Archive for the 'Housing' category

February 2009 Apartment Update

Good news, we have a home when we return to Baires in February…a home for two months anyway!

There is a reason for the two month rental: furnished apartment rents are through the roof here — crazy expensive — and, I believe that travel is going to be way down next year due to a worsening worldwide recession, which means that I don’t want to lock something in right now at the sky high rents everyone is charging.

Instead, we are going to rent for a few months when we get back in February from our summer travels and see what’s going on in the world.

Our new neighborhood is going to be Palermo.

The girls are resigned to the endless moving. Tom and I figure that if we keep this up, we could live in nearly every neighborhood in the city!

Where Appliances Go to Die…

…and other evolutionary dead ends in the home.

This place is a wonder of old fashioned technology. Pictured to the left is the light switch/maid switch combo that is located in the bathrooms. One switch turns on the light, the other buzzes the maid in the kitchen. (I’m not sure why you would want to call the maid in the kitchen while using the bathroom?)

For the first week here, you could tell when someone was using the bathroom because it would be preceded with buzz, then, “sorry.”

Below left, you will find the hood vent over the stove. You tilt the windows out and prop them up over the stove, as shown here, and then turn on the fan that is vented out the nearby window. Now that is a big greasy area to clean up.

Below right, you will find my personal favorite, the clothes drying cabinet. This puppy is gas fired on the bottom, and then you hang your items to be dried on the bars and close the cabinet doors. It’s like a little sauna for clothes!

Honestly, it strikes us as a bit of a fire hazard, so we just use it as an air drying rack with the doors open because it scares the crap out of us!

Uber Frustrating Temper Tantrum Day

I begin this post with a *monster sigh*

We didn’t think that finding a temporary furnished apartment somewhere convenient to the girls’ school would be too hard, especially with a start date in February — hardly high season. And indeed, we found the perfect place, had multiple communications with the agent, who assured us it was available and that the owner was ready to rumble. We were negotiating terms…blah blah blah.

Then, all of a sudden, today, the agent informs us that the owner of the apartment doesn’t actually rent it out during the school year because she lives in it, so it’s not available.

I felt like I had run into a brick wall. It was all I could do to restrain myself from writing, “You f***ing liar!” (See, I am growing and maturing.)

Anyway, our experiences with temporary rental real estate agents here have been less than savory when trying to locate a property and determine if it is available. Sadly, they all seem willing to tell you that they have checked with the owner, that they are in constant communication with the owner, that they represent the owner’s negotiating position, when really, they haven’t talked to the owner at all.

Between having to find the tiki lounge (as we refer to our new apartment) and trying to locate an apartment to come back to in February (after our travels), I feel that I’ve spent every waking moment of the last 3 weeks apartment hunting and getting my ass handed to me.

Needless to say, NOT HAPPY about covers my mood. Time to eat another bon bon.

Bamboo Decompression Chamber

It’s time to talk about our new apartment…our new very retro apartment. This bad boy was state of the art — in 1969!!

Each floor of this building has two apartments, an A and a B side. Each side has it’s own elevator, which opens into a sort of private entry chamber that leads to the front door of your apartment. (It is essentially a private elevator that opens directly outside your front door.) We have dubbed our entry area the “Bamboo Decompression Chamber” because the tiny little room has a low ceiling, and is outfitted floor and ceiling with a bamboo print wallpaper, which you can see below.

Lest you think that having an elevator opening into your pad is kind of cool, I will have to continue my story. Today, Ian and I were trapped in the apartment because the elevator wasn’t functioning and the one set of back door keys (which leads to the stairs) were across the city with Tom. (To get in and out of all doors you MUST use multiple keys from the inside. If this place goes up in a fire, we are in trouble!)

To further give you a sense of the retro-ness of our apartment, I have taken a picture of the upholstered walls and ceiling of the master bedroom for your viewing enjoyment. Please do enlarge the photo so that you can get a real feel for it!

Perhaps my favorite feature of the upholstered walls and ceiling (there are so many features, it’s very difficult to resist listing them all), is the fact that every surface manages to hold a generation’s worth of strange odors!

Having said all of that, the living and dining room are quite spacious, the WIFI coverage is great, and the move was easy because it is located in the building next door to our last apartment (the one with the dishwasher we are mourning)!

Renting a temporary apartment, with little lead time, during high season, is a bitch!

Granite Countertop Rant

I am afraid that I can no longer suppress my strong feelings about granite.

Why in God’s name does everyone use this as a kitchen surface?

I hadn’t had any experience with granite until we moved into our rented condo last year. We had black granite tile on the counter surfaces. It was impossible to clean and showed every streak, drip, or speck of dust. And, tile as a kitchen surface??? What were they thinking — every grout line becomes a sinkhole for detritus!?!

Here in our temporary rental apartment in Buenos Aires, we have a solid slab of granite in the pattern shown above. This counter is still impossible to keep clean, and with the busy pattern, it’s infeasible to determine if it is wet or dry, sullied or unsullied, etc.

And, in relation to our aforementioned recurring ant problem, we can’t spot those little bastards on the counter to save our life. The buggers basically need to be engaged in the equivalent of a manifest destiny ant migration before we can locate them for the paper towel kill.

I hate granite. I’ll stick with boring old Formica (it will become retro chic any day now).

Departamento (Apartment) Decisions

You have two options when renting here in Buenos Aires:

Option 1: Unfurnished Long-Term Rental. With this type of rental, you generally sign a 24 month lease and are required to have a garantía. (A local person who provides a guaranty. Said local person must own property in Capital Federal, the inner city, if that’s where you are renting an apartment.)

We have decided to abandon option 1, even though we are very lucky to have a person willing to act as a garantía for us. At the end of the day, after purging so much of our crap back home, I cannot justify coming here and furnishing a three bedroom apartment–dishes, linens, refrigerator, washer/dryer…for only a year or two.

On top of that, shopping in a new country sucks up a tremendous amount of time and energy; we’re exhausted just getting everything together for the girls’ school, I can’t imagine having to furnish a place for Ian, Tom, me and the girls. I nearly went into apoplexy the other day just thinking about it.

Option 2: Furnished Temporary Rental. This is the direction in which we will focus our apartment hunting resources. Yes, it’s more expensive up front, but it’s less of a hassle, doesn’t require a garantía, and, once you add up all of the costs of Option 1 (utilities, Internet, taxes, gas and outfitting a new apartment), I suspect we certainly won’t be losing money.

So the new, new, new plan is to move into a temporary rental closer to Belgrano and the Z’s school until the end of the school year (early December). Then we will abandon all apartments in Baires, instead turning to travel during the summer, when we hope to explore Uruguay, Mendoza, Patagonia, and Iguazu Falls (while our fellow Oregonians are getting soaked in the rain)!

In February, we’ll come back into the city, rent another temporary apartment, and the girls will begin school at the end of the month.

Mini Garage Doors for Windows

Okay, perhaps these are not the most attractive exterior adornments for windows, but they work really well!

Click on the pictures below for a better look at the shutter systems that you find on nearly every apartment building in Baires and that I call “garage doors for windows.” The shutters are usually white or wood colored, as shown in these photos.

On the inside of every window there is a manual or electric control that allows you to manipulate the shade (garage door) to any position you wish. You can close the shutters down completely, with no gaps between, resulting in a very dark room. You also can lower them all of the way, but leave gaps between each horizontal slat in the shutter, which gives you privacy and light at the same time. They insulate the apartment from the heat when lowered completely, an important feature since many of these buildings have single-paned windows.

Rent Temporary Apartment–Check!

We appear to have secured a short-term apartment in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires!!! Yahhhh.

The good news? There’s room for Ian (my brother) to stay if he’s over on a late night babysitting gig (I’m not sure that’s good news to him…). The bad news? It’s a bit caro, as they say.

We will be living there for one month (hopefully). The timing of our housing/school strategy is this: live in a nice, fully furnished place for one month, during which time we must find a school for the girls and figure out a more affordable long-term housing solution.

Forking over the dough for the swankier short-term flat seemed like it might pay off in terms of stress relief. This way we don’t have to worry about a) trying to locate a long-term apartment from overseas; or b) trying to find housing right away while staying in a hotel. And, it means that we will have a nice place to come home to after pounding the pavement looking at schools and long-term apartments for a month.

Yes, this is a massive rationalization to spend way too much on a short-term rental, but we’re good with that!

Apartment Hunting from Afar

I feel as if I’m starring in my own little catch-22 reality show.

  1.  I email a short-term furnished apartment agency in Baires and tell them our trip dates and the specific short-term rental units that we’re interested in letting.
  2. Said agency emails me back and tells me the units that I want to rent are not available, and they helpfully suggest alternatives.
  3. Tom and I review said alternatives and quickly pick one or two, which we usually email back to the agency within an hour, certainly by the same day.
  4. The agency then emails us the next day and tells us that the units we are interested in have been rented on a long-term contract by another agency and then they attach some alternatives for us to consider.
  5. Please go to step 3 and repeat step 3 and step 4 a few times and that brings you to the present.

Methinks I should have started the short-term rental search earlier!

Where Are You Going to Live?

I know we seem to be long on cutting ties, and short on planning…but we do have a plan!

When we arrive in Buenos Aires, we plan on living in a short-term furnished rental (these are targeted toward foreigners, are somewhat plentiful, and are expensive). Then we must immediately begin figuring out where the heck the girls will be going to school. Once we get that settled, we will then look for a long-term unfurnished rental somewhere near the girls’ school so we can walk or easily bus/cab to school. (It seems that apartments that are unfurnished are more affordable because they aren’t necessarily targeted toward foreigners.)

From a distance, the neighborhood we are most interested in is Belgrano. You know how that is though… . It could be like Denver all over again (another place we wanted to move to from a distance).