This weekend I drove down to San Diego to start looking for a place to live, and I thought about how every city I’ve ever moved to has its own renting culture. Los Angeles apartments usually don’t come with a refrigerator; Boston you sometimes have to pay an extra moth of rent to the realtor; South Beach you can move into a place the day you start looking; and Long Beach you better not have a Pit Bull. Each city has its own way of navigating the renting process, so when we drove down to San Diego, I expected there to be a learning curve. I also didn’t expect to find a place on the first day. I remember when I moved to Long Beach my wife and I were looking for a month, and we were driving up and down the streets, trying to locate “For Rent” signs in front yards, and it felt like we would never find a place. I understood the struggle of finding the right place, and I expected to have to haggle with landlords. I expected to be forced to choose between our budget and what we wanted. And I expected to have enough tension and controversy to write an interesting blog post. But after looking at four places, Heron and I found a place we loved. We told the landlord how much we wanted to live there, sent over the credit check, paid the deposit, and we now have a rental. King of killed my blog idea. It was incredibly easy, this time, to find a place to live, and we’re actually thrilled with the results. So this started me thinking about all the times that I’ve moved across the country, and I thought about what it’s been like to look for a home, for a place to belong. I thought about all that I’ve learned by just looking for places to live. Here are five lessons I’ve learned over the years.
5. Watch Out for Desperation
When we were looking for places to live over the weekend, we came across a home close to North Park, San Diego. It was a single family home, but another tenant was living in the basement. The front yard had mulch instead of grass. There would have been plenty of room for my dog, but as soon as I knocked on the door and met the people living there, I was instantly suspicious. In turned out the current tenants were looking for someone to take over their lease. They had their three dogs locked in cages, and the dogs looked like they were trying to be on their best behavior, but if someone had opened their cages, then I would have regretted stepping foot in that home. The current tenants told us that they were moving out because they wanted to live closer to the beach. They had just moved from Kansas city. Four months were left on the lease. Now I couldn’t figure out why they would be in such a rush to get out of their apartment if they had four months left on their lease, and I could understand this idea if they were buying a home instead of renting — perhaps they landed a great deal — but breaking a lease or trying to sublet an apartment to live near the water, which is only ten minutes, sounded suspicious. I could smell the desperation to find a way out of a situation, and I didn’t want to be stuck in someone else’s trap. When I’m looking at places to live, I realize I’m being sold on a product, on a life, on a home, and like Odysseus on his way back to his wife, there are many detours and islands along the journey that are illusory when trying to find the place you belong, but you have to learn to separate false homes, false journeys, from the authentic ones. Continue reading “How to Find a Home: 5 Lessons from Finding a Place to Live”