moving!

Feb. 9th, 2014 10:00 am
adrian_turtle: (Default)
Many of you have heard me complain about this apartment. It's gorgeous. It's huge. I have been very, very, lucky in my housemates. What's the catch? Mostly, the catch is the landlord. I would also like to be closer to a supermarket and to buses that run frequently and reliably towards places where rich high school students might want tutoring. Thus I am planning a move from Somerville back to Arlington.

I am getting professional movers, because I have the kind of furniture that needs to be moved by weightlifters and cursing. But they are expensive, so I'd like to minimize the time I need them to work. I've also discovered it's very inconvenient to move even a few miles without a car to fetch empty boxes, or take fragile things to the new place. And I'm starting to feel dubious about my ability to pack everything with the body I have available.*

Do any of you wonderful local people have time in the next few weeks when you could help? Boxes you could bring, or rides you could give, or an hour you could spend helping me pack?


*The bodies I have available. Redbird is visiting for the week, but she has a hand injury and I don't want to make that worse. (This is nominally the same problem I had 15 years ago, that transformed into complex disabling chronic pain through overuse, reinjury, mismanagement, and spectacular bad luck.) So she can't do very much, and I am terrified of having her do anything at all.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
When I moved into this apartment, I paid first and last month's rent to the landlord, and a realtor fee equal to another month of rent. ("Is there a security deposit?" "No, this landlord just wants first and last month's rent.") As February will be my last month living here, I thought February rent had been pre-paid.

The landlord just turned up demanding rent. In the world as he understands it, "last month's rent" can be re-imbursed after the tenant returns a clean apartment with no nicks or scratches. But only an irresponsible idiot would take it as any kind of license to not pay. *eyeroll*

I'm looking for a new apartment, and concerned about this guy being a reference for future landlords. Even though the most critical information he is likely to give a future landlord is that I can be bullied.

shhh

Jan. 7th, 2014 08:50 pm
adrian_turtle: (Default)
I've learned to ask about noise when I check out a possible apartment. I lived in a thin-walled apartment building on Mass Ave, across the street from a high school, for 10 years, and I didn't think the noise was that much of a problem. Sure, it was annoying sometimes. But I didn't realize how much it had been bothering me until I moved to a quieter neighborhood. My blood pressure dropped abruptly, and stayed down, even when I was having a lot of trouble with the move or the landlord or other related problems.

Maybe it's living in Somerville, or having a housemate, or something else unrelated to traffic noise. I joked with my doctor that she should recommend Somerville to all her patients with high blood pressure. I can't afford to have "quiet" be anything like a deal-breaker. But I do ask if a place is quiet, or what the noise is like around here.

"Oh, this is an old building, so the walls are very thick--it's very quiet."
"It's an old building, so of course we can hear the neighbors moving around, but they aren't real noisy."
"I only practice the violin between noon and 10pm."
"This isn't a neighborhood with a lot of parties...the cops only get called 4, maybe 5 times a year."
"We're a couple of blocks away from [main road], so we only hear the fire engines, not the regular traffic. But the fire station is right on the corner."

The one about the police really surprised me. I mean, it's a useful answer. It just wasn't quite the kind of answer I was expecting.

housemate

Aug. 29th, 2013 09:56 pm
adrian_turtle: (Default)
Once upon a time, the University of Michigan asked 3 lifestyle* questions to match roommates.
Do you smoke?
Do you like to sleep with the window open or closed?**
Do you like raw or cooked carrots?***

The last question was either a subtle psychological attempt to predict SOMETHING, or it was a ploy to make new roommates feel they had something in common, rolling their eyes together at the absurdities of the university housing office.

I don't know how well it worked, overall. (My mother roomed with her twin sister, and they found one another exactly as annoying as they expected.) I just thought of it a lot, when I was wondering what to ask potential housemates. And what to ask the people they gave as references. There were some nerve-wracking false starts.

I finally found somebody just before going out of town last week. He's an academic, living away from his family for a year or so while he does a post-doc. I don't know him very well--I can't know him very well, on such short acquaintance, but I felt comfortable with the guy. He's taking over the second half of the lease from Sovay, and I really hope it goes well.

*It's amazing how many aspects of lifestyle one person might consider significant and another consider trivial. What time do you like to shower? Do you whistle? (CAN you whistle?)

**This was a great way for the housing office to prevent roommate conflict for 6 weeks. Then the roommate from a warm climate realizes those last few words of "with the window open, unless it's freezing outside," might not go without saying.

***I used to think the only options for carrots were "raw" and "cooked," but then I discovered pickled carrots. I recommend these: http://www.realpickles.com/products_carrot.html
adrian_turtle: (Default)
I'm looking for somebody to share an enormous apartment on Winter Hill, starting in September. (My housemate is going to move in with her fiance, so we need a subletter to take over the last 6 months of the lease.) The place has a big sunny living room, and an eat-in kitchen with gas stove. We have a washer and dryer (not coin-op) in the basement. When we first moved in, we assured the landlord that neither of us had any interest at all in offstreet parking...we might try to renegotiate that if you have a car. I walk from Davis Square all the time, but for less enthusiastic walkers it's close to the #80, #88, #89, #90, and #101 buses. Only 2-3 minutes walk to the #80 or #89.

The space you'd be subletting is a 10 x 12' bedroom with a standard closet, plus a smaller (9 x 10') room you might use as an office, study, or craft room. The landlord wants this to be a home for 2 people, not 3, so this might be a good place for somebody with a lot of bookcases. Rent is $975 for both, plus half the utilities.

I'm a bookish introvert who spends a fair amount of time at home, not necessarily being sociable. I'm looking for a housemate who doesn't think sitting on the couch reading a book is code for "I'm lonely and would like to have a conversation." (I do like having conversations sometimes, though. If you like that sort of thing.) I need to keep video and many perfumes out of common spaces. The apartment is and needs to remain smoke and alcohol free, pet free, queer-friendly, poly-friendly, and kink-friendly. If it seems like your kind of place, contact me at adrian_turtle@hotmail.com and we can discuss details.

(ETA: There is some flexibility in the rent, if the situation looks great otherwise.)
adrian_turtle: (Dracomir)
For somebody who likes stability so much, my living situation seems to be changing an awful lot this year. As you know, I moved in with Sovay this winter, after searching for an apartment in a frantic hurry. The place is gorgeous and I love Somerville and Sovay is a great housemate...but she wants to move in with her fiance quite soon. Thus I need to find somebody to rent half the apartment for half the term of the lease.

As you were so helpful in finding me a housemate in February, I'm hoping one of you can help me find another. For locals, I live on Winter Hill. For people whose friends or relations might be spending a semester near Boston, I'm walking distance to Tufts and have good bus connections to the Red, Orange, and Green lines (which get you to downtown and most universities.) Please, if you know somebody who you think might be a good fit for this, let us know.

I'll put a detailed description in the next post, for convenient linking. Right now I'm sort of hoping for sympathy and advice, if anybody has some to spare.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
I learned how to use a broiler when I had an electric stove. I had cooked for decades without any broiling at all, and still don't feel comfortable broiling meat. But I liked using it for toast or eggy things. I especially liked being able to leave the oven door open a little and peek at the top of the food to see how done it was.

This apartment has a gas stove with the broiler in a drawer under the oven. (I don't know if all gas stoves have that kind of broiler arrangement.) Because it's an unfamiliar stove, I expect to do some fumbling around getting used to how long things take. Just like I had to learn this oven's idea of 375 degrees F is a bit hotter than my Arlington oven's. I don't have a problem with that. I'm annoyed that there doesn't seem to be a way to adjust the vertical distance from the heat, but I can be ok with that too.

What bothers me is that it's so painful for me to move the drawer in and out. I can't tell if this is a problem with my body or with the stove. Either way, it makes it extremely difficult to adjust timing. I can't watch the food while it cooks, because the drawer has to slide in to put the food under the heat. I'd like to slide it out frequently to check for doneness, and that's a horrible strain, even when I'm sitting on the floor so I can pull straight out without twisting. (And so I can peek at the food with minimal sliding out.) It's painful enough that I've been choosing not to cook foods that would need broiling.

Is this a solved problem? Is there some kind of lube that makes broiler drawers slide easily, and doesn't catch fire? Or is it just common knowledge that moving a broiler drawer requires a nontrivial amount of arm strength and a few healthy joints, like lifting a full stockpot or putting a turkey in the oven?

ETA: The stove is new to the apartment, but not "new" in the usual sense. (There were a lot of renovations before we moved in.) The drawer rails don't seem to be bent or damaged, but it's hard to know for sure. I slid the broiler drawer out as far as possible without lifting, and the rails weren't obviously distorted.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
I still love Somerville. The more I explore this side of Somerville--Magoun Square, Winter Hill, east of the main library--the more I find to like about the place. For more than a week, I was even feeling thrilled with the heroic building inspectors of Somerville, as well as the parks and libraries and interesting little shops.

A few days after we moved into this gorgeous apartment, we discovered the windows didn't quite close. When we called the landlord, he acknowledged there was a problem with 2 windows, and said he was planning to have those fixed in a few weeks. As you may know, Somerville is in New England, where the end of March is still awfully cold. Thus we called the city, and they sent out The Heroic Building Inspector to have a look.

the story of the Heroic Building Inspector, the Mean Landlord, and the Cold Apartment )

It wasn't that simple. I'm afraid it's never that simple. The landlord was willing to replace 2 windows because they didn't open properly. Sovay and I considered those a nuisance--with 16 windows in the apartment, it's not that big of a deal to just leave a couple of them closed. But 14 windows that don't close tightly are a serious problem, and the landlord really doesn't want to fix those. I can understand why...it's an expensive project. But sometime expensive repairs are part of owning rental property.

the story of documenting repairs, building permits, and Non-Heroic Building Inspectors )

I am so very discouraged. The Notice of Violation was written up by the Heroic Building Inspector, and I think that still exists. Technically. But 2 out of 3 building inspectors think there's no violation, so I'm afraid it's going to evaporate any minute now. And thus we will have no excuse for withholding rent, demanding further repairs, or breaking the lease.
adrian_turtle: (Dracomir)
Sovay and I are going through our apartment. We want to have a list of our concerns before the housing inspector turns up. So the inspector doesn't look at the terrifying windows, then go away without seeing the dubious back door. When we actually sit down with the building code, there turns out to be a LOT of dubious around here.

At least we don't have raccoons. Or squirrels. Or daleks. (We're on the second floor. I suppose we'd be safe from daleks no matter how incompetent the builders were.) It seemed so nice when we signed the lease last month. And even when we moved in, earlier this month. But now winter is coming INSIDE. The newly-installed windows don't close, in part because the window frames are set into the wall with mind-boggling ineptitude.

It's so very frustrating. We never thought about the doorposts of the house (except in thinking about mezuzot, obviously), and now it turns out Sovay can pry some of them loose with her fingers. That's just wrong.

I believe the landlord had the whole apartment gutted after damage from the previous tenants, and rebuilt with a somewhat different floor plan. That's why I have such a big bedroom with a walk-in closet and six windows. And why the kitchen was completely refurbished. We walked through in February while they were laying the new floor, and thought all the renovations would have that level of craftsmanship. The windows don't even meet code! (I called the landlord when I noticed. The installer had told him about the problem with a couple of the windows, and he had planned to replace them in a few weeks. That was when I asked the city how they dealt with building code violations--they're sending an inspector sometime this week.) I'm torn between wanting to keep a good relationship with the landlord and wanting to push him as hard as necessary to make him repair this [obscenity] properly and fast.

Getting the repairs done properly is a big deal. One thing I'm afraid of is that the landlord will say he'll make the repairs, and then just wrap some absurd amount of weatherstripping around the windows, so it looks kind of marginally ok until the next bad storm. I don't know if the landlord was taken advantage of by a wildly incompetent window-installer or an incompetent/dishonest building-inspector. (Do these things even get inspected?) Or if the landlord knew perfectly well what was going on, and did it that way on purpose.

I don't want to move again. I want to live in the apartment I thought we had found, if it can be made to exist. Meanwhile, I'm cold and scared.
adrian_turtle: (love-turtle)
When Sovay and I were looking at possible apartments, one thing we insisted on was laundry on the premises. It could be a hookup for our own machines, or coin-operated machines in the basement, but "a laundromat is very nearby, just around the corner" just wasn't good enough. I wasn't surprised that some otherwise-nice apartments happened not to have washing machines. Buildings don't have such things unless/until somebody gets around to installing them, and an owner might not bother with a laundromat right around the corner.

I was surprised to learn that some owners object to the whole idea of having washing machines in their rental property. When we asked how much trouble it would be to install a hookup in an otherwise-appealing property, wondering if we could pay for a minor improvement to the place and solve the problem that way, the realtor explained. That landlord owns several buildings and feels strongly about not having washing machines in any of them. One of his tenants once did too much laundry, and ran the water bill up, and he's never letting that happen again. (So there, apparently.) According to the realtor, he's far from the only landlord with that kind of categorical objection to washing machines.

It was a different realtor who found us the Somerville apartment we're moving into now. We looked at the place when the realtor was uncertain about the laundry situation, and said we'd be interested IF there was laundry in the building. So the realtor went off to phone the landlord* and negotiate. According to the realtor, the landlord was reluctant to put in washing machines, because he was concerned that a couple of girls would do too much laundry. (This is the same realtor who had been telling the landlord, minutes earlier, that we were good girls who would be very clean tenants. Go figure.) The realtor assured him we weren't that kind of girls--that we were very responsible, and would share rather than each insisting on washing her own laundry.

I don't know how much of this sexist nonsense came from the landlord's actual concerns, and how much came from the realtor's own ideas. In any case, the landlord agreed to let us have a washing machine in the basement, and we decided to rent the apartment. (And I am about to do vast quantities of laundry, because linens get dirty when you wrap them around fragile stuff for packing.)

Because I thought it was a funny story, I told it to my mother on the phone. "He wants clean tenants, but not TOO clean." And I added, "And he really did call us 'good girls' and 'responsible girls,' even though I'm 44 and overdue to dye my hair." She said, "Back when I was young, some places used to say they didn't want to rent to women because they'd run up the water bill washing their hair. That was silly because so many women have short hair..." That was when I started laughing. I didn't disagree with the point she was trying to make, that landlords should not be allowed to refuse to rent to somebody just because she's female. It's just funny to think the realtor might not have noticed our hair** (neither of us had it pinned up when we were apartment hunting.) It's possible that he just saw enough clues to fit us into his pattern of "respectable girls, not students, not a married couple," and then he stopped seeing us...he just saw his own expectations every time he looked towards us.

I haven't measured, but I suspect washing my hair does use more water than washing my clothes in a modern high-efficiency washing machine. (Though not, of course, than washing my clothes by hand in the sink. I do a lot of that when it's hard for me to get to a washing machine.) If the landlord was really concerned about the water bill, he would have put a coin-operated*** washing machine in the basement rather than trying to have the realtor judge by eye who would do an appropriate amount of washing.


*This is one of many things that annoy me about the modern business of renting apartments. The realtor insists on being a go-between for all communication with the landlord, even where direct communication would be much more helpful.

**Most of you have seen me, and know my hair is moderately long. Sovay's is quite a bit longer.

***Or card reader, so they don't have to send somebody to empty out the coins. When my current landlord raised the cost of the coin-operated washing machines, the coin boxes had to be emptied so much more often I suspect they are not actually making more money.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
The apartment seemed pretty good from the description, so we asked the realtor to show it to us. The location wasn't great, but it was ok--both of us like long walks. The size wasn't great, but it was ok--we could manage with just one couch, and I'm sure we could build shelves all the way to the ceiling. And there was nothing really drastically wrong with it. No impossibly narrow doors. No rotting floorboards. But there was nothing really right about it either. I looked around the place and hoped we could find better.

Sovay drew me aside and murmured, "It's big enough, and the layout isn't horrible, but it smells wrong to me. Not smoke, but..." All right then. Cross that one off the list. She seemed embarrassed about rejecting an apparently-good apartment for such an inexplicable reason, but there's no need to explain "smells wrong" to me. I get it. I'm usually the one waving my hands helplessly and feeling defensive because I can't explain it to other people.

We got back in the realtor's car to drive away from the apartment, and he asked what we thought of the place.
A: "It's very nice, but I think we need to keep looking."
R: "I don't think you're going to find anything bigger in your price range. Not that close to the T."
S: "The size is fine. Really. We just don't think it's quite right for us."
R: "Why don't you want it?
Ok. I guess that's part of his job as a salesman. Finding alternatives when we don't like something.

A: "Do you know how sometimes a space feels comfortable, for reasons you can't explain? This just doesn't feel comfortable to us. If you find us another apartment that size, that close to the T, we'd probably like it."
R: "Well, if you don't tell me what's wrong with it, I can't help you."
That put my back up. I hate having to defend my "no."

S: "I'm sure somebody else would love it. Really. It's a great apartment"
R: "If it's such a great apartment, why don't you want it?"
A: "It just didn't smell right to us."
R: "Smell right? That's ridiculous. We'd have it cleaned."
Of course, it's harder to defend my "no" when my arguments don't make sense to anybody. Well, not to anybody except Sovay and Mrissa.

I think that was when we lost patience with one another, and he told us we'd never find an apartment as big and cheap and close to the T as we want, and thus we will need to settle for a smaller place with no room for bookshelves. After we got out of the car, I wondered if I had said something wrong, somehow...if it might have been possible to keep him on our side with the right kind of diplomatic lie or non-response.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
It's kind of shocking to realize the ten years in this apartment is more time than I've ever lived in one place. I don't think of myself as moving around all that much. But here I am.

Or not. My landlord is raising the rent in April, and it's really not feasible for me to stay here. (It would have been financially prudent for me to leave last year, but I was afraid to give up the class tokens then.) Now I live in a familiar neighborhood, right next to a supermarket and a drugstore and a library and a reliable* bus. My apartment has thin walls, no A/C, and a dishwasher that doesn't work...but I have privacy. In addition to my books and clothes and desk, I have room for my living room furniture and enough kitchen stuff to have half a dozen people for dinner.

Obviously, I'd like to keep all my stuff. And live near the T. And still have laundry in the building. And not pay more than $1000/month. If you know of such an unlikely place, please do let me know. But I think my plausible options are:

1) A studio apartment near a red line stop. I don't like the idea of giving up so much stuff. It feels like a loss of possibilities, or acknowledging that the possibilities are lost. But it might be the way to get affordable access to groceries, laundry, transit, community...which are more important than furnishings.

2) A smaller 1 bedroom apartment than I have now, in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Any advice on what neighborhood is likely to be good? (Medford Square? Malden Center? Union Square?) I want to be near a supermarket and a library. Coffee shops fit my lifestyle better than bars. If I'm not near a subway stop, I want buses that run well into the evening. Beyond that, I'm afraid of being isolated, without the social energy to make new connections in a new neighborhood.

3) Sharing a house or large apartment. With the right person, and the right space, this could work out really well, but I have no idea how to find that right person. It seems like most of my friends are no longer interested in house sharing on this scale, thinking of it as something to do when you're starting out and haven't established a family or career yet. It's scary to consider moving in with a stranger. And even thinking about what I want** in a house-sharing situation makes me feel like an unreasonable fussbudget that nobody would want to live with.


*Every 10 or 20 minutes, depending on time of day. Runs from a little before 5am until a little after 1am. This is painfully different from places where the last bus comes at 6:45pm, even if it comes exactly at 6:45 on schedule.

**I want to actually share the common space, not just take turns walking through it to our bedrooms. I want somebody who is ok with that, and also ok with me taking big chunks of alone-time. I don't want to live with a dog, a cat, a smoker, or a drinker. I don't want tv in common space. I want people who can be careful about when and where they apply perfume and nail polish. In short: aaargh.

This entry was originally posted at http://adrian-turtle.dreamwidth.org/10769.html. Please comment there using OpenID, or here as usual.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
It's kind of shocking to realize the ten years in this apartment is more time than I've ever lived in one place. I don't think of myself as moving around all that much. But here I am.

Or not. My landlord is raising the rent in April, and it's really not feasible for me to stay here. (It would have been financially prudent for me to leave last year, but I was afraid to give up the class tokens then.) Now I live in a familiar neighborhood, right next to a supermarket and a drugstore and a library and a reliable* bus. My apartment has thin walls, no A/C, and a dishwasher that doesn't work...but I have privacy. In addition to my books and clothes and desk, I have room for my living room furniture and enough kitchen stuff to have half a dozen people for dinner.

Obviously, I'd like to keep all my stuff. And live near the T. And still have laundry in the building. And not pay more than $1000/month. If you know of such an unlikely place, please do let me know. But I think my plausible options are:

1) A studio apartment near a red line stop. I don't like the idea of giving up so much stuff. It feels like a loss of possibilities, or acknowledging that the possibilities are lost. But it might be the way to get affordable access to groceries, laundry, transit, community...which are more important than furnishings.

2) A smaller 1 bedroom apartment than I have now, in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Any advice on what neighborhood is likely to be good? (Medford Square? Malden Center? Union Square?) I want to be near a supermarket and a library. Coffee shops fit my lifestyle better than bars. If I'm not near a subway stop, I want buses that run well into the evening. Beyond that, I'm afraid of being isolated, without the social energy to make new connections in a new neighborhood.

3) Sharing a house or large apartment. With the right person, and the right space, this could work out really well, but I have no idea how to find that right person. It seems like most of my friends are no longer interested in house sharing on this scale, thinking of it as something to do when you're starting out and haven't established a family or career yet. It's scary to consider moving in with a stranger. And even thinking about what I want** in a house-sharing situation makes me feel like an unreasonable fussbudget that nobody would want to live with.


*Every 10 or 20 minutes, depending on time of day. Runs from a little before 5am until a little after 1am. This is painfully different from places where the last bus comes at 6:45pm, even if it comes exactly at 6:45 on schedule.

**I want to actually share the common space, not just take turns walking through it to our bedrooms. I want somebody who is ok with that, and also ok with me taking big chunks of alone-time. I don't want to live with a dog, a cat, a smoker, or a drinker. I don't want tv in common space. I want people who can be careful about when and where they apply perfume and nail polish. In short: aaargh.

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