Friday, June 7, 2013

This Historical House is Not a Home

So I haven't blogged in some time now. I know, same old story. I'm so busy/tired/enjoying my new Nantucket life that I don't have time to write, right? Well, sort of.

Basically the last few weeks have been an absolute nightmare in which Steve and I have found ourselves living out of suitcases, moving from one location to another for a week at a time, and in a tug of war with landlords and one horrible tenant who doesn't mind disrupting someone else's entire life. 

I should start out by saying that we're fine. Nothing is physically wrong with us. Emotionally and mentally, yes, we may be committed any day now. But we're on Nantucket, so any form of psychological lock up would probably be on the beach covered in gray shingles. Work has been great, Steve is working full time and doing a show on the local radio station, and *gasp* we have gotten to hang out together every weekend and explore and visit every beach we can find, taking a break occasionally to enjoy a dinner here and a Bruins game there. It's exactly what I imagined married life was supposed to be like, and can't believe that we've been doing it wrong the past two years by not being able to spend hardly any free time together and when we did, trying to shake the bad feelings from working in jobs that we despised.

The problem is we've been doing all of these things on the island while essentially being homeless. Let me explain.

When I first came to Nantucket, I was warned up and down that the year-round housing situation for normal people (i.e. not millionaires) was awful. However, I was offered temporary housing from my job in order to settle in and figure out where we would go. This is not a place where you go on Craig's List and dig through potentially sketchy listings. I was told I could stay in a particular historic property until May 15, when I would need to leave to make room for the seven interns that had already been selected. The people I work with put the word out that we needed a place to live, and I quickly saw that they only way find out anything around here is through word of mouth.

We visited countless apartments. Some of them were beautiful but totally out of our price range. I guess if you want to get technical, they were all out of our price range. The least expensive place we looked at was still $300 more than what we had been paying for our previous one bedroom apartment. Some were crazy tiny and still expensive. Of course none of this was unexpected, everyone had warned me about everything being expensive- it's an island, after all. I was choosing to focus on the fact that with my new job I would be making (slightly) more money and not spending $500 a month on gas commuting, and could accommodate having to spend a little extra on living. Did I mention that this entire time we were looking at apartments, Steve didn't have a job yet? Yeah, there was that. So it was really hard to think, "sure, I'll give you $1800 a month" when only one of you is technically employed. I had multiple people who suggested it was time to buy a house, and believe me, if I had $700,000 lying around, I would surely look into it.

So we looked and we searched and I talked to everyone about how we were trying to find a place. Finally we were in between two apartments, which is a conundrum in itself because you have to make snap decisions here or else something could be scooped out from underneath you, which totally freaks me out as an emotional over-thinker. One was a one bedroom cottage that was small but beautifully constructed. It was slightly further away from town, but the least expensive option that we had looked at. It had a backyard and a deck and a bed for a garden. And a basement, did I mention a basement? I didn't even have a linen closet in my last apartment, so any form of storage was exciting to me.

The other was a very centrally located, townhouse style two bedroom apartment that wasn't as nice but also had a large basement for storage. It was barely a mile from downtown (where I work and don't have a parking space) but about $300 more a month than the cottage. 

The biggest issue we had was that the cottage we really liked wasn't going to be available until July 1. I only had guaranteed housing until mid-May, maybe end of May if I stretched it out a bit. We went back and forth for a week trying to figure out if we could find a place to stay for a month. We communicated with the owner about our issue, and he was very understanding and even offered to take money off the first month's rent for the inconvenience. Finally, I got the okay from my job that they would let me stay in a different historical property for the duration of June so we could rent the cottage.

Elated, I called the owner immediately to tell him the good news. He didn't answer. I called him the next day. Steve called him and texted him. It had barely been days since we spoke with him before, and suddenly he was ignoring us. At the same time, we had the landlord of the two bedroom apartment demanding that we tell them whether or not we were going to rent from them, as they had many other people waiting after us. We were panicked- do we let the option we really want go for fear of ending up with nothing? After days of back and forth, we finally had to accept that he wasn't calling us back for a reason, and take the two bedroom. Sure it would be more expensive, but we would have an extra bedroom for guests and easy access to both of our jobs, bike paths, the grocery store, all the necessities. Two days later the guy from the cottage emailed me and said he rented it to someone else. No kidding. 

We had our move-in date set for our two bedroom apartment on May 15, so we could just pop out of my temporary housing and right into this. A few days before, the landlord contacted me and said the tenant had asked for an extension. I said that was fine, because in the midst of all this, we had found ourselves dog sitting for two weeks and the owners let us stay in their house. Two weeks was up, and the tenants were still in the apartment. The landlord told me they signed a letter saying they would be out in 10-14 days. I begged my job to let me stay in the property I had been in before until a few days before the interns arrived. They're nice and they don't want me to be homeless, so they agreed. 

Another week went by and the tenants still hadn't vacated. I was told by many people that Massachusetts rental laws favor the tenant heavily and that it was almost impossible to actually evict someone, and if you do it could take months and thousands of dollars. Steve and I packed up our stuff and moved across the street to an even nicer historical property, where we slept in a room with twin beds and more fancy knick knacks than I've actually seen in museums. We would only be allowed to stay a week, as other people had already been booked to stay there after that. We lived out of our suitcases and tiptoed around for fear of breaking anything. In case you're wondering what that looks like, here's a visual:

nothing hot about this mess.

The time came that we would need to leave. But we had nowhere to go, as that damn tenant, whose lease technically ended April 30, was still essentially squatting in our apartment, halfway moving furniture out, leaving notes for the landlord saying, "any day now!" Our landlords asked another tenant in the same complex, the manager for the radio station where Steve had been doing his show, if we could stay with him in his two bedroom + loft apartment on the other side of the parking lot, within plain sight of our "future" home. He agreed, because he's nice and knows Steve and also doesn't want us to homeless. We moved for the fourth time and found ourselves once again sleeping on twin beds and living out of suitcases.

Finally, we met with the landlord in person. Months of exchange had all been through email, as they're only on island half the year. They told us they felt very bad about the situation, but essentially there was nothing they could do. We could either wait for this person to leave, or "explore other options."

Immediately, burning hot tears filled my eyes that I had to force to stay in my head. I was so angry. What other options did we have? IT'S EFFIN SUMMER ON NANTUCKET. Every week, there were less and less classifeds in the newspaper, and more and more people placing ads begging for housing. I had stopped searching over a month prior, because you figure once you have a lease signed and have handed over a small fortune for your first month, last month, and security, you have a place to live. Turn out that's not the case if you live in the Commonwealth, even on an island that often feels mighty far away from the rest of the state. 

I said we'd have to think about it. I immediately started crying in the car and cursed this tenant for being such an asshole to another person. I just didn't understand. We're pretty decent people. I mean, I always brake for animals crossing the road and Steve goes to church every Sunday. We worked very hard for many years in jobs that we didn't care about and never really made any money. We took a risk and moved here for the chance to start over and do something more with our lives and to be able to spend time together. Why was the universe so against that, and us? 

The next day, I told my boss what has happened. She immediately sprang into overdrive and made me call every listing in the paper, even ones that were out of my price range. She said you have to put things out there in the world and hope that you get something back. Less than 24 hours later, she got wind of an apartment that was available immediately for a monthly rate that I didn't believe existed on Nantucket. She called them and told them what wonderful people Steve and I are. She drove me to look at it when Steve got stuck working late and I was car-less (we currently only have my car here). She was determined to make this work.

When we turned onto a dirt road in a very residential area where you have to drive five miles an hour as not to hit a bunny, I knew we weren't in Kansas anymore, or at least, downtown Nantucket. Which is kind of an exaggeration, as we were three miles from town. We looked at a tiny one bedroom apartment over a lovely woman's garage, who- surprise!- happens to work with Steve. When she informed me that all utilities were included, I almost passed out. I have not seen one apartment where any utilities were included. Like none

The only real problem is that it was tiny. Like smaller than the place we just left on the mainland. You know, the one we grew out of two years ago? However, it did have a big beautiful backyard and did I mention all utilities included?!

So we were faced with yet another dilemma. Do we take the smaller apartment for the great price, and deal with the fact that we can only take a quarter of our belongings and that we'll be living in super close quarters with hardly any room for guests, or do we wait for a bigger apartment that could potentially never be available to us, ever? 

For 24 hours, we once again agonized over whether or not we would make the right decision. We were told that we had to decide if we wanted to smaller place by the following day, as the owner already had people basically stalking her over knowing that she had an apartment available. 

After talking to both our mothers, my boss, the manager of the apartment we were supposed to be living in, and the nice lady that owned the small apartment, we just did it. 

Welcome to our (tiny) new home.

don't worry, the stained couch isn't ours. although it is a pullout.

And we're going to be fine. The station manager we've been staying with offered to let us keep our extra stuff in his basement, so we can at least have all of our belongings on the island. I am going to read every blog about living in small spaces, and if you want to come visit, you are welcome to, but you're sleeping on our sectional sofa (it is comfortable, I will say) or on an air mattress (also, more comfortable than I expected). Or in bed with us.


P.S. In case you have figured it out, this is why I haven't posted any outfit photos this week. I'm lucky I even got out the door with clothes on. I hope to return to my favorite past time at some point, but I just need to get it together a bit at the moment. Hang tight.

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