Finding housing in Charleston is not for the faint of heart. It is more like joining a professional parlor game as a mere amateur without the rules.
I spent five or six days reaching out to all my Charleston contacts, sorority sisters, cousins, and even in one case, a relative's ex-husband. I scoured classified ads, all the rentals websites, Craigslist, and even joined neighborhood association Facebook pages. After a day or two I realized several things, taking Ellie (my pup) was going to narrow my options and staying in my price range was going to put me in some old maid's attic.
My first choice location was the area around the Citadel. Unfortunately, this is where everyone wants to live these days. If and when a place comes available, it is usually rented before anyone knows about it. Second choice was a place in the middle of the peninsula - safe but newly gentrified therefore affordable. My search continued.
After a myriad of emails and calls, most of which were never acknowledged, I adjusted my price range and made what appointments I could. So yesterday, armed with a camera, a notebook, patience, and optimism I headed to the Holy City. By the time I arrived, several of the properties I was interested in were already off the market. I stopped before I got to my first meeting and checked online to see if anything else had come open - no such luck.
My first stop was ideal. It was close to my orginal price range, in the ideal neighborhood around the The CItadel, and very large. This could be it. One stop, done. The young lady was very friendly. The apartment was huge, over 1100 square feet, hard wood floors throughout, great shape, large bedrooms, off street parking. Then it all came to a screaming halt.
I asked the young lady why she was moving. She said she wanted a dog and the landlord did not allow any pets. In fact she had lived there for several years, loved the location, and was having to move to West Ashley (across the river and into commuting traffic hell) in order to find a place of equal size where she could have a dog. This did not bode well. If she could not find a suitable place and she lived in the neighborhood, my chances were like - nil. The perfect place was off my list.
The next "best" place was a circa 1900's single house on an oak lined street in the Eastside neighborhood. The house had a view (glimpse) of the Cooper River and the Ravenel Bridge. The upstairs apartment had the wonderful porch that ran along the side of the house. The front apartment was a 1 bedroom with a new kitchen and lots of light. The high ceilings, hard wood floors and old features of a traditional Charleston house made me feel warm and fuzzy. But it was one bedroom.
Then the young man showed me the two bedroom apartment on the back of the second story. It had the same old features, same nice kitchen. And it had two bedrooms, both the same size. That was the good news. The bad news - neither room had enough room in them to change your mind. Forget a king or queen bed, getting a double bed in there and being able to walk around it would be nearly impossible. But it was a beautiful place, on a pretty street, with a porch.
Next stop, an old iron foundry that had been restored into upscale apartments. This was located just one block from Meeting (and a nice grocery store) and just two blocks from King and all the new bars and restaurants. The unit I was looking at was two bedrooms and had never been lived in. It had exposed brick walls, hardwood floors, and a kitchen. The bedrooms were not huge but they accommodated beds, additional furniture and had closets. And - Ellie could come.
So here was the quandary - the "perfect" place, large, less expensive, ideal location? No pets - deal killer. The Charleston single house, personal piazza, Charleston charm, interesting location, tree lined street, but bedrooms only bunk bedrooms would fit in. An industrial looking building, new unit, not huge, but decent sized bedrooms, located near shopping, bars, and restaurants?
After an hour or so of gnashing my teeth, wringing my hands, playing pros and cons until I was exhausted, the larger bedrooms trumped the Charleston charm. I called the landlord and told him I would take it.
He responded, "Great, let me call the couple who have a contract on it."
Seriously? What the . .. . .?
He continued, "Oh, I don't think there will be an issue because they badly wanted a one bedroom and at the time I did not have one open, and since they signed their lease, a one bedroom has come open. I think they will be thrilled to change to the one bedroom."
I explained (very politely, as calmly as I could) that I was in a situation that I needed to know since time was the essence. If this was not going to fly, there were some other properties I was looking at that were going to be gone if I did not get back to them ASAP. He assured me he understood and would get back to me.
When I returned home, my DH asked, "Well did you make up your mind?"
I told him I had decided on the newer property.
Then he asked,"Did you sign a lease?"
"What? You mean, you went down, spent a day, finally found a place you liked, and did not sign a lease."
Then I explained the situation to him. He just shook his head, "So basically, you are the same place you were when you left this morning?"
Actually worse off, I thought.