From time to time there comes a point in your relationship with your apartment to cut the ties that bind. This can happen for a host of reasons: Terrible Neighbors, Terrible Landlords, Terrible Roommates, any combination of the above. Poop on the stairwell. No, just kidding, though that’s legitimate as well. But regardless of your reason, everyone at some point, especially here in Boston, will find themselves looking for new digs. It’s a wonder that anyone can even afford anything at this point, to be honest. In the 5 years that I’ve been here, I’ve seen rent triple in some areas. TRIPLE, ok? So what happens in this quest for ever affordable/non-stairwell-soiled housing? Well if it was just the same-old same-old we wouldn’t be here, would we? And so let me regale you now with my experience on the Boston housing scene, complete with fire hazards, name-dropping, vandalism, and, of course, drug references.
Let’s take this in a few stages. It will be helpful to begin with the first time I became acquainted with the Boston market. I was in Pittsburgh at the time attempting in vain to try to access an apartment over the internet. Every day I would go through Craigslist, becoming acquainted with strangers ranging from the age of 18-87. I was hunting simultaneously with a friend from afar, Moolie Faison. Not long after I’d made inadvertent friends with a number of seniors and questionable characters, Moolie reported that she was going on a trip to Boston to investigate several apartments and would report back. At this point I had been checking craigslist every day for over two months. I was beginning to lose my mind but also getting quite efficient at spotting potential felons. When Moolie said she had found an apartment that we should just sign for, I was more then ready to just do so. I had only seen a few photos, but she had seen it in person and I was just finishing up blocking a response from a “tenant” that wanted me to expedite money to China. It was time. But before I could do anything, I had to deal with… the Landlord.
There are several ways to acquire an apartment. In this first instance, we had been able to avoid a realtor, which I will address shortly. But even if you skirt that issue, you will eventually be dealing with the Landlord. For those not familiar with the landlords of this fair city, I am here to help you understand. The Boston landlord is, for all intents and purposes, bazonks. Granted, they need to be super organized because more than half the time they’re dealing with tenants moving not just from out of town but also from other countries, so it’s a lot to handle. And in a theme that will become very common throughout this blog, they have a line waiting behind you to get your room. Can’t get a good enough credit check? See ya. Can’t get your cosigners’ signatures fast enough? See ya. Can’t understand what the hell they’re saying with that New England accent? See ya and for sure wouldn’t wanna be ya. But I digress. My point is, they are hard as nails and you need to be ready, New England –> American English translator on speed dial.
Now. To address another route of acquisition, let’s take another example. Perhaps you didn’t go directly to your apartment through craigslist’s “No Fee” section, and instead went through a realtor. Well, God love you, you’re in for a treat. The realtors here are almost like mini-landlords in their tenacity. They make a profit when they turn over an apartment. So as mentioned above, they are constantly looking for a person to fill a space. Unfortunately, that sometimes happens while you are physicaly looking at the room. My experience with realtors has been both horrific and amazing, often simultaneously.
The relationship all began interestingly enough with Amy Poehler’s father. I contemplated changing names in this instance but really the effect is just lost. A good friend of mine, Splat Baddan, was looking for an apartment with me and having been interested in one from Craigslist, I soon was put in touch with the realtor who had cornered that particular market. What you’ll eventually find is that more often than not, realtors have almost every quality apartment in this area. And if it’s not them, it’s the person working 3 feet away from them at the realty office. If you’ve never been in a realty office, it’s something akin to going grocery shopping on Superbowl Sunday, only crazier. Now, back to Mr. Poehler. Or Bill, as he introduced himself. Me, Bill and Splat were examining a two bedroom, and Bill was super nice and explaining the ins and outs of that particular building. When all of a sudden, he dropped his Ace-
“Now, there is laundry on site, but perhaps you know my daughter, she grew up around here. Amy?”
Suddenly the wheels began turning… Bill Poehler… Amy… Amy would probably take his surname…
“Yes, yes, she’s my daughter. Now utilities aren’t included unfortunately…”
“Wait a tic, what?”
And thus began my short but meaningful friendship with Amy Poehler’s dad. Though we never officially proved it in fact was him and not some realtor pretending to be him, as this is the only photo we could ever find on google, and he didn’t totally look like this guy-
-we chose moving forward to believe it was him. Including when he gave us a lift around town and told us to please stop sitting on Amy Poehler’s children’s artwork. I think I still have his number, but what does one say?
Then there was a woman we will call Bayla. Bayla was here and now one of the most unique people I think I’ll ever meet in my whole life. I don’t know what all I mean by that, but I know what happened so here we go. There was an apartment I was interested in, and realized inadvertently that a certain Realty company had a grip on it. I realized this by accidently emailing two employees of the same company. I think that must happen a lot though. But Bayla jumped first, and while we were at it, told us she had some other goodies to show us. We then pulled up to an apartment that was actually crooked. While it didn’t look like it was crooked from the outside, when we got inside I just happened to have a round object in my pocket and watched despairingly as it rolled off the counter of the “kitchen”. I use that term loosely.
“Bayla, I think this apartment might be slanted.”
“Nah, nah this is how they used to make them!”
“How who used to make them?”
“You know, people.”
This was the great beauty of Bayla. If you were listening, truly listening, then you were privy to the exceptionally ridiculous. In that same apartment Bayla entered what I had initially pegged as a closet, only to find it was in fact a bedroom.
“Look how big this is! Man, you could have a whole party in here” she said, standing on top of the mattress that encompassed the entirety of the floor.
“Bayla, I think that room is a little small, you can’t even turn completely around on top of that guy’s bed.”
“Ah, but what are you going to do, like, LIVE in your bedroom the whole time? Nah, you won’t be in here hardly at all.”
The nice thing about Bayla was that despite her inaccuracies in depth perception she wasn’t afraid to ask current tenants the right questions during our visits.
“Hey, do y’all have a bathroom here that I could use?”
“Yeah, it’s right down the hall.”
“Cool. Hey, you guys this is a huge bathroom, you could like, have a whole party in here!”
Fortunately or unfortunately, it was Bayla who was on hand when we found the apartment we’d eventually move into, but I knew we were on borrowed time the moment we walked in the door. How did I know? Bayla tried to sell other people the apartment as we were looking at it.
“Man, I gotta tell ya boss, this is prime-ass real estate right here, you gotta get some people over here, stat.”
And so that was that. We had Bayla the destroyer on task, and we had under 48 hours essentially to get not only our decision made but also all of our paperwork. It was for all intents and purposes, insane. But occasionally, you will run into an instance where you have a fantastic realtor. One who doesn’t pull any punches. Such was the case with a man to be known as Ralph, who showed me the first and last apartments I will probably ever view in an area of Boston I’m happy I explored to increase my street cred.
After our landlord raised the rent on the Bayla suite, one of my roommates decided with me that we should investigate the housing market to find out if in fact, our apartment had been raised to “Market Value”. Whatever that means. I still think Market Value is akin to SCHRODINGER’S CAT. If we didn’t arbitrarily assign it a value, it wouldn’t actually exist and no one really has any idea what the hell it is at any given point. Regardless we peaked around using PADMAPPER.COM to find a few things more in line with what we were looking to pay.
“Oh, I know that area, it’s right near the brewery!” I said, thinking this would make this all a pleasant experience. I was a fool.
We showed up- me, my roommate and three friends- to look at what online seemed to be a decent piece of real estate. Getting off of the T, it seemed the farther away we ventured in the direction of the apartment, the more unique finds were on the sidewalk. In fact, the more of a lot of things were on the sidewalk. So many things in fact that a song was in order. Take this beat:
Feel me? Now add the following lyrics in 4/4 time, a mere sample of the things we found on the sidewalk en route to our apartment:
CHORUS: TRASH! TRASH! TRASH! TRASH!
It became our anthem right up until the point where we met Ralph, an affable fellow who most likely had no idea what was in store for any of us. We walked up to the 3-story house, and walked up all three flights to the top floor. Unfortunately, today seemed a great day to the tenants in that apartment to move in a couch.
So the entryway was blocked, but Ralph had an idea.
“Let’s go look at the apartment on the first floor in the meantime, it’s available, has the same layout and we can pass through to go up the back stairwell when we’re done.”
Seemed like a solid idea. We walked back down the stairs and Ralph opened the door only to blow us all backwards with the most intense wall of weed I’d come into contact with since my initial Boston layover at a fraternity house (Please see the BOSTON entry). I’m talking blow you back, melt your eyes whoa, ok? As we all tried to walk and breathe at the same time, Ralph explained that they would be happy to open the windows for us should we choose to move. Fantastic. I checked out the room that I always check for signs of psychosomatic behavioral abnormalities- the bathroom.
Sure enough, resting comfortably on the floor was a large water jug typically seen in office water dispeners. Perhaps there was a time when that was the role that this particular jug played, however currently it was the vessel for a massive bacterial infestation, multiplying with no end in site within a brown liquid. My god. Leaving that room, I decided to venture out towards the Kitchen, where Ralph had gathered the troops for what could only be a halftime pep talk.
“Listen. I’ve got some other houses. I think we should check upstairs but we can also look at some other options I’ve lined up if you’re interested?”
“Yeah, let’s do it” we choked out.
And so towards the back stairwell we went, opening the door to a conspicuously burnt duvet that lined the bottom of the stairs. Traveling upstairs we reached the apartment, still moving a couch in but already smelling much better. In the words of Kurt Russell, “Not good, but better”. It became clear very quickly however, that what this apartment lacked in drug paraphernalia it more than made up for in unwanted décor. Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of decorating, so you can imagine my horror to find black spray paint on the wall in the beige living room, hallways, and bathroom. The phrase “KILLERS” in the living room however paled to the “H8TERS GON H8” Directly above the toilet. My friends. I just can’t.
“Ralph, are you gonna like, prime that?” I asked.
“Yeah, I think this group has gone… they’ve gone a little rogue”.
Moving on. At least so we thought. Our group traveled down the back stairwell thinking we’d just go out through World War Weed, but when we reached the bottom, Ralph realized that his keys only work for the front door of the lower apartment. And so after realizing that 3 feet of snow piled up against the back door kept an exit through the yard from fruition, back up we went, through graffiti row and onward to greener pastures. And yes, I’m being both funny and metaphorical there.
We hopped on the T and were walking to the second house when a card sped backwards all the way down the road. It was Ralph, that funster. He met us in front of what had initially looked promising, a former single family home converted into a 3 bedroom. These tenants also had no idea we were coming and also must have smoked their entire bowl JUST before we got there. I swear, we were all getting contact highs in the name of lower rent. Something to genuinely watch for should you be operating heavy machinery after apartment hunting.
The apartment itself was humongous and beautfiul, but as often happens when those are two qualities of your find, there was a catch. I managed to get that catch out of a tenant in the kitchen. A tenant who despite being visibly Irish was wearing a BINDI and creating a bouquet of dead flowers….
“Yeah… we’re getting out of here for a reason…. our landlord is terrible. He doesn’t respond to anything. Our heating bill was $400 last month… terrible.”
“Oh. Ok, well thanks for sharing,” I said as one of our group members pointed out the unnervingly numerous piles of dead flowers in the snow outside.
And in perhaps the creepiest version of this phrase ever uttered while decapitating and bundling her dead florals, our bindied redhead imparted us with…
“Well. I hope you finnnnd what you’re looking forrrr…”
Mwah… ah… ah…
And so what is the moral of all of this? Generally speaking, the housing market is a tough town. Getting into the city is no place for sissies, and once you’re in here the act of changing apartments can be a crazy thing. They are sold out from under you, your rent could go up any amount literally at any time with no legitimate justification, and it’s entirely possible to become inadvertently high while trying to find your new one. But when you factor in the moving fees, the realtor fee, and new utilities, you ask yourself if it’s worth it at all to relocate. But you know what? If nothing else, it’s always an adventure. And a really awesome new song that I’m considering recording and releasing for profit.