Friday, July 20, 2007

Project “Ghar Dhoondo”

Sometimes I think that I just need the excitement of something new and eventful happening to keep me going. The excitement of project “Insect Feeding” hadn’t waned when I thought- “Let’s do something exciting again. Let me find a new place for myself”.

Though there was still some time for my lease to get over, this is particularly the time when the new session is about to start, new kids have, or will be swamping the campus, and every possible house in the city goes “For Rent”. Over dinner, me and my friend decided that we could give it a try and find an apartment to share. The logistics, budget, location preference and other stuff was soon decided (which was a surprise because we both agreed on the same things). However, she made it clear that she is not much into apartment hunting and with her job, she wouldn’t be able to devote much time to project “Ghar Dhoondo”. In other words, she gave me the complete carte blanche to go look at places, bargain, decide on deals, and then let her know. Good enough.

Now there are different ways in which one can find a place, and I think I did the thing in 3 major steps.

Step-1: Just Go Look !

Take a bus, or walk on foot to all the locations you want to stay in, look for “For Rent” signs, note down the location and the number, and then give them a call, make an appointment, and go see the place.

Easier said than done. I started with walking on foot around my area on a sunny Saturday morning, walking through as many streets and avenues as I could, jotting down every location, the corresponding phone number, and the color of the house (or any other identifying character). This done, I came home, put all the data into a spreadsheet, and started to call the people one by one.

Some answered, though most did not. This added a new column to the spreadsheet, checking every place that picked the phone. Some said they had already rented while some said places were still available. Some quoted exorbitant prices while some had such low prices to ask for that I soon started to wonder if the roof leaks or the landlord creates a ruckus coming home drunk every night. Some phone calls were never answered, even after subsequent follow ups, and they just remained voice mails for me.

All said and done, nothing much materialized from this method of home finding.

Though I had known about this site for quite some time now, it was only a matter of time for me to really appreciate what it was worth. For here, you could get everything under the sky- apartments, rented rooms, condos, houses to buy and sell, furniture, books, free stuff, boyfriends - you just name it. And it is free. What more, this was better than step 1 because I could look at the pictures beforehand, and even the rent, floor area, utilities, etc., and could make a proper appointment with someone over the phone or email before I ventured out.

I got so addicted to doing this that the first thing I would wake up in the morning, I would browse and see what new apartments have come up. I realized that an excel spreadsheet is not going to be enough anymore, so I actually made a large notebook of data written in different colors. And my records included the name of the person, address and phone number, rent, utilities, when and where to contact, what was the phone response, etc.

Browsing through places in the comfortable confines of my home was a different thing, going to the place and seeing was different. I would take the address, put it on google maps and get directions. What more, since I do not drive, I had to put the directions further in the local website to get an idea of what route of bus would take me there, how frequent is the bus, and when does it arrive. On more than one occasion, I have been stranded in a place because the bus did not arrive at the scheduled time. and though these places were a very good deal at a reasonable price, I instantly decided not to take it. The last thing I wanted was to be stranded in the middle of nowhere on the day of the exams because I missed the bus.

But then again, I would go gaga over the pictures of the apartments posted on craigslist.

On one occasion when I went to see a place which already had another occupant, I was greeted by a huge dog which, if on two legs, would be taller than I am. While I was trying not to feel nauseated with the typical dog-like smell in the house, the owner made it clear that we would have to share the space with the dog. They said, 

“Oh look how cute the dog is. (Cute? OMG!!!). And the dog will protect our homes. He won’t be in a leash. See how he smiles? See how he wants to make friends with you. Kiss me baby, kiss me….”

And suddenly the dog had taken out his huge, muscular tongue, licking the woman like a paintbrush. And the dog looked at me, showing its sharp, pointed teeth. The idea of those teeth digging into my flesh, or being woken out of my sleep in the morning being licked by a dog gave me nightmares. I instantly made some excuse.

“Ehh…(gulp).. you see, as a kid, I was bitten by a dog. Ever since, I am allergic to dogs”

And I had run out of the place and never looked back again.

This is one of those numerous incidents. At one place, they just kept the unit unlocked for open viewing so that anyone could come and see. It was eerie, entering a huge, dark apartment with your own voice echoing. Some apartments are occupied when you see them, which can lead to many an uncomfortable situation like bumping into discarded underwear while looking around. How many places did I see in all? 15? 20? Some places were so good, you would jump to take it the moment you saw it. But these places were more exorbitantly priced and on the outskirts of the campus. It would need a good deal of time to think over it. So I used to carry my Project House Finding notebook with me and jot down all the details, come home, and think over it.

It has also happened that I have called up the owners the next day to tell them I would go ahead with the place, only to be told that the place has already been rented. The last few days of house hunting has given me a dark tan and lots of blisters in my feet.


You go to a friend’s place. You like the place. Ask if there is vacancy. Call the manager. Ask the same. Grab the place if you like it.

This is a relatively easier method, since the hunting process is somewhat eliminated. You know the location, the price, and how the unit looks when it is furnished (since it is your friend’s place you see first). You can ask your friend directly about the hazards of living in the place. But then again, there might not be any vacancy at all.

Well, I still haven’t finalized on any place, but the hunting process has been immensely educative. You actually learn to keep data in order to be retrieved later (and believe me, that is a very important process), you find addresses on your own, you go and meet unknown people who have just been phone voices, you make sure there is nothing in the place you have been missing out on, and so on and so forth.

The search still continues, and sometimes I wish it would get over soon. But then, this would start this whole hassle of moving, buying new stuff, etc. Nevertheless, house hunting is an experience in itself.



Hogwartsbeckons said...

Hey sunshine,

There are also regional housing centers who take down your criteris for the kind of apartment you would want( rooms/location/bus-train service), find it on their database and then take you around to look up in their works! And it was free of cost, atleast in my place..:)

Sharad said...

at least u don have to worry about any slum areas around...:-)
keep the good work up n u'll soon find a home without any dogs...

mythalez said...

and once when u decide upon a house .. you ll heave such a sigh of relief :D ..
however, a few weeks after moving in .. you begin to wonder wat all the fuss was abt finding a house .. it all seems to easy on hindsight :D.