Several people suggested that John and I should go on International House Hunters, but sadly when we looked into it they were only recruiting home buyers, not renters, so we got to do it the normal way (and by normal I mean super crazy). But while we were visiting some of John's family in Colorado we ended up watching an episode of the show that happened to be in Tokyo. It was really fun to know the areas the couple was looking in, and it gave us a little more confidence in our own budget.
In that spirit, I will try to condense our experience into a house hunters adventure for you.
This apartment is 2 doors down from your closest friend! It's a 20 minute commute to the office. The view is lovely, the amenities are great, the building is brand new, and it has a gym!! But, the kitchen consists of 2 burners and nothing more. The design of the apartment is very modern, but to your southern sensibilities is feels a little cold and stark. And unfortunately the price is pretty high, you'll need the building to negotiate a lot.
This apartment is on the top floor of the building and you have access to a rooftop garden! There is tons of storage space, and the floors are a wonderfully warm wood. The kitchen consists of 3 burners and a fish oven. It's a 9 minute walk to your friends' apartment and a 14 minute walk to the office. It's smaller than the other apartments. And, unfortunately there is a building under construction next door for the next year.
This apartment is on the 27th floor! In fact, your ears pop riding the elevator up each time. It's in the building next door to where your friend lives. And there are 2 bedrooms! The kitchen has 4 burners and an oven! There's a gym! The washer and dryer are separate units! But, the apartment is 20 years old, meaning it doesn't have the latest earthquake technology. It also has all the "glamour" of the early 90's. And there is monthly surcharge of $150 on your electricity bill.
You're feeling overwhelmed by a realtor who sends mixed signals, and confused by a process that involved many steps and negotiations that are unfamiliar to you. You feel rushed to find a place before your belongings arrive. You hope beyond hope that you can be settled in your new home before Christmas. And the entire process reminds you just how real this huge move is. Which apartment is the right apartment for you?
Well, the answer is Apartment #2. We went back and forth between #2 and #3, and actually applied to all 3 building, and in the end the decision was made for us when only #2 was able to negotiate to the terms we required. While I was briefly disappointed to lose the oven, John and I both felt a sense of comfort and belonging in the second apartment that we didn't feel in the other two. And ultimately we're very excited to be there. As a bonus we found out afterwards that it's very close to another couple we're friends with, and it's extremely close to our favorite restaurant in the city.
If things go according to plan, we'll be moving in on Dec. 26. A small part of me thinks this is terribly cruel, considering that I actually packed our little Christmas tree in our container along with decorations months ago in preparation. But as time has passed I've come to accept that we'll be making new traditions and finding meaning in other ways, rather than trying to recreate past experiences. And most of all, I'm thankful that John and I have a safe and beautiful apartment where we will both be happy to live.