Roaches Under the Refridgerator — Part 2

5 Tips to Finding an Apartment That Isn’t a S#!^hole

Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

I recently had a significant change in my life and had to find a new place to live. It’s been quite a few years since I last did the Craigslist dance; five, at least. I recall it was pretty simple last time. I assumed this time would be no different and would find a place quickly, but I was mistaken.

If you haven’t noticed, housing prices have skyrocketed in the last five years. Also, in the previous five months. The last five hours? You get the point.

When you’re renting nowadays, there’s more money involved, more people looking to take advantage of you, more stress involved, and more shitholes that people want to rent you to get in on the high prices.

I don’t want to sound pessimistic or cynical because that is not who I am, but this has been my recent experience.

As a writer, I have the opportunity to share my experiences in hopes that someone can learn from what I have experienced. Plus, the stories are fun, in hindsight.

So here we go.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash
  1. Tip #1: Watch Out For Scams

There will be scams on the internet until the internet doesn’t exist. Craigslist is no different. I dislike these bastards, to put it mildly. Scammers prey on vulnerable people like me, desperate for a place to live. When desperate, your judgement can become compromised, allowing you to get taken.

So first of all, remain calm. Spoiler alert, I ended up finding a place to live, and you will, too. I could’ve been scammed, but I kept my cool. You should, too. And I was a bit of all over the place at this point. Check out my last blog to see what kind of emotional roller coaster I went on. At this point, I was desperate, but I wasn’t impulsive.

Let me tell you what the scams look like: they look too good to be true. If a place looks nicer than the price being asked, there’s a reason. Try to not listen to the voice on your head that says “wow, this must be my lucky day! One bedroom, 1500 square feet, pool and gym in the lobby, only $800 a month!” (FYI: in Vancouver, where I live, you can’t find a bachelor suite that fits a little more than a bed and bathroom for less than $1000 per month; trust me.)

Once you learn to spot these scams, it’s easier to bypass them. You get a feel for the price points, and when one is out of place, it’s probably a scam. As I said, scammers prey on your desperation and impulsivity; they aren’t scamming you by being more intelligent.

One of the newer scams involves Covid. The scam is that the person renting the place to you is stuck in the U.S. because border restrictions won’t let them return. When you email them to tell them that you are interested in the place (because it looks too good to be true), then they email you back, tell you their long sob story, and then hit you with the scam. Rule of thumb: the longer the story, the more likely it’s a scam. Good places sell themselves.

They ask you to send them the rent money, and they will sell you the keys. Sometimes they add that a friend will show you the place or something like that, but sending any money is a dead giveaway for a scam. They’ll say anything for a buck.

Unfortunately, you will probably have to click through a few of these during your search, but once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. These scams will soon become annoying more than anything, like a fly buzzing around you and pissing you off.

Bottom line: Scams are everywhere, keep your wits about you, and don’t EVER send money over the internet for keys.

Photo by Robbie Down on Unsplash

2. How To Know It’s a Shithole

This is a good lesson that I was fortunate I followed, even before I knew it was advice. I was in a bit of a desperate state of mind when looking for a new place to live. At first, I was optimistic. I did not think apartment hunting would be a big deal. I figured I would have a few places to choose from, and I could pick the cheapest one that wouldn’t make me want to curse every time I walked in the door. That was not the case for me.

Now, I went and saw a few shitholes, but I wanted to focus more on my mindset in this article and not the shithole itself. You can read a more detailed explanation of the shitholes I looked at here.

I was excited about the first place I saw because it was in a good neighbourhood and just inside my price range. Pay attention to the feeling in your gut when you walk up to a place. That shithole gut feeling was present as soon as I walked through this door.

Another good shithole indicator is keeping track of how much work you’ll have to do to feel “at home” once you move in. I had been there one minute, and my mind was racing about how I was going to make this shithole work. Not a good sign. The landlord also listed twelve things he would ”take care of” before moving in. Also not a good sign.

When you go see a shithole during your search — and you will see some shitholes — don’t get scared and take it right away. There will be something better. Have a little faith.

Bottom line: Trust your gut, be patient and don’t take the first shithole you see.

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

3. Check Under the Appliances For Cockroaches

This one I wish I had known before I took my place. Don’t get me wrong, I was and am incredibly grateful for finding my non-shithole place. But I wish I would’ve pulled out the old fridge and stove and checked for roaches. Let me tell you something; nothing is more unsettling than coming home at night with bags of groceries, flicking on the kitchen light, and watching five or six roaches scurry under your oven, fridge and coffee maker. Actually, I’m sure my high-pitched screams were more unsettling.

My landlady actually saw one and killed it when we were doing the walk-through and asked if she could get her “bug guy” in there to kill them. First of all, it’s kind of disconcerting that she has a bug guy. Whatever. Second of all, I thought it was a one-off. I said, “oh, that’s OK, I don’t mind a bug or two.” And I don’t, but roaches are not one-offs. There are many of them. And they’re quick, and they’re good at hide-and-seek, dammit.

Everything ended up being fine. The bug guy came, and now they’re pretty much wiped out. The bug guy puts down a gel the roaches eat and then returns back to the other roaches. He also set sticky traps around for them to walk into and get stuck. Did you know that when roaches get stuck, they send a distress signal for other roaches to come and help? Then more get stuck. I talked to the bug guy, obviously. He was very nice. I still find the odd one around (roaches, not bug guys) but that’s alright. Nothing’s perfect.

Also, I thought I had ants as well as roaches. The bug guy informed me that they were only baby roaches and not ants. Phew! However, as it turns out, ants are a more serious problem, much worse than roaches. The bug guy brought this big tank and sprayer. He said I would’ve had to clear out for a few hours while he sprayed for ants. Again, more good bug knowledge from the bug guy. Thanks, bug guy.

Oh, I lied before when I said there was nothing more unsettling than seeing roaches scurry under appliances. The first morning I woke up here, I made a pot of coffee. Remember how I told you the roaches ran under the coffee maker when the lights came on? Well, I made a nice, big, fresh pot of coffee the first morning in my new place, and sure as God made little green apples, there were a dozen boiled roaches staring back at me, floating on my coffee.

I emailed my landlady quickly after that, and the bug guy came asap. Yuck.

Bottom line: This situation, while now manageable, was shitty at the time, could’ve been worse, and could’ve been avoided with a simple check behind the appliances.

Photo by Jos Speetjens on Unsplash

4. Turn the Taps On and Off To See If They Drip

Here’s another one I wish I would’ve done before signing my life away on the dreaded rental agreement (just kidding, my lease is excellent). Right now, I have to turn the taps in the shower quite hard to get them to turn off entirely. Sometimes it takes two or three times of going back and tightening them a little more to get the water to stop dripping. I’m fairly certain I’m going to Hulk-turn them off one day and cause a serious problem. I put in a request to fix it, but no response yet.

My advice is to check your taps before signing anything, especially if you have to pay for water (I don’t, only electricity). Dripping faucets are annoying and cost money — even if it’s not your money.

Same deal with the toilet. Give it a flush while you’re checking the place out. I actually did this one, and I got a brand new throne out of it. I flushed it while I was looking at the apartment, and sure enough, it ran. I told my landlady, and she said instead of fixing it, they’re going just to give me a new thunder bucket (I wish she had actually said “thunder bucket,” but I stole that from Anthony Bourdain, of all people).

I also recommend testing the smoke alarm. I did this at two places, including the one where I live. Both worked, but the one here fell off its mounting, and I couldn’t get it back in. I told my landlady, and the handyman screwed it back in.

But aesthetics aside, you should still check the smoke alarm for safety’s sake.

Bottom line: When checking out a place to rent or doing a walk-through, turn on the taps, flush the thunder bucket, test the smoke alarm, flick the lights, etc. Test everything. Be like the annoying child who touches everything in the store.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

5. Don’t Do This Alone

Moving is stressful. If at all possible, don’t go through it alone. Much like the physical part of moving, letting others help you carry emotional things makes the process easier.

I was lucky because I had lots of help from wonderful people as I was moving. Again, just like the actual moving part itself, the more people you have helping you, the better.

Actually, for physical help, because of the short notice and the fact that it was Christmastime, I could only find one person to help me move. Thankfully, he had a truck, and he and I moved my crap in about two and a half hours. (Thanks, Nick. You’re a beauty.)

However, I do not recommend physically moving by yourself, especially if you have a larger load to move. Get some help.

But don’t do this move alone emotionally either. I went through various emotions, from good to bad, top to bottom, joyful to depressed, and everything in between in that month. It could’ve been much, much worse. But, I had a fantastic group of people, including my sponsor, support group, my sister, and my mom, all helping me through the tough times.

Bottom Line: Ringo said it best, we get by with a little help from our friends. Have some humility and ask for help.

Final Thoughts

Moving is one of the most stressful acts a person can undertake. Why? Because all the shit that happens adds up quickly and starts to take its toll on you. I didn’t even have a ton of “stuff” to move (I am trying to live light so I can live down south eventually, but more on that later), so, physically, the burden was minimal. Imagine all these stories happening, plus having a ton of appliances, clothes, and furniture. That’s a lot of stress.

However, the emotional and psychological toll moving takes is even more significant — whether the move is large or small. Use these tips the next time you’re moving, and maybe you’ll save yourself some sanity.

Good luck!

P.S. What I wrote about moving furniture at the end there reminded me of another moving calamity.

I had to reassemble my IKEA slat-bed, and I wish I would have filmed myself trying to put it back together. It was an infuriating, patience-testing, downright comical undertaking that took me two hours before I figured out the proper sequence to put the slats in. I’d put one side in and when I went to attach it to the other side, the first side would pop out. It was like a two-hour Mr. Bean marathon. I wish I would’ve filmed it.

Once I deciphered how to assemble it so that when I put one side in, the other wouldn’t maddeningly pop right out, it took me about five minutes. I was in no state of mind to be figuring out something as complicated and tedious as IKEA furniture.

Bonus Tip: Save the insanity of attempting to assemble IKEA furniture for another day.

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