Friday, October 14, 2005

Apartment-hunting in Cary, house-hunting in the boonies

So let me tell you about the drama involved in Cary apartment hunting. People warned me about Cary, and I figured they were exaggerating or they had atypical experiences that turned them off to the town. I read about the incredibly tight restrictions and ordinances and the Stepford-like uniformity. But coming from Santa Clarita, I thought it would not be a problem for me. My rude awakening occurred the morning of our first full day in Cary. I went to the Woodway at Silverton apartments to look at the complex. I’d done some research online and this one had seemed ideal: they allowed pets, they provided a washer and dryer in the unit, the location was central, and the rent was reasonable. When I arrived, I was impressed by the grounds and the main office/clubhouse. I met Melanie, whom I’d chatted with on the phone a couple of times. She was familiar with my story: relocating from California, just arrived in town the previous day, looking for an apartment. She sat down with me to fill out an information card. When she asked who my employer was, I said I didn’t have one yet. She got up to make a phone call. She returned and said she’d spoken with her manager and due to the fact that I was unemployed, they were not going to be able to rent to me. I was immediately offended, because I consider myself an ideal tenant. I asked if they would accept cash in advance for the rent, and she said no. By now I was just appalled. How dare they judge me for not having a job yet; I’d just moved here and I’d chosen their town, their apartment complex, to give my perfectly good money to, and they had the nerve to turn me away. My father, being the ireful man he is, was ten times as irritated, or at least ten times more vocal about his irritation. He threatened a lawsuit for discrimination (typical Californian thing to do)...and the more I think about it, the more it does seem like discrimination. I mean, what if I were 65 and retired? Would they turn me away? That could definitely qualify as age discrimination. So what if I were 29 and retired? Or what if I just wanted to take a year off and live off savings? I understand policies, but every policy should be flexible, and things like this should be evaluated on a case by case basis. No, you don’t want a complex full of unemployed oafs who can’t make rent, but if the person can prove they have enough money to make rent, and even offers to pay cash in advance, there should not be a problem. Anyway, my response was, “Well fine then, I’ll just take my business elsewhere.” The lady tried to be nice. She said she had been in the same position four months prior when she had moved to the area. She said basically every complex in Cary would give me the same answer. She gave me the name of the complex she lived in at first, where apparently they don’t have a problem accepting unemployed tenants. But it's in Raleigh and I want (wanted?) to live in Cary.

Later that day I called around, and explained my situation. Every place I talked to was willing to work with me. They all said as long as I can show a bank statement proving I have enough money in the bank to pay the rent, they will let me sign a lease. One place (Brook Arbor) said I had to have three times the rent for three years (i.e., $87,000) in the bank, which I think is a tad on the extreme side. But I did find one complex (Avalon Peaks) with a more reasonable standard. Another issue I encountered at Woodway was they were going to want to see immunization records for Comet, which I do not have. He has not had shots since I adopted him six years ago. And yet another issue I was wringing my hands over was not having my Social Security card, which is packed in the POD--Brook Arbor required a copy of it with the rental application. I was told the way around this was to go to the Social Security office and apply for a replacement card; the office will give me a letter confirming I applied, and the management company would accept that letter in lieu of the card itself. What a hassle. Avalon Peaks said they could just verify my social through the credit check. The apartments at this third complex are HUGE (950 square feet) and have screened porches. The only snags are: the price, which is about $100 more a month than I wanted to spend; the gym, which is not as nice as the second apartment which had personal LCD TV’s at each piece of cardio equipment; and the rent does not include a washer and dryer in the unit. There are hookups, but I do not want to buy these appliances only to have to move them in six months. The second apartment is smaller, but it’s also cheaper, has a cooler gym, and comes with a washer and dryer. In terms of location, they’re pretty much equidistant from central Cary. Not that I should measure everything by Cary, of course. But I do not know where I will get a job, and that’s the most important measure. I’m torn between the second and third complexes; and then of course picking what floor to be on is also a difficult decision. First floor is easiest to move into and out of, but I will be hiring Home Depot guys again, so does that really matter? Second floor is more secure (I can leave my windows open and not worry) but winter is coming, so does that matter?

The other thing that's different here than in California is the security deposit issue. Here, you pay a pretty low security deposit, anywhere from $200 to $500 (compared to $1300 in my last apartment) but you have to pay really steep "application fees" and "administrative fees," totaling about $200 more (not refundable), and then there's the nonrefundable pet fee ($200) and the refundable pet deposit ($200). Some places also charge pet rent, usually $10 a month extra. Plus the premium if you sign a lease shorter than 12 months, which ranges from $100 to $40. And if the apartment does not include a washer and dryer, you can rent one for an extra $35/month. So your $599/month apartment can actually end up costing you $754/month and $1100 up front. Sheesh.

Yesterday and today I spent with my parents and their realtor, Kim Sands, going around to houses. Some of them are absolutely gorgeous! I wish I could upload pix using my laptop and my AOL dialup, because these places are awesome. Maybe tomorrow I can borrow my mom’s high speed connection. Anyway, they have narrowed it down, I think, to three houses, one in Wake Forest, one in Zebulon, and one in Pittsboro. All of them are pretty “far out,” but to get the acreage they want, they can’t be close to town. The Pittsboro house is not even finished yet, so they would get to pick things like countertops and light fixtures, etc. But it would not be ready until right before Thanksgiving, whereas the other two would be ready for move-in in 2-3 weeks, depending on how quickly the current occupants can get out. Buying a house is much quicker here in NC, especially since my parents are paying cash. Today at the unfinished house in Pittsboro, the builders had a fish fry and invited what appeared to be every crew member and resident in the area. They were all eating in what could become our future front yard and garage, and they were all parked in what could become our future driveway. It was kind of neat. And the food was yummy! After an exhausting day of driving all over God’s creation looking at houses, we had dinner at a place called Sushi-Thai, which serves both Japanese and Thai cuisine. I had my favorites, satay and spring rolls. Tasty.

Finding my way around Cary has been somewhat of a challenge. I have a pretty good map that the hotel gave me, and I also bought a spiral bound city map (kind of like the Thomas Guide, but it’s a Rand). But it’s hard to look things up on a map while you’re driving. The realtor has one of those navigation systems in her car, like the Hertz Neverlost that I had in the rental car when I first came to NC. It’s SO convenient. It got a little confused this afternoon, but otherwise was very helpful. I might have to look again into get one of those. A while ago I saw some on eBay for like $600.

Well, I think you’re finally up to date on everything. We don’t know what we’re doing this weekend. I know I have to shop for a bed, but we also might go to the state fair. They have duck racing and pig racing and deep fried snickers and stilt walkers and 100 rides and livestock shows and prize winning veggies and craft booths and it promises to be quite a fun event. We may put it off until next week though since Saturday and Sunday are of course going to be more crowded.

Oh, one final note about the weather. It was overcast and drizzly our first three days here but the sun finally broke through today and it was beautiful! Everything is so much greener in the sun!

1 comment:

  1. Apartment hunting can be a hassle many times as I used resources on the web to help me locate the perfect apartment. I hope you find a great apartment.