The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

June 21, 2010

An Apartment is the Leased of Your Worries

Filed under: Bellevue, Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:37 am

Although I have been quite enjoying the job that I have been at for the past few months now, if there’s one thing I don’t particularly like about my current situation it’s the commute.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve ranted at least twice on this Blog about how much of a pain it can be to commute to and from Downtown Seattle from Redmond, especially by bus.  For the most part, I’ve stopped taking the 545 to and from work, and I now instead drive down to the Eastgate Park and Ride and take the 212 from there.  This makes for a much shorter bus ride by having a lot less stops (ironically enough, it makes one less stop than the ST “Express” bus along the same route),  but this approach still requires going through seven miles of traffic each way, and ultimately it isn’t much quicker than the other way, but at least I get to do most of the drive in my own car instead of on a crowded bus.  On the other hand, if the Mariners aren’t playing at home I can park in the Qwest Field garage for $5 a day.  This is as much as I’d spend on bus fare anyway, but it does require an extra 20 miles of driving compared to parking at Eastgate, nearly a half mile each way of walking from the car to the office and back (although this doesn’t bother me unless the weather happens to be particularly miserable,) and usually takes at least as long to get home as the bus does due to the traffic. 

To make a long story short, my apartment lease is coming up for renewal again, and it’s starting to look like some commute reduction might be on the agenda.  I moved into my current apartment five years ago back when I was still working at Microsoft (Man, that seems so long ago and a world away now, but in reality it’s only been six months since I was last working there,) and for the roughly 3-mile commute to Microsoft campus this place worked pretty well.  Sure it’s a bit rough around the edges these days and I think some of the appliances here are old enough to vote, but  it’s a decent amount of space, the grounds are very well-kept, and aside from needing to write a nice little nastygram explaining, with copious evidence, that they were off their proverbial rockers if they thought I was going to pay their 2008-level quoted renewal rate last year, I’ve not really had any issues with the management.  On the other hand I’ve had my carpets in here flooded by the upstairs neighbors’ leaky plumbing twice now, maintenance request responses have slowed down in the past couple of years, and quite frankly, a change of scenery might just do me some good, so even though I haven’t actually decided anything yet, I’ve found that once again it’s time to start at least looking into moving into a different apartment.

Now I’m not exactly saying that trying to find a new apartment is an ordeal on the order of, say, dental surgery or anything like that, but in the relatively short time that I have spent on this task, there has been a time or two in which I have suspected that Novocaine might have improved the experience.  For one thing, unless the particular apartment complex you’re looking at has a reasonably well-built website of their own, the vast majority of Internet apartment search websites out there range from terrible to utterly useless.  A search on one of these sites generally brings up a page containing just enough information to make it look like you might be able to get some useful info, but further investigation almost always reveals some screen at which you are prompted to register on the site so they can spam the living daylights out of your inbox ’til the cows come home provide more useful and detailed information.  Once you’ve completed the registration, generally you’ll be presented with all sorts of exciting new information that has absolutely nothing to do with what you happened to be looking for.  It turns out the stuff you’re looking for is on another website.  That doesn’t happen to be linked (or even acknowledged to exist) anywhere from the current website.  Or anywhere on the first three pages of a Google search, for that matter.  Add to this the fact that most of these sites seem to behave as though they were built by one of the “My Baby Can Code in VB!” classes at the daycare center, and all you tend to end up with for your troubles is another 27 messages in your inbox that need to be moved to the junk mail folder.

And then there’s  This particular site, which seems to feature prominently in the web searches for many apartment complexes, serves mostly as a collection point for alarmingly large quantities of petty grievances and frothing complaints about various “surprises” that were probably spelled out quite clearly in the lease they never bothered to read before they signed it.  That’s not to say that the site is completely useless (after all, if an apartment complex has 100 reviews and is getting recommended by only 8 of those you probably have a good reason to steer clear,) but when virtually every apartment complex in town seems to have at least a dozen reviews that consist of little more than two sentences of frothing vitriol, it’s kind of hard to take this stuff too seriously.  Should someone have the gall to do something as foolhardy as posting a positive review, they can be assured that within days there will be at least 2 anonymous comments on their review accusing them of shilling for management.  Needless to say, an appropriate grain of salt needs to be applied when taking this approach. 

While there are sites that serve as exceptions to the rules noted above, I have found that in many cases it can be shockingly difficult to get something as simple as a list of available apartments and rents for a given complex.  And it’s not like we’re talking about little mom-and-pop places either.  Even some of the big fancy Downtown Bellevue High-rises are impossible to find much info on.  Sure, one might be tempted to put those into the “If you have to ask” category, but the market for rentals in Downtown Bellevue is glutted right now, and I’ve found some places with apartments only slightly smaller than my current one which are much nicer (to be honest that doesn’t take much doing,) have some cool views and don’t cost too much more than what I’m paying now.  I figure that I’ll eventually end up writing those ones off into the “Delusions of Grandeur” category (at least until I can get my car paid off, which actually isn’t too far off at this point) and settling on something a bit more affordable and/or mundane around the Eastgate area, but I figure that as long as I’m in the market I might as well at least take a look.

To be honest, I’m not even certain I’m even going to move in the first place, or exactly where I’d end up if I did, but it’s clear that if I wanted to I could definitely get into a nicer place than what I’ve got right now.  Unlike with some things though, when it comes to apartment shopping, the journey isn’t exactly half the fun.  Half the trouble maybe, but definitely not half the fun.

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