I haven’t really looked for an apartment in years, at least not since I moved out of Miriam and Adam’s place back in 2009. I’d done some quick looking while in Christchurch, but nothing worked out enough for me to take it too seriously.
So when I finally accepted a position here in Mass, and it was time to really buckle in and find a new apartment, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.
And whatever I did expect, was definitely not what ended up happening.
First off – I have a roommate. Marla. She’d actually given me a call a few months back asking if I was looking for a place. I couldn’t commit to anything until I had a full time position, but thankfully (for me) Marla hadn’t had any luck in the weeks between her asking me and me accepting the new job.
So, I wasn’t really expecting to find anything right away – Marla’d been looking for nearly two months at that point with no luck, and I’ve usually had pretty bad luck with apartments anyways (see Mafia landlord and the insanity of trying to renew a lease).
But, we found a few interesting places and scheduled times to look.
Marla had found an amazing 2-bedroom cottage near Alewife, complete with a wood stove and a back porch, and even with a small shed out back to store our bikes. I’d found an interesting one too – a place double-listed as both 2-bed and 3-bed, in Western Cambridge that came complete with off-street parking and a small front garden.
So we scheduled out times to meet the agents. Monday for my place, and Saturday for Marla’s. That’ll be important soon.
Monday rolls around, and we meet the agent. The downside of the place that I found was that it was through a rental agency – thus we had to pay a full months fee. But we figured that it would be worth it to find an amazing apartment, and sat down with the agent to figure everything out. Now, this guy was not what you would call a salesman. He was friendly and helpful, but aside from that he was kinda clueless about the place overall.
But whatever, he could still show it to us. So we headed off to view the place.
The place that was right near Alewife.
With two off-street parking spots, and a small front garden.
The place with a back porch, and a wood stove.
A place that even had a small shed out back where we could store our bikes.
If it’s not obvious at this point, it was obvious to us – we were seeing the same place that Marla had found earlier on in the day. The same place that she had scheduled us to see on Saturday, when we’d be meeting with the landlord. Who wouldn’t charge us a one-month rental agency fee.
We said our goodbyes to the agent, and walked home. Talking about the situation we were in.
The place was, in a word, perfect. It was a full house, but small enough and cheap enough for two people. It had amazing bedrooms, tons of character, and even had a Kiln in the basement that we could use. We were in complete agreement that we wanted the place, and wanted it now.
But… there was the matter of the agency fee. We could, theoretically, wait for Saturday to roll in and just see it with the landlord then. Bypass the agency all together. But from what Marla’d been seeing, places like this go fast, and the agency could easily have it rented within a day or two if we didn’t jump on it right away.
So, we decided on full honesty and full disclosure. We called the landlord that night, since it was still pretty early, and told him the whole story. We all discussed, and he said that he’d prefer to call the agency himself, since he had been dealing with them so far. Painfully slow minutes ticked by as Marla and I waited by the phone (waiting by a cell phone isn’t nearly as dramatic as an old-school rotary phone, FYI).
Finally, he called us back. He’d discussed it with the agency, he said, and they may be willing to negotiate with us about the fee. He left it to us to deal with everything, saying that he liked how we’d dealt with it, and was definitely ok with us as tenants of his.
So, we planned, schemed on how to approach it, and finally called the agency.
I did the calling this time, since Marla had called the landlord, and through the two of us combining our amazingly shrewd negotiation techniques we found ourselves walking down to the rental agency, planning on signing the papers that night.
The crux of the deal was that we opened up with a fair offer – 50% of the intended fee. It wasn’t our fault that they’d double-listed the place, but we still wanted to be above the line and honest with the agent.
And they agreed. And we signed the lease. And that ended one of the shortest apartment searches of my life – from start to complete in a single night.