Apartment Hunting Remotely: Little Tips & Experience

ApartmentHunting

I enjoyed apartment hunting halfway across the country so much when we did it 9 months ago, I was simply itching to go through the process again…

No. It is a seriously painful process –and I don’t mean that figuratively. It literally caused me physical pain:  throbbing eyes & head from starring at a glowing laptop, severe tension buildup in this one particular region in my inner right shoulder blade, and immediate stomach aches every time Google broke the news that the apartment I had already begun fanatically decorating in my mind had an ongoing roach or violent gang problem the company somehow failed to list in the “community amenities.”

It absolutely sucks.

Silver lining: I had Austin. My husband was there to sweat and panic alongside me in 4 hour hunting binges as our moving date loomed closer by the necessary bathroom break (you can only sit in one spot refreshing apartment listings for so long.) Having duel gender points of view every time one of us found a potential home was so, so useful. I tended to look for things like washer/dryer hookups, flooring, and counter space. He was more keen on little particulars like, oh you know, area crime rate and building maintenance. We struck a good balance, and before long figured out exactly the key words to search for, questions to ask potential landlords, and tools to use for every apartment we found.

Neighborhood Livability Score
This gem of a website, Area Vibes, is really super useful and easy. It rates different neighborhoods or zip codes and gives them a “livability score” based on Amenities, Cost of Living, Crime, Education, Employment, Housing, & Weather. (Crime, Education, sure those make sense. Weather rating? Isn’t that a little subjective? It’s 91 degrees in Dallas right now and I would rather it be snowing. Contrary to their scoring, I would not give Dallas “A” weather.)

Google Street View
Creeping down the street and around the complexes looking at businesses, vehicle types, and pedestrians was probably the most fun way of scoping out an area 800 miles away. It gave us a relatively good idea of who our potential neighbors would be. (Also, we knew  it probably wasn’t going to work if there wasn’t a Little Caesar’s Pizza and a Starbucks within about a mile of the apartment. This way, we could see it with our own eyes. Priorities.)

Aggregate Listing Websites 
Common sense:  we used websites that gathered listings that allowed you to specify things like number of bedrooms, pets, hardwood floors, and extra storage. The the most user friendly I found were Apartments.Com and Zillow. I really like the layout and map feature of Zillow that lets you see exactly where on the globe you’re looking at.

Boots on the ground
Having physical eyes & ears are simply irreplaceable if at all possible, that’s all there is to it. Major shout out to our dear friend Lauren who ultimately saved our butts from renting a residence she “wouldn’t want to visit us at.” Pictures can be deceiving, and crummy townhouses can stand in beautiful neighborhoods that get reasonably good livability scores. At the end of the day, it’s scary, no matter how many tools you’re using. You have to be able to trust your instincts, or have a friend whose opinions are worth trusting, and be willing to be flexible when you get there and open the front door.

Now after a couple weeks in our new space I confidently say we’ve had good luck with our two remote apartment hunts this past year, and I hope to never do it again.
afterlight
Saying Goodbye to #4 Brownsboro Rd, our first little place. (Moving Day, because every girl should have their photo plastered on the Internet after hauling furniture all afternoon, right?)

Apartment living: cramped makeup space

Someday I will be soaking in a jet pool tub, surrounded by fragrant bubbles (wine in-hand), glance across the room at my sweeping, granite, well lit double vanity, and laugh fondly upon the memory of our first apartment’s little peach pedestal sink.

That day is not today. Or tomorrow, probably.

IMG_9407This is my getting-ready space (not exactly the bathroom of my dreams.) It is very peach and very small. Peach I eventually came to terms with, but not having counter space is inarguably the most challenging part of my morning (or before date night, or halfway through Saturday when I realize the humidity has melted my face off and I need to revisit square one before leaving the house.)

Having an easy grab-and-go makeup location is a luxury I never thought to value before, but wasn’t willing to give up just because my space was small. So, I’ve had to get a little creative.

IMG_9412This is the little makeup trunk I tuck under the sink. I’ve always preferred drawers or trunks to large makeup bags not only for aesthetics, but I find them easier to rummage through.

This weekend, it hit me that that was the wrong answer. I should prefer drawers or trunks to avoid having to rummage. (Duh. It’s stupidly simple.)

I paired an adorable desk organizer with a set of inexpensive makeup brush cups from our local TJ Maxx/Home Goods store, and voilà. Same cute, convenient trunk, rummaging eliminated for under $15.00 (and it could have been cheaper, but I’m a sucker for cute prints.)

IMG_9417(I would grace you with a before but, well, that’s just embarrassing.)

While all my makeup doesn’t quite fit, I don’t need all of it everyday. I like to keep only the products I’m most likely to want day-to-day at an arms reach, the rest stored elsewhere for special occasions (or when I think I’ve changed my mind about that one terrible lipstick when nope, I haven’t. Back to storage.)

Do you have a unique storage situation or any ideas for mine? Comment below!

My top 3 DO’s thrifting for furniture

My living room was the worst. I take my job in making our apartment feel homey very seriously, so this really bothered me. We were given a houseful of furniture before moving, for which I couldn’t have been more grateful -but we only had one couch. Imagine guests sitting awkwardly hip-to-hip in a straight line in front of the television making shifty-eyes back and forth. We tried to not have many people over.

It was necessary to start shopping for another tiny sofa if we ever had hopes of entertaining (which we did.) We also realized the most fun parts of furniture shopping were making fun of really bad prints, and not looking at price tags. The comfy ones were going to cost us.

Having put a pin in that project, a trip to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore for something else surprised me with our seating solution –and I loved it.

Thrifting for furniture can be a terrifying, smelly waste of time –but it’s all about mindset.

Rule #1:  Keep an open mind. Focus on the bones of the piece; don’t fixate on things like hardware or wood finish that can be altered–that’s the fun part. If it has great lines, the 20-year water stains and rusting, gold hardware should be invisible–look for potential. Things like knobs and handles are always replaceable; funky alternatives to tailor pieces to your home can be found like these from Anthropologie or these from Hobby Lobby (but really, what can’t you find there?)

Even if you aren’t looking to completely refurnish, but rather add decorative accents, thrifting can be your friend. For example:  nasty, old artwork. Good thrift stores stockpile the ugliest art because their previous owners looked inside the frame instead of at the frame.

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What was a mounted, colorful print of the anatomy of a plant is now the bulletin board in my office. Why the former ever counted as art was beyond me, but I scored a seriously inexpensive, large, ornate gold picture frame perfect for mounting a cheap cork board. Similar pieces can get expensive. Frame and board combined, I made my Goodwill version for under $15.

Rule #2:  Make sure you can use it. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good deal. If you can use it and it’s cheap, that makes a good deal. Before going, have a general understanding of what will/wont fit in your space, and what your needs are. Once you’ve opened that mind, it starts to feel like you can fix everything, but should you?

Once you start thrifting, you ride a fine line between upcycling treasure and hoarding junk. (Please don’t use this post as a green light to start hoarding useless junk that doesn’t fit your home.)

Tip:  Carrying a pocket tape-measure in your purse to make sure your find is useable is never a bad idea. There is nothing worse than finding the one, then going home for measurements, to have someone else swoop in and carry off the antique buffet table of your dreams (trust me, I’m not over it yet.)

Rule #3:  Make sure you can fix it if it needs it. I get sort of carried away really quickly. Quickly. I have a bit of a confidence issue in that I have way, way too much confidence in my ability to create absolutely anything my brain can cook up. This stems from being moderately good at being able to create some of the things my brain can cook up. (My brain is constantly cooking.)

Don’t consider this a point of discouragement, but rather a point of caution for overzealous “projecteers” such as myself. Make sure you have the right tools, or can obtain the right tools while still maintaining your find was thrifty (don’t buy a $5 door to repurpose into a shelving unit, when the table saw to complete the project could cost you $650. At that point, you could have just bought a much cheaper shelving unit that somebody else made out of a door.)

While a bench seat may be an easy upholstery job, I broke the news to myself recently that I cannot reupholster an entire couch. I had no intentions of thrifting for a sofa then, because what were the odds of finding exactly what I was looking for? And a clean one, at that? Shame on me. (See rule 1 about “keeping an open mind.”)

I did not intend on buying a rust-colored, plushy love seat that looked like 1973 –but being ready to design a quick Plan B when you find what you weren’t looking for is a big part of it.

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Sure enough, I fell for this one. After inspection, the only thing wrong was a missing back cushion –it wouldn’t need any new upholstery -absolutely no tears or stains. For me, this was an easy fix that I could handle because Austin and I didn’t care if the back cushions perfectly matched – and it was so darn comfy.

I actually prefer now that they don’t match, I like our weird little love seat (and I like that we could afford it.) I feel like it adds the good kind of character to our home –the kind you go looking for in thrift store projects to begin with.

Do you have any thrifting success (or horror) stories? Share below!