Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rootless Relocation, Part 9: Roof Over My Head

About a month before I left Missouri, I started looking for possible places to live in Alamogordo.

What I didn't want

I knew I didn't want to live in a free-standing house. Didn't want the yard maintenance, mostly. On a lesser level of concern, I wanted my abode to be one among others rather than standing solo. Felt more secure.

Also, while acknowledging that Alamogordo is basically a desert land, I didn't want my immediate environment to be like a barren parking lot, bereft of any landscaping.

I didn't want to spend more than $500 per month.

What I did want

The perfect-world scenario would be a furnished casita in someone's back yard. Barring that, I wanted: 
  • Apartment, one or two bedrooms
  • $500 or less rent
  • Some charm
  • Some attractive landscaping on the exterior - no water-sucking lawn needed, but certainly indigenous shrubs and other plant life
  • Within Alamogordo city limits (as opposed to nearby Tularosa or La Luz)
  • Landlords who maintained their property well

The above were must-haves.

I also preferred a place without carpet, so I wouldn't have to buy a vacuum cleaner.  Every durable good I buy, I'm going to have to get rid of in a year, so I'd rather not accumulate stuff like that unless absolutely necessary.

Where I looked before I came to Alamogordo: 
  • Craigslist
  • Apartment complexes that have websites
  • Real estate companies that have rental properties listed on their websites
I had no luck looking for properties on the local newspaper's online site.

Also, websites such as - waste of time in places like Alamogordo.

Once I arrived:

The afternoon I arrived in Alamogordo, I looked at potential apartments:

Visited the apartment complex that looked the most attractive to me in my distance search. Priced under $500 for both one and two bedrooms. The one bedroom had a "den" that could accommodate my guests. Beautiful landscaping. Pool and small gym. Alas, no vacancies at the moment, but I was able to look at a two-bedroom empty apartment that would soon have a new tenant. The manager gave me a head start in some energy-cost realities in Alamogordo. Because it's so hot and because this complex uses refrigerated air (versus the swamp coolers), summers are very, very expensive energy-wise. He noted that the ground-floor apartments were easier to cool than the second-floor spaces. I completed an application on the spot so I could be ready if someone should decide to move out at the end of this month.

Looked at three apartments offered by a real estate company I'll call Sweetheart Realty. This is because the receptionist called me sweetheart. The way it evidently works in Alamogordo is, if you want to look at some apartments or other rental properties, you go to the real estate office, let the staff photocopy your driver's license, they give you the keys and an hour to look at the properties, then return the keys to the real estate office.

So I looked at the three properties, each priced at about $450, and I was pissed. In two of the three apartments, the linoleum floors in the kitchen and bathroom had to be from the 80s, if not earlier. There were gouges in the floors. The carpet was that two-shaded brown short shag, also from the 80s. The counter tops had bare spots along the sides where the laminate had broken off. Didn't look as if the walls had been painted since the last tenants. The back "yards" were a barren slice of gravel and dirt, oppressed by the sun.  I took the keys back to the real estate agency and asked (in a neutral voice) whether the agency owned the properties or managed them. "Sweetheart" said it managed them, and I replied that I'd take a pass, as the owners did not maintain these properties; they didn't invest in their upkeep. I politely asked for the  photocopy of my driver's license and "Sweetheart" replied that the agency needed to keep it. I asked why, and she said "for our records." By this time, an agent had emerged from her office to conduct some sort of business. I asked the receptionist again, in a non-confrontational tone, "why"? And she responded "for our records." I tried one more time, "I understand you want it for your records, but why? What do you do with the photocopy"? For a third time, incredibly, Sweetheart said "for our records." The agent who'd emerged instructed her to give me my photocopy as it was clear I wouldn't be doing business with the agency. She was right, and I accepted the photocopy.

Note: Renters aren't serfs seeking the favors of a lord. Renters are paying for a product and landlords are selling the product for a time. A landlord wants to know a renter can pay the rent and give reasonable care to the property. In turn, the renter wants to know a landlord respects the renter and property enough to invest in its upkeep. A landlord who expects the renter to sign a one-year lease has a responsibility to assure the renter that he will keep his side of the deal by providing good maintenance. 

I visited another real estate agency, that I'll call The Good Company, about its rental properties, and the atmosphere couldn't have been more different. No "sweethearting" me here. When I was asked for my driver's license to photocopy, I asked if I could have it back when I returned the property keys, and the rental agent immediately agreed. I liked both properties. One had two bedrooms, the other had one bedroom but it had a charming, albeit tiny, enclosed courtyard with a juvenile tree. I returned the keys, said I was interested, but they were my second choices after the ones at the large apartment complex. The agent explained the application process, gave me an application form, and I was on my way.

With three possible options in my pocket, I turned my attention to a hotel for a couple of nights.


I'd already selected my motel option before I came, based on internet research. The White Sands Motel. Checked in. A killer place. Great wifi (secured). Clean, clean room. Nice mini-fridge and microwave. Coffee machine. Nice TV. Clean telephone. And here's a thoughtful touch: A power strip on the large desk that makes plugging in various electronics a cinch. No crawling under and behind clunky furniture. Immaculate, tidy, nicely landscaped, and colorful exteriors.  All for $50 per night. Fabuloso.


Also part of my lodging plan was to camp at the Oliver Lee Memorial State Park until I found a permanent place. So after I looked at the rental properties, checked into the hotel, and had lunch, I drove out to look at the park. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. And at 10 bucks per site, wow. It's about 12 miles from town, so there's a trade-off in convenience, but I'm not going to invest in a hotel til I move into an apartment.

On my drive away from the park, I saw a black tarantula cross the road. Think about it. This spider was large enough to grab my attention in the road ahead of me as it crossed. Gol-lee. I briefly revisited my camping plan. I'm not even going to find a photo to upload. Would just give me the shivers looking at it.


Jen2010 said...

Haven't seen any tarantulas yet but have these crackly grasshoppers that jump out of the toilt hole at you. Scary when you go for a night time pee!

Mzuri said...

Oh my God. At least they jump out before you expose all your bits and *then* it jumps out. Either way, that would freak me out. Today I saw an insect by my tent that looked like a large roach on stilted legs. I wondered about the crunching sound it would make if it was under my tent tonight and I stepped on it when I get into the tent. Ew.