Tuesday, September 3, 2013

House Hunters International:Budget Edition

When we arrived in Dublin, we had the great fortune and luxury of time.  Sara's new supervisor very generously allowed us to stay in his home while he and his family were away on holiday (vacation.)  The house was comfortable and there was no urgent hurry for us to be out of there, but we were motivated to get settled in to our own place as soon as we could swing it.  We (read: Sara) had been doing some research on housing costs and availability in Dublin for some time before the move, but the research was purely academic (hee hee) because apartments were usually snapped up within a few days of listing.  Because of this high turnaround, we would not have been able to set up apartment showings before making the trip, because many would go off the market during our flight.  Once we had settled in to our host's home, we visited the local apartment finding site, daft.ie.  We searched openings in our neighborhood and price ranges, and made some calls.  Appointments were set for four different places over the next two days.

Our first visit was scheduled the following day just after lunch.  The rent cost was just on the top edge of our price range, but it looked spacious and was located right next to Sara's campus.  The proximity to work alone would have been worth a look.  We arrived early so we could walk around the area and see just how close it was to campus.  Turns out, as close as we could have dreamed.  The complex was located right on the busiest street in Dublin, giving it the advantage of easy bus and road access to most of the town and the disadvantage of traffic noise.

We met the realtor, an incredibly kind, patient, and talented real estate agent.  She showed us the rooms, and we saw the layout just like the photos in the ad.  See below.

Bedroom showing a double bed in an apartment in Dublin, Ireland
The Bedroom

The kitchen in an apartment in Dublin, Ireland
The Kitchen

The living room in an apartment in Dublin, Ireland
The living room.  Fireplace behind the TV stand

The apartment looked like it would fit our needs just fine.  The furniture was nice, the appliances and fixtures were updated, and that location was undeniably excellent.  The realtor told us she had another viewing of the apartment immediately after us, so we said goodbye and exchanged phone numbers.  The next viewing was scheduled for an hour later, in the same part of town.  We took advantage of the walk time to talk about what we liked about the apartment and how we might compare the amenities and location with the cost of this apartment and the others we might see.

We met the landlord of the next apartment in front of the building.  From the outside, this place looked like it had major potential.  It was still close to campus, but a good distance away from the busy road (often called 'motorway' or 'carriageway' by people we meet.) and in a building overlooking a small neighborhood park.  The price was slightly less but certainly comparable with the first apartment, so we had high hopes.  Inside, we saw what the difference in price would mean for us.

The apartment was slightly larger and laid out in a more open style, but very little had been updated.  The floors were old carpet, the kitchen appliances were quite old, and the toilet was a box-and-chain model I haven't seen since The Godfather.  This apartment would have been perfectly acceptable and livable, but we quickly saw the value we would get with the other apartment.  After thanking the very pleasant and helpful landlord (who even gave us apartment finding advice steering us away from his place), we made a call to the realtor from the first apartment.

We left a message on her voicemail clearly stating that we were VERY interested in the apartment.  After a time, she called us back and gave us the chance to claim it.  It turned out the tenant at the next showing also wanted to sign a lease, but our realtor wanted to give us the first stab at it.  We were very grateful and wanted to make the move, but we hit a financial wall.  All of our transactions had to be in cash at this point.  We had brought along some American cash to change, but we were relying on getting more from ATMs upon arrival in Dublin.  The ATMs all worked fine, but we had a daily withdrawal limit on the American side.  Because of the exchange rate, this greatly limited the amount of Euro cash we could get in a day.  It would be three days of maxed-out withdrawals before we would have the first month's rent and security deposit in cash.  The realtor listened and was more than happy to work with us.  We made an appointment to meet the next day at the apartment.  "Can we bring our things to move in?"  We asked.  "Of course!"  Was the happy answer.  The next phone calls we made were to cancel the other scheduled apartment showings.  

We met her with all the cash we had the next day and set about moving in.  She stopped by over the next two days to pick up our payments until we were secure.  If she hadn't been so patient and willing to work with us, we surely would have lost this place.  She could have asked the next potential tenants if they could make the payment and deposit right away.  She didn't, and for that, we are very grateful.

At the lease signing, our landlords came to the apartment to meet us and show us a few things.  As a gift, they brought us, from their own gardens, a bouquet of sweet pea flowers.  Beautiful and fragrant, these sat proudly on our dining room table for more than a week.  They even inspired the name of our new home, Sweet Pea Corner.

Sweet pea flowers sit in a vase on a dining table in an apartment in Dublin, Ireland
The namesake of our home

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