Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It's official - we got it!

We got the dream house that I mentioned in the last post.. 200 square meters over two floors right in the heart of the Altstadt (Old Town), which is not only the main historical district featuring a large Medieval castle overlooking it, but also is home to the oldest university in Germany. All of this means that we'll be right in the middle of the action. We're talking about 5000 bars, pubs, restaurants, shops, department stores, markets, sightseeing...all within a 15 minute walk of our apartment.

We're scheduled to move in June 1st. I'll try to get some pictures posted after we move in. Til then, we've got plenty of room should anyone ever want to visit...

Friday, May 12, 2006

We might have a place to live...

We looked at a place this morning that is 100% what we're looking for. It could not have been any better. Perfect location, perfect size, well within our budget. Perfect. It's almost too good to be true. In fact, it actually just might be too good to be true - the German gentleman who owns it is very hesitant to rent to an American. I'm guessing he probably had a bad experience with an American family in the past, who knows. When the German rental agent called Natascha (the German woman who works at the housing office on base), he initially told her that the landlord would not rent to Americans. However Natascha told him that I'm not in the army, I'm a civilian, that I would be a great tenant and that she's met my wife and that we're both extremely nice people and would not give them any problems, please give us a chance, yada, yada. They agreed to at least meet us and show it to us, which they did this morning. It turned out to be everything we were hoping for. The landlord's daughter actually showed us the place and she speaks a bit of English The landlord speaks no English and is apparently concerned that we will make no attempt to learn any German at all. I did my best to charm him and allay his fears by using what little German I know every chance I could. We had the immobilien agent explain that I lived in Italy for 6 years and learned Italian and that I lived in Germany for two years before that.

Anyway, they seemed to like us and said that we should each take a couple days to think about it. I told them we didn't need a couple days, we wanted the place for sure but they said to take a couple days anyway just to be sure. I'm kind of worried that they're stalling, hoping that a German family will come in and take it. But, I went to see Natascha after we left to do the application and when she called the immobilien rep, he informed her that it appeared positive for us.

We're supposed to get an answer by Monday or Tuesday so it will be a nerve wracking weekend. If we get the place I'll post some pictures and a description to make you all jealous. If we don't get it then maybe I'll just post a picture of me sobbing uncontrollably...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Finding housing in Heidelberg sucks

One of the best things about working for the government overseas is that they pay for your housing and utilities. I came into the system at a pretty high level so I receive a pretty high housing rate which means there are very few places that I can't afford here. With that in mind we were excited about the opportunity to be able to pick and choose where we want to live. Our first choice is to find a nice 3 or 4 bedroom apartment right in the Altstadt (Old Town). The Altstadt of Heidelberg is magical. It's not that big and is the center of the tourist district as well as home to the university. That means it is packed full of a plethora of bars, restaurants, shops, historical sights, etc. And the best part is that there is a huge medieval Castle on a mountain overlooking the Altstadt (Click here to see some pictures of the Altstadt). Living right ion the middle of it all wouild be a dream come true. Plus, the wife doesn't drive, which is another reason to live there. And I can more than afford it with my housing allowance.

Enter Murphy's Law.

We have a housing office on base that acts as a rental agency for people stationed here. They have several listings in the area, they negotiate leases, etc. However, they seldom have any listings for downtown or the Altstadt. Apparently most of those places are represented by the German rental agencies, called "Immobilien". And the immobilien charge two months rent as a finder's fee, in addition to the rental requirement of two month's rent security deposit. That means that if you use an immobilien, you'll have to come up with 4 months rent before you even move in. And rents in the Altstadt are usually between $2000-2500 a month. That means anywhere from $8,000-10,000 up front. How the hell do Germans afford to move?!

Luckily, there is a consolation in the listings that the housing office does have. They're a little further out (commute...yuck), but with my housing allowance, I can afford a 4 bedroom palace in the suburbs with a yard, terrace, 2 car garage, etc.