I am told to breathe in and out, slowly… To try to picture myself on a deserted island, windswept dunes singing softly under my toes, the waves lapping at the shore – anything at all to take my mind off of the finding a place to live fiasco that’s spread like a disease yet to be named into every pore of my body.
The fiasco in reference is my struggle to situate my kiddo in an apartment within easy commuting distance from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. My baby is a proud freshman in FAU’s prestigious Ocean Engineering program. He lazed his way through high school, skipped a few classes and was on the verge of not even graduating, and then, as if by magic, pulled in decent enough grades and recommendations to get into the first (and only) school he applied to. The school is a tremendous complex with student services and amenities to die for, situated in that oh so posh Floridian shopping mecca, where one is just as likely to show up to class on a Schwinn as in a brand new Porsche.
We were told that all freshmen must live on campus, so we toured the cramped rooms of the dorms, thinking of nifty storage ideas for lack of space and were regretting already that baby D couldn’t bring his piano with him. There was no room for large bulky extras. The kiddo was looking at everything through those ‘I can taste the freedom now’ glasses, and spent the majority of the summer learning to say goodbye to a few choice friends, practicing beer pong, jumping out of the airplane and filling out thick packets of various paperwork that welcomes one to the real world as an adult.
Some four weeks ago, an email from FAU advised my giddy happy teen that there was not enough room in the dorms to accommodate all the freshmen, and he was out of luck. We had weeks to find him a place to live off campus. So the hunt began. Craigslist yielded crappy results and accidentally, one extraordinarily sweet real estate agent, Sheryl Pinatel with Boca Vista realty. She took her time to talk to me about all the different complexes near campus, warning me to stay away from some places as being unsafe, and sending me links to the safer ones. One of the links was for a neat-looking community some 7 miles away from Boca called Spring Harbor at the Landings. Cute townhome style apartments lining a few man-made bodies of water, a pair of swimming pools, a gate, and most importantly – they deal with college kids, make allowances for them and understand that their needs will be different than other tenants. Long story short, Sheryl gave me a contact there, and we set the ball in motion. D was tasked with finding room-mates, which he accomplished by running a few free ads on FAU’s off campus website, interviewing the kiddos via phone, and after a few switches, 3 boys were found. The rather arduous process of filling out applications was commenced and I kept in constant communication with the Leasing agent, Robert. I should restate this: I tried to keep in constant communication, with the leasing agent, who on most days, made himself unavailable. After a few exasperating days of waiting, I spoke to Sheryl, and she drove to the apartment complex. Magically, her presence made Robert answer his phone and occasionally, even return a message I’d left.
But communication is only as good as the message being delivered, and over the course of the next few weeks, I learned to expect that what I was told yesterday would not be valid today or tomorrow. That everything, from availability of an apartment I reserved to the monthly rent amount for that apartment was bound to change with the shape of the moon or the currents, or the mood of the leasing agent. That it was common for a fax machine at their office to lose entire applications or for rules to change without any notice.
The day we were going for the orientation this past week, we found out that we could NOT, in fact, move anything into the apartment yet, and that after all this time of being told that we were fine, they were still ‘processing’ our paperwork.
We went to the complex for the first time in person the day of orientation. Shook hands with the incompetent Robert, who turned out to be a solicitous youngster of 25, and were finally assured that we’d be fine and ready to move in on the 8th, and, pending one letter from just one of the applicants, our deposit was sufficient and we just needed to pay the first month rent. We paid, packed our stuff and went back home, finally thrilled that the kiddo had a place to live that he could afford. A place he found perfect in every way, and that the dozen daily calls and emails to the property management company was going to come to an end. We prevailed… We could finally relax a bit and start packing the kiddo, but everything was now going to be alright.
Until this afternoon, when I got another call from Robert, cheerfully letting me know that everything is fine and we are all set, less the minor issue of having to come up with an additional deposit in a pretty large amount, due to the fact that kids do not have sufficient credit history. An interesting fact, considering from the get go, credit history was NOT a requirement for these obviously just-out-of-high-school-kids, – having a job and or enough financial aid to pay the rent was….
The complex is managed by Greystar group – one of the largest property management companies out there with a huge portfolio of properties. They post a fantastically high occupancy rate, by any standard. The shareholders must be thrilled. A portion of those occupants are college kids, who took the assurances of the agents that they were fine and had a place to live seriously, and who found themselves in a situation where they had to simply come up with an extra grand or two if they wanted to attend the school they got into. Because there is nothing one can find in Boca in a week, especially without the benefit of being in Boca. There is nothing most of these kids can do on short notice, if at all.
We’ll be moving the kiddo into this particular apartment complex, for lack of any other options. I can’t help but think that this very first move away from home for my son did not need to be full of stress, and constant recalculation of his finances. I can’t help but think that there ought to be a recourse for a hapless just-turned -adults entering these schools when a supposed real estate professional lies to their faces, whether deliberately or because they have no idea what they are doing. This particular apartment complex is ideal for FAU students, except that the chances of being able to rent there due to incompetence of the agents is astronomically low for a working adult, never mind a college kid.
For now, I’ll breathe in and out, as slowly as I can. I’ll do my best not to dread seeing Boca’s area code on my caller ID. I’ll do my best not to throw Robert and crew into their nifty community pool, fully clothed, unintentionally of course, when I go to visit my baby in his new quarters. Unless something changes, yet again, tomorrow, in which case I’ll go terminator on their asses.