Anyway, she decided to rent a house in a little 1950s tract neighborhood on the other side of downtown from the cute 20s neighborhood I like, so I am trying out both house living and dog living this weekend. Here is what I have learned, in random bullet form:
- walking a dog is fun; picking up hot poop in a Baggie is not.
- this neighborhood is full of cute little ranch houses in varying states of upkeep; I love looking at the colors and teeny yards.
- I forgot which houses had the pit bulls that my friend said never to walk by. Now I know exactly why I should never walk by. (Soooo glad those fences go all around their property)
- the downtown is on flat land by the river and is muggier and full of more mosquitos than where I live. I might like hill views and breezes more than cute and historic places.
- cute and historic places feel pretty dark and hemmed in inside and I might not like that.
- I can see into the neighbor's living room and watch tv with them from her kitchen sink, because there is hardly any side yard.
- this teeny back yard is awesome and just the right size, although mature shade trees mean it must be hard to grow things.
- today I saw a welded scrap metal sculpture in one yard and also talked with a very friendly street preacher who looked like a hippie/biker. He was also walking his dog. I like meeting up with "characters" in a neighborhood; I do not like encountering shifty eyed dudes who appear to be on meth, checking all the cars for any ciggies and loose change.
- oh yeah, and living next to a rented house is a huge crapshoot: the next house over has just been rented by a bunch of Dudebros who do nothing but drink and party all the time. They have set up a beer pong table and trampoline (!) in the front yard and festooned the air above with garlands advertising Bud Light. Good thing she has already put a deposit down on a cheaper place across town! No yard for the dog, unfortunately.
In sum: I have no clue how people buy houses without living in them for a week or two first. How do you know if you like the neighborhood? Or, god forbid, how do you vet the neighbors?
A good realtor will be attentive to some of these things, and the reasons people prefer/dislike certain areas. (After all, a good realtor is hoping for referrals--and that you might use him or her again in 5-10 years if you sell, and s/he wants your property value to increase, too!)
That's a reason we're in a HOA instead of a neighborhood without one (even though HOA also suck). Given the number of students who buy/sell/rent houses in the town, every few years would be a crapshoot as to who our neighbors would be and there wouldn't be anything we could do about it. That, and the country house we looked at and kind of liked had a huge snake in the goldfish pond which freaked me out, and colleagues lost cats to hawks and owls.
I was struck by the fact that this friend is someone who doesn't want to stay where you are. I had a good friend at HU my first year who had been there for a whole and hated it because he was an adjunct that they piled a bunch of service on without paying him much more. (If I were anything but tenure-track at HU, I'd hate it too.) It was super hard being positive about my job when I was hanging out with someone who was so negative. Fortunately for me, he got an admin job elsewhere and left the state. After that, I was able to settle in to my job much better.
So if your friend leaves, that might be good for you.
Drive by at all hours of the day and night like a creepy weirdo. And also, we literally knocked on the neighbors doors and asked the questions about the hood (which was also a way of vetting them). Again, I felt like a bunch of creepy weirdos but we did it.
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