Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Apartment Hunting: Aiming for the "U"

I have never been to Luxembourg.  My first visit will be with Pete later this month when we take a 5-day trip to search for housing.

A relocation agent will help guide us on our visit.  If it was completely up to Pete (or if our marriage was made up of two Pete-like individuals), I'm sure we'd proceed with full confidence that we'll just figure it all out when we get there.  After all, we will have someone assigned to us who actually lives and works in Luxembourg who's sole purpose is to help us figure it all out when we get there, right?

But there is a Rosie in this marriage, for better or for worse (ha. marriage pun).  She likes to gather as much information as humanly possible beforehand, to make the trip as efficient and effective as humanly possible (yep, Type A all they way, baby). So I gather, gather, gather, gather for weeks and weeks, and then subject Pete to reading/hearing all about it.

He's a a very good husband.  Which is why I am following him to Luxembourg.

My house-hunting tool is, a handy little website with residential listings to purchase or rent throughout the country.

I have no idea how comprehensive it is, but it seems pretty dang comprehensive (remember, the whole country is just 30x50 miles wide).  You can set the page to English, and then Google Chrome (web browser) automatically translates what's not already translated, and what's left--and there always is some left--I can cut and paste into Google Translate (I guess welcome to my new world, eh?).  I have an account on the site and can bookmark my favorite properties, and I check for new listings every day.

Here's what we think we want thus far:
1. To rent a 3 bedroom residence, most likely an apartment.
2. Live in Luxembourg City proper - the most expensive area of the country, so kinda limits our housing options.
3. Short work commute, something like 15 minutes or less, for Pete.
4. Live somewhere where it's at least possible to not own a car (we are not sure if we want one yet).
5. Spend no more than 1600 Euros (around $2000) a month on rent. This seems like a lot (at least to us), but we'll have to hit close to that to achieve both #1 and #2 above.

Luxembourg City, or Ville de Luxembourg, is really the only "big city" in the country, with a population of about 95,000.  The next largest city has about 30,000.  There are a couple cities with around 20,000 and then they drop down pretty quickly from there.  From what we can tell, most of the country's actual area is fairly rural.  The whole country altogether is about a half a million people.

So, here again is the country outlined in pink (France at South, Belgium at West, Germany at East)

The word "Luxembourg" above is the location of Luxembourg City.  See that little U-shaped bit of orange freeway under the word?  Here is a close-up of that:

So we want to live within that "U" of freeway.  We think.  Pete's office is kinda near the "o" in "Luxembourg."

From all the blogs, websites, email exchanges, message boards, Skype conversations, Google satellite spying, and any other resources I can scrounge up in English, I am starting to get an idea of what each "quarter" of the city is like and which might be the best fit for us.  I've only heard of one area to really avoid, which is sort of just south of the word "Luxembourg" near the train station.  Then, between that knowledge and what comes up in my searches for housing under 1600 Euros a month (in some areas that's nowhere near enough money for a 3 bedroom), if I had to guess, I'm thinking we'll most likely find our spot somewhere just west of the word "Luxembourg."

But then again, we are kind of weird, so we might pick an underdog neighborhood.  In fact, we may end up renting a little rural farm house nowhere near the "U."  We reserve the right to change our minds.

Side note: sometimes it's hard to know where an apartment is on the map, because if the exact location isn't known by, it seems to automatically pin the city center (I think the Grand Duke's Palace, actually!).

The most interesting and key variable in this whole process will be the schools.  I really, really hope we get to visit schools - see inside, see classrooms, see teachers, see the kids.  So far we have heard there's not much difference between the local schools, but I just can't take anyone's word for it.  I have to see for myself.  I can't fathom that our gut reaction to school A and school B will be exactly the same.  But I could just be a big dumb American.  Or maybe I have trust and control issues (remember that whole "figure it out when we get there" thing I don't do well?  I'm willing to bet I could be our relocation agent's worst nightmare.)

But yes.  We'll figure it out when we get there.

Oh, and our kids currently share a room here in the U.S. so we only use 2 bedrooms, and the kids may still share for awhile in Luxembourg - but we'd like room for visitors!!  Hint!!

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