This week I spent two days in Orange County, CA in the hopes of securing a place to live for at least the first year of my studies. I’ve been researching apartments in the area for several weeks, and had compiled a shortlist of about 20 places that I thought were worth looking at. Just prior to my trip, I spent a few hours re-confirming details such as pricing, floor plans, features, and distance from campus in order to prioritize the most likely candidates, which I would visit first.
My dad decided to tag along and keep me company. Normally, sending the two of us out to shop for anything is a recipe for disaster, as I seem to have inherited my ambivalence and lack of decisiveness from him. But in this case, I felt suitably motivated to leave the OC with an apartment locked down that even if it was painful, I would make a choice.
And painful it was. With rents in Austin already pushing what most of us consider reasonable, paying up to twice as much for an equivalent place in Orange County was a tough pill to swallow. The difference makes it seem like every apartment is robbing you blind and expecting you to be grateful. So the more value-oriented end of the market, where I was looking, seems even more overpriced.
Add to that a delayed flight, three hours in a middle seat, a backpack malfunction, and a hot, muggy hotel room due to the air conditioner having been off for some time when we arrived, and all I wanted to do was go home.
After spending a day visiting the first few properties on my list, it became apparent that I had hit the nail on the head with my pre-trip research. My top pick, while a bit of an older place, is newly renovated, with pleasant landscaping and good amenities (and improvements underway). The floor plan is also the most flexible, and allows me to configure the space in a way that would be very functional, about a 15-20 minute drive from Chapman–about the same commute I do every day right now. None of the other properties on my list were able to compete with all of that, for the price. The only real contender was a property that was so close to campus that it would have been worth considering a $100 per month increase for the convenience, but they had no availability unless I wanted to hold one of the currently-vacant apartments, which would’ve bumped the rent tremendously.
So I decided to go with that top pick, and accomplished my mission on day one. That took a weight off my shoulders, since now I’m able to proceed with moving arrangements, but the idea of moving to California and starting a three-year grad school program got very real for me.