Welcome to the wilds! New Jersey for me was like crossing the border into Tijuana. Sure, the new lifestyle was crazy, but no one would ever admit to living there. When my husband’s job was relocated here in August 2010, we both were frightened. Now we’re learning about life, love, and marriage in this strange new culture. Feel free to tag along for the adventure.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finding an Apartment

Searching for an apartment in rural New Jersey when your only experience has been in the city is like trying to kill a cow when you’ve only ever bought steak at the grocery store.

In the city, it’s research, research, research. The internet is your pick axe as you search for gold. There are deals and steals out there like corporations offering a two months free special or Craigslist landlords who need to pay the additional mortgage. There’s no need to pick up a free apartment guide, because by the time it has been printed everything inside is out of date.

Armed with this knowledge, my husband and I adventured into the Wilds of New Jersey, searching for a place to live. As we had learned, we began with research. Granted, our criteria included three seemingly innocuous check marks: cat friendly, dishwasher and washer/dryer. With a radius of 20 miles around his office, we thought for sure we would find something…and after a few hours of internet clicking we were sorely disappointed. North is wilderness and housing developments. East toward New York City is settling for a hovel without the romanticism of living in Manhattan. South is beautiful, constructed of million dollar homes. And West, is into the heart of the woods.

Apparently, northern New Jersey is on a watershed, so most of the rentals have hook-ups for washing dishes or clothes. In total, only one apartment had all the criteria necessary for a perfect fit. We crossed our fingers and drove the four hours to see it, battling traffic on the turnpike, and paying nearly $15 in tolls one way. When we finally arrived, the actual apartment was both grungy and uncomfortable. It sat atop a hill that bobsledders might drool over…but my car is front wheel drive; not an SUV. Let’s be honest, the first snowfall and I’d be sliding backwards into oncoming traffic.

Disappointed, but not discouraged, we tried the realtor route. And to make the arduous process sound short, eventually; we submitted an application for a place.

Queue Dueling Banjo music…

Trying to “exercise patience” as our Realtor talked to the landlord’s Realtor, who talked to the landlord; we drove around the areas north and west of my hubby’s work. We traveled over mountains, through underpasses, by scenic overlooks, and across a few one lane bridges. We cataloged everything; trying to learn as much as we could about this strange place.

As the elevation increased and the temperature dropped, we headed north, and found a diner. That’s not saying much, though. Diners are like deer in rural New Jersey, spotted every few miles. We entered and grabbed a free apartment guide for good measure; having exhausted all conversation on the drive. Then, we met locals, had a waitress with the expected accent, and ate food that we could actually feel putting fat onto our thighs.

And after this entire adventure, do you know what we learned?
First, always carry cash, in the wilds; credit and debit are not always accepted.

Second, don’t miss your exit; once in the woods that mistake will cost you nearly a half hour as you first drive 14 miles to the new turn off and then return to the major road to backtrack.

And three, not everyone publishes their apartments online. In the north, free apartment guides are not just recycled paper. They can actually come in handy.

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