Chronicles of a writer abroad

The great apartment hunt

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Ah, apartment-hunting. If you are not a very wealthy person, it forces you to make difficult decisions. Such as: do I pay more than I want to so that I can assure myself of a nice apartment and a nice location? Do I sacrifice location somewhat for a nice living space? Or do I sacrifice the quality of the apartment somewhat for a good location?

Stelian and I have seen 9 apartments so far in Zürich. Six of these viewings were with our relocation agent yesterday, and then we’ve done a couple on our own, and will see one more tonight, to round things off.  I feel that we’ve seen a fair range of things on offer in this city, so we’re in a good position to make a decision about where to live. Here’s the lowdown on what we saw yesterday:

Apartment 1: Quite good location. Older, funky building, and beautiful suite with hardwood floors and lots of windows, but listed at more than we were prepared to pay. Also, somewhat creepy owner who asked many questions about our finances (I suspect this is normal here, but as a Canadian, it still perturbs me when people are so frank in their interest in money) our relationship (“you two are married, not just boyfriend and girlfriend, right?”), and how I would be spending my time. In the end, he stated that he was impressed with us, but we had by then decided we were not so much with him and his asking price.

Apartment 2: An incredibly beautiful suite in Fluntern, which is up on a hill overlooking the main part of the city. The balcony even had a view of the city and of the lake. Interior was immaculately kept and spacious, but this apartment, too, was at a higher price than we could stomach, and we felt it might be foolish to live there without a car, since the streets are very steep (I could only imagine trying to negotiate them with groceries while they were covered in ice some day) and a sort of cog train is needed to get to and from the city. A great space, but unfortunately not one that would suit us at this stage in our lives.

Apartment 3 was definitely in an outlying area, and had a cold, industrial facade. When we got into the suite, which turned out to be 150 square meters in size, and we passed bathrooms and bedrooms and it seemed to just keep going and going, I whispered to Stelian, “this is not an apartment…this is a hotel!” It had an equally huge balcony, and would have been great for when we had guests, but since our furniture would have all fit into one of its gigantic rooms, we would have rattled around ridiculously inside. Next!

Apartment 4 looked great from the outside — we loved the residential area, and the look of the building. Unfortunately, what we walked into was a construction site. I’m not sure why the owner had this on the market already, because the renovations did not seem even 10% complete, and everything was completely gutted and covered in dust. He admitted it wouldn’t be ready until April…we still listened politely for a while as our agent translated his description of how beautiful it would be when it was finished.

I was feeling a bit down by the time we came to Apartment 5, thinking we’d never find something suitable. But Apartment 5 was priced right, and the building looked to be the kind that I’d always dreamed of living in in Europe, with colourful window shutters and wrought-iron balconies. This building was also being renovated on the inside, but in this case it was believable that the renovations were almost finished. The suite was not overly large, and notably had no bathtub, only a shower, but did have a beautiful new kitchen, nice floors, and its own washer and dryer (this always scores major points with me, after so many years of schlepping loads of laundry to dank laundry rooms). This apartment was in the north end of the city, not near the Zurichsee or the really happening parts of town, but only 3.5 km from Stelian’s work, near shopping and some green spaces, and only 2 minutes by foot to a major transit hub.

Apartment 6 was, again, absolutely perfect on the inside, but it was in a pretty outlying area, and near some railroad tracks. Plus, the landlady appeared to speak no English whatsoever, meaning that once our relocation agent was out of the picture, things might become quite difficult for us. We sadly shut the door to another great apartment, not willing to accept all of the inconvenience it might cause us.

The last apartment we saw yesterday, Apartment 7, was a mere 250 meters from Stelian’s workplace, and above a donair place that he and his coworkers enjoy eating at (Stelian: “do you think I’ll get a discount if we live upstairs?”).  The apartment was fine, but we noticed a potentially bothersome amount of noise from traffic and trams nearby, since Universitatstrasse is a traffic-heavy one. Today, we saw another apartment in a quieter part of the University area, also near Stelian’s workplace. This is a beautiful area, but the building we were viewing looked as though it were not very well-maintained from the outside, and the suite was noticeably older and less well-equipped, so we worried about the problems we might have living in it.

So, one observation is that, even though Zürich does not cover a very large geographical area, the location/price tradeoff is quite dramatic. We can technically afford a nice apartment in a nice location, but since the difference between a luxury apartment like Apartment 2 and a still quite nice apartment in a slightly less nice area (like Apartment 5) is about 700 CHF per month, we figure we’d rather keep that money and use it to go travelling (which is, after all, one of our main reasons for moving to the heart of Europe).

We are going to see one more apartment tonight, but so far Apartment 5 is our frontrunner, though we also put in applications for a couple of the others. We’ll keep you posted on the outcome!


One thought on “The great apartment hunt

  1. Pingback: Homing in | Milchtoast

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