We are still very excited about Paul’s one-year domestic assignment but it came with a couple of unexpected
frustrations mixed blessings. I thought I’d share our experience because it may be helpful for new officers bidding on DC positions. It has its plusses but there are some practical things to consider, especially if you don’t already own a home in the DC area or have school-age children.
First, because Paul is no longer technically in training, we have to move out of our temporary housing unit and find a new place to live. State gave us exactly a week to do that. Yeah, one week! Some realtors and apartment managers laughed at me when I called them. Not cool!
So, I have been running around like a chicken with it's head cut off trying to find a place. Ordinarily, that wouldn't be an issue as there is a myriad of housing options in the DC area but we have a child already enrolled in a Falls Church school and we didn't want to move her again 5 weeks after we moved her from her school in FL. Falls Church is a very small town and its own school district. It’s not part of Fairfax, and it’s not part of Arlington. It has the reputation of having fantastic schools. We are also almost at the end of the school year but not quite, so no one is moving. Needless to say, the pickins were extremely slim.
We were hoping to rent a nice little house or a townhouse in the neighborhood between Oakwood and the metro – fat chance! No houses, no townhouses for rent in our school district. I called every realtor that had a For Sale sign asking if the owner would consider renting – nothing. I called condo complexes – no rentals. There were only a handful of apartment complexes in our small area of interest. I called them all. Only one had something close to what we needed within our price range.
This is probably a good place to mention locality pay. Because Paul got a DC assignment and we can’t live in the temporary housing complex (Oakwood) provided by the State Department, he will get what’s called locality pay, which is 25% on top of his salary and helps off-set housing costs. This was very good news for us as we are still paying the mortgage on our house in FL and I have yet to find a job. After adding the locality pay we ended up with a housing budget of about $2,000 per month. When we first ran the numbers, I was excited. See, we came from Florida and there you can get a lot of house for $2,000 a month. In DC – not so much. We looked at a couple of very nice complexes that had beautiful two-bedrooms but at $2,500+ per month they were out of our price range, so we had to settle for the one remaining option we could afford – Merril House apartments.
It’s an old complex that has seen better days but our apartment is a three bedroom, so we will have more space for visitors – yey! The kitchen is small with old appliances and limited cabinet space but it will have to do. The bathrooms are pretty dated too but otherwise the place is not bad. It’s pretty roomy and there are a lot of closets. We also get new windows, new linoleum and new carpet, oh my! We are happy about the new windows because that means energy efficiency but linoleum’s not my thing and I am not a big fan of carpet because it gets nasty and there’s really no way to clean it well. Plus I am not sure which is better: older carpet with nastiness built in or the new carpet smell that doesn’t go away for months. We are also going to get a washer and dryer - in our apartment- for an extra $65 per month. And we’ll have a bright red accent wall in the living room! I just keep telling myself “It’s the little things that make all the difference.”
As far as Nia is concerned the new place is terrific because it has a pool and a koi fish pond. We are thrilled about those too because we will get to use a pool that we don’t have to maintain for a change and enjoy pet koi fish that we don’t have to buy or take care of – awesome!
Anyway, we signed the lease tonight and are moving (again) on Saturday. So we won’t be homeless after all!
The second mixed blessing is that we will get all of our household effects (aka HHE), so we will get to use our furniture, pots, pans, plates and glasses, sheets, towels, books, toys, etc while we are in DC. The only catch is that it may take a while. The earliest is a week but it could take a month or more.
That is a little less than optimal because as you may recall, when we moved out of our house in FL, we packed pretty much everything but our clothes and some urgently-needed items. Everything else went in long-term storage because we were told that we were moving into a completely furnished apartment with very limited storage.
Now we have to move into a completely unfurnished one and are looking at spending a week to a month (0r two) with no furniture. I mean no beds, no table, no chairs, no sofa, no microwave. Not fun!
We did bring our TV, not because it was an urgently-needed item but because the movers couldn’t guarantee that it would survive the move, so we got that going for us. And an inflatable mattress. So I guess we are going back to the mattresses. Unless, I take a trip to IKEA, where I may find solutions to some of my problems…and Swedish meatballs…
But wait, there’s more - we may also be incommunicado (or should it be incommunicadi because there are three of us?) for a couple of weeks because Verizon FIOS said it would take them that long to connect our cable/internet. So, if you see me hanging around the Oakwood parking lot or playground with my laptop in tow, you’ll know why.