House-hunting in Boston during a pandemic is not how I imagined I would be spending summer 2020. Just like moving into an apartment by myself was not a goal for 2020. Alas, here I am. Your girl is moving into a studio apartment in August. Let me tell you about the miracle of the past week.
House Hunting in Boston: Part 2.
This week was probably the hardest week for me to be house-hunting in Boston. On Monday, after a week of being depressed because I lost out on an apartment I wanted, I got back in the game. I sent out a bunch of inquiries using Trulia. A few hours later, I was on my way to a viewing, 30 miles away in Beverly Mass. I saw two 1-bedroom apartments. The first option was a 3rd-floor walkup with a tight staircase and stale coffee smell in the air. In the apartment itself, the ceiling was so low. It was literally so low that I could not stretch my hands out fully indoor. I am 5′ 7″. Imagine if someone taller came into my apartment.
The second space was slightly better. It was newly renovated but definitely had massive issues. In the bid to make extra money from a 1 bedroom, the developer clearly took a studio and put up weird walls. The living room was too small to have a couch or a table of any sort. The bedroom was too small for a full-size bed. It looked nice and white. But definitely not functionally designed. I was sad because I had driven all the way there for nothing. Plus, the real estate agent kept talking about how much harder it is to get approved for a lease now. Since the pandemic brought lots of unemployment, the real estate agent said people needed higher credit scores. He also pointed out that cosigners were not welcomed.
I was scared because my credit score is very average.
Look, I am unemployed in the middle of a pandemic. I haven’t been delinquent on any bills luckily. But, my credit usage is definitely high at the moment. While I was wondering how I was going to navigate all this, I got another viewing for Tuesday evening. On Tuesday, I really did not want to be house-hunting. Despite my hesitation, I went to look at a studio apartment about 20 minutes from Medford where I live.
When I got there, I could not find the real estate agent. So I called her. She said she assumed I was not coming because I hadn’t reached out during the day. I was disappointed but she showed up 15 minutes later. It was a Black woman. As soon as I saw her, I was in awe of her energy. We started chatting like old friends. I told her I was unemployed and she did not flinch. She was so polite and showed me the place. I looked and looked and looked and fell in love.
This studio was perfect. It was everything I never imagined I would get.
The real estate agent had a bunch of options to help me qualify for a lease. She asked me about my school funding. She asked if I had a savings account or a cosigner. Y’all, I was able to get a lease on a beautiful apartment in the middle of a pandemic because she worked with me. We did a combination of credit checks, saving account statements, and co-signer. Everyone else I had talked to in the process of house-hunting, told me they could not do that. You have to have a job, I kept hearing. Also, my new landlord actually wanted someone earlier than I was willing to move. The real estate agent came up with a compromise plan. I move in later than the landlord wanted but earlier than I planned. It is a win.
When this whole house-hunting process started back in May, I could not have foreseen this resolution. You can catch up on the story and anxiety behind my move on this post here. I panicked when I first got the notice from the landlord that the lease was not going to be renewed. I hate looking for houses, especially in the Greater Boston area. Being unemployed did not help me feel any better. The past few weeks have been about putting on my big girl pants. Then I came up with a financial plan, applied to all sorts of unemployment benefits, and then started the house viewing process.
My mother and I had a conversation when I first started house hunting.
It helped to really lay the groundwork for what was to come. My mother brought up the fact that I am going to be 34 in September. Then she said to me, “it is okay for you to have your own place.” My goodness, that really gave me the confidence to consider having my own place. I have always wanted to get a place of my own. But financially, it just never made sense. Then, my mother was also nervous about me living alone. Even during this house hunt, she kept asking me about the safety of the places I was looking at. She wanted me to look up crime stats before considering any town.
I am not going to lie. Initially, I really considered living with other people. It is all that I know. In the past 15 years or so of my life, I have shared houses with many strangers. From California to Manchester, to Lancaster, to New York, to Nigeria and now Greater Boston, I have always shared space. If you are one of those lucky people that that has spent your life living in places with affordable housing, living with strangers is not an easy thing. There is that early honeymoon period where you are tip-toeing around each other. Then, reality sets in and everything gets on my nerve. From the cleaning schedule to noise levels to people using things that don’t belong to them, I have had to bite my tongue in the name of being a good housemate.
Recently, I have also had some issues with racism in my apartment that has made me a bit hesitant to live with white people.
I have had a white housemate who felt she was doing something extraordinary by living in a diverse household. As a Black woman, I did not like being part of anyone’s white savior story. I also had issues with microaggressions with a white housemate always assuming it was my responsibility to clean the house and make space for her. It made me uncomfortable at home.
With all this in mind, I decided to live by myself. Then one of my Black housemates decided she wanted to live with me. I realized it wasn’t going to work because her vision for her space and mine were not in alignment. So, I started looking for a solo apartment. There were some things that were important to me during house-hunting. Beyond financial consideration, I had to think of my security. I really wanted to live in a neighborhood where I felt safe in my own home. That required looking for places that were close to the city. I also needed a place for my car. With the current outlook on the pandemic not being good, I needed to be in a place that was walkable so that I won’t be stuck at home.
Signing the lease on Friday was emotional for me in a way that had nothing to do with house-hunting.
The dream was to build my first home with a partner. My life plan was to be married at 25 and have 2 kids by 30. Obviously, that did not happen to me. With the knowledge that I will now be living alone in a space that is all mine, I feel like I am getting into a rooted phase of life. I am letting go of my expectations. My apartment will reflect my current phase in life.
I have never been one to decorate my space. It just never felt necessary. My rooms have always had barren walls with no pictures or sentimental ornaments. Now, I am excited not just to buy functional items but to create a space that is reflective of my needs and wants. I am designing a studio apartment on a limited budget. There have been lots of internet sleuthing and comparing pieces. I have always been to a thrift shop and set up a Pinterest mood board. Yes, I am enjoying the process of discovering my home decor taste.
Change is hard, even when it is good.
I don’t assume that I would have a period of adjustment to living alone. Like I joked with friends, who shall I blame now for all the dirty dishes and uncleaned bathroom? Also, as someone with chronic pain, I worry about having a bad flare-up alone. But, I know that I have a strong support system to see me through. There are people who check on me every day who can count on. My new place is in a community that I hope I will grow into.
House-hunting in Boston hasn’t been easy. There have been highs and lows. But, having that feeling that I am home is priceless. I am excited to start writing the process of curating my space. This is the beginning of something new.