen and I planned a second trip to Atlanta. I-75 is truly a boring stretch of highway, only equaled by I-65 and I-74 between Chicago and Cincinnati for repetitive nothingness. But for this residence-hunting trip, we decided to try the proverbial “belt and suspenders” approach that frequently works in IT.

We picked a real estate agent that covered the areas we wanted to live in and called them. We didn’t have a referral this time, we just guessed.  And, I called and emailed apartment complexes as a backup.  All the apartment complexes said “2 cat limit”, but one of the them referred me to a place called Promove that specializes in rental referrals in the Atlanta area.  I shamelessly used Promove to get a list of apartment complexes that would take us, and then visited houses.

We did finally get a house.  The real estate agent came through, and after driving up on Sunday, we signed a lease on Tuesday.  Also, I had found three apartments that would take us, two were good, and one was great.  We would have had a place to live, no matter what happened.  I would recommend Promove to anyone who was looking for an apartment in Atlanta (they also serve Dallas).  If I’d known about them sooner, I might have skipped a lot of the anguish and just gotten an apartment on our first trip.  We had used a similar service in Chicago (Apartment People) and after this experience I’m not sure that it’s not a better idea altogether for big cities.  The house we’re renting is way, way out in the suburbs.

I think we defeated Murphy by pursuing both options, a house and an apartment. First trip, we relied on getting the house, and it failed.  This time, I kept driving down both roads until one deal was completed.  Also drive as in literally, since I put 200 miles on the car.  And I am now eternally grateful my iPad has 3G–without the maps and GPS, I’d still be lost somewhere on I-285 in a perpetual loop around Atlanta!

And there’s one other thing.  Galen hasn’t seen the inside of the house we’re moving to.  The outside yes, the inside no. This will be… another adventure.

House hunting is not for sissies

Galen and I have moved 4 times in last 10 years.  This move will be our fifth.  And for anyone at the Evergreen Users Conference who has already heard a part of this saga, apologies in advance for the deja vu.  I’ll try to be funnier.

We have moved from Chicago to Anchorage to Tallahasse to Chicago to Gainesville and now, to Atlanta.  We keep saying this is an adventure.  Well, one classic definition of adventure usually involves something horrible and nasty happening to someone else, either long ago, far away, or both.  But it is an adventure.  The bad parts always make a great story–later.  Sometimes much, much later.

When you move to or from Alaska, you move by weight, not by volume.  I know it sounds like a bag of potato chips, but it’s true.  This is how I know we have nearly two tons of books, and we really need to get rid of some.  This is also how we decided, firmly and forever, that we hire movers to pack us.  Leaving Chicago, the first time out, we had a third floor walk up apartment.  Those movers earned their pay, getting all those books down those stairs.  The apartment was great, but getting stuff in and out was painful.

Anchorage was fantastic, but we learned a couple of lessons about living spaces that we’ve retained.  We really need a bath and a half if we can afford them.  And we learned not to share living space if we can afford not to.  The house was a two-flat, where the owner had split the house himself.  We lived on the main floor, and he and his wife lived below us.  They ran their dogs in the backyard.  The dogs served as an early warning system for the moose who used to come up from the creek, so we knew when to look out back to see the moose.  Very cool.  What was not cool was that we could hear their marriage break up.  Not doing that again.  When we moved out, we found boxes in the garage that we hadn’t unpacked from Chicago.  We mostly threw that stuff out, except for the huge jar of coins–that we went to dinner on.  We figured that if we hadn’t needed it in two and a half years, we didn’t.  We also learned that it’s a bad idea for us to have storage we can’t see.  We forget about it, and then it has babies or something.

When we moved from Anchorage to Tallahassee, we flew out of Anchorage with the cats, our suitcases, and nothing else.  We sold our car on the way out of Alaska because it cost 6 car payments to ship, and it just wasn’t worth it.  We hadn’t made a trip down to find a place, because there just wasn’t time.  Our stuff was six weeks behind us.  We stayed at a pet-friendly hotel, bought a car, and found a house to rent.  Then we camped out in our new house and waited for our stuff to arrive.  And waited.  And waited.  After a while, we got to like the minimalist lifestyle and were kind of hoping that the stuff would get permanently lost.

The second time around in Chicago we rented a coachhouse.  If you are not familiar with older city architorture, a coachhouse is what you get if you convert the garage into rental property.  So we had a little house behind the house.  What we didn’t have was a washer and dryer.  We shared with the house, which was a three-flat.  Four households sharing one washer and dryer does not happiness make.  So we’re not doing that again either.  But we love Chicago and miss the city.  Any chance to go back and visit is a good one.

In Gainesville we have a huge barn of a house.  We have more space than we need, because we rented the house to hold the books, and we still haven’t unpacked the end of the alphabet.  In, again, two point five years.

I spent a day and a half with an agent going around the northeast Atlanta suburbs searching for a 3 plus bedroom house with at least 1.5 baths that would willingly take us plus four cats.  The cats are usually the deal-breaker.  People don’t mind renting to two adults, even with two cats, but any number past two cats makes some landlords think we’ve lost our minds.  Which is possible, but that ship has already sailed.

House hunting is hard work, even if you are just renting.  I was dragged all over the place.  Half the houses that appeared to be available, were already under contract.  People didn’t call back.  Some looked okay in the picture, but were not okay in the “flesh”.  And it takes time, time, time.  Every place that didn’t pan out, I kept thinking “why isn’t this process more efficient”, but there’s no substitute for looking for yourself.  And, Murphy’s Law is in full force.  The house we made an offer on is the first one I looked at.  But I wouldn’t have known it was the best if I hadn’t seen second best, not to mention tenth best, which had the driveway leading up to Hades, and mustard yellow kitchen cabinets.