Rapid-fire house hunting

Sunday, September 7th: Initial Optimism

Doug and I arrived in Rock Springs at approximately 2pm on Sunday, September 7th. Since then, we have spent practically every waking moment trying to find ourselves a place to rent. Before we left Ottawa we were in touch with Doug’s “relocation coordinator” who I assume was supposed to do some legwork for us. Instead, we were given the website for the Rock Springs Rocket Miner classifieds and the number of a local property management group. So we didn’t have a whole lot to go on, but we figured we’d be able to find something relatively easily. After all, we’re both pretty experienced student apartment hunters, we’re not that picky, and we’ve got money to spend. This should be pretty easy, right??

So Wrong.

After a nap and bite to eat I was feeling pretty energized and decided I would start calling the places in the classifieds that looked promising. It quickly became apparent that this is a hot rental market where places are snatched up as soon as they become available. The high numbers of transient workers (like us) and the volatile sales market means everyone is looking to rent. And most of them have housing allowances and good salaries from the mega-companies like Schlumberger, Halliburton, etc.

This means that not only can landlords drive up their prices, but they can dictate terms. Often this means that units are non-smoking because it decreases the landlords’ property insurance premiums. This is a big yay for us since we are rabid non-smokers. The other restriction many landlords have implemented, though, has been a serious hurdle: NO PETS.

After briefly considering releasing Guinness into the wild, Doug and I buckled down and went through the list of 10 or so classified ads that fit our basic needs: three of them had already been snatched up within a day or two; four did not allow pets; and the remaining three, even though they didn’t sound like what we wanted, we immediately made appointments to go see. After spending several hours on the phone (and speaking to a former mayor of Rock Springs who is now an elementary school teacher/landlord), I went to bed on Sunday with a lot less optimism regarding our housing prospects. All avenues had not been exhausted, though!

Monday, September 8th: Off the Grid and Beside a Gun Shop

Monday dawned and after a breakfast planning meeting, we called one of the big local property management companies in the area that handles hundreds of units. Surely they would have something for us? When I spoke to the nice lady on the phone, though, my dreams were crushed: they do not allow pets in any of their units.

Feeling despondent, I nevertheless launched my next offensive. A kindly landlord who felt sorry for me had suggested I contact the Realty offices because landlords often send them listings (Funny that the realtor/landlord I had spoken with the day before had not mentioned this! conflict of interest perhaps?). I called Rock Springs Realty and the lovely receptionist told us to come on down to pick up a copy of a contact list of property managers, housing units, etc.

Glory be! The list was three pages long and covered both Rock Springs and nearby Green River – surely somewhere on this list lay our future home!

Well, upon closer inspection I had to cross out half the places because they had a no pets policy. Then there was the one the former mayor told me to stay away from at all costs: “It’s dubbed the Jerry Springer Motel or Crack Palace,” he warned. Then there were a couple of places with peaceful-sounding names that turned out to be seniors’ residences (apparently enjoying knitting, baking, PBS, and going to bed at 9pm didn’t qualify me. darn!).

Bachelor #1:

This all happened before 10am. At 10, we hopped in the Mini (so much more manoeuvrable than the Uhaul!) and went to see our first place. It was a little tricky to find since the housing development had been built so recently that the streets are not on any maps yet (even the Googlemap satellite image was taken when they just had the dirt roads in). The place was lovely: a brand-new attached home with three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and a fenced yard. It was also a little pricey and way more home than we need (after all, Doug will be away on sites or for training a lot of the time). But it was an option!

Bachelor #2:

Our second stop was to drive by a pre-fab home in the older part of town. The home itself was quite nice. It was another brand-new unit the owner had planned on selling, but had decided to rent instead because no one was buying. Again a little too much house and money for us; too much concrete outside; and the neighbours looked a little frightening (a sign that said “drunk driver” was affixed to the neighbour’s fence. Lovely).

Bachelor #3:

Still, that place was much nicer than the third. The landlord had warned me on the phone that she had had to evict the former tenants and that the place was in the midst of a major overhaul. I determined to go in with an open mind, but even I have my limits. First off, it was on Rock Springs’s busiest street and had two tenants above. Secondly, it was right next to a gun shop that had a sign outside screaming “Ammo Sale!” (after we left Doug asked if I’d seen the bullet casings on the sidewalk. OMIGOD!). The inside was a total disaster: the bathroom floor was being ripped out, the walls were stained yellow from nicotine, and the carpets were irreparably stained from owners/pets or both. As one of the workers inside (whom I would have probably labelled one) told us, “Red necks should stay out with the horses!” All this for $1300/mth!

The Grass is Greener?

After these experiences in Rock Springs we decided to focus our efforts on the nearby town of Green River. It doesn’t have the same level of shopping or services but it has walking trails, less industry, and seems to be more Doug and my speed. I found an ad for a townhome, got in touch with the property manager’s agent who was in town from Utah, and we were there within a half hour.

The place looks great and we were immediately taken with it. There will be ongoing construction around the units, but it’s right across the street from a park and rec centre, and backs onto a really cool-looking set of hills that I would love to climb. Best of all, we don’t have to permanently put Guinness in a kennel!

We emailed the application in yesterday and hopefully things work out. I figure we have a pretty good chance: there are already two people in Rock Springs who have told me they will pray we find a place. How sweet is that?

How could anyone say no to this adorable kitty?

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