Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A big pile of phonebooks...

One nice thing about our upcoming move is that it means we will probably get to part ways with Windstream Communications.  Because we live out in the country, we're limited to Windstream to handle our communications needs.  A few months ago, that meant we had to put up with insanely slow Internet service that made streaming videos or playing online games impossible.  I don't play a lot of games online, but I do like to watch YouTube.  So that was a pain...

More recently, I've noticed that Windstream apparently has an overzealous phonebook delivery person. While we were gone, two were delivered to our house.  Our driveway is shaped like a horseshoe, so the person evidently thought he or she was dropping books at two houses.  The person must have been looking at the ground when he or she was delivering the books, though, because it's pretty obvious there's only one house at this address.

This morning, I found yet another copy of Windstream's latest phonebook on our driveway.  It makes me wonder if the people in charge of phonebook delivery have OCD.  I also wonder how many trees died for all these phonebooks we have.  If we were living in post Communist Europe, we could use the pages to wipe our asses.  Otherwise, they're pretty useless.  They aren't even thick enough to sit on to get a boost.

Three phonebooks have been delivered to our home in the past three weeks

I wonder who uses phonebooks these days, anyway?  I mean, I know people like my parents use them because they are computer illiterate.  But most people nowadays have Internet access, which means that phone numbers are easily available online.  If you're using a smartphone, all you have to do is click the underlined phone number and the phone will make the call for you... no dialing required.  

Now that I think about it, who dials anymore?  I can remember being a little kid in the late 1970s and being excited about the prospect of getting a push button phone.  No more working out my little fingers with a rotary dial.  We had a rotary phone into the 80s, but then everything went push button.  Then everything went cordless.  Now everyone has a cell phone that can do all kinds of things.  So I guess the expression "dialing the phone" is going to go obsolete, too.

Changing subjects... Alexis asked me how I search for new homes from afar.  The answer is, I use a database run by the military.  I suppose I don't have to do that, except many people who list rentals on a military database are military friendly people and know that people in the military sometimes have special housing needs.  This is the last time the Army will be moving us for a permanent change of station unless something very strange happens.  My husband is planning to retire next year.  After he retires, we are allowed one last move at government expense.  I don't know if we'll immediately use it or not; depends on how things work out in Texas.

So, for the third time since 2009, I am searching the database for our next home.  I look for several things when I look for housing.  Number one on the list is pet friendliness.  Bill and I have two dogs that are coming with us.  They are family members.  So whatever home we choose has to be pet friendly.  I also pay attention to the language used by the landlord.  If the ad says "pets negotiable", chances are they'd rather not rent to pet owners and I don't choose that house.  Frankly, I think if you're against renting to people with pets, you should just say so and save everyone time and money.

I also look at how the ad is worded.  If I read something that makes me think the landlord is going to be overly neurotic about the property, I skip that house.  I get that a home is a big investment, but it's a turn off when a potential landlord is already harping on a potential tenant's cleanliness or housekeeping in the ad.  I admit I am a bit of a slob.  I'm not a filthy slob, but I don't keep an extremely neat house.  The last thing I want to deal with is a landlord who freaks out about how clean I keep the house or how immaculate the yard is.  I wouldn't be able to relax and enjoy that environment.

At the same time, I've come to look for signs that the landlord is somewhat experienced.  At our last home in Georgia, we had nice landlords who left us alone, but they didn't want to fix anything.  Consequently, we had to deal with chimney swifts, rusty water, a non-functioning fireplace, and a lighting fixture that was hanging out of the ceiling, among other things.  It wasn't a bad place to live, but I worried that if anything seriously needed fixing, they wouldn't be bothered unless we took them to court or something.  

I look at the photos in the ad and search for clues that the landlord may not be compatible with our lifestyle.  For instance, if I see a lot of religious stuff on the walls, I don't put that house on the list.  You can tell me I'm being bigoted when I do this, but I figure it's the best idea for everyone involved.  I'm guessing that most really religious people would rather rent to people who are more compatible with their views.  Those who don't care about that are less likely to put a lot of religious stuff on the walls.  And, if it's just a tenant's stuff on the walls, that tells me something, too...  While I get that landlords want to be able to show their place as soon as they get notice a tenant is about to move out, it seems wrong to put up photos of the tenant's stuff in an ad.  I think landlords should keep photos of their place when it's empty and post those instead.   

We look at price.  The Army gives us a housing allowance, so we try to keep our rent well within that range.  The house we live in now is several hundred dollars a month less than what we get, so we save that money.  I am hoping to keep our next house's rent less than what we get in housing allowance as well.  There's just two of us; we don't need a huge house.

We look at location.  We don't really like subdivisions or having neighbors really close, mainly because we have dogs and I am a singer.  So houses that are more country appeal to us.  Also, having lived in the DC area for several years, I've had my fill of neighbors.  Some of them are really great, but just as many of them can be a source of great stress.  And I'm sure they'd say the same thing about us, too.  We're less concerned about being close to stores or even work than we are about peace, quiet, and privacy.

This time, we're looking for a house with a fenced yard.  We've never really had a house with a fenced yard, except for the seven months we lived in a brand new house at Fort Belvoir.  The dogs we had at the time didn't use the fenced yard much, but the ones we have now would love to have one to run in.  And I'd love to have a place where I could turn them out to burn off some energy.  At the same time, I think this time I'm going to be more careful about the size of the yard.  The house we're in now has a large, rather sandy yard.  I'm the one who usually mows it and it's a real pain in the butt.  It only takes about an hour to do the whole thing, but it's a miserable hour.

I hope for trees.  While the ones we've had the past couple of times have dropped a lot of leaves in the fall, I like the shade and the privacy trees afford.  They look pretty, too.

I also prefer houses without carpet.  It's not a deal breaker, but I have allergies and carpets can harbor stuff that makes me cough and sneeze.  I think carpetless floors are easier to keep clean, too.

Right now, I have about eight homes out of about 900 rentals on my "favorites" list.  I will probably whittle that list down to about four or five places and then go check them out when we visit San Antonio in early July.  Hopefully then, we can sign a lease and have a place to go to in August.

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