By Dave Twombly
Dave Twombly is moving! Here’s the story:
Maybe you are like us. A young(ish) family, new to parenthood, realizing that it’s time to move. Your once great apartment, convenient to everything, is now too small, not aging well, or not what you deem safe for your newest roommate. Or worse, perhaps your neighbors, or landlords (or both in one) are not good at being either of those things. You decide it’s time to move.
There is something exciting about starting a search to find new place to live. It’s fun to get into new spaces, see different layouts, explore new neighborhoods and try to picture yourself living here or there. We started our search for a new apartment with the typical excitement. We didn’t have a lease, which gave us freedom to move at any time, I had knowledge of the market and spaces (as this is my profession) and an eagerness to see what was out there. Being a Cantabridgian, I decided to take a grassroots approach. I posted signs in the neighborhoods I wanted to live in (you laugh, but this has worked for me before). I called an old landlord (now friend) to have her put the word out in her neighborhood. I posted on Craigslist singing our praises about how good we are as tenants. I soon learned there was an X Factor I hadn’t dealt with in previous apartment searches. I call her my daughter.
A law that was designed to protect my daughter against harmful lead paint had the opposite effect. When contacting rental agents (who dominate Craigslist and warrant a blog entry all on their own) and explaining who we were and what we were looking for, I had a callback rate of about 2%. Nobody dared talk to the guy with the kid under 6. The lead law requires that landlords de-lead their apartments (an extremely expensive undertaking) for families with children under 6. Landlords, in all but a few rare instances not allowed to discriminate against families with children and rental agents are never allowed to discriminate on their behalf. (I even got into an email ‘debate’ on this topic with a rental agent telling me I didn’t know what I was talking about, with a smattering of condescension. The MA Commission Against Discrimination agreed with me and I told the agent so. The debate ended when he called me up screaming and referred to me as something not fit for print. Realtor on Realtor crime. Which is against the NAR code of ethics). The easy work around for rental agents is simply to ignore families with children. That’s what happened to us.
My joy and eagerness quickly dissipated as I realized the pool of places we could live and shrunk drastically. Further, the pool of places that we could live and that I would actually consider moving my family into, was now miniscule. As the final straw, my currently landlord told us that she wanted us to sign a lease (after 3 years of not having one) and raise our rent. We were not willing to pay more for a place in need of major repair. Now, the clock was ticking and real pressure was on. We went from ‘wanting’ to move, to ‘having’ to move. Fortunately we made a connection via friends who had recently bought a place (using one of your favorite bloggers as their Buyer’s Agent.) We were able to find a family friendly apartment in a quiet neighborhood that’s in much better shape than our current apartment. Most importantly, we were able to work directly with the landlord and didn’t have to deal with (or pay) a rental agent.
These are just some of the issues that come along with the rental game. It ain’t always fun.
The next blog entry will be written from my new home. Provided I can find my computer in one of the many, many boxes.