Dates are getting set, plane tickets bought, and now is the time to find a new home. Over the weekend, we went to 2 different realtors looking for our potential starter apartment together. Here's a synopsis of our Japanese version of House Hunters
The first place we went was a smaller local realtor who seemed to have lots of affordable looking apartments online. Our realtor was a friendly, talkative young guy who showed us 3 places.
The first was actually a series of different apartments available in 1 building. That should have raised a red flag right there. A building... empty... for months? When we stepped in, the floor was covered with what looked like 1 year's worth of dead bugs. Bugs are a fact of life (and Japan has a ton of them), but who wants to see them when looking to move in? The owner doesn't care to sell the apartments, obviously. I saw dead bugs, bird's nests in electric boxes, and water damage. Cleaned up, the places would have been nice. The neighborhood is good too, but the neglect left me worried.
I didn't like the second place before we entered it. The realtor drove us around in his small SUV, and he couldn't even enter the apartment parking lot. Why? The road leading to it was the smallest, narrowest road I've ever seen. I thought it was a foot path. A small K car, like the clown car-sized car I drive, would have no problem, but any regular sized car would be an Indiana Jones-esque life risking experience. On both sides of the narrow path were these deep rainwater trenches, so if you fell off the path, you'd be calling a tow truck. The owner clearly knew this apartment had a handicap, because it was decorated with fake 100 yen (dollar store) decorations in attempt to make it cheerful.
The third place seemed promising to me because it was huge, and in an amazing location. Too bad the building was ancient, dirty, and could use work. For example, the kitchen was old and wallpapered. Wallpaper is the worst idea for a kitchen, because around the stove, it always becomes discolored and burnt. In this place, there was a giant black splotch next to the stove on the wall. Also, there wasn't sufficient hookups and outlets for heating/air conditioning units. This place was begging for renovation.
Perhaps being too nice was our real estate agent's downfall, because he couldn't convince us on any of these places. He was a nice guy with horrible product to sell.
We tried a bigger, chain real estate agency with a wider selection. Our agent was the pushy-salesman type, and wasn't a fan of small talk. Because of this, I decided it was better to talk in English with my beau as we looked at places and discuss the pros and cons. That way, we could also discuss and compare the apartments to the competitor's we saw during Day 1. Call it sneaky, but the realtor wasn't filling the time with chatting and explanation anyway... he was like a chauffeur.
The first place I had high hopes for. It was cheap and in a good location. The age of the building seemed a bit old, but I was happily surprised to see that they had replaced the old things and cleaned the place well. My problem was the tatami mats (woven straw mat floor). Tatami is a lovely traditional material for floor, well suited for an old Japanese inn or a tea ceremony site, but not for my living room. One spill of something and they're ruined. Plus they easily mold. And they have always shed on me. I was okay with having a tatami bedroom, but not a living room. My beau didn't like this place because the porch was ground level and open, so anyone could walk up onto it. I wracked my brain trying to think how we could close it off, but the tatami ended up being my deal breaker anyway.
The second place was a dream come true. It was completely western style: no tatami floors, tiled kitchen wall, and a walk-in closet (<3!). Since it was located on the top of a hill, it gave a great view of the city below. I fell in love. There were a few little signs of wear and tear, but nothing that was serious or couldn't be fixed by the owner. It definitely was taken care of. Plus, it was in the area I already live in and know/love. It's 3 minutes away from my current apartment.
Tonight we're doing the paperwork to get that last place. I hope everything goes well!