I moved every single year in college (actually, sometimes twice in one year) and four times in six years in Dallas. While that alone may not make you think I’m a living-space-hunting-expert, you should also toss in the number of House Hunters, My First Place, For Rent, and Property Virgins episodes I’ve watched religiously. Sadly, none of that vicarious house- and apartment-seeking experience really qualified me to look at places in Budapest.
The main tenet (psst – thanks, Craig, for the spell-check) of real estate still applies – location, location, location. Richie’s been here enough times to have a great feel for the city and to know which metro stops to take to work, but I really knew very little other than the areas we saw when we visited the Bowmans last May. So, since Thursday and Friday of last week were national holidays, and Richie didn’t have to go to work, we spent the days walking around and getting acquainted with our new hometown. Well, let’s be honest. We spent 75% of the days sleeping late, being lazy, and eating. But the other 25% was spent walking. On Friday, we saw four places with our realtor, Judit, and then I saw another three places with her on Monday.
I still won’t pretend to be anywhere near a real estate guru. I sarcastically called myself a “finance guru” to one of my seniors when I was a staff in public accounting, and he proceeded to pepper me with questions from his CFA study materials until I sheepishly admitted that my sarcastic voice sounds much like my normal voice, and I had actually only taken a handful of finance classes. So definitely no gurus here. But we did find several places that we really liked, and we’ve narrowed it down to a few choices – so hopefully we’ll have a “permanent” home here soon! When we do, I’ll post some pictures. Until then, here are a few interesting things we encountered during the search.
- Elevators that go up, but not down – one place we’re considering has a lift, but you can only “call” it from the ground floor. So, once you’re up on your floor, unless the elevator happens to already be there, it’s stair-master time for you. This would not be such a big deal, except that most of the flats we’re looking at are on the 4th or 5th floor (which is actually the 5th or 6th floor, as the ground floor here is floor 0). Richie has been training Lexie to go down stairs, but for the first two or three days, she dug her heels in and flat-out refused to go anywhere near a staircase. Which could be problematic in a flat with no lift.
- Funky smells – all of the apartments we’ve looked at are currently vacant, and some of them have been vacant for a few months. That leads to some interesting smells, which go away once you start running water through the pipes again. However, no one mentioned this to me until probably the 3rd flat that we looked at, so for the first two, I was wondering whether I had gone completely mad since no one else seemed to notice or care about the strange smells emanating from all of the apartments. And then I started to wonder if it was me. I did that awkward thing where you try to smell your clothes/hair to make sure there’s nothing funky going on, and I’m pretty sure sweet Judit saw that, because that’s when I learned about the water thing. Whoops.
- Graffiti – since we’re looking at apartments in downtown Pest, we are right in the heart of the city – which means we’re also right in the streets covered in graffiti. At first, I kept making the mental note “Ask Judit about safety – graffiti on the building and in the lobby?” And then I realized that every single building had it. It’s really inescapable, which is probably not at all surprising for people from NYC, but as a girl who grew up in suburbia, it was a bit of an effort to dissociate “scary unsafe place” from “graffiti on walls”. Judit did mention that it’s very difficult for the buildings to have graffiti removed or other repairs made to the exterior / shared spaces like lobbies, as there are many different kinds of owners and tenants with different priorities, and many of them do not have a lot of money, so getting rid of graffiti is just not something they really care about.
On the way home from one of our many neighborhood treks, we stopped in the closest Match (basically the corner grocery store) because Richie wanted to pick up something sweet to snack on. I wandered the aisles aimlessly while he made his choice, until I stumbled on what is apparently the “weird stuff Americans want” aisle and let out a little delighted shriek.
Two of my favorite things that I had no expectation of ever seeing here! Holly and I went on a mad cranberry juice hunt when we visited back in May (we went to at least three stores and searched online) and came to the conclusion that cranberries are just something that Hungarians don’t like or eat. I actually thought about buying a huge stock and putting it in our shipment, until I had visions of everything we own covered in red juice. But they HAVE IT!! I seriously did a little jig in the grocery store. And my beloved Dr Pepper… although it tastes a little bit wrong. Probably because I’ve only drunk Dublin Dr Pepper recently, may it rest in peace. Anyway, this aisle had 3 bottles of Dr Pepper, one carton of the cranberry juice, and I think a can or two of Rotel. It was such a random assortment that I have to think it was the imported goodies aisle. Especially as my juice cost 890 forint (about $4 USD at current rates).
All in all, we are settling in really well here – I can’t wait to have our permanent place so that we (okay, I) can really get in the groove of shopping for groceries and cooking and such.
I also want to let you guys know that I so appreciate all of the prayers and love you have sent our way – I have truly felt it and been so grateful for everyone’s support.