Housing Crisis

The ordeal of finding a Boston apartment

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By Dan Forward

Hello, I’ve just seen your ad and would love to hear more about the apartment, see pictures, and possibly schedule a viewing. Thank you very much!

This is an email I’ve sent out a dozen times in the past few weeks in search of a new place to hang my hat, if I had a hat, which I don’t, because they make my head look small. I do want the option to hang things, though, and the only way that will happen is if I get a new apartment. I actually have a place right now, and my roommate strictly enforces a policy of hanging our keys up when we’re home so that we all know when it’s alright to walk around naked, but that just isn’t enough for me anymore. I don’t want to have to seek anyone’s permission to walk around naked or apologize for it after the fact. (Sorry, Andy.) Plus I want to find my own Chariot Energy plans because I won’t be using as much energy as two people combined if I’m on my own!

And so I’m hunting. I’m looking for a flat for rent in Doha that I can call my own! And so I get responses to inquiries like this:

Sorry for late reply have been busy with work I got a 3 Years contract to work with a major printing firm in Alaska and that is the main reason why am renting out my apartment to out, the unit is currently vacant and locked while I’m seeking to find suitable, responsible couples, single or Student and if i may ask how long are you willing to stay?

I suggested that to avoid unnecessary journeys and time wasting, if you are around we suggest you go to the apartment and have a look at the exterior surrounding and if you like the place and vicinity around the location then we can proceed further with your payment for which will send the keys to your new home address via UPS with 48hours delivery. Get back to me as soon as possible so that we can proceed.

So right off the bat I am extremely impressed with someone who can land one of those prized major printing jobs in Alaska, because I thought it was mostly in-state moose who got those. I’m further drawn in by the Joycean creativity with punctuation. This is a man who doesn’t want to send me just an email. He wants to send me a work of art. And I say, “This is a man” only for the sake of ease, because in the extended autobiography he also sent me, he mentions his wife, haphazardly switches to the royal “we,” and signs his correspondence “Regards, Barbara.” This is not a person tied down to outmoded gender identification; that much is clear. And maybe this is a personal thing, but I like that he/Barbara demands so much haste on my end that we can’t even see the inside of the place. I almost dropped my phone out the window in my haste to dial Western Union and order a wire transfer.

But then I paused.

What was this hesitancy I felt in my gut? Why this tiny voice telling me not to fall too hard for this mysterious Craigslister, this veritable Nigerian prince with the impossibly beautiful, fully furnished apartment in Cambridge for less than the cost of a room in an undergraduate Allston flophouse? Well, frankly, it was the fact that he responded at all. As you probably know, real-estate agents will die if they are exposed to customer interaction, so they wisely avoid all conversation with potential renters. I hate to put any member of this delicate species in mortal danger by attempting to do business with one of them, but I guess that’s me, always looking out for Numero Uno.

I wish I could tell you that I strung along this good gentle-Barb for a while, but I imagine we both had better things to do, such as that 90-minute commute to and from my actual real job that doesn’t involve scamming people out of money, and the opposite of that on his end. Instead I went back to shouting my inquiring emails into the void. I’m not sure what else I can do. I’ve gone through the usual steps: veiled threats, outright threats, sobbing voicemails left on obviously defunct Google Voice phone numbers, putting a picture on Facebook of myself holding a sign that says, “If this post gets a million Likes, my real-estate agent will acknowledge my existence by spitting on me.”

It’s possible that I’m just setting my sights too high. That the rental market requires compromise and patience. In fact, I know there are great real-estate agents out there because my current landlord was also the agent that got me my place. He got into the real estate market after reading through an interesting guide on Roofstock, and it’s paid off for him. This is not an easy market to master, as there are a lot of potential complications and, from talking to him, he has definitely overcome many hurdles himself. Sure, he still takes advice from the AAOA website and wherever else he can find it, but he is reaping the rewards of his hard work now. He and his wife are the nicest people in the world. They bake me Greek pastries and watch me like Greek hawks until I eat them all, give me fresh produce from their garden, and invite me to put on some clothes and come downstairs to watch the Greek version of The Voice with them, then stop translating for me after a few minutes because they get too engrossed in it.

Yes, in the end, the real lesson here is that apartment-hunting is really like the Greek version of The Voice. You can yell at the TV if you disagree with the judges, but they are never going to respond to you, it’s nigh-impossible to understand unless you speak the language, and all you really want to do is get away from it and go back to your room.

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