Why I Chose Ferndale, or How to Find a Rental
Let’s start with an early memory. I grew up in Detroit, in one of the three neighborhoods that nearly hug Ferndale’s southern boundary, 8-mile. My first attempts at adolescent independence have a foothold in Ferndale. It took two light changes to wheel my green Schwinn world across 8 mile, but once I did, I stretched my legs and pedaled fast’ to Sam’s Jams, the record store, to F&M the 80’s version of the Dollar Store, and Wendy’s–my first job.
If I didn’t have business on nine mile, I rode my bicycle down tree-lined streets. Cool, like my Detroit neighborhood, but with much less chance of being chased by dogs or knocked off by my bicycle. I liked it. I wondered if the children living on these quiet streets knew what they had, if they’d be friendly.
It never occurred to me to move out of Detroit until the convergence of three major life events. Most disturbing was when the banks of America decided that people didn’t like owning houses anymore and parts of Detroit became more like the wild, wild west. We had bars on the windows and yellow police tape on the end of our alley. The second thing that happened was that my parents were suddenly older, and I needed a place to live near Dad (6 ½ mile) and Mom. (11 mile) Finally, I just really looked at my life. I worked for the public schools, and I was no longer even sending my children to them. It was time to leave.
I was looking for a place that was geographically convenient to my family and work, schools with music, and a place where there was a trace of my own childhood-shady streets, sidewalks, and shops.
I looked for six months before it was time to move. I looked at Craigslist, Realtor, and drove down streets, looking for rentals. I wanted to picture the inside of homes, see where the neighborhoods were, look at shiny wooden floors, big porches, maybe a claw foot bathtub. Royal Oak, Grosse Pointe, and Ferndale were on my list. We were ready to move into a giant home in Grosse Pointe, close to a school, and “The Village” when we came upon the snag. The potential landlord asked us to wash, categorize and hang the screens, then inventory them within ten days and pay a cleaning fee. She did not want to rent the house, not really. And true blue Grosse Pointers regret the necessary influx of non Grosse Pointe lifers into their midst. I look enough like a Grosse Pointer on the outside to be a target for the rest of the world that hates Grosse Pointers, but any Grosse Pointer would identify me as an incursion and give me the snooty treatment without batting an eyelash. I’d been around people like that; a smile on their face, but full of polite rejection. I didn’t want my girls to have to deal with that, in a community I later learned was so rife with suicide it was the subject of a book called The Virgin Suicides.
So back to the happy house hunting. I’m actually writing this for a coworker of mine who is looking for a place to live. I am trying to convince all of my awesome coworkers to come live in Ferndale, kind of like when you meet kids at summer camp or see your cousins at family reunions and you invent a scenario where all of your friends move onto your block so you’ll have enough kids to have séances and baseball teams. Well, that’s what I am trying to do. Move to Ferndale already my awesome coworkers!
Anyway, trying to find the right place can be intimidating. I watched Craigslist. I looked at fewer homes in person than you would think, but I looked at many postings, pictures and mini maps. I learned to stay away from rental professionals and scam postings. I got a trusty realtor to send me possible rentals with my parameters. Remember Jim Schaffer sells houses. (And supports the Ferndale Golden Eagles Marching Band!)
People who are working for other people are not my preference. They are paid by investors to manage property and give it a small town feel. The truth is their bosses are wealthy investors who snap and drool over others’ misfortunes. The best scenario is to be rich and not care, and get whatever snazzy condo/house you want. Second best is to form a good verbal relationship with a small-time investor, someone who is low key and owns a few places, but is not too busy to come by and check for mice in the basement. Sometimes you get lucky when a couple has to move suddenly because they are suddenly rich with a new job offer in a faraway state without a fascist governor. They are so ecstatic about their good luck; they just want to rent their home to a nice person. (Remember, you ARE a nice person) I don’t like apartment complexes. Too anonymous, and too many pedophiles in the ones I can afford. I don’t want to do laundry or pick up my mail with other people. Duplexes are ok, but the best is spending enough time online investigating possibilities, go to a few showings once you narrow it down, then sit back and get ready to pounce. Something will come up. You’ll know what a good deal is by then, and what you like. Then, one day you’ll be on Craigslist, or driving around aimlessly looking for rental signs. It will be there. Whatever you are looking for. A house, a flat, an apartment with a big balcony in a place that feels a little like home, and a little like something new.
Make the call. :>