Finding an apartment


A Google Maps 3D shot of my apartment block in its neighborhood.

I’d accepted an offer on my house and agreed to move out in five weeks. Now I had to find somewhere to move into.

I’d already been looking at Pittsburgh apartments online. There was a building about a mile from my parents that had floor plans available on its website for viewing and download. Just to get an idea of what I might be able to bring with me wherever I might rent, I’d downloaded the floor plan for their one-bedroom apartments, made little computer-screen couches, chairs, etc., and experimented with different layouts. I was amazed to find how well my things fit in this particular footprint. Area carpets stopped just short of where walls jutted out, etc.

So when I had to find a place right away, this building was the first one I investigated. I’d signed the sales agreement on a weekend, when their office was closed, so I had to send them a message through their website asking about availability for March 1. First thing Monday morning I got an email from the property manager saying that yes, they had one for that date, and that I should call her.

It took me three tries to reach her. (She must have been out managing the property.) But I did get her on the phone less than an hour after she sent me the email. “I’m sorry,” she told me, “I really did have an apartment when I wrote to you. But since then, they’ve rented it out to someone else.” (Large apartment complexes with hundreds of units are often managed by realtors, but the complex itself can also rent out units. That’s what happened in this case.)

It was hard not to picture the hand of God at work here, snatching away the apartment for some reason just when it was within my grasp. “All right,” I said, “let’s see where this goes.”

I’d made good progress over the previous year recovering from exhaustion, but now I felt as if I was heading back in the other direction due to the exertions of packing up my things in anticipation of moving (somewhere), vacating the house nine times in two weeks for showings, etc. “There’s no way I’d have the strength or energy to drive to Pittsburgh, look for an apartment, drive back, and finish packing within five weeks,” I realized. “Somebody else is going to have to find that apartment for me.”

Fortunately, because many large apartment complexes are managed by realtors, a person can engage a buyer’s agent to work realtor-to-realtor when looking for an apartment. And just as I’d been referred to an excellent seller’s agent in East Lansing, I was referred to an excellent buyer’s agent in Pittsburgh. I had full confidence that she’d help me find a great place to live by the time I needed to move.

And then she was unexpectedly called out of town. This was originally supposed to be for a week, but it ended up being for ten days.

When my buyer’s agent finally did return to town, she looked around at possibilities and reported, “You know, for where you want to live, and what you want to pay, that first complex really is your best bet.” I’d asked them to put me on a waiting list for March 1, so I called them again, thinking that something might have opened up.

“We have a one-bedroom apartment available for April 1,” the manager told me. “I’ll take it,” I said. I submitted an application and it was approved exactly three weeks before I was to move out of my house.

Now I just needed somewhere to live, and some place to store my things, for the month of March. My plan when I went to bed that night was to move to Pittsburgh at the end of February, as I’d already arranged, put my things in storage there, and stay with family until the apartment opened up. In the middle of the night, the plan changed. I realized I could put off the trip until later, move my things to storage in Michigan, and stay with friends in town for the month.

By the time I woke up, the plan had changed again. I realized that I already had a place to live, and a place to store my things: the house I was living in! I just needed to ask the buyer to agree to let me stay in the house until the end of March.

I wrote an email of several hundred words to my seller’s agent, asking whether this was the kind of thing we could approach the buyer about through their own agent. I explained how this would be very helpful to me, but also suggested several ways in which I thought it would be a win-win. This would give the buyer’s house more time to sell, and they wouldn’t be paying two mortgages in the meantime because I’d be renting back. We’d have a much better chance of good weather for moving if we waited a month. And I could have the yard all set up for spring for the buyer by the end of March.

I thought my seller’s agent would have to think this over. I was concerned she might say, “Well, we’ve got a signed sales agreement, let’s not mess with any of the details of it.” Even if she agreed to pursue the possibility, I thought she would then have to speak with the buyer’s agent about whether we could approach the buyer about this.

Instead, within half an hour I got an email back from my seller’s agent. She told me, “The buyer said, ‘No problem.’”

Author: endlessmercies

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister and served local churches as a pastor for nearly twenty years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School. Dr. Smith answers questions about the Bible, particularly those that arise from the use of his study guides, at

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