that is the nightmare we are likely to face when we actually move. as you can imagine, the longer it takes to find a place, the more get snatched up, and the more likely it is that you're not going to even be able to find a mover with any free space in their schedule. it had actually occurred to me to make up a destination address and just find movers, even before we'd found a forwarding address.
and, if that weren't enough, there is the fact that everyone is looking for an apartment. yes, there are apartments available, but there's a stampede to get all of them, so she who hesitates, even if it's just to think about whether or not they'll be able to fit all their furniture or handle a longer commute, is doomed to be homeless.
so that's what we have to look forward to in the near future. for now, we just get to experience the fun of looking for an apartment. "fun".
there is something enjoyable about looking for a new place. it gets you thinking about the possibilities for a new start and all the spiffy new things that you'll be able to do in your new space that were obviously impossible in the one you have. on the other hand, there's also the increasing desperation that comes from looking at endless places that are just wrong for some reason or other, and the fear that your search, ultimately, is going to end with you settling for a place that looks as withered as your hopes for a new life. oh, and the panic attacks that accompany this entire process, which are loads of fun. [no joke, i'm getting a racing heart just from writing about this.]
first, the good news...
montreal apartments are better than they used to be. one of the reasons that searching for an apartment in montreal was normally such a nightmare was that you'd be lucky to sign a lease before the place started collapsing around your ears. after the election of the parti quebecois in 1976 and the first sovereignty referendum in 1980, people left montreal like they were being drawn to massive magnets in other cities. vacancy rates soared, and rents were dirt cheap. while certain neighbourhoods filled up, large swathes of the city had perfectly serviceable places that remained empty for years. those places that were occupied remained cheap in order to remain occupied. so, in order to make money, landlords stopped doing anything to their buildings. yes, every apartment you looked at in montreal was going to have something wonky about it, and it was fairly common to have to buy your own kitchen appliances, but places were cheap enough that it made up for a lot.
when i moved back to montreal in 2008, things had changed. people were returning to the city, and it was increasingly hard to find a place anywhere. prices had increased sharply, not to the levels that i'd been paying in toronto, but a lot closer than when i'd left six years earlier. that's something you expect to happen, but what was infuriating was that the apartments still hadn't been properly renovated. taps still dripped. furniture still wobbled wherever you put it. closet doors still swung open. but this was the price you paid to be in montreal.
in 2017, however, it's changed again. landlords have been hard at work refinishing wood floors, replacing windows and filling kitchens with spiffy new appliances. it is almost unheard of for a tenant to have to buy a stove and refrigerator, and many places have a dishwasher as well. hell, a lot of them have a washer and dryer in the apartment and your hot water is included in the rent. for a scant bit more than we're paying right now, we can get a beautifully renovated place that still has design flourishes from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, lots of light, and that is in the same neighbourhood that we've grown to love. [seriously, several of the places i've looked at have been on our street.] rents have increased only marginally in that time, so all of a sudden, you're getting your money's worth.
[almost] no one knows what wheelchair accessible means. i knew going into this venture that the biggest challenge was going to be finding a place that we liked and that we could actually get into. i have a lot more to say about this, specifically about montreal and stairs, but for the moment, i have the following public service announcement:
at the same time, many people seem to assume that being wheelchair accessible is synonymous with having a perfectly measured ramp in the front of the building. that's not true. if the building has a parking lot with access to an average-sized elevator, chances are that you meet the definition of accessible. here's a little secret that no one seems to realise: a driveway is a ramp. if it's very steep, then it won't be manageable, but most of the driveways that i see around here are fine.
of course, there are exceptions. i've had some really, really sweet people in my search. one young man said that he could try to build us a ramp, but he feared that the city would force him to tear it out, because it would obstruct the sidewalk. [he's right, of course, but i'm going to remember the offer for the rest of my life, and hope that he's out there in the world, continuing to make it a better place.] another agent said that the building's concierge could rig something for us, even if it was just supplying a solid board. [a sweet offer, but the apartment was too small for our needs.]
the reason that no one thinks about wheelchair and handicapped accessibility is not because there aren't a lot of people who need it, but because our society doesn't think about the handicapped in general.
renting is the new leprosy. to be fair, i've only had one person come straight out and tell me that the building was a great place to live because it really wasn't "a rental building". i don't know how he thought i, as a potential renter, was supposed to react to that, but it didn't make me think well of the [frankly overpriced] apartment he was showing me. but others have seen fit to assure me that they "only rent to the best people". i think they mean that they don't rent to students. there's a part of me that suspects they also mean they don't rent to recent immigrants. regardless, i know myself well enough to know that i am not one of the "best people". i may not even be one of the better people. regardless, a building that insists on renting to the best people is likely to be filled with tenants who are going to eventually beat down my door screaming "burn the witch!" and that would be bad for everyone.
here's a thought: some people want to buy property. some people don't. that's their business and no one else's. some people can afford to buy property. some people can't. that's likewise none of your business as their landlord. worry more about whether or not they have a history of taking a shit in the common dryers or firing shotguns indoors. let them handle the rest.
there are other things that i've learned about myself that i've learned, or that i've at least been reminded of, as the search has gone on. a major one is that, once i know that a dishwasher is an option in some places, any place that doesn't have one feels like a step down. i haven't lived in a place with a dishwasher since i moved out of my mother's home a few weeks after my twentieth birthday. another, of course, is that i'm incredibly judgmental about landlords who haven't made some attempt to ensure that their properties are wheelchair accessible. it's 2017. if there are obstacles to accessibility and you can't make some kind of accommodation, you should be doing a mea culpa the entire time you're speaking to me. [a few people have. good people.] a third is that i feel that i'm owed a nice apartment. montreal is an amazing city, but every place i've lived here has involved some sort of compromise. small. poorly maintained. inconveniently located.
i really liked the building where i lived in toronto. yes, it was a bit far from the proverbial action, but it wasn't far in toronto terms. now that montreal is catching up in terms of price, i feel like i've been as patient as i need to be. listen up, city where i live: you've been resting on your liveable laurels a long time. it's time to give dom and me the spiffy new place we so richly deserve.
p.s. :: none of the buildings pictured are ones that i've actually visited. most of them are in new york and london. if you're moving there, even i have sympathy for you.
p.p.s. :: i'm not joking about the insanity of montreal moving day. the bbc did a documentary about it.