Finding an Apartment in Two Days

Now that we have a signed lease it seems safe to tell the apartment hunting story…

We had a bit of a rocky start – the company had partnered with a local relocation firm in Luxembourg, and I had started trying to communicate with them a month in advance of our planned trip. Literally the weekend before we were to leave, I finally got contacted by one of their representatives to inform me that the person we thought we were dealing with (but who hadn’t ever been communicative or responsive) wouldn’t be working with us.

Which was fine by me.

We spent a bit of time chatting about our requirements for an apartment – which were accepting of cats, 100 square meters or so, at least two bedrooms, at least 1.5 bath, and preferably walking distance to the centre-ville.

We arrived in Luxembourg Monday evening, and were greeted by an email with a list of a dozen apartments we’d be seeing the following day.

Tuesday morning we breakfasted and met “Irene” – our local contact – outside our hotel around 9am to start the day.

We quickly realized that the only way to get out of this process with useful data was to be ruthless – each property we saw got compared to the other properties we had seen – always keeping a stack-ranked list of our “top three.” The day was long – longer for me than Dawnise, who’s both good at and enjoys house hunting.

We finished the day around 5pm with a confident list of our top three – which we were referring to as “the duplex,” “lord of the flies,” (so-called because there were a bunch of dead house flies in the property when we viewed it) and “the modern.” All were a bit further outside the city than we had hoped – about a 20-25 minute walk – but they met all the other criteria – and the only place we had seen *in* the city was aging and in real need of a refresh.

The following morning we got up to do it all again – only with fewer properties this time. We also asked Irene to call “the duplex” and “lord of the flies” back to arrange second viewings for the end of the day, figuring we’d want to see them again to break any ties. We learned that “lord of the flies” had been rented since our viewing the previous day.

This was our first concrete indication of how quickly the rental market moved.

We kept on the same tact – comparing each new property to the top three – and despite seeing one or two we really wanted to like – owing to their location, mostly (or the one that was super swank, but crazy expensive with the private elevator, hammam in the master bedroom, and trompe-l’œil pantry hidden behind a kitchen cabinet) – none of what we saw Wednesday broke into the top three.

‘Till we saw “the penthouse”.

Literally the last property we were to look at before reviewing our top choice from the previous day, it seemed like a great choice – closer in to the city by a bit, walking distance to a large super market, open plan living space, panoramic views and a terrace that I’m already looking forward to spending spring and summer evenings on. It was bigger than we wanted, and the laundry facilities weren’t in the unit, but Dawnise and I agreed after discussing that it had vaulted into the number one spot.

Given that we’d seen one of our choices get rented from under us, we told the agent that we’d have an answer for her that afternoon.

The only rub was the lease.

Leases in Luxembourg are typically, we were told, three years long – but as a concession to the number of folks in our situation (moving into the country on business, and possibly moving out just as abruptly) they typically include a “diplomatic clause,” which says you can escape the lease without penalty if (and only if) you’re leaving the country. The rub is that recently landlords have been trying to write into leases that the diplomatic escape clause doesn’t apply for the first year or two of the term. This landlord wanted a two year minimum, and that wasn’t acceptable.

Their agent said she’d talk to the landlord and have an answer for us the following morning. Irene chatted with the agent for “the duplex” and arranged for them to hold it for us until the following morning.

So we figured we were in reasonably good shape.

The next morning Dawnise and I breakfasted and set out to wander around the city a bit. By mid morning I was a little nervous that I hadn’t heard anything back from Irene, but I knew she was viewing housing with other folks, so we waited.

And waited.

Until around 1pm we got a call saying that despite repeated efforts to contact the agent for “the penthouse” she’d not heard anything back, and we’d delayed “the duplex” as long as we could. We needed to make a choice. Keep waiting, or take what was behind door number two.

After a quick consult we agreed that we’d be pretty disappointed if we lost both of these possibilities – and that seemed like a likely outcome if we waited. We knew “the duplex” had other interested parties – and we’d seen “lord of the flies” get rented for what we thought, and Irene agreed, was probably a higher than reasonable price. So we called Irene back and told her to take the duplex.

And she called back a few minutes later to tell us it was in process – we’d have the lease draft the next day. So, we thought, there we go.

We chatted about the possibility that “the penthouse” responded late saying they’d accept our terms – would we back out of “the duplex” if we could? We decided we wouldn’t – and we spent the rest of the afternoon (subconsciously) convincing ourselves and each-other that “the duplex” – our second choice – was a better choice than the one that got away.

The following morning we breakfasted in the hotel, gathered our things, and caught a taxi to the airport for our LUX to LHR flight, a couple hour layover, and then the flight from LHR to SEA.

Walking between gates in Terminal 5 in Heathrow I saw an email from Irene asking me to call her, which I did – and she said she’d gotten the information she needed, no worries.

We hung out in the lounge during our layover. At one point we got a call from Irene saying that “the penthouse” got back to her (finally) and would accept our change to the minimum lease duration, did we want to change? No, I said, we’d already discussed it. Stay the course.

As flight time approached we got to our gate, were sitting in our seats waiting for door closure, when the email came in from Irene saying that the landlord of our apartment (“the duplex”) had decided to rent it to someone else, despite our in-process agreement. And we had just told “the penthouse” we weren’t interested.

Oh, shit.

I didn’t have time to call her and try sorting out what had happened, so I forwarded the message to my colleague, Mike, in Luxembourg and asked him to see what he could do.

And then the doors closed.

And we went dark for 9 hours.

And Dawnise managed not go completely insane.

When we got back to Seattle I had email from Mike saying that there was nothing to be done – we had lost “the duplex” – but that “the penthouse” was still available and Mike had started the process of getting lease paperwork from them. We had until Sunday evening our time to make a go/no-go decision.

Rationally, we knew that “the penthouse” had been our first choice going into Thursday – so clearly this was good, right? Only we’d spent most of a day talking ourselves out of it and into “the duplex” and undoing that much self deception isn’t a trivial thing.

It took a little time for the cognitive dissonance to fade, and even longer for the lease to be agreed upon and paperwork actually be signed, but it looks like it’s all worked out.

And yet, I hesitate to post this, wondering what email I’ll get with more unexpected news.