January 22, 2022
It's now into our third week in the USA and thankfully the house hunting has ceased. After what felt like an eternity of frustration and zero support we had some puzzle pieces fall into place. We started our house hunt with what we thought was a real estate agent... let's call them Georgina for privacy's sake. Now Georgina seemed helpful enough while we were in Australia and some of her listings looked fantastic. We set up some viewings when we landed only to realise she was an agent not a real estate agent. The difference? An agent works between the buyer and real estate and somehow gets their pay from the estate agent should they secure a tenant for the real estate. Clear as mud right?
The first property was lovely but over our price range- we had been told that agents were flexible and that we were able to bring pricing down (as per embassy information) which Georgina in a tone filled with offense told us was not possible. She pushed a second property on us to view- one which we didn't want to see but Bear placated her and we went.
It had zero backyard, zero flow of rooms, and felt like they'd played 'pick the room type out of a box' to lay it out. It was certainly not what we were after and too far from bear's work or metro line to get there. We parted ways and continued our hunt.
We found a gorgeous home southwest of DC which we all fell in love with. It was everything we wanted and for $55 USD per adult, we put in an application...
Yes, $110USD to apply to rent a home...
No, you don't get that back if you don't get the house...
We had our hopes set on this place and we were devastated to learn that we missed out because someone came in $300/month over the requested rental price. That night Bear had spoken to the Embassy to ask for help. We are a five-human family and the allowances were less than ideal for a family of that number. Most of the other people over here are couples, singles or three human households. With explaining about the school districts we were looking at, the reasoning behind those districts, and all the other factors, said embassy person sent through homes with schools which were not what we were after, in areas we didn't want to be.
Now, in my 23 years of knowing bear, I have seen him cry a handful of times and never out of frustration. This night, he was so angry, tired and frustrated that he cracked a little. I was tired too and tried to remind him we were only in the country a week and that we would find a home and someone great to help us. I didn't have a clue how but I said we just had to keep looking when we could.
We applied for another three houses in the following days and didn't get any of them. One of them came on the market the same day we viewed it, applied, and missed out on that one by $700/month above the asking price. Bear found a home, which I wasn't fussed about, but it was in the school areas we wanted and not too far from his work. He called the agent who told him that the wallpaper in the kitchen would make vomit every morning, but he had a couple of others that might fit us better.
The more we spoke to this agent, the more we understood the game of real estate here and the more we laughed. He was like a ray of sunshine who not only understood sarcasm but used it correctly too! Bill showed us through a couple of homes, and we had set up a third home for the same day to view. We asked him to come along with us to view that one with us as he was very open and honest about the homes we'd seen.
I had fallen in love with a little 1950's cottage-style home and nothing compared to it after the first viewing. We asked Bill to put in our offer and added a couple of hundred a month in case we needed to secure it. Not only did he write our application, but he also paid the application fee (we are giving it back to him) and negotiated between the real estate agent and ourselves.
He had made mention of a salty estate agent and the owner being a 5-star general. Bear had the giggles over the 5 star (apparently they're only around in wartime and he was fairly sure Eisenhower had passed away) but googles the owner and recognised him. He told Bill and Bill passed that onto the estate agent who suddenly cheered up and was very polite. Suddenly we had lease paperwork and a home to move into in February.
We were able to go back to it yesterday and walk through it again to work out what furniture to order. The current tenants were there again and so was their beautiful dog, Evo. The kids joked with S & A about dog sitting anytime they need it and we exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch.
The last time we relocated here, we had very different allowances for home rentals and we also used a beautiful local company for furniture rental called Alpersteins. I have been endlessly frustrated that the Embassy doesn't use them anymore because a bean counter came over and decided using an online company would save a couple of dollars.
Alpersteins went above and beyond for us, and so many other families and it didn't make sense why you wouldn't renew contacts with such a fantastic local company.
So I googled them.
The news article was brutal and broke my heart. Alpersteins had closed down operations in 2018 because the Embassy of Australia had not renewed contracts with them and we were their biggest contract which helped keep them in business. You can read the article here:
So we are about to embark on a furniture adventure of not being able to try out couches, beds, or table sizes before we receive our furniture... The twins are going to be sharing rooms as it is a three-bedroom home, but the online company doesn't do bunk beds and only has double beds as their smallest size... Interesting times ahead! I'll be sure to take lots of photos and try to sound grateful I promise.
I have said to Bear a couple of times, and I mean this in all the seriousness that these words come with.
This was far easier last time and I had newborn babies and postnatal depression.