Help me decide where to live!
May 7, 2010 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Should I move? I just accepted a new job. An opportunity to live in a sweet condo 5 minutes from my new job has presented itself. I'm trying to decide If I should move or not.

New place pros:
* Almost twice the size of my current place, 2bdrm instead of 1. Has a kick ass view, awesome balcony, and is mostly renovated. It's a really nice place. Huge soaker tub, which I will really appreciate. I love this condo.
* Landlord would be okay with my 3 cats. Tons more room for them; they're a little cramped in my current 550sqft condo.
* 5 minutes max from my new job. My commute would otherwise be 20-45 minutes, depending on traffic.
* Landlord is a known entity - a friend is moving in with her boyfriend. She wants to rent her place out, but would much rather rent to someone she knows and trusts. With this in mind, she's offering me a sweet price.

New place cons:
* $160 month increase in rent (about 12%). Given the size however, it's reasonably priced, just more than I'm paying now. With the raise I'm getting, I can afford this. But I really don't *need* the extra space.
* Planned construction, sometime in the nearish future. It's a stucco building, and the plan is to replace the stucco, railings and maybe the windows. I have no idea how bad this could be.
* The building itself has an inconsistent policy on pets in general that apparently isn't enforced.
* My new job is a contract, with a defined end date a year from now. It might be extended, but there's absolutely no guarantee.
* The owner is moving in with her significant other. I'm worried that perhaps things won't work out, and she'll want her place back. The plan is to do things by the book, and current tenant laws here say she has to give me 2 months notice in this situation.
* no insuite laundry. There's a nice laundry room in the basement which is apparently deserted because everyone else has laundry. (The place has hookups, but the owner never bothered using them.)
* I'lll have to lug everything up 16 floors (vs 2 currently)
* I'll have to actually move. This is a giant undertaking. People will want to view my suite. I'll have to clean. I'll have to hide my cats. (I'm allowed one. I have three. Mommy cat was preggers and only counted as one cat when I took her in.) This really stresses me out, to the point where I'm on the verge of an anxiety attack. There are moving costs.

So, I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons. I'm really concerned about living in a construction site, and the possibility the owner will find herself homeless and want her place back. And the idea of moving again... ugh. But it's a gorgeous condo, I really love it.

What would you do? What other considerations am I missing?
posted by cgg to Home & Garden (23 answers total)
Do it. Sign a yearly lease so she can't reneg. Moving is good for the soul, as are short commutes.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:47 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take the apt. If you have hookups, buy a washer/dryer of craigslist and that fixes that problem. Yeah, you might have to move again, but that happens.

Try to get the lease so that its end date corresponds with the end date of your job -- if your job gets renewed, renew the lease. And I suppose it depends on where you are and the terms of your lease, but the landlord can't break your lease because she wants to move in any more than you can because you want to move out most places... it protects you too.

Sure, it's a little more expensive, but better quality of life is way worth it (plus, you know, gas prices)
posted by brainmouse at 8:48 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll have to lug everything up 16 floors (vs 2 currently)

Is that a typo? Maybe you mean six floors? Either way, no elevator to a sixth floor anything would be a deal breaker to me.
posted by soelo at 8:49 AM on May 7, 2010

Are you averse to having a room mate? if you can get someone to take the second room, you can actually reduce the amount you pay every month.
posted by Sara Anne at 8:52 AM on May 7, 2010

Is that a typo? Maybe you mean six floors?
Sorry -- should have clarified. There is an elevator. I'm just used to taking the stairs; it's good me for :). I would be taking the elevator up 16 floors in this case, obviously.
posted by cgg at 8:53 AM on May 7, 2010

I am going to be the conservative voice here; do you have an emergency fund? Do you contribute to your retirement regularly? Will you have enough money, if you lose your job, to move again in a year if you're financially unstable?

It seems to me that someone without a permanent job would be best served being conservative and saving the $160/month towards other things seems like a better idea. You may love this condo a lot and the benefits are all quality of life things, but they seem to be (view, balcony, soaker tub, etc.) what I would consider to be "luxuries"; do you have enough of the essential financial stakes in life to start buying luxuries?

If so, absolutely go for it. If you're in a position where your emergency fund and/or income possibilities at the end of the year aren't what they could be, I'd stay and secure your financial future instead with your increased income.
posted by Hiker at 8:55 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

$160 month increase in rent (about 12%). Given the size however, it's reasonably priced, just more than I'm paying now. With the raise I'm getting, I can afford this. But I really don't *need* the extra space.

don't just factor in the space—factor in the cost of your time that you'd otherwise be spending traveling to work. that's 30 minutes extra you can sleep in or work out in the morning every day, five days a week PLUS 30 minutes extra you'll have after work every day, five days a week. $160 more a month is a BARGAIN!
posted by lia at 9:02 AM on May 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Planned construction, sometime in the nearish future. It's a stucco building, and the plan is to replace the stucco, railings and maybe the windows. I have no idea how bad this could be.

If you can't get a definite timetable (including start and projected end dates, defined work hours, any time you may need to vacate the apartment and take a rent reduction), don't do it. Construction noise can be hellish, especially if repeated for weeks on end.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:05 AM on May 7, 2010

If you are stressed by having to hide your 3 cats then removal of stress should be on your plus list.

I find that the hassle of moving can outweigh access to the considerable benefits that can come with living somewhere really nice, and which can make your general quality if life improve considerably. I say this having had 23 addresses in the last 20 years for one reason or another and really hating moving house. I say move, an hour extra a day not commuting? How soon will that pay back for the hassle? Shell out, it will be worth it. Somewhere comfortable, open, with a view, intangible but very beneficial.
posted by biffa at 9:09 AM on May 7, 2010

The 5 minute commute would make it totally worth it to me. I second what Lia said.
posted by turtlefu at 9:15 AM on May 7, 2010

if I could pay $160 more a month to commute by a factor of 6 I would be on that like white on rice.
posted by jrishel at 9:21 AM on May 7, 2010

From the perspective of an architect, I will weigh in on the living-in-a-construction site issue. This could have significant impact on you, so I bring this up not to discourage you, but just to make you aware of the possibility. Replacing the stucco on buildings of that size is no quick undertaking.

I live in Seattle and your profile puts you in Vancouver, so we share the same weather for the most part. Typically, with these extensive repairs, the building is almost always wrapped in a tight've seen these buildings...they look like they have been shrink-wrapped. They have. It covers the scaffolding on the entire outside of the building, so the work can be accomplished regardless of the weather. Stucco and window replacement requires predictable dryness. It is common that persistent leaks are the result of both poorly installed stucco (actually, probably a Dryvit-like product) and improperly flashed windows. It's common to replace both of these things at the same time, as they are really should act as "one" unit when properly installed.

This project could take 6mos. to a year. And during that time, your view could be completely blanked by the building wrap. Your actual unit would not take anywhere near that long...maybe a few days work at your particular window...but there will be workers covering the entire outside of the building for quite some time. The impact will be psychological more than anything.

Normally, I would be in the "move" camp, but if you determine that this work will happen during your stay, I would seriously take into account the above scenario. Would you move into the same apartment if it had no windows? (This is basically the case once the building gets wrapped and you feel the need to guard your privacy from the construction by keeping the blinds drawn 24/7). Just thought I would put this perspective into the mix. Good luck!
posted by nickjadlowe at 9:22 AM on May 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

It sounds great. Congratulations!

Any chance that you could bike to work sometimes to make up for the lack of stairs ?
posted by amtho at 9:24 AM on May 7, 2010

I'm going to agree with Hiker. How confident are you about finding work after your contract employment is up? Will you have savings to cover yourself if you can't find a job? It might be tempting to engage in "lifestyle inflation" when getting a raise, but will it be worth it if you come up on hard times? Just something to think about.
posted by squawk at 9:33 AM on May 7, 2010

$160 a month is likely to be completely offset by having a 5 minute commute. Chances are you could walk that, so you go from commuting costs to ZERO commuting costs and (essentially) a free gym. An extra $160 a month is nothing in my value system for the sort of advantages you state. I'd move for just the commute, I think, and space is amazing for making a more relaxed environment at home.

You also, don't forget, gain at least 5 hours per week extra to your social and home life. That is a huge amount.

I moved into a flat that I considered bigger than I needed a few years ago. It was truly wonderful and approximately 800% better in terms of relaxation in the flat. I found myself enjoying weekends just staying at home, cooked more, entertained more, had separate areas for different activities (actually starting eating at the dining table). The increase in quality of life really surprised me.
posted by Brockles at 9:43 AM on May 7, 2010

If you've a pretty decent shot at being able to maintain the affordability should this new gig go south I say do it.

The commute factor alone would make me do it.

Also, I rented a condo in a building that was having major repairs done due to a shady developer using shoddy materials. It lasted nearly the entire year+ I rented there. It only really annoyed me twice. Once was a water issue that didn't get properly communicated and the other had to do with the stucco repair on my balcony creating a huge dust issue. I don't regret it though and I wasn't even told of these issues before I signed my lease.

I work out of my home now (for the second time) and I gotta tell you that not having a commute is so amazing. My automobile expenses have dropped to nearly nil because I walk almost every where. I'm saving on gas, saving the planet, etc. So the $160? would feel literally like nothing to me.

And I also agree that moving is a good thing. You'll get rid of so many things that you don't need, but thought were a good idea at the time. It's kind of like a life cleanse.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:49 AM on May 7, 2010

Do it.
posted by mzurer at 9:53 AM on May 7, 2010

In general I would take the closer apartment. Eliminating your commute time is easily worth the rent delta.

About a year ago I moved from being 30 minutes away from work to less than two miles away. It was easily the best move I could have made.

I didn't realize it, but those 25-35 minutes of sitting in traffic were turning me into a really horrible, angry, stressed-out person. (I understand conceptually that there are people with much longer commutes than this, sitting in traffic. How they are all not axe murderers I do not comprehend though.) I was always in a bad mood when I got home and the first thing I'd do was complain about the traffic. It made me hate my job and not want to get up in the morning, and stay there far longer than I should have at night, waiting for the traffic to abate.

Now, I can walk or bike to work if I want, and if I drive I can go back to the house if I forget something, or go there for lunch instead of going out. When I'm done with work, I go home; no hanging around because it's the peak of rush hour. Conversely, I'm not flogging myself trying to get everything done so I can squeak out the door at 4PM.

My feeling now is that I'd rather live in a cardboard refrigerator box close to my office than in a nice house 10 or 15 miles away. It's a quality-of-life issue. So I would go for the closer apartment almost regardless of anything else.

However, I think the concern about pets makes that apartment in particular a no-go. You do not want to be pulling an Anne Frank with the two extra kitties every time the landlord sends a maintenance crew over, or if you piss off some neighbor and they decide to drop a dime on you. Unless you can get some sort of agreement in writing that allows you to have your cats, it would be tremendously irresponsible of you to take the apartment. Allow me to be very blunt: you would be a bad pet owner, and a bad person, to put yourself in a situation where you might have to give the cats up in the future due to the building's policy, however "inconsistently enforced" it supposedly is.

You've made a commitment to take care of your cats and that overrides the potential benefits of the new apartment, however nice it would otherwise be.

My recommendation is to look for other, more pet-friendly, apartments in the same general area (that would give you the same favorable commute) and pass on this one unless you can work something out.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:11 AM on May 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the good points so far.

Allow me to be very blunt: you would be a bad pet owner, and a bad person, to put yourself in a situation where you might have to give the cats up in the future due to the building's policy

I can't not respond to this one. Feel free to go though my posting history -- if there's one thing I'm an advocate of, it's the well being of cats and kittens. There is no situation, short of me being dead or otherwise physically incapacitated and unable to care for them, that would cause me to give up my pets. If my pets have to go, I have to go. That being said -- renting in this city, with pets (and 3 no less), is next to impossible. Right or wrong, people renting with pets are forced to bend rules to some extent to save their animals. Its not a debate I'm going to get into (there are previous debates about it here on the green), but considering I'm already doing the Anne Frank thing, this proposed situation is actually better. Not ideal of course, but ideal is a pie-in-the-sky pipe dream. Trust me, I've tried.
posted by cgg at 10:30 AM on May 7, 2010

I vote to move provided you get clearance for your kitties to come with you, right out there in the open. And congratulations!
posted by bearwife at 11:43 AM on May 7, 2010

I wouldn't do it.

I would never rent a condo. Your landlord is an amateur, so you don't know if she'll fix things. Maintaining real estate is a huge hassle.

As you point out, the owner might want her condo back, in which case you might have to move again. She might also decide to sell it, or she might stop making payments and lose it to foreclosure. This would be a hassle.

You will have to deal with the condo association and whatever idiot rules they have, even though you do not own the place.

The only thing worse than renting a condo is owning a condo. But you already live in one, so apparently you are willing to deal with the risks.
posted by massysett at 12:41 PM on May 7, 2010

Kadin, I think the OP is saying that the current place does not allow cats, thus when the apartment is being shown to new renters, the cats will have to be hidden. It seems that the new place is okay with 3 cats.

That said, I would go for it, based on your potential increase in well-being as well as that of the feline members of the household. Your current place is half the size of mine and I only have one cat--who I know would like to have more space!
posted by miratime at 2:01 PM on May 7, 2010

If I were in your shoes, I would move in a heartbeat. Just the commute and cats would have me packing. And I am taking into consideration the cons that other people posted above (windows, shmindows!).
posted by deborah at 8:46 PM on May 7, 2010

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