After my close call with the rental-ad scam artists, I learned it was critical that I view prospective rentals and meet with the owners in person. So I booked a flight back to Honolulu, made a reservation for a week’s stay at a cheap Waikiki hotel, and set off on a mission to find my new home.
Armed with my laptop, I positioned myself every morning on a couch in the breezy hotel lobby, pouring through the rental listings on Craigslist Hawaii. I made phone calls and email inquiries, set up viewing appointments with owners and leasing agents, and rode the bus to check out various properties.
After a few viewings, I felt discouraged. Although the rental prices were comparable to those in the San Francisco Bay Area, the properties were not in as good of condition. I realized that if I were to stay within my budget, I would need to accept the wear-and-tear that seemed to be common in the older homes that fell within my price range.
I was particularly interested in the Kaimuki neighborhood, which had a main street full of mom-and-pop stores and restaurants and was very walkable. But I noticed that the small houses in that older neighborhood tended to be packed tightly together. It was typical to see two, three, or even four cottages sharing a single lot. Privacy certainly commanded a premium price in Honolulu.
If it weren’t for my cat Amy, who goes nuts when forced to stay inside (we’re talking literally climbing the walls, scratching holes in window screens), I probably would have opted to rent a condo instead of continuing my search for a home with a yard. But I couldn’t imagine Amy living in a high-rise apartment (except maybe flinging herself off the balcony!), so I kept looking.
Toward the end of my week’s stay, I decided to revisit the very first property I had looked at. At the time, I hadn’t been very impressed by it. Although it was a large, detached house and had its own backyard, it was very run-down: The flooring buckled in places due to extensive termite damage, the sliding glass doors leading to the balcony and the backyard were very difficult to open and close, the kitchen had no refrigerator or oven…
And the location was on a steep hill.
But having seeing several other similarly delapidated homes during the week, this house’s advantages now stood out more clearly: It had lots of privacy, with no other houses on its lot. It was located in the upscale neighborhood of Waialae Iki, which I could never afford if the house were in better condition. And it had a view of the ocean that made my draw drop the first time I walked through the front door.
Also important, the owner/landlord and I had instantly “clicked” when we met. He was friendly and down-to-earth, and was willing to install the appliances that were missing in the kitchen. I went back to the house to visit a second time, and even though I was out of breath and dripping with sweat after hiking up the hill to get to it, the place felt “right” to me.
Of all the homes I had seen that week, this was the one that I could actually picture myself happily living in, and its flaws were ones I could live with. It met my most important criteria: in-and-out privileges for my bratty cat, privacy, a safe neighborhood, a landlord I could work with, and within my budget. The only major downside was the steep hill.
I could foresee the purchase of a moped or small car in my near future.
I left Hawaii at the end of that week with a lease agreement in hand, and with a move-in date just a month away.