Tag Archives: apartment hunting

Terrible Apartment Photos, Taiwan Redux

Time for a fun post! In the before times, when this used to be a fun travel blog ( I mean, back when there was travel), I made a series of posts about terrible apartment photos that we encountered on our great circumnavacation. Of course, it all started with Taiwan, but we quickly found that both France and Croatia have their own unique contributions. We’ve looked for apartments on and off again this past year, and while the apartments have changed, the quality of the bad photos have not. Thus, I am proud to present another edition of Terrible Apartment Photos.

The Bad Bathroom Photo

Sometimes, you just have a bad bathroom photo. They are tricky spaces to take good photos of, but sometimes, you find examples that you just know can be improved on. For example, it’s great to know there’s much room for your legs when you’re sitting on the throne, but it makes you wonder: is there something wrong with the rest of the room that you didn’t want to capture it in this photo?

Other times, you have a great bathroom picture that shows all the relevant parts, but it may have been better not to take this picture at all, because everything is too violent of a shade of blue. I actually found it terrifying to look at this for a sustained period of time. There’s no way I could actually go in there, in either sense of the word.

The Ghost Arm Photo

I sympathize with Taiwanese brokers who want to take nice pictures of apartments that don’t feature themselves haunting the back of a mirror or a reflective pane of glass. However, they usually end up making themselves more conspicuous by trying to hide their main body and just showing their floating arm in the photo with their phone or camera at the end of it. This second one is actually my favorite example of this genre.

The Incomprehensible Layout Photo

I appreciate it when landlords go to the trouble of creating a little layout or something rather than making you put all the pieces together yourself by minutely examining each photo. However, some people just go overboard. I mean, I read Chinese, and this was still nearly incomprehensible to me. Why go to the trouble of drawing an entire layout and labeling everything, and then using a stylus to scribble more details about the apartment on TOP of that?

And no, it doesn’t get any better when you use multicolored font to do it.

The Twin Peaks Room

This room won the lottery: no windows AND a crazy dizzy patterned floor. It would be a dire punishment indeed to have to sit at that corner desk and stare at the wall.

The What Happened Here Photo

I would be disappointed if this apartment didn’t actually come like this.

The Unrealistic Staircase Photo

On the downside, you can’t walk up these stairs if you’re wider than the average Taiwanese person or happen to be holding something like a child or a box that is skinnier than the width of these stairs. On the bright side, you would be perfectly safe walking up these stairs while drunk, because if you stumbled, the walls would hold you up. You win some, you lose some.

The Tiger King Apartment Photos

I saved the best for last: sometimes, an apartment just evokes questions that have no answers. Who is the amazing person moving out of this place? Why did they have four plush tigers, but two of two different types? Why are these four tigers all basking in the light? Do they have their backs turned on the stains on the floor for a particular reason? Is that a child-sized scooter or motorcycle in the corner? Or maybe, tiger-sized? We’ll never know, but we’ll always enjoy the speculation.

A place to call our own.

Over the last few weeks, we have trekked all over this city to look at potential housing, endured the rollercoaster of emotions associated with finding and deciding on apartments, and begun to shop for and clean up our new place. It has been such a long process, and we’re so ready for a rest that we welcomed this news of a super-typhoon hitting Taiwan with open arms.

Why? Because typhoons are to Taiwan what hurricanes and nor’easters are to the East Coast. Sure, they can wreak some havoc, down power lines and cause damage to roads, but casualties are usually minimal. The solution is usually to go home early, pick up extra food and water and batteries at the supermarket, and hunker down for a day. Perfect for two people who really just need to get a bit more sleep than we have been! I don’t mean to take the weather too lightly. Typhoons can be destructive, and living on the 11th floor of an apartment building certainly means that we are not vulnerable to flooding in the same way that other people are. Rural areas have been warned of flash floods and mudslides that can be deadly. But given what we’ve been told to do by locals, dealing with a hazardous weather condition sounds like a breeze (pun intended) compared to what we’ve been through most recently.

We had the most grueling apartment search either of us has ever endured. I would not wish this on anyone. When we were done, I counted up all the appointments on my Google Calendar, and found that we had seen twenty-four apartments in Taipei over the span of almost two weeks. We saw places that were too small, too big (though Steve would dispute that), too high up of a walk, too dark, too pricey (frequently), too far away from public transit, too whatever. We met landlords who were usually quite honest and frank, brokers who were usually eager to please but obsessed with getting their fee, and even a few people who lied to our faces. We debated and argued and pled endlessly with each other over countless meals and drinks about what was better or worse about one apartment versus another, how high of a rent we could really afford, how much furniture we would need to buy, and whether it was important or not for us to be close to a supermarket and a MRT stop that would get me to work within half an hour. We made multiple spreadsheets in Google Sheets and on Steve’s notebook, and created decision matrices that awarded points on the basis of location, space, and building amenities, and then scrapped the whole thing. Twice. It was a shopping and comparison nightmare, compounded by the language barrier, communication issues between brokers and landlords, attempts to bargain, and the fact that Taipei is simply a fast-moving housing market where apartments are rented within hours, not days. Several times, we got our hopes up, after seeing a wonderful place, but were turned down for one reason or another.  I found myself thinking about the housing  policy module I took this spring, and how public housing design and the Housing First movement to end homelessness have been informed by people’s feelings about home – it is intensely personal, a part of your identity, and sometimes defies reason. We found ourselves driven crazy by this drawn-out search process, with our emotions were on a constant roller coaster. I was never sure about how I felt about a place, and felt like I was incapable of making a solid decision that was not emotionally charged and apt to change.

So even when we finally signed this place, and the landlords walked out, leaving us with the key and the lease, I found myself the victim of unaccountable, rising panic that we had made some sort of terrible mistake. I had felt it twice already during the search, when we were on the verge of committing to a place. Since we moved in three days ago, that panic has subsided, tempered by the mundane issues of having to scrub a place out, and the joy of buying new clean things that we can use and enjoy, like IKEA pillows and comforters, a computer chair, a water kettle, and closet organizers. I just feel so much more normal now, which is a solid relief. And the place has turned out to be somewhat of a dear (at least to me), so it’s not so bad.

We ended up finding ourselves a small apartment, that can either be defined as a one-bedroom or a studio. The living room has a small kitchen, full-size fridge, and a two-person brown couch. The two other spaces are a bedroom, separated by a sliding door, and a study area, which can also be separated from the living room by a set of sliding doors. It has a distinctly Japanese aesthetic – the bedroom and study area have a common floorboard that is lifted up from the living room. We have a magnificent view of the buildings behind us, a hodgepodge of smaller, traditional Taiwanese houses and buildings and back alleys, shored up by larger, newer apartment buildings, and beyond that, the shadowy beginnings of Yangmingshan, the mountain to the north of Taipei. Our building is residential, but also home to a number of companies and oddly enough, churches and religious organizations. There’s a neon cross on the outside of our building, and on Sunday morning, when we first visited, there were several foreigners of different countries and ethnicities walking around, speaking a lot of accented English. We are just north of Zhongshan station, in an area that we are learning is full of stores, restaurants, and shops that cater to a profusion of Japanese tourists. We are working on cleaning the apartment (still not done after three days), buying the little furniture that is necessary to furnish it, and learning how to work it (this washing machine is going to take some time). But in my opinion, this apartment does what we need it to do. It’s a quiet place for us to stay and bring Stella eventually, it is well-located within the city, with a lot of bustle and interesting things just a few minutes away, and it provides a space for Steve to work, and for us to host friends if they eventually come to visit us. It will take us a bit more time to get it shipshape and picture-worthy, as both of us are horrified by whoever used to live here and their cleaning habits. But most of all, I fall asleep these days being profoundly thankful that our lives are returning to normal, Steve and I are beginning our work processes, and that we have a permanent roof over our heads as the storm is about to break.

Next time, more about my new job and other fun things in Taipei!


Terrible Apartment Photos 3: Croatia Edition!

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back another edition of the truly classic terrible apartment photos. As some of you may recall, France was pretty bad, and Taiwan was the original enfant terrible, but Croatia has no shortage either of terrible photographers. Why are we here again? Well, since we have gotten to know and admire every inch of this skinny country along the Adriatic Sea, Steve and I have decided to overstay our original trip to Croatia. In two days, we wrap up our visit to Dubrovnik and journey up the coast to Split, in Dalmatia, before heading back to Zagreb for the rest of April. We just can’t get enough of this country! So to Airbnb it was again to find a new place to stay in Zagreb for two weeks. Along the way, I could not resist gathering a large quantity of truly terrible apartment photos for your viewing pleasure. Here are some photos that truly do not inspire you to visit this country!

The Classic What-Is-This Photo

Let’s start off with a good old fashioned example of a photo that in no way gives you any useful information. What is this? A doorway? A cabinet? How does this black space on the right of what seems like a doorframe change from being negative space against a red door to going right through the floor at the bottom? What am I looking at?? This is an utter waste of pixels and my bandwidth!

Continue reading Terrible Apartment Photos 3: Croatia Edition!

Terrible Apartment Photos 2: French Edition!

Welcome back, folks, to another edition of Terrible Apartment Photos. For those who are short on memory, our first installment back in October featured terrible apartment photos in Taiwan. Last time we saw them, our heroes Steve and Connie had left East Asia, and have been making their way through Southeast Asia and the subcontinent with varying degrees of success. Tired of trekking from place to place, they started seriously thinking about plunking down money to make a more long-term stay happen, independent of Workaway and WWOOFing situations. Where can they find a nice little slice of the world to call their own for a few months? The answer is France.

[cue montage of mounds of baguettes, panning over le Tour Eiffel, flowers and produce markets in cobblestone streets, and idyllic afternoons at roadside cafés, awash in accordion music] 

We’ve been combing over AirBnB for hours, contemplating small condos in large cities like Lyon and Marseille as well as more spacious houses or cottages in the occasional obscure countryside village. One was so tiny it had no train station, which really left us scratching our head as to how we were going to get there. Many of the pictures were beautiful, and seemed to correlate directly with how expensive the apartment was, so take that for what you will. As beautiful and stereotyped as this country is, it is not immune from overzealous or simply dim-witted photographers who could not show their apartment in a positive light if their life depended on it. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of turning on the lights, or backing up a few inches so I can figure out whether this is a bathroom or bedroom, waiting until daylight for the best views, or using your common sense. Whatever it is, these people didn’t have it. You know you missed the snark. Here’s another helping.

The High Maintenance Owner Photo

The high

I generally take it for granted that bathrooms contain something like a sink, so maybe you could tell me whether this bathroom has a shower or a bathtub? The only thing I can really glean from this picture is that its owner cares more about their hair than I do.

The No-Electricity Photo

cook int eh dark

 Maybe the French are used to cooking in the semi-darkness, but I think that half-lit ambiance for your kitchen is so 1600s.

Continue reading Terrible Apartment Photos 2: French Edition!

Terrible Apartment Photos: Taiwan Edition

In the course of apartment hunting in Taipei and now Kaohsiung, Steve and I have frequented Tealit.org, Kaohsiung Connect, and the all-powerful 591.com, which has listings in Chinese. The apartment quality has decidedly been of a mixed variety, since some are very old and shabby looking, but the location and cost go a long way to making up for it. However, aside from seeing some horrible apartments, we’ve also encountered some atrocious crimes against photography.

Great photos in an online listing can help you gloss over an apartment’s flaws or highlight its strengths. Bad photos, however, can put off prospective tenants, or worse, waste their time by making them laboriously puzzle out what the photo is actually of and where that furniture or wall is situated in relation to the other photos. It’s also exasperating because the number of faux pas seem innumerable and so easily avoidable: if you want to make your apartment look nice, photograph it during the day for maximum daylight. Stand still while taking a photo instead of dancing around. Don’t use flash directly in front of a window. Why is it so difficult to take a nice, wide-angled shot of a room? Even more landlords are preoccupied with giving you detailed photos of the bathroom sink from five different angles, what the hot water heater or laundry machine look like, and how many independent electric meters there are on the wall. All we want is to understand what an apartment looks like or would feel like to live in, and these photos have been so ridiculously unhelpful to that end that we felt the need to compile an album of the worst offenders.

Continue reading Terrible Apartment Photos: Taiwan Edition