Eric's California Apartment Hunt

Okay, you want to know the whole story, so do not blame me if this is long. This search was hard and long, partly because the area is dense and has a lot of choices, there are several towns nearby and important factors vary from town to town, and the Silicon Valley real estate market is under quite a bit of pressure.

The day after the job interview, I drove around Cupertino and visited eleven apartment complexes. The prices here shocked me; decent two-bedroom apartments are more than $1100/month, most around $1300/month, and the nicer places were $1700/month and up. Almost none of the cheaper places suited my needs, and the few that did did not "feel" right.

Well, it turns out Cupertino is the most expensive area in the immediate vicinity, largely due to a school system with a great reputation. Not only will a good school system do me little good, but the reputation may be largely due to Asian students doing very well rather than the quality of the teaching. So, I had to dismiss all my Cupertino research and look outside the town. Also, when Apple's job offer came through, the salary included some adjustment for the outrageous cost of living here, but not enough to compensate for the cost of Cupertino's nicer apartments.

Searching on the web, mostly through ApartmentGuide.com revealed a number of candidates that were cheaper, sizeable, and possibly well located relative to Apple. The latter was hard to tell, since I did not know what roads jam during rush hours. After price, size, and location, I considered crime rate, guest parking, amenities, appearance, and a few other factors, although some of these are hard to judge with information available on the net. I called several places to send me additional information.

Apple's relocation package includes some services of a local real-estate agent. I discussed my apartment needs and desires with her and coordinated some apartments we would visit. The Wednesday after I arrived in California, I visited some of my top candidates and learned about some new ones. Thursday morning, I visited the new ones. Thursday afternoon, the real-estate agent and I visited five or six candidates.

After all that, I had settled on one place, Newport, which had a great price and was a nice size and had a floorplan that really worked for me. The neighborhood was decent. Unfortunately, it was a bit far from Apple—only eight miles, but the commute involves two highways with the potential to clog. Also, the building quality was not that great, but I could live with that. As Thursday ended, I was planning to do some final checks in the morning and commit to Newport if things panned out.

While reviewing my records Thursday night, I compared each candidate to Newport and dismissed all but two, one that I had visited and not disliked but could not remember correctly (I had been to two dozen apartment complexes!), and one that I had not visited, Oak Pointe. So one of my final checks was to visit Oak Pointe.

In the morning, I drove to Oak Pointe. They did not have a suitable unit available. However, I had parked down the street and walked past a couple of apartment complexes to get to Oak Pointe, so I stopped in at those. Peartree had a great apartment—just a little smaller than Newport, a little more expensive, and not including utilities. However, it is half as far from Apple, and the grounds and interior are nicer.

I drove to the other place I needed to revisit and then to Newport for my final checks there. I decided the Newport kitchen was not that great. Also, I was able to contrast the drive to Peartree with the drive to Newport (the real estate agent drove the first time). The Peartree commute has lots of traffic lights and might get bogged down, but it is still likely to be more pleasant than a highway commute, especially if the latter ever gets jammed. Plus biking from the Peartree is easier, of course. Plus the road to the Peartree offers plenty of opportunities to stop for things on the way home—groceries, books, et cetera.

Then I went back to my temporary apartment to research Peartree on the net. They have complaints from tenants, like all places do, but the complaints seemed reasonable. After lunch, I went back out. The Peartree agent was out of the office for a while, so I visited a sister property of the Peartree, just in case they had more for less. I headed back to the Peartree and even stopped along the way to check a couple of places even closer to Apple.

At the Peartree, I measured the bedrooms. The master bedroom is a foot longer than their floorplan shows. It is about the same as my bedroom in New Hampshire was. So things should fit in there. And I think the Peartree kitchen is better than the Newport kitchen, although neither is what I would really like.

Finally, I put a deposit down at the Peartree and agreed to sign a lease. There is a unit coming available September 10, which I would move into September 11, and there was a chance a corner unit would be available.

Peartree is in Sunnyvale. Oddly, the real estate agent mentioned she eliminated Sunnyvale from consideration because it would take too long to get to Apple. I do not know what she was thinking; maybe parts of Sunnyvale are inaccessible, although I would not think so, but the border is within a mile of Apple.

But wait, we are not done yet. The agent signed me up for unit 910. That did not sound right to me, so I asked her whether that were right, was not 909 the downstairs unit? She assured me 910 was the downstairs unit, and I took her at her word.

I returned the next morning to photograph the apartment for you, and I found that 910 was upstairs. That is critical for me, because I need to be able to use my treadmill without disturbing a downstairs neighbor. It was early in the morning, so the agent was not in, and I had several hours to fret. While I ran errands, I almost convinced myself I was misremembering the number, and the paperwork said 909. When I got home, I confirmed it was 910. I left a message for the agent, had lunch, and drove over. When I got there, she apologized for the error and told me the people in the corner unit had decided to move, so I could have it. Thus, I will be in 1001.

Here are the factors I considered in this apartment hunt:

From what I know now, it seems like Peartree's compromises are fairly minor and its advantages are significant. So overall I am pretty happy with the choice. Hopefully, time will prove it to be a lucky find and worth all the work I put into the search.

⇐ Go back to California journal. ⇒

Copyright 2004 by Eric Postpischil.