Six years ago at this time I was looking at apartment complexes in three different cities: Boston, Chapel Hill, and Providence. Andy had put in applications to Brown, MIT, and UNC, and until we knew which, I had to plan for all three. I was doing this all sight unseen via the rent.net website. My favorite apartment by far was the one in Chapel Hill; it had everything I wanted (allowed pets, fireplace, cathedral ceilings, washer and dryer in unit etc), plus I'd fallen in love with the area when Andy had wisely brought me along for candidate's weekend. Before that I'd been less than enthusiastic about going back down south after three miserable months in Atlanta.
Andy decided on UNC, and one day on impulse I called the apartment complex I liked so much, and found out they had two open at the time. One was coming free in two weeks and was on the second floor, so no skylights. The other was coming free in mid-June, and was on the third floor, so it was nigh on perfect. Andy was a bit dubious about renting an apartment sight unseen, but I had a feeling about the place, so I decided to go for it even though I wouldn't be able to move until July. We put in the application and hoped, and we ended up qualifying. When we finally got here we couldn't be happier. This apartment is open in the living areas, well-lit on sunny days (there are a lot of those here), and just right for Thena (plus now Gail) and us. Back then the complex was run by a company called Merry Land which was, I believe, based in Maryland and had complexes in the southeastern states. One of the coolest things they did was gave some amount (the amount of $500.00/year sticks in my mind) for every year you lived in the community toward the cost of a house so long as you used a specific builder.
A year or two later we got some mail which I tend to dread seeing -- Merry Land had been bought out by a company called Equity, but they promised us things were going to stay the same. For me, that kind of letter had always translated to "bad things are going to happen" -- like maybe they'd raise rent 100% when our lease was up, or would let the apartments fall into disrepair, and we'd probably lose the credits we'd accumulated toward getting a new home. While I didn't assume all of it was going to happen, I began looking at rent.net again, just in case.
Our lease renewal time came around, and the rent went up something like 2.5%. The office staff remained the same and Victor, the best maintenance guy in the world, stayed on staff. Equity noted that while they wouldn't be keeping the same rent-to-own deal as Merry Land, that they were working on something better. Since they had two out of three, I was willing to wait and see about the new program.
Meanwhile, Andy and I had reason to look into the program they did have, which is called Equity Coast to Coast (ECC). Equity was quite a bit larger than Merry Land, having apartments in 35 states across the country. At his advisor's urging, Andy applied for and was accepted into an internship for Intel in the summer of 1999, and that would mean relocating to the Bay Area. I looked up apartments through Equity and found one. Andy was really dubious about it, but in the end we applied there. The good thing about ECC was that the application fee was waived and we got $100.00 off of the first month's rent. We paid rent on both places for the summer so our Timber Hollow apartment wouldn't be rented to someone else. Woodleaf wasn't the best apartment complex we ever lived in (Timber Hollow wins that one hands-down), but it was certainly adequate.
In the summer of 2000 Andy interned again, this time for SGI. Tanner (whom I write about with regards to GNO) was also interning there, so we decided to share an apartment. I found another Equity property, this time a townhouse. Again Andy was really dubious, but in the end we got the same deal from ECC, and did pretty well at Briarwood. It definitely had better soundproofing than Woodleaf, and Thena liked the stairs.
By 2001 Andy had his thesis topic and was beginning work on it. We stayed home that summer and I rediscovered how pretty Chapel Hill is when the trees are in bloom or have leaves. Meanwhile, since Andy was beginning to give me names of places he might work for, I decided to see if Equity had come up with a rent-to-own policy. They had, a deal called Rent with Equity (RWE), but only in a limited number of states -- notably the east coast. Every few months I would go back, and one of the times they had deals with builders for California and for NC. Their program was also much more generous: 15-25% of your yearly rent, up to 3% of the house's total cost. The credits apply coast to coast, so the rent we paid over the two summers in California would also apply. The deal also works for all roommates at the cost of rent, so Andy and I would actually get 30-50% (which might very well have not been enough for up to 3% in California).
I began acquainting myself with the builders they had contracts within Ca and NC. This became even more of a hobby when Andy finished his dissertation and began job-hunting. I have a notebook with mapquested mileage comparisons for every complex for every company he's applied to, as well as notes on plans I especially liked.
There will be a quiz on this later.