Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apartment Basics

I’m taking tomorrow off to go look at 15 flats so here’s some background on what apartments are like over here.

The European numbering system considers the American 1st floor to be the ground floor. An American 2nd floor is the European 1st floor, etc. Yesterday I went to see an apartment on the 2nd floor which meant that it is the same as a U.S. 3rd floor...walk-up. The old buildings here don’t normally have lifts (elevators). If a building is over four or five floors then you can usually find a lift. Less than that and you can forget it.

All flats are listed in square meters; not square feet. Dang metric system! Then places are listed by the number of rooms, starting with the living room. You don’t go by the number of bedrooms. Your kitchen may be a kitchenette in the corner or it could be a separate room. So the studio I am staying in is classified as a 1 + kk, which means it is one room with a kitchenette in the room. If you go look at a 2 + 1 then that means there are 2 rooms (1 living room and 1 bedroom) plus a separate kitchen. All flats have a private bathroom.

Since I would prefer a place with two bedrooms I am looking for a 3 + kk or a 3 + 1. People here seem to find it really odd that a single person would want a place with 2 bedrooms. I guess the norm would be for me to have a either a studio or a one bedroom place.

I haven’t seen a place with more than one bathroom. Maybe you find those in houses but not in apartments. And speaking of bathrooms, there is always a bathtub with a shower wand but you don’t always have the opportunity to put up a curtain. In newer places, and some remodeled ones, you can also find a shower. I’ll probably end up in a newer place. I think it would be kind of cool to live in one of the old communist paneláky, but it’s doubtful since I really, really want a shower.

If you get a washing machine it is going to be either in the bathroom or in the kitchen. Dryers are rare because they are expensive. Most people hang their clothes up to dry on a terrace or use a drying rack inside. I’ll be sure to take a picture of a drying rack if I end up with one.

Kitchens always have a sink. I don’t think that they have garbage disposals over here. You get a refridgerator, usually with a tiny freezer drawer. You may or may not get an oven. There’s usually a cooker (stovetop) or at least a plug-in hot plate. About 25% of the places I’m looking at tomorrow have dishwashers.

Your flat may or may not be furnished. It may or may not have a parking spot that you pay extra for. Newer places are wired already for cable and Internet but it can take a while to get it in older places.

They really don’t have short-term leases over here. I have one now but it is expensive compared to what I can get with a year's lease. Most landlords want a 12 or 24 month lease. In addition to the rent, the landlord will tell you how much you have to pay for inkaso (utilities). The two amounts are lumped together and that is what you deposit in the landlord’s account each month.

Hopefully, I’ll find a place tomorrow. It will be nice to actually get settled in. Wish me luck!

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