Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Looking for apartments, money and lime salted chips

The last several days have been almost nothing but looking for apartments. Its been tough with the holidays, most agents are gone until January 5th at least, but there's a handful that have been around to show us places. http://www.realestate.com.au/ is the main place we've been looking but we found another really neat site http://www.suburbview.com/view/VIC/Prahran. That second site is a "mashup" where someone has combined the functions of several other websites in one place while at the same time allowing you to search all the different real estate sites at once.

All in all though, it's been a mammoth experiment in information/paper management. Drive around to learn the neighborhoods, look at hundreds of listings, go visit a few places on the inside, narrow down your hunt, look at more places, etc etc. It seems easier to rule out all the "obvious no"s than it is to find that "obvious yes" (like wives I suppose). Today we saw one place that had that 1970s wavy amber glass all over and kitchen backsplash tiles with drawings of mushrooms on them, heavy curtains and peanut butter colored carpet. One word- "Intercom". Really truly, someone thought all that was a good idea at some point? I'll see if I can dig up some pictures... but if you could only see some of the architectural horrors we've witnessed in the last few days. *shudder*

We've been going through several systems, making lots of mistakes, but finding our way eventually. Like it's not enough to take in the car a map of a lot of dots of properties, you really need addresses and/or pictures, prices and so on. You can print out a lot, but then it's a version control issue, sheaf upon sheaf of paper with random notes. What worked for us is to divide up the neighborhoods between Christine and I, each does an exhaustive search of the area and make a hot list of properties to consider. Then use google maps to plot our hotlist like below (red is stuff we saw but didn't like, blue is stuff we would consider an inside visit after driving by).

View Larger Map

Probably the hardest part of it all is keeping stuff *off* the hotlist after it's been removed, especially if you have two people editing the list. It's so easy to fall in love with the same property again and again, always forgetting that the small print says that it's not available for another two weeks.

Anyhow, we may have found a place we like (more details later). Christine was at least a 9 out of 10 on it and the realtor said that rarely is anyone a 9 out of 10 when looking at rental properties. Me, I'm never a 10 out of 10 on anything, just because I was a forecaster for a living and know that nothing is ever 100% (case in point, when I used to do forecast evaluation I heard that the Tucson, AZ weather office has forecasted 100% chance of rain on only a handful of occasions when it wasn't already raining and it's never rained when they've done that).

One worry has been trying to get money over through the foreign currency exchange. I was using Oz Forex Foreign Exchange but it's been a terrible struggle to get Etrade to wire my funds to someone else. Add onto it that my address has changed, spending patterns are all different, I'm sure this must look suspicious to them. But it's dumb and I won't bore you, but basically we've had to resort to taking as much money as we can out of ATMs (the rate is really quite good actually). So that's our life now, tramping around the streets in suits looking at apartments with baseball sized wads of cash in our pockets.

Personally the highlight for today for me came near sunset. We were walking back from another apartment opening (at the Love and Lewis building) and Christine went to have her feet worked on ("grinding down her hooves" were her words) and I went ahead to get dinner. The burger place was closed so I went and got some calamari rings and chips at the we-fry-everything place like yesterday. I walked home and sat out in the back porch under the grape vines watching the clouds while eating dinner.

80% of the way through I noticed there was a lime. I thought, well that's a great suggestion, lets see how this works out. The result was like a gustatory out of body experience. I've had salt and lime and before, sure, and was like "thank you nabisco, for designing this flavor combination, it seems to satisfy my flavor palette". But putting it all together in person, the fresh salty fries, the lime, it was the difference between eating strawberry "flavor" and trying a real strawberry for the first time. I know you're thinking "meh... so what" but maybe you had to be there I guess?

Well, tomorrow I think we're going to look at a handful more apartments, maybe try and get a phone... thinking of taking some time to just relax and enjoy ourselves for a while, lately it's sometimes felt like tumbling end over end in the surf with so much to do.


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