And by that I mean I should be allowed to tote a gun while doing it.
In the next month or so, my comparatively happy-go-lucky life partner and I will be, once again, packing up our action figures, comic books and our two fluffy, scatter-cushion-cats and heading for greener pastures. This will be our second move together and my 5th in almost as many years. I’m looking forward to it like the spiders behind my washing machine look forward to a face full of Doom.
There are lots of things that suck about moving. But between the packing, the sorting (which my OCD tends to really enjoy), the listing, the organising and the notifying-of-change-of-address, nothing is quite as bad as the initial house hunting stage. I would rather scrape the mildew off my bathroom tiles with my teeth than have to painstakingly arrange the sad parade of disappointing viewings that I have come to associate with house hunting again. But what can you do?
Online listing portals like gumtree and private property have definitely made the process a lot easier. Now you can find, contact and arrange a meeting with your psycho soon-to-be neighbour or landlord in a fraction of the time it would have taken using print media.
So there’s that.
But even with all the modern convenience of ‘shopping online’, one can still find oneself touring the 2-bedroom from hell with one’s nose blocked against the thick ammonia-laced odour of cigarette smoke and stale urine.
Because people are bastards, and a person’s true bastardly nature is best exposed when they are trying to sell you something- like a 12 month lease. Perhaps they think that when their unsuspecting viewers arrive on the property in question, they’ll be so overwhelmed by the acrobatic skills of the performing roach circus in the bathroom that they won’t notice they’re being lured into an open-plan toilet with fitted cupboards.
So to save myself, and possibly others, from the pitfalls of house-hunting (which is something of a misnomer, ‘cos I only live in a flat), here are my tips to get past this first, agonising step.
1. Look at the pictures.
Really look at the pictures. If anything looks blurry, out of perspective or has been uploaded upside down, think again. If these people were really proud of their property, they would be showing you its best features- not hiding them. If the image gallery features a close-up of a cat, a lamp, or a realistic looking baby doll, you should start running.
2. Ask a lot of questions
Have you had a bad experience in the past with the landlord not meeting maintenance obligations? Do you have a problem with noisy kids? Would you prefer your neighbours to not throw flaming dog-shit through your open windows when you play your Kate Bush records too loud?
Before you even set up that viewing, pin the owner down on the phone first and do your pre-interview there. Go through your list of deal-breakers so you know what to expect by the time you get to the viewing. Do not do this over email- you need to listen for any wavering or hesitations in their voice that mean they’re trying to trick you.
3. Investigate the area before you get there
Back somewhere during move number 4, Happy-Go-Lucky and I were looking for a place in an unfamiliar area. Because we were driving so slowly, we were pulled over a cop car and thoroughly searched before we were allowed to move on. The ‘po-po’ then helpfully informed us that we were in a ‘bad’ area. No kidding. Don’t believe the owner when they say they’ve ‘never had a problem’. Maybe they haven’t. Maybe that’s because they live across town.
4. Don’t be nice
Until you’ve signed the lease, you don’t owe anybody anything- especially not your time and your feigned enthusiasm. If you get to your viewing, and the ‘cosy 2 bed flat’ you were hoping to see has been transformed into a double garage with an actual skeleton in the cupboard, you don’t have to stretch a fake smile across your pissed-off face while you try to sputter out how it’s ‘not what you expected’, and then tell the dishonest proprietor how you’ll ‘think about it and call them back’. Be straight up and tell them you’d rather stare directly into the sun until your eyeballs shrivelled up than see another inch of their dirty hovel.
Yes, it’s time consuming finding a new home and yes, you will think about living in your car at least once during your search, but perseverance and above all, preparation, can ensure that you only have to traipse through a bare minimum of condemnation-worthy domiciles before you find your next nest.
I believe that if you looked at the right pictures and asked the right questions, you can save yourself a lot of time and nasty surprises when you get to the viewing. If you are surprised, then you’re either not preparing properly, or you’ve been duped by an unscrupulous renter.
And in case of the latter, yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to go back at night and toilet paper the shit out of that mangy dump.