“Juliette Balcony”

Life has begun to move here again, with vaccines in bodies, the sun and spring blossoms compelling people out of doors, the optimism of beginnings of recovery under the Biden administration.

For me, this has meant that it’s time to move. I’m lucky to have the circumstances surrounding it be amicable with plenty of lead time to plan and execute my move, but it’s nonetheless an upheaval.

Apartment hunting has been quite a trip. I’ve learned so much about the different areas, rental trends, etc. More than a few of my more adventurous friends are getting things like Recon campers as primary or secondary residences to be able to travel and work while on the road. I’m not quite ready to do that, as fun as it sounds. Coming out of a 13-year relationship which has wound down to more of a cohabiting friendship over the last few, and having done some emotional deep-cleaning over the last year which trickles on, I would rather spend some time getting my bearings living alone, focusing on my career, and developing existing friendships. I also considered moving out of state or even out of the country, but having done some more dramatic than not moves in the past, am now in a phase of more looking before leaping. I think it wise to pause first where I have a good friend network while keeping a larger step in mind for further consideration and road trip exploration.

When I embarked on my hunt, I discovered that I’d become a lot pickier than ever before. I decided to look for a one-bedroom place under $1200/month that was cat-friendly, spacious enough that I could work and live (and indoors bicycle) there comfortably, had good access to nature, and was proximate enough to cultural activities, educational institutions, water trails, bike paths and swimming pools that it wouldn’t be a pain to get there. Portland used to have gayborhoods, I suppose in some ways still does, but in general the whole area feels pretty safe so that wasn’t a big factor. Other things I really wanted were an upper unit with a balcony that gets good sun (both the cat and I need regular vitamin D and some plants), with more optional things being a great view, a fireplace for cold winters, hardwood floors, and fiberoptic access (keep trying to ditch Comcast). I cared less about fancy kitchens or having a washing machine in my unit as long as there was a washing machine nearby. I also wanted to be mindful of earthquake preparedness, which eliminated really tall brick or cinderblock buildings from my hunt. There are a ton of apps that have various helpful filters, and also slimy tracking and info-sharing policies so it’s a matter of getting in and getting out while giving them just enough data to be helpful. But I’m still getting a lot of residual spam even after unsubscribing. There also good apps to find roommates, but the combination of working from home, having a cat, and wanting more privacy than not make finding a good roommate situation more difficult.

The rental market here for one-bedrooms and studios is pretty tight. Word of mouth is helpful, but a lot of what’s possible there depends on timing. I found one place I was 3rd in line for which was a converted barn loft in the urban countryside with a view into a field with grazing deer – it had 30 inquiries within the first 2 hours of being listed. There are plenty of inexpensive vacancies in downtown Portland, but all are much less spacious than what I could find in the surrounding areas. There oddly weren’t a lot of places with hardwood floors, and most fireplaces were only on first-floor units.

The one thing that threw me for a loop when I added a balcony filter was the need to look very closely at the balcony situation. Not just which cardinal direction it faced for maximum light, but how close the railing seemed to be to the balcony door. On more than few listings, I noticed that this space seemed quite foreshortened. I called them up, and learned the term “Juliette balcony.” Not “Juliet” but “Juliette.” In one case, this had been because there had been a landslide and in the process of reinforcing the building wall against future landslides, the balconies were converted to small protruding lips with big glass sliding doors. A julienned Juliette. In other situations, the Juliette balcony, which would have allowed space only for Juliet’s toes, was touted as a special feature that was somehow better than an regular balcony. I wonder who this special person is who prefers the practically trompe l’oeil over an actual balcony.

The final piece was the application process. I had worried that working for myself, it would be difficult to prove income to the satisfaction of the screening agencies, but submitting my self-employment business accounting didn’t turn out to be such a hurdle combined with a strong credit score and rental history. Outside of the Portland city limits, one has to prove 3x the amount of rent; within the city limits, 2x. After a couple of false starts where the places I was interested in had been snatched up soon after listing (the other thing the agencies do is leave listings that have been applied for up to get more visibility for their properties), I finally found a place I could jump on soon after it was listed, was first in line for, and got. It’s just under 800 square feet on the top floor, on the end corner of the building in a seemingly quiet community with a genuine balcony that faces west, and an east-facing window. No spectacular view, fireplace (though if I get really desperate for one, I can add one later), or hardwood floors, but really fantastic closet space and a great location in a place called Tigard, which is about 8 miles from where I live now and a few steps from a bike path and public transit. It has fiberoptic access, and, something that is more rare than not for the area, AC. It’s only in the last couple of years as we’ve had multiple days over 100 farenheit that more people have started getting AC and heat pumps in their Oregon dwellings.

Now I just have less than a month to prepare to move, to try to banish worries about bedbugs or other concerns from my mind, and to be grateful to have found a real balcony to land on.