Finally Home – 21st Century Apartment Hunting
Approximately five years ago on this exact day, I was the perfect example of what people over here in the states consider a “hot mess.” I had one more month to live in Germany while working full-time and making arrangements for my move to the US. Doesn’t sound too bad, I know, but take into the equation the fact that I had recently been broken up and left disappointed by the fact that this particular person had offered me to move in with him but didn’t live up to that promise. No need to point out that that was just another thing on my list that I really didn’t need to deal with while trying to enjoy my last month with my friends and family in Europe.
Well, even though these unfortunate circumstances happened, I had to arrange my living situation if I didn’t plan on ending up on the streets. With no information on how to find an apartment in the United States, I turned to what has become one of my best friends and resources: Google. The website popped up a couple of great websites, but there was one catch: Most of the places listed were way out of my budget. So I had to try again by refining my search to shared apartments only.
By that time, I wasn’t too familiar with Craigslist. I had heard about it, but since it wasn’t really popular in Germany, I had never made use of it before. Now in my fifth year living over here, I am familiar with many Craigslist horror stories, but I can say with a lot of confidence that it is not that bad finding an apartment through this medium.
So when I was trying to get my living situation in order, I turned to this particular website. What amazed me was that it was free and had an enormous variety of ads, and I could filter my search by location. Since I knew I only wanted to live in Huntington Beach, this was a great plus. I quickly found a couple listings that I contacted, but I barely received responses due to the fact that I wasn’t able to look at places ASAP. Except one lady, who was so nice to give me a shot and invited me to look at her place as soon as I traveled to the states. At least I had a little bit of relief with everything else I had to deal with at that time.
What I didn’t expect when I visited the place was that a lady greeted me who seemed to be in her late 40s. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against living with people who are a little older than myself, as long as we get along. I just wasn’t used to the fact that, especially in Orange County and LA, so many people of any age have roommates. Where I am from, living with a roommate mostly occurs in your 20s while you are going to school. I left my reservations behind, and after seeing the place, I agreed to move in the following week. And what can I say: we were a pretty good match and had a lot of fun together.
Unfortunately, since I didn’t have a job and needed to desperately keep my funds together, I wasn’t able to stay with her for longer than four months. So I turned back to the Internet to take care of my living situation and it wasn’t for long until I stumbled upon a great opportunity: A young family of four was looking for a live-in babysitter who was supposed to take care of their two kids two days a week in exchange for a very low rent. Not bad, and with my childcare experience, I applied in a heartbeat and got the offer to move in with the family a couple days later.
At first, things were going really good at the place. We lived in a pretty big house, I could save a lot of money, and I got along well with the family. But things started to change after a while. I can’t go into much further detail due to privacy reasons. All I can say is that the whole family structure changed during my 18 months of living with them, and I did feel the need to move out in the summer of 2013.
So back to the Internet it was. This time, I knew for certain that I wanted to live in downtown Huntington Beach, an area where all the fun happens: it is close to the beach and close to Main Street, which is full of fun restaurants and bars my friends and I used to visit on a regular basis. So when I saw an ad displaying a place in downtown located one block from the beach at a reasonable place, I didn’t hesitate one second.
And what can I say, I lived with my roommate at that time for two years, and I loved it. She had a little dog I took care of and loved like it was my own, which made it even harder when I had to leave the place last August due to unforeseeable circumstances. But thankfully, her and I are still in touch, and I still get to take little Missy out for a walk every once in a while.
Since I had been mostly successful with the apartment search via Internet, I gave it another try, hoping to find a place equally awesome as the one I lived in for two years. Unfortunately, you can’t have luck every time, right?! I don’t know if it was the fact that the new place was around the corner from the guy I was dating by that time, but when I looked at it, I oversaw a lot of red flags.
I definitely should have taken a closer look: the day I moved in, I noticed a weird smell inside the house. Not only that, but the house was a total dirt hole. I do not want to go into further details, but let me say this: I was too grossed out to even clean because it was so filthy. Besides that, we also lived next to a fraternity (which wasn’t an actual fraternity, just a bunch of guys who liked to party a lot, and not only on the weekends). I was also able to listen to our neighbors’ adult activities since the walls were so close to each other. Needless to say, I didn’t last at this place longer than a month and could thankfully escape to my guy’s place a couple times.
Thankfully, a great opportunity had already lined up for me. During last year’s summer, I was working for a family who knew a girl my age who was looking for a roommate because her cousin was moving up to LA. Best part of this was that the place was in my old neighborhood of downtown Huntington. I contacted Leslie (name changed due to privacy) ASAP and was beyond happy when she replied to me to come by and look at the place. Once I saw it, I was in love. It was clean, close to the beach, and my room was bigger than any of the rooms I rented before. And what can I say, I have been living there for almost a year now, and I am not planning on hitting the Internet up for house searching anytime soon.
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.