Home sweet saga: Apartment hunting in the Bay Area — Part 1

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I knew we shouldn’t have let it get that far, but I suppose it was inevitable.

When you finally see an apartment that just feels right, how can you keep from picturing yourself there, cooking breakfast in the bright, airy kitchen, having a beer in the small back courtyard with petite koi pond(!), searching for an outfit in the absurdly large closet? When you find the place you start imagining the life you’d lead there. And maybe in the Bay Area—when you’ve been touring “cozy” basement apartments and studios so small you actually laugh upon entry—you fall in love with that life just a little too easily.

That’s what happened this week to Tovin and me: We got lucky, we got close and then we got nothing.

But first, a little background: We’ve been apartment hunting on both sides of the Bay for about a month now, attending open houses, setting up private viewings, dismissing neighborhoods then adding them back to the list as our desperation increases. Already the daily online search has turned weirdly masochistic, typing higher and higher numbers into the Craigslist max rent box in search of a place that takes dogs, is near BART and is approximately sized for two full-grown adults. If I don’t feel like I might get mugged walking Samba after dark, that’s a definite plus.

When I’m feeling especially self-destructive, sometimes I browse Craigslist or HotPads or Zumper or whatever with no upper rent parameter, ogling the places that are out there if you can afford, say, $7,500 for a two-bedroom apartment with no parking and shared laundry.

Which is not to say we haven’t found anything worthwhile. At our first open house—2 bedrooms, $1,900, Emeryville—we arrived to find 22 people lined up outside, milling around and making awkward small talk while waiting for a somewhat scattered landlord to arrive and let us file through the unit as if we were visiting a museum exhibit documenting this totally absurd moment in real estate history. One guy had actually been hit by a car while riding his bike to the open house, and HE CAME ANYWAY. I felt like gathering the group around a low granite countertop and suggesting we all just bow out. “I mean, c’mon guys, he’s bleeding!”

Next we saw a decent apartment in Oakland’s hipper-than-thou Temescal neighborhood, just a few minutes’ walk from Burma Superstar’s tea leaf salad and those fried-chicken sandwiches at Bakesale Betty’s. Halfway through the showing, the landlord went on a Libertarian rant that started with Gibson guitars and ended with the government stealing your property and claiming it was in the Everglades. We took an application with us, anyway.

And there have been so many more: the Emeryville loft that was out of our price range, the massive Berkeley pad that wouldn’t take dogs, the odd Noe Valley in-law where the kitchenette had seemingly been built into a closet that looked right onto the bathroom. During one day of hunting, two of five scheduled viewings were canceled before we got there: They’d already been rented.

We’d started resigning ourselves to the San Francisco compromise: crappy apartment in a cool neighborhood or cool apartment in a crappy neighborhood, see-sawing back and forth about which side of the line we preferred.

And then something unthinkable happened: We found the one.

More on that tomorrow! 


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