Tuesday, September 26, 2017

decisions: to move or not to move? and are we?

I don't like making decisions.

That's a strange thing to say, because we make all kinds of decisions every day - to wake up when our alarm goes off or to hit snooze seven times, to heat up canned soup for lunch or treat ourselves to the Whole Foods buffet which will inevitably end up being $14, to go to the gym or skip it altogether (fun fact: I'm not even good at making those kinds of decisions. Baby decisions. Nondecisions, if you will).

Last week's crippling decision: to move or not to move?

After calculating the astronomical amount of money we spend each month driving on toll roads from our little apartment in Brandon (just outside of Tampa), the decision was practically made for us: to move. And so our own little version of House Hunters began.

Keep in mind, I'd been browsing for months in anticipation of this moment. I knew our lease was up in November, I knew we weren't ready to buy a house just yet. I knew that I wanted to move closer to the heart of Tampa, a bit closer to the beach. I wanted Ryan to be closer to work for a shorter commute, and I didn't mind being further away from my university because I don't have to be on campus all that much anymore. I felt like our requirements were simple:

  • Reasonable rent (we were even willing to spend a bit more, if it meant less $$ spent on tolls)
  • Balcony for the pooches to lounge upon
  • More storage space
  • More square footage, if possible
  • Not in the middle of nowhere
  • Amenities out the wazoo (nothing we love more than a good apartment gym)
We made the decision to move on a Sunday. By Ryan's lunch break on Monday, we made our way to our first couple apartment visits in West Shore, Tampa's business-esque "district." Our options were limited - a few brand new apartment complexes just popped up over the past year, with 650 square feet 1 bedroom/1 bathroom setups starting at $1500. Unreal.

Samantha and Ryan are in the market to rent an apartment for just one more year before buying a house of their own. Currently residing in the outskirts of Tampa, Samantha wants something a little more pooch-friendly, with plenty of shady areas for walking and leading a more active lifestyle. Ryan simply wants to save money, and is open to "whatever makes the most sense" (good to know, since Samantha prefers to go with the least sensible option...). Together, they'll find that apartment hunting is actually the worst. Is their wishlist too much for their itty bitty budget to handle? Probably, but let's watch anyway.

Option #1

We managed to find a beautiful complex, complete with a resistance pool (um, what), state of the art gym, and two pools, all within our price range (even less than what we were expecting). 

Pros: Um, hello crazy beautiful amenities. Five minute drive to Ryan's job, easy access to the highway, balcony (even though it was tiny AF). 

Cons: The apartment was a 640 square foot "studio/1 bedroom," - in other words, the bedroom actually just had an incomplete wall that didn't meet the ceiling. That's a tough situation when you consider that I'm a student and sometimes I have late nights studying - my desk lamp light would pour right over the wall and into the bedroom while Ryan tries to sleep. 

Additionally, the kitchen felt more like a kitchenette that you'd find at a cutesy boutique hotel, and it all just felt so sterile. While it was in a decent spot (and right across the street from a major mall & restaurants), it wasn't in a great neighborhood. And all of the hallways were inside with access via key only, and just a few areas to take the dogs out. Dependent upon where our potential apartment would be located, it could've been a five minute ordeal just to get outside for them to do their business. Not an opportune situation, if you ask me. 

Decision: PASS

Option #2

Sticking to the West Shore area, we hopped a bit further down the road to the next complex. I got a much better vibe here, from the staff to the apartment itself. We toured a 1/1 (a real 1/1, not a studio) that was complete with laminate wood flooring, a large kitchen, two closets, and a big bedroom.  

Pros: It was about 150 square feet larger than the last one. The hallways were still inside with a 3-5 minute commute to just get outside, but it was closer to ritzy neighborhoods (read: pretty streets lined with lots of trees) so I was feeling better about taking the dogs out. The gym was gorg, great pool, fire pit, etc. I was feeling good, feeling great. Plus: a bigger balcony than the last place.

Cons: The problem here? Price. While we'd be saving on tolls, rent was going to be nearly $200 more than what we currently pay, before pet rent (because a $500 nonrefundable fee isn't enough). We loved the setup and all the extra storage space, but we simply couldn't justify paying that much more when it was still in just an okay area.

Decision: PASS.

At this point, we were way past Ryan's lunch break, so it was time to stop for the day. Discouraged and deflated, we stood in line at Chipotle for an additional 20 minutes because #worthit. Even after just two viewings, I was ready to throw in the towel and to just accept that it wasn't going to happen as quickly as I wanted it to. If you

Option #3

(This is the street view - couldn't show you the inside because someone was still living there!)

Ryan had a lot going on Wednesday morning, so I trekked off to the viewing by myself (YIKES).

Pros: I parked across the street, as I wasn't aware of the giant parking lot behind the building (win #1 - south Tampa/Hyde Park street parking is the worst). The building dates back to the 1920s, so it was a safe bet to say it would be entirely different than what we'd seen in the last couple of brand new, luxury complexes. Upon entering, that was certainly confirmed: we're talking hardwood flooring (like the real stuff but with a laminate over the top), baseboard and crown molding, and double french doors opening into the bedroom. A tiny hallway led to the bathroom on the righthand side, and dead-ended into the kitchen, complete with granite countertops and white cabinets.

The cons: Storage space was relatively very limited with one large closet (plus a smaller one containing the stackable washer and dryer - win #2, as a lot of apartments in the area have a shared W/D or "connections"). And it was still a smaller space, coming in at 650 square feet (whoops, didn't realize that right away). And there was no balcony. Sigh. But it's so cute! And it has so much character! And I can walk to Bayshore Boulevard and take the dogs on long walks through the neighborhood and I can walk to work, to Green Lemon, to Hyde Park Village, to all the bars, TO ALL THE THINGS. In a nutshell - plenty of walking to be done.

After texting Ryan pictures, I told him that while storage space is limited, maybe we could make it work.

R- Is there a closet?
S- About the size of ours.
R- No pantry.
S- We could get something to act as one.
R- 1st or 2nd floor.
S- 2nd.
R- Cool. Parking sitch? Central air?
S- Lots of parking, central air in each unit.
R- Dope. Let's apply.

Decision: Made. LET'S DO THIS.

(Update: application approved, lease signed, baddabing!)

Was this decision impulsive? Perhaps. Was it out of our comfort zone? Entirely. But I think that now is the time to make both of those types of decisions, while we're young and on our own and still renting. And it's just one year. One year of a tiny closet, one year of living a downsized life. One year of living right in the center of one of the cutest parts of Tampa, in the center of Gasparilla madness on January 27th, walking distance from 293848 shops and restaurants and bars. I'm nervous AF but so excited!

What's the last thing you did that was completely out of your comfort zone? The last impulsive decision you made that ended up being totally worth it?


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