The Ups and Downs of Dwelling

Today I’m bringing you another post from Trev. This one deals with the odyssey of finding a suitable place to live in Honolulu without losing your mind. We got very lucky with our apartment, but our search wasn’t without stress. We moved here with one month booked in a vacation rental. We didn’t have a permanent apartment and not for lack of trying. We searched craigslist and worked with a great realtor from Hawaii Life (from the HGTV show!), but it was just too hard to find a place without being here. Unfortunately, it didn’t really get much easier once we arrived. I know I had a few really rough days in that first month looking at places that were too small, too expensive, or just plain scary.

For the most part, the prices here haven’t really lived up to the hype. I guess it helps coming from someplace else that’s expensive. The one thing that did hold true was the price of housing. The average rent in our neighborhood is around $1,900 per month for a one bedroom apartment. It’s also worth noting that the average size of an apartment here is much smaller than you’d expect for that price. So without spilling any further details, I’ll let Trev pick up where I left off.

Once the high of finally arriving in Hawaii started to wear off, we needed to start building a new life for ourselves from scratch. It was not the easiest thing, but it’s what we signed up for. We had a vacation rental for one month, April 1st to April 30th, and then the rest was unknown. It wasn’t that stressful on April 2nd, but by April 25th it was just a little stressful. Apparently, our dogs are giant, fire-breathing, mainland dragon demons. Actually, they are adorable and the best things ever. But good luck trying to find a place to live with two dogs their size in Honolulu. Buffy and Hobbes are the best looking, apartment-dream-killing creatures ever. We spent hours looking through the various apartment apps and websites and making phone calls. When we finally talked to someone and mentioned the dreaded four letter word, “dogs,” it was the same reply. “Oh, sorry. No we don’t allow dogs. We are terrible people with no souls and want people with pets to be homeless.” I get it, it’s a city with more people looking for apartments than there are apartments. You don’t have to settle for renters with dogs. I personally think it’s discrimination. I saved these dogs and gave them a home and now I can’t even find a home for myself. It was very frustrating. Once I am Lord Commander of the Universe these types of things won’t happen.

We did find two apartments that looked promising. One was a very nice building in Waikiki along the Ala Wai Canal that allowed dogs and was 10 stories. The rent went up about $500 from the listed price of $1,700 once all the building and dog fees were rolled in. The one bedroom was a tiny 550 square feet and I worried we would be stuck in a small place for six months to a year. The two bedroom was really nice and the extra room would work great for storage and all our guests (hint), as well as my electronic drum set my amazing wife got me for my 30th birthday. Alas, the price for two bedrooms was not in our reach with one income.

The other apartment was in the Ala Moana area. It was a few blocks from the beach and the largest outdoor shopping mall in America. It was a great property. The buildings were being rewired and the complex was being re-landscaped to include BBQ areas and a more tropical feel by the end of summer. Guys, it even had a dog park ON THE PROPERTY. How cool!! It was more affordable than the other place. We could walk to the beach very easily and walk to the dog park without leaving the property. It was a dog dream come true in paradise. Let’s take a look inside the apartment and see what we- oh god. What am I, a hobbit? 460 square feet is not enough space to live in with another person, two dogs, my future big TV, a drum set, and other furniture. We had some serious talking and thinking to do.

Luckily the guy that ran the Ala Moana complex there told us about a 24-hour diner within walking distance. Now, those that know me know that this guy had just discovered a selling tactic without fully realizing its power. (‘Oh, well 460 square feet isn’t THAT small. We can just go eat waffles and bacon and frappes anytime we feel claustrophobic. We can do this!’) So we went to the diner for dinner and discussion. I, of course, had waffles and bacon with a mai tai. Michelle had coconut pancakes and pineapple juice. We have been back to the Wailana Coffee House approximately six times since then but we never went back to the apartment. We also didn’t get our deposit back because they left us a ghost voicemail saying we were approved to move in May 1st. Despite losing the deposit, I can’t stay mad because, I mean, waffles.

So I was homeless. Michelle was homeless and jobless, though. Deadbeat. Sometime between our first Coffee House visit and the ghost voicemail, we had another lead. I was working in Waikiki with my boss at a building run by a really cool guy named Nate. He told me his wife runs a building that is pet-friendly. He took me over to Ala Wai Blvd and pointed across the canal to a smaller building with green on it. I immediately texted his wife’s info to Michelle so she could see what we could find. That night, we went to look at an apartment. We meet a super nice guy who took us up to his condo, where he had lived in for 10 years. The door opened and everything changed. First we noticed the view. Then the size. Then the quality. Then looked at each other with that husband-wife-holyshit-stare that takes years to perfect.

Like our holyshit-stare, this place was perfect. It was nicer, bigger, and somehow CHEAPER than every place we looked at. It also has a dog park AND a human park right outside our door. Also, he is the nicest guy ever. What more could we ask for? Please, take our money and let us move in. We filled out all the paperwork and waited with bated breath. Then came word…he decided not to rent to us because of the dogs. He was on the association board for the building and felt too much responsibility. He felt terrible about it, but we were crushed. Michelle took it especially hard. We were back to square zero. Or square 460. We didn’t have much choice. We needed a place to live. At least we could cry away our tears over waffles every night.

I told my boss we didn’t get the apartment and he said he would see what he could do. I didn’t ask him to do anything, but that’s the kind of guy he is. Michelle spoke to the apartment owner on the phone a day or two later and he wanted to talk with us in person. We came back to the apartment where he told us he didn’t realize how much we loved and wanted the place. He explained his concerns over the dogs and wanted to see some pictures of them. He said he was just worried that if anything happened, it would be on him, he had only rented to small dog owners before. We totally got it. We weren’t even mad because he was such a good guy. Then everything changed when he said he had decided to rent to us after all. He wanted to help us out. He moved to Hawaii when he was our age and wanted to be able to help us; we reminded him of himself. And I apparently look like his brother, a 40-year-old Iranian man. I’d have been a 90-year-old Bangladeshian if it got us this apartment.

We moved in a few days later. We had some folding chairs, an air mattress, and our clothes. We didn’t care that we didn’t have anything else. We had each other and a home with a beautiful view of Ala Wai canal, Waikiki, the mountains, and downtown. And I finally got my TV and can play Xbox again. This place is perfect and we couldn’t be happier here.

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