Lessons Learned Moving From Traditional Education to a Silicon Valley Startup Part 3: Finding a Place to Live and All that Goes with it.

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If you are just entering this series now, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 to get up to speed. Or… just check out Part 3 if you like.

After accepting the position a Udacity, things started moving very quickly, even though I had more than a month before I was going to move. One reason for this is that my wife and I had already planned a 10 day trip in early August. I also had a 3 day work trip planned. I was to start my new job at Udacity on August 26th, and we were due home from our trip on the 13th of August.

I had talked with my boss at St. Norbert and we had decided that my last day was going to be on the 16th of August, leaving me with 10 days to drive out and get settled in a new place in California. This turned out to be a lot trickier than I had originally thought.

The biggest reason for our challenges was our dog. The plan was that she would be coming to live with me in California. The first question, when would she be coming to live with me?

If you have an animal, you might know how difficult it can be to move with one. We had done this on several occasions with our last dog. However, we didn’t know how Rue was going to do with this very huge move into a much smaller place with no yard.

At first we considered having me rent a room in someone’s home for a month or two, but that became difficult for a number of reasons. Most rooms you rent in the Silicon Valley area don’t come with a private bathroom or the ability to cook meals. The later proved to be the biggest deal for me as I like to cook and it would save money too.

Beyond just the inconveniences it may have caused for me, it also created a couple of other problems. What would would we do with Rue in the meantime? We had decided to sell the house so Misty would have to find a place that would take dogs unless I could find a place before our closing date. This became more difficult when our house sold in less than 2 days with a closing date of August 30th.

If Rue stayed with Misty, this meant renting a place in Wisconsin that took dogs and would cost more. It also meant that I would have to find a less expensive apartment to in California. Further, it meant I would have to fly back to get Rue a 3–4 day journey or drive back and forth, a minimum 6 day journey.

We quickly decided that it would be best if I found an apartment to move into before starting work. The search was on! In July of 2019 finding a one bedroom apartment in the Bay Area for less than $3000 is possible. However, if you add the need to allow large dogs, and have in unit laundry, the price goes up and the selections wither.

Because I would be taking care of Rue on my own I faced another choice. I could live further from work and pay less for rent, but likely also have to hire a dog sitter, or pay more and live closer. In the end, I chose to live closer and I believe that was the right decision for us. However, it was very difficult to find an apartment that met our requirements that keep my commute under 20 minutes.

“try and talk with people who have already made that move”

To make matters more difficult, because we were going on vacation, it was going to be virtually impossible for us to tour any apartments in person. Some advice I can give in looking for a new place when moving in the same sort of situation is to try and talk with people who have already made that move.

There were several people at Udacity who had made a similar move and they helped me to determine a few things. What areas were not the best to live in, and what their experience had been. For example, I learned the while Milpitas, CA is less expensive, it also often smells like garbage because of a large dump there.

“Using Google Search was ultimately how I found and chose my apartment.”

I also learned that one of my colleagues had used Craigslist to try and find a place and had a very bad experience. These types of tips helped me to hit the ground running. I used apps like Zumper, Apartment List, Apartments.com, and Zillow to try and find a place to live. That being said, it became clear that many of the apartments on these apps were similar and when I did a Google Search, more apartments came up than were shown in the apps. Using Google Search was ultimately how I found and chose my apartment.

“Apartment prices change constantly in the Bay Area.”

I quickly learned another lesson. Apartment prices change constantly in the Bay Area. When a site would quote one price if you called, it would be another. Large apartment complexes that had multiple openings would give you a better deal for an apartment open right now vs one open in a month. Waiting to find an apartment in the right place made me a bit to anxious, but might have saved us money.

“I learned that I needed to read as many reviews from different sources as I could.”

I learned a second lesson, review scores don’t always tell the current story. While a particular place might get good reviews (4.2+ out of 5 for example), I often found some important information in the most recent reviews. Thinks like packages being stolen or cars being broken into. In contrast, some places that had poor overall scores had excellent reviews for a more current time period. I learned that I needed to read as many reviews from different sources as I could.

I used all of the apps that listed the apartments I was looking for along with Google and Yelp!. The strategy of using Google to find apartments in the area I was looking and multiple sources for reviews allowed me to narrow my search to a couple of places.

“Pretty much everyone in the Bay Area has a company to handle inquiries about apartments”

I began calling the places on my list and learned yet another lesson. Pretty much everyone in the Bay Area has a company to handle inquiries about apartments and they can only answer some of your questions. I took me a few days to get the phone number for the place I ultimately rented from, but that paid off.

We called our complex on a Saturday and found that they had an apartment on the first floor, in our price range and that looked decent from the images. So we pulled the trigger and started the process to rent the apartment by putting down a security deposit.

This led to several days of anxiety for me. The person we talked too was fantastic, but she was off on that first Monday and we hadn’t gotten some verifications that we were supposed to. I called and talked with someone who had no idea that we had already secured the apartment and it wasn’t until the next day, when the helpful agent returned that everything was worked out. I learned it’s important to communicate often.

I learned several more lessons throughout this process.

  • Your insurance company might not offer insurance where you plan to live
  • Insurance companies have vastly different pricing plans for the same coverage and it may be best to get separate renter’s and car insurance.
  • Getting insurance in a different state a month before move in can be a challenge
  • According to California law, I needed to register my car and get a license in the first 10 days after I had arrived
  • Making a list of all of the things you need to do and change is very helpful
  • Apartments require a lot different documents and background checks
  • Both Misty and I had to pay fees for applying to get our apartment
  • Getting an apartment sight unseen is probably not the best idea, but you might not have a choice

In the end, it all turned out alright for us. We secured a pretty great apartment in a good neighborhood, close to where I work. Hopefully, the lessons I learned will be helpful for anyone considering or making the same type of transition.

In part 4, I’ll talk about all of the other little things we had to do in order to prepare for the move. I hope you enjoyed Part 4!


Husband, Dog Dad, Educator, Technologist, Coach, Geek beninbeta.com