Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rental Roulette

As it turns out, it really does take 6 full weeks to get yourself together after having a baby. Who knew?? I was all, "Oh let me just drop it like it's hot and I'll be right back in a jiffy." And then...I wasn't. I was tears and come-aparts and more joy than I ever thought possible and operating with less sleep than I ever thought possible. And everyone says, "sleep when he sleeps!" But then..when would I ever have time to blog?

So, about 10 days after E was born, Neal got a phone call from his career counselor letting him know that a spot in the school at Ft. Lee (Virginia, sorry...NOT New Jersey) had opened up. Neal was registered for the school in April, but there was now an opening for the December class. Like responsible partners in an equal opportunity marriage, we talked about it...and then I demanded he take it because I'm ready for 4 seasons again (number TWO on the List of Things I Never Thought I'd Hear Myself Say). During the second week of August, moving in November seemed so far away.'s less than 8 weeks and I'm trying to not come unglued about everything that still hasn't happened. On that list of unfinished tasks was finding housing. Lodging. A roof over our heads and a pot to piss in. You wouldn't think it would be that hard.

Let's take a little trip back to November, 2010. Neal had a 2 week class at Ft. Lee and I drove up for the last week to check out the post, do a little tree-hugger shopping in Richmond, and go see what all of the hub-bub was about Colonial Williamsburg (turns out, that really is a lute in his pocket, he is not happy to see you). I also stopped by the housing office to find out what our options were for on-post housing (I really do love hearing the Star Spangled Banner at 5 PM everyday, even though it is preceded by bugles that always wake the baby). I was told there is "ample space" with "tons of officer housing" and "no wait list" and "more houses being built." Excellent. We'll be back.

That, apparently, is not the case now. There is no more space, there is no officer housing, and there's a fatty little wait list. Somehow, one day we were #15 of 15 and the very next day we were #25 of 28. I don't even know how that's possible. So, that leaves us to find our own lodging in a short amount of time.

I turned to the Automated Housing Referral Network, which is a website available to military personnel. It lists property for rent (usually with pictures) by landlords that consider themselves military-friendly. There's usually some sort of discount for military personnel - a waived application fee or first month's rent free or something. In the first week of perusing rentals within our housing allowance budget of about $1300 (housing allowance is based on the region where you're stationed, not your rank. So everyone who lives in the Ft. Lee area gets the same housing allowance), I found the following train wrecks, clusterfudges, and all-out duds. Luckily, I also found a very lovely 1300 square foot, 3 bedroom apartment with a balcony and double bathroom sinks in a gated community. I think it will do just fine for 6 months. But before you can kiss the gate pass, you have to kiss some living room wood paneling...

For $800/month, you get (what I consider to be) a double-wide, one token tree, and a piece of sheet metal that's going to do a heartbreaking amount of damage to your car any time there's a gust of wind. $850/month to get a house that has been "renovated to meet today's code." If you are simply renovating your house to meet code, there's a good chance it falls far below my standard of living. I'm going out on a limb here and saying that there are probably not stainless steel appliances or a walk-in closet in this little charmer.

WAIT for it...ah..yes...the living room wood paneling and blue plush carpet. Who could ask for more? And all of this can be yours for the sweet little price of $1450/month. Let's just bear in mind that this is more than BAH for the area. We would have to come up with an additional $100 each month just for the pleasure of living like the Brady Bunch.

I also found this fantastic little bungalow. Only problem is, they've taken the "loft" look a bit too far (2 walls of the most). And it's $1400/month and the fireplaces are inoperable, according to the property description. If I'm paying over BAH for a house, it better have working fireplaces so our utility bill is less.

Just in case you thought the wood paneling was an isolated incident. It's not. You, too, can live in a lovely rectangle of fake wood for $1450/month. (I mean, really?? If your interior features unpainted paneling anywhere in the house, there's a pretty good chance that house is paid off. So maybe not be so greedy with the rent. I could live with paneling for $900/month. Anything over is just a sin.)

$1500/MONTH gets you a house with its own ghost. Oh's just someone who's in too much of a damn hurry to wait until the room is empty to take a picture that will advertise the house for rent. If you can't take a decent picture of a room, you don't get my rent check.

It gets better. $1700/month will afford you white appliances. I know stainless sometimes feels very 2010. And they rust. And it's impossible to clean them of fingerprints. But seriously. For $1700, give me steel.

On the other side of things, you can pay $700/month and get this house, with a master bedroom that is seemingly a converted garage (what IS that rail at the top near the ceiling??), complete with tile floor and cinder block walls. Perfect for the escaped convict who is homesick for C Block.

And for $695, you can get a house with this view. I would love to show you the house, but this is the only picture posted with the description. I wouldn't at all be surprised if the rental was actually a tent. Or a teepee. Or maybe a lean-to. So many options that don't require actual brick and mortar.

And last but not least, for $700/month, you can rent a ROOM in this charming little rancher. You would think $700 would get you the whole house, but you would be wrong. You might also think the property owner is very hip and savvy and has Instagrammed this picture to appeal to the younger generation. You would be wrong there, too.

Not included:
1. The GORGEOUS house in downtown Petersburg that rents for $1500 (think Charleston, SC 2-story with porches meets IKEA/Pottery Barn decor), but I'm pretty sure is haunted by Civil War soldiers singing. (Yes, I believe everything I read from a Google search).

2. The hot mess of a property photo taken in the living room, where they tried to cram in every Queen Anne piece they owned + a pack n' play + a plaid couch + 2 cats + 3 people. I can only assume their target market is clowns and they want to show how much will fit into just one room of the house.

3. The house where the featured selling point was a brass and glass light fixture.

4. The sweet little joint where we'll be living. Because sometimes people be crazy. 

I still get on AHRN a couple times a week just to see if The Perfect House has been posted. I have a feeling it doesn't exist.



  1. Isn't it just an adventure?!?!? Hang on and try to enjoy the ride. You can do this!!!

    (She says enthusiasticly while enjoying her plush accommodations in a gorgeous foreign country....)

  2. Plush blue carpet!! Take it!!!

    Also - isn't it so surprising that recovering from birth actually takes 6 weeks? And that all those people who were like "If you don't have kids, you don't know?" weren't being smug they were being honest? I totally thought they were being smug.

  3. If you were going to be living in Ft Lee, NJ I'd be so excited that I couldn't stand it.

    Also...I have white appliances. In both of my houses. What are you trying to say exactly?

  4. I think you should start a separate blog devoted to commenting on Craigslist postings.

    You know, with all that free time I'm sure you have now.

    But still. It would be HILARIOUS.

  5. You're coming soon! So very sorry that housing has been a hassle and i sincerely apologize for the obvious gouging that's going on.

    I humbly beg your forgiveness for my white appliances, but i love them!

  6. Holy crap. What a nightmare to have to sort through all that!

  7. I also have white appliances, but they weren't purchased by me, AND they have black handles. It counts for something, somewhere.

    I hope your move North is successful and smooth. E will hopefully be sleeping by then, and you'll be able to travel quietly.


That's it, let it all out....