The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

June 3, 2012

Home is… Well, Somewhere Anyway.

Filed under: Bellevue, Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:46 am

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Well OK, it’s that time of year too, but it’s also the time of year when the lease on my apartment is going to be coming up for renewal soon, which means that I need to figure out where the heck I’m going to be living for the next year (or so.)  Thankfully the apartment management at my current place does a pretty good job of providing their renewal information well in advance so I have plenty of time to consider things, but the story is pretty predictable:  It’s not cheap to live in Downtown Bellevue, and it sure as heck isn’t getting any cheaper around here either.  That’s not to say it wouldn’t be doable under the right circumstances, but for as much as I enjoy living here, it’s pretty clear I could go just about anywhere (besides Downtown Seattle, but I have no interest in living over there anyway) and get a bigger apartment for less rent than I’m paying now.  And based on doing a bit of searching, it seems highly unlikely I’m going to find a better deal than I’ve got now in Downtown.

I also no longer have the advantage of being able to walk three blocks to work like I did when I worked here in Bellevue, and given the aforementioned lack of interest in living in Seattle, it means I’m pretty much looking at a daily commute of at least 45 minutes in each direction from just about anywhere I go.  Although the commute isn’t quite as bad as I thought it might be back when I took my current contract at Amazon, I have to say that the ability to easily walk to work and back spoiled me a bit.  And although I was never all that impressed with the lunch choices available in Downtown Bellevue when I worked here, it’s still a lot better over here than what’s available in South Lake Union where I’m working now.  It’s actually even been enough to get me to start bringing my own lunches to work a couple of times a week, and anyone who has known me for long enough knows that for quite a long time I’ve been the type of person who never brings his own lunch to work.  Sure, there’s the much touted food truck scene in the neighborhood, but with only a couple of exceptions (most notably the taco truck that parks in front of my building each day,) the overall impression I’ve gotten of the food trucks I’ve tried is that they’re trying to sell you $5 worth of food for $12.  Nonetheless, since I have no intention of ever living over there it’s all pretty much academic anyway.  In theory, while I lived and worked here in the same neighborhood I wasn’t spending anything on commuting, but it’s pretty clear that the ability to live that close to work was a luxury, and not a particularly cheap one at that. 

And even with as much as I’ve enjoyed living here, it’s not been without its problems, most of them being related to the plumbing.  Although I haven’t found myself with any major incident like soaked carpets due to a leaky water heater (given the fact that this building has a centralized water heating system, that would actually be pretty impressive and pretty disastrous at the same time) I’ve had a number of minor issues with the plumbing, which leads me to suspect that whoever did it when the place was built didn’t do a very good job of it.  There’s also the creaky floor underneath the bathtub, and a few of the cabinets and fixtures that have had problems that I’d think you really shouldn’t be experiencing in a building that’s only three years old.  Nonetheless, in the grand scheme of things it’s all been pretty minor, and it’s still a pretty nice place.  If I did move into a different place I think I’d also have a bit of a hard time giving up the air conditioning I’ve got here, but then again I do tend to be a bit of a wimp when it comes to the heat, and the big windows in the place mean that if I didn’t have the AC the place would be one big oven.  Ultimately, if it wasn’t for the impending increase in what’s already a pretty high rent I’d renew here in a heartbeat, but when reality gets factored in, it becomes a lot more difficult (albeit not completely impossible) to justify.

And then, there’s always the option of buying a house, which is what pretty much everyone I’ve talked about this with has told me I should do.  To be honest, I’m not sure that’s an option just yet, especially since it seems like quite a few other things in my life seem to be in a proverbial holding pattern right now.  As I’ve discussed in a couple of other posts, there are number of potential opportunities that I have going on right now where things could easily go in one of two different directions, but it’s really too soon to tell where any of them are really headed.  Although I am optimistic that ultimately things will work out in a reasonably advantageous manner, I’m not sure it’s a particularly good time to be introducing additional complications into the mix right now, and there are few things out there which are as good at adding complications to things as home ownership.  To be honest, I’m not even sure where I would be looking to buy a house, much less what I’d be buying.  I’ve looked a little bit at buying in this neighborhood, but even though I can afford to rent in this neighborhood, I think buying a place around here might be just a little bit out of my league right now.  Maybe I could swing it after I’ve written a bestselling novel and sold off the movie rights or something like that, but for the time being I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to look a bit farther out.  Either way, I don’t think it’s going to happen right now, although it’s definitely on the radar at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Ultimately, when I ask myself where I should be living when all this is said and done, I’m not sure there’s any answer that is completely right to that question.  I don’t think I’d need something like a big waterfront mansion or anything ridiculous like that, but I suspect that no matter what I end up deciding on there’s going to be some degree of compromise involved.  You can get something nice, you can get something affordable, or you can get something in a good location.  If you’re lucky, you might even be able to pick two of those.  At this point, all I know is that I’ve got to pick something, and I’ve got to pick it soon.

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.

December 31, 2007

Things You Never Notice Until They Fail Catastrophically

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:51 am

Currently, I live in a somewhat older apartment, at least compared to most of the ones found in Redmond. It’s not exactly the most luxurious place you’re going to find in this area, but it’s clean (at least it is whenever I get around to cleaning it up,) the neighborhood is decent, and it takes me less than ten minutes to get to or from work. To get to work from here, I literally just turn left out of the apartment complex, drive straight down the road for about 2 1/2 miles, turn left again, and I’m there. On the other hand, being a somewhat older apartment also means that you can’t always count on the appliances being the most up-to-date models.

In particular, the washer and dryer seem more than a little out of date. As you can see from the photo above, the model name on the washer and matching dryer is shown as “Design 2000,” which by itself generally indicates that you can automatically knock about 15-20 years or so off of that to get back to an era when such a designation would have still sounded impressive. Combine that with a “high-tech” computery-looking font and gratuitous faux wood trim, and you’ve got a machine that at the very least is probably old enough to vote, and wouldn’t have looked too out of place going all the way back to the Seventies (although the machine itself is beige, so maybe it doesn’t go that far back.) If my research is correct then the apartment I am in was built sometime in the mid to late Eighties, so the washer and dryer can’t be much older than that. The stove in the kitchen is of a similar design aesthetic, although the lack of faux wood trim keeps that one from looking too dated. Just be sure that when you bake something in the oven, you set the temperature on the knob on to 25 degrees less than the recipe calls for, or you’re going to find yourself eating an awful lot of charcoal. So with all these ancient appliances in the place, which do you think you would pick to be the one to fail and make a big mess of the place?

Why, the 2 1/2 year old hot water heater, of course. At 10pm on a Sunday night, no less. Earlier this evening as I entered my den/office (actually it’s the second bedroom, but since I’m the only one living here it’s my office,) I found a spot of the carpet to be abnormally soggy. Further investigation revealed the sogginess to not only extend throughout the carpet in that half of the room, but through the wall into the laundry room as well.

If you’re a homeowner, this is usually the time to start scrambling to find the manual for the hot water heater, realize that you probably tossed out the manual ages ago, scramble to find the manual on the Internet and read the troubleshooting section which doesn’t tell you anything but to turn off that big red knob on top, call a 24-hour plumber and give them a bunch of money. On the other hand, since I’m renting here, I was able to make an emergency call to the maintenance staff, who responded quickly, and somehow managed to get a carpet cleaner here at 11:30pm on a Sunday to extract the water and clean up the affected carpeting.

Even though I will probably have to deal with not having hot water for a couple of days until a replacement can be found (Edit:  Never mind, they managed to get a new hot water heater installed in the morning,) this could definitely have turned out much worse. At least it happened when I was home, and thanks to the quick response of the maintenance tech and the carpet cleaners, what could have turned into a disaster got reduced to a mere nuisance. For anyone who ever finds themselves looking for an apartment in the Seattle area, I would gladly recommend a community managed by BRE properties. They have provided excellent service in the time that I’ve lived here, and maintain the place very well.

It would have been kind of nice if I could have figured out a way to finagle a new washer and dryer out of the deal though…

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