Renting is a Luxury
We moved into this “luxury” apartment with the idea we’d be here for 2+ years. We liked renting. When a bulb burned out, we filled out an online report and they came to change it. It was a far cry different than owning (the maintenance burden of) a home.
…but then our rent went up $149/month!
So, with such a dramatic (not-at-all reasonable) increase in rent, we went shopping. We looked at other apartments. While we could find places just as nice and cheaper, we felt that at the end of the 12-month lease (13 is the most they’ll do and we are NOT moving in March; not in this town!), we’d be back in the same boat. So, after a little online research and some number crunching, we started to consider buying, again.
Rents are going up all over Austin. Our city is growing by leaps and bounds. (150-170 new people every day. We add more than the size of Texas A&M or UTexas every year!) Newcomers rent first and then buy because that makes sense. We also live very close to UT’s research campus, Apple (across the street, doubling their campus and adding 3600 jobs), Oracle, National Instruments, Samsung, Dell, eBay/PayPal, Google, Blizzard gaming, 3M, and many-many-many more. This influx affects the algorithm for rental rates. …and then suddenly everyone is paying 10-20% more for their same apartment. We went up 13%. One guy has been here a dozen years and his went up $200/month. Still, it could be worse. Austin’s average is only 7-8%. Rates in Houston went up 16-17%, on average (according to some guy on Twitter).
Thanks to Twitter, we know several REALTOR®s. Thanks to Twitter, and even to her cancer, I’ve also gotten to know one REALTOR® better than most of the others. I had zero reservations about picking Nanette Labastida @RockNRealty from The Gill Agency. I knew I’d made the right choice when Emil took it upon him self to email her a big compliment and to wish her a good time at a vegan festival! So, go like her on facebook, if you can.
So we put down a contract.
We are in contract to close on 28Jan and take possession (because the current owner needed a tiny bit more time) on 30Jan. We don’t have to be out of this apartment until 24Feb, so we have time to address the biggest challenges to the space.
It’s our dream, but we didn’t know to dream for this.
What we loved about home ownership (equity, making our own choices) was overshadowed by what we hated: roof repairs, yard work, siding fixes, and more. In this place, we’ll only own “from the studs in”. So, the roof and the siding, and even our fence belong to the HOA. And, in this particular case, so does the lawn maintenance. The only “land” we have to maintain is two tiny flower beds inside our front gate. They are slated to be our herb and tomato garden. The interior already has “hardwood”/”Pergo” floors except for the living area (carpet) and “wet” areas (pretty tile). The kitchen is fuckin’ gorgeous. We have gas appliances, where appropriate. Her most expensive electric bill ever was $123. The patio is lovely.
- The owner had a LOT of stuff. She is a very neat and clean person, but she had a ton of furniture and collections in the space. No section of wall didn’t have furniture against it. Her REALTOR® told her to store some of it, but she wouldn’t. So, it was hard to envision the space as ours. When we put the measurements in our floor plan app on Emil’s iPad, we found a lot more room than we had realized. The living-with-formal-dining room is well over 300 square feet and that doesn’t include the entry.
- Some of the caulk is old/dry/cracking. It’s minor, but we need to re-caulk the windows.
- Painting. The entire living area and stair well–except for one King Salmon accent corner–are pink. Ballet Slipper Pink. It’s a pretty and fairly neutral shade, but 20′ vaults and all the way up the stairs is too much pink…even in such a light shade. My idea is to hit it with a rag roll style roller in a grayish beige called Talc. I think it could tone down the pink and give us a nice pattern, too, that will almost be tone-on-tone. And, if I’m wrong, we can buy more Talc and give it another real coat or two. In either case, we’ll need a sunny day to see if we like it. On a cloudy day, I didn’t even notice the pink. On a sunny day, I hated it. I like to let a lot of light in on pretty days, so fixing the pink is pretty important. Emil disagrees with me on the how. He’d like to hire a painter. We’re estimating costs and might test my idea in a smaller corner.
- Cats. Purrrrrl probably can’t remember an indoor litter box. Marble has always been able to go outside. Oh and Purrrrrl begs to be taken for walks in the breezeway just outside the front door. In Bryan, she used to beg for a walk on the bridge. She’d walk down one railing, marking each tree along the way and then turnaround and come back inside. It was her/Emil’s ritual when the weather was nice. Since our patio will be on the ground floor, I think we’ll be able to let Purrrrrl come and go. Marble will need a lot more close supervision, if he can go at all. Our plan is to put their litter boxes in the garage. So, we’ll have to cut a hole and install a cat door. It’s no big deal, we hear. We did fear them not going inside when we come home, but online research says that’s never a problem. I think we’ll start by giving them a treat each time we come home, so they’ll run to that spot.
- Cat trauma. Marble spent the whole time Emil was off for xmas acting out. He really is just like a toddler. By the time it was almost time for Emil to go back to work, he was ready to take Marble back to the shelter. Returned pets ~always get euthanized. Plus, he’s black, and people discriminate against black pets; it’s stupid but they do. So, I said we had to research and try to solve the problem. According to the Googles, he’s anxious. And so is Purrrrrl; she’s just not reacting in the same way. We’ve also ordered some calming pheromones and treats. Seth uses the canine pheromones and gets great results. A Twitter friend uses the cat treats with great results. We are going to start both at the new place. For the here/now, we’ve increased Marble’s play time. Basically, if he asks for attention, even negatively, I throw balls or a “mousie” or get out the red laser pointer for him to chase.
- Kitchen Pantry. It’s been a long time since we’ve lived without a decent pantry. The owner conveyed her cute free-standing pantry. What I love about it is that it’s shallow and wide. It should be easy to organize it and find everything. What I don’t love is that it’s taking up wall space. We plan to put our dining table (leafless, if necessary) in the kitchen and use the whole living/dining space for living. (We are not formal dining area people and the dining chandelier can easily be changed for an art light pointed at the wall. Those same lights are already in the kitchen, even.) The kitchen might be a tight fit. Again, she had that room full of stuff: pantry, table/chairs, desk, water cooler, and more stuff I can’t remember, so it’s hard to know if it will feel too tight. According to measurements, it should all fit just fine.
- Kitchen trash. There is not a good place to put a trash can. I hope we can install one of these for trash and single-stream recycling.
- Kitchen “attic”. When we had space above our cabinets, we made heavy use of it for things that get used a few times a year, like party platters. We don’t have much of that here and it’s a burden. We won’t have any at the new place.
- Kitchen spices. I finally got an amazing spices (and cookbooks) wall where I can see everything. I can’t tell if we’ll be able to keep that or not.
- The master bedroom is open to the master bathroom. It’s a Jack & Jill bathroom, so you go in the first room where there are two “Hollywood” sinks and the toilet. Our closet is in there, as well. Then, you go through a door to the one tub/shower. Then you go through another door to the toilet/sink for the office. We both want privacy from the master bedroom, and no one likes a light turned on in the middle of the night. So, we’ll need to install an indoor sliding “barn” door. Or, we’ll need to turn the water closet “nook” into a real water closet and give it it’s own door. Neither of these should be too difficult and we have the extra toilet/sink (as well as the downstairs powder room), so we have plenty of time to figure out what will work best.
- The master bath cabinets have no hardware. They also don’t have little notches to help you open the doors. The way they are seated, I will pinch my fingers a lot. We’re getting a few knobs and pulls. Oh, and the linen cabinet has a built in laundry hamper. We sort our laundry as we go, so I don’t yet know what we’ll do with that “door” and vast open space.
- We’re losing our gym. (I never made much use of the huge one at Riata because of an injury and because it wasn’t right for me. All the machines were for taller people. I couldn’t get a good workout and it felt like I was wasting my time.) Here, I’ve made good use of the elliptical and some of the machines. I’m re-tooling my workout plan in hopes that I’ll make new habits after we move. I want that set of dumb bells that Beth has. But yikes! $80? I’ll lift water jugs for a while. We have plenty of “before we can move in” projects and it will be a while before I can lift anything heavier than what we already own.
- In 1982, all of Austin was installing wet bars. We’ve had a bar for years, yet even I don’t know what to do with a wet bar. Also, it reeks of 1982 with a mirrored back splash and glass shelves. All it needs is some brass! It’s much too small for our wedding crystal, but our crystal decanters might look nice, there. Anyway, we need to figure out how to update it. I’ve seen them converted to coffee/tea stations, but we don’t drink coffee or own a coffee maker. Anyway, we’ll figure something out.
- Emil will be a little farther from work. This might triple his commute to 30 minutes. (yeah, I know. I can’t even type that with a straight face!)
Ideas and fun.
- As I’m looking for solutions to some of the challenges, I’m also finding things that would be fun to do (like installing drawers in the base of the kitchen cabinets. It’s supposed to give you a place to store cookie sheets and party trays). If you care to see the stuff I find reasonable for us to do, you can look at a board I made on Pinterest.
- Turtleor is going to get a set of corner windows. He’s going to be one happy turtle! And with a garden hose right outside his window, his tank should be easy to clean!
- Both the inspection and appraisal yielded us a little bit more money.
- Insurance was about half our original estimates.
- We’ll be close to public transportation instead of not. So, we can delay replacing my car a little longer than we had originally planned. I have a personal photography project to plan downtown and I might want to do some SXSW stuff again this year, but I can take the train down for both of those. The stop is only 3 miles, so that’s a very short bike ride on a street along safe roads. Heh. Come to think of it, I might be going downtown a lot more often!
- Our neighborhood is a bisected circle. There is no through street. It’s very quiet. We estimated 50 units (just from our memory…we didn’t count a section and multiply), but there are 150.
- Our pool has childfree hours. On weekends and holidays from 12noon-6pm, you have to be 21+ to be in the pool area. And, it’s a 24-hour pool.
- We could very well be the youngest people living there. We’ve seen a lot of retired people. Everyone works outside with the garage door open and says hello to everyone who walks by. I think we are going to fit in just fine.
- Not that we’ll ever need it (since we use a PO Box), but we have a real address instead of something like 15874 Street Name Too Long to Fit on Anything Trace Ln. #6456.
- Oh, and the 2-car-plus-laundry-and-workshop garage has the most storage I’ve ever seen. This is good because there is barely any attic.
So, our plans to have a party here were thwarted first by the summer heat and then by my accident. But now, we really need to have a party. Give us time to get rid of the pink, move, and get through March in Austin, Luza Easter, and our Anniversary. Maybe late April….