#Newinthecity: Finding A House In Ann Arbor

First I thought, I would not write this post. I have had so many to do and this may end up offending people. But then, I read Brian’s comment on my previous blog posts and I was excited to share. Brian moved from the U.S. to Germany a few years ago. He was also an Ann Arbor resident before and like he keeps saying, now he owns the largest English library in Ludwigsburg. I miss our random conversations at times :-). Anyway, finally now we have moved out of twenty hotels and have gone through the process of finding a house in Ann Arbor. And unpacked boxes apart, we’re all set. In the last 3 years, I’ve changed apartments/ cities and homes 9 times (not exaggerating) so I do have standards and opinions. Oh well, here goes!

FINDING A house in ann arbor upasna kakroo someplace else

We land and see our first house the very next day!

My husband being the Ann Arbor veteran was coordinating with a known realtor from Germany itself. We had shortlisted houses in July/ August and finally the day after we landed, we had two viewings. We were certain that everything has to be walking distance from the Arbor Brewing company (the center of town- I am not a beer drinker, before we give me other reasons).

The first house was walking distance from everywhere, and from Y (YMCA is naturally not hip and too long). We went ahead to see the house from outside first. Luckily we met a couple of neighbors. They had also spent time in Europe and had come back to Ann Arbor (it could not be any place else in Michigan). It seemed all pretty nice till my eyes fell on a poorly maintained kitchen garden which was being used by the neighbors next to our house (not theirs). They promptly apologized but promised not to do anything about it till next season.

Next we went in with the realtor. From our 65 meter square living in Europe, this seemed like mega. We didn’t quite know what we would do with so much space. We went to the kitchen next and opened the closets. It did feel like the shelves would definitely break if we kept anything on them. The windows were from the 50s and I could not bring my mind around to how could they hold the heat in dreaded Michigan winter. Our eyes were also German and piercing at the poor quality. How would the landlord ever rent this place with such poorly maintained housing.

We recalibrate our standards soon. It’s NOT Germany.

With my nose curled up, we moved ahead to the next viewing. Soon I realized:

  • carpeted houses are far more common than a usual laminate/ wood floor
  • the walls of the houses are not made of anything concrete enough to hold sounds. You might as well be sleeping in the same room as your neighbors
  • the shelves, fittings, appliances may not may not be maintained and in some cases not even cleaned well enough
  • the windows are thin and definitely not the usual three pane / energy efficient ones in Germany
  • most houses are much larger than we are used to
  • snow removal/ yard maintenance is a thing
  • houses closer to the city are the oldest and much worse
  • no one is responsible for maintenance and you have to get lucky to find a landlord who cares

We decided to go in to the one that we first saw. The landlord agreed and we sent in the application from our end to seal it. A day later the landlord decided to rent it to someone else who could move in sooner. This would never happen in Germany. Of course your application may get denied (in Munich that’s not uncommon) but no one would agree first to later disagree. A decision is a decision that stays. Reliability mean different things to different people I guess.

Our realtor reminded us that this was a home seller’s year. And another person said,

You can sell a house faster than bread in Ann Arbor

Our House Comes With Orange Chinars

We saw plenty terrible houses in between full of landlords with no maintenance but plenty pride. I called more people than I can recall. I made more calls in one week than the three years in Germany. All the house rental websites are junk. But I like the Zillow interface. It’s easy and provides for a good search experience. We saw the photos of this house although it was outside our 2 mile radius. My husband wasn’t so keen, it was quite far. Meanwhile, one realtor had started arguing that 3 miles really wasn’t far.

Our new landlord met us in the garage full of DIY paints, and everything household. The first thing he told us was that he was changing windows. We were going to get them new. Even before I could see the place, I wanted to say yes.

Our neighbors are German. While the only time our Ludwigsburg neighbors spoke to me was on the day we were leaving, this new neighbor already offered us refreshing coffee on a cold day we were trying to get going.

I love how orange the street is. We have a yard full of leaves that make crunchy noises, and on FaceTime my mom already said that it’s like we’ve moved into the girls’ college (Kashmir, where she studied). My dad saw the stairs inside the house that reminded him of Peer Bagh too. I love the street and can walk to the fitness class, the super market and the stadium. Now, all we have is a house full of unopened boxes and unending space.

#Newinthecity: Finding A House In Ann Arbor

  • I wish the autumn went on forever
  • I hate the Orange Chinar leaves going away
  • I’d like snow but not necessarily the everyday grey
  • The house comes with a fireplace and I just got a library card
  • Our spice pantry rack feels larger than our LB kitchen as a whole on some days 😀
  • We got a gas stove for quick Taj Mahal tea options and Moghul Chai
  • You do the math, like the Americans say

Ken once told me

I feel it’s home only once I come back from the first holiday.

Guess it’s time to plan one.

4 comments
  1. @Brian- No, I think I am find with just the maple they look so pretty 🙂 Thank YOU for sharing such a detailed outlook on the trees and vegetation, I didn’t know most of it and am very intrigued now. I’d do well to push myself to a few parks around Ann Arbor and understand it. I really did like the Gallup park where they have these little sections with a lot of information.

    @Nate- Hi Nate, thank you for visiting. Please come home and visit us with your wife! We love having people over- especially those who grew up here to share their experiences :-). I do believe Ann Arbor is an easier transition too. I like it. There’s a ton of cultural differences but overall the Americans apart from “individualism” also feel more optimistic. I like that energy.

  2. Hi Upasna,

    Thanks for the shout out. I now also have the largest Engilsh children’s library in Ludwigsburg as well. : ) I also miss our too-infrequent intellectual chats. When you left I became, once again, The Only Living Boy in New York.

    Those are some wonderful pictures. You have really captured the essence of October in Ann Arbor.

    Fall is definitely my favorite time of year in Ann Arbor. The students bustling through the Diag, the crunch of leaves under my feet, cosying up to a New York Times with a steaming coffee inside the always-happening Sweetwaters Cafe, and the crisp clean air filled with oxygen recirculated from the ubiquitous Maple (genus: Acer).

    See the Maple, the Muhammad Ali of trees— beautiful to behold and a true survivor. See the bare silver bark shining in the winter sun, its back straight and sturdy against the howling wind. In the spring, its sap generously provides us scrumptious syrup for our morning pancakes. The large shade-footprint of the Maple is an oasis from the relentless sun during the dog days of summer. And in the fall, each tree graces us with its own unique masterpiece of leaves— for weeks the beautiful crown glows with a plethora of reds, oranges, and yellows; at a distance, the the composite mosaic of foliage is breathtaking, especially in the foreground of a baby blue sky.

    Unlike most other towns in Michigan, Ann Arbor does have many other rare and unusual trees. The Nichols Arboretum or the Matthaei Botanical Gardens are popular destinations for long autumn walks. Twenty dollars is definitely worth it for your copy of the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to Trees if you live in Ann Arbor. But the same professors and scientists who travelled the globe to collect these exotic beauties also wanted to look at them from outside their own windows. Strolls down leafy neighborhood streets in the Old West Side can yield surprises. There was once a Caucasian Zelkova (Zelkova carpinifolia) on my road. But as people become more educated and wary about invasive species, so too go the rare gems. One spring when other neighboring trees were coming back to life with flowers and leaves, it became very clear that the naked old Caucasian Zelkova didn’t recover this time from yet another brutal Michigan winter; so it was cut down and left as a glaring stump for a few years. Eventually the stump was replaced by, you guessed it, a Maple.

    Within the town proper of Ann Arbor, east of 1st Street, the city prefers to plant Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia); Black Locust trees are nearly impervious to pollution. But as the concrete recedes, the Maple rises as King of Trees. Mostly, the Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), the Red Maple (Acer rubrum), and the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) crowd the Ann Arbor neighborhoods. Sure, the Oak (Genus: Quercus) is wise and mighty, but it also takes many generations to grow and mature— we have no time for it in our instant-gratification-fiber-optic-speed-of-light Information Age. Here in Ludwigsburg, Germany, the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) foliage burn out and shrivel too quickly, the naturally occurring burrs on the bark of the Linden (Genus: Tilia) makes it always look terminally ill, and the London plane (Platanus × acerifolia) seems to retain healthy green leaves for only two or three months out of the entire year. No, even here in Germany, it is the small patches of Maple here and there, which were originally imported from America, that gloriously bask in the autumn sun.

    But in Ann Arbor, the Maple is also a town crier, warning us that the biodiversity of trees in North America is waning. The mass extinction of trees on the continent was first noted in 1904, when zoologists in the Bronx Zoo noticed an Asian fungus, nicknamed The Blight, was causing the cambia (outermost wood ring) and bark of the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata) to weaken and buckle so much that the entire tree crumbled under its own weight before it could mature. In truth, there were probably many other major tree extinctions before people started studying trees. However, the of beginning of tree surveys never created the political will in America, as it did in Western Europe, to spend the money to prevent or contain infestations. Americans just watched, wrung their hands, and did an awful lot of talking as Dutch Elm Disease, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Hypoxylon Canker, and many other aggressive foreign invaders used a variety of cruelties to slowly winnow the North American tree populations over the decades of the 20th Century. And after it was too late, those same Americans just shrugged— oh well, we still have the Maple.

    The most recent example of massive tree extinction, the case of the Emerald Ash Borer, was discovered in small pockets of the Eastern United States in the early 1990s. “Much ado about nothing,” responded the respective state and Federal authorities, “it’s not spreading.” Then the Emerald Ash Borer was discovered in Canton, Michigan, in 2002 and effectively wiped out all of the Ash trees (Genus: Fraxinus) in Michigan in a little over a decade before moving on to chomp up 22 other states. Within Michigan, most of the victims were Black Ash (Fraxinus nigra) and Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). The insect burrows just under the bark, leaving behind a maze of little dark brown squiggly canals on the exposed surface of the dead wood and the underside of the fallen bark. It’s the equivalent of your skin being progressively disconnected from the rest of your body.
    “Not our fault!” demurred the politicians and regulators in Lansing. “The other states are not properly controlling their borders to stop moving firewood.”
    Others whined, “The Federal government is not giving us enough money to fight the pest.”
    And then there was, “We have more important priorities right now, like __________. Maybe later.”
    Behind the scenes the timber industry lobbyists whispered, “Let us chop them all down now before the critter ruins all that perfectly good wood.”
    A few talking heads from way out in right field cried, “China! It’s their fault! They should be helping us with this crisis! It’s their bug!”
    But I say, let’s blame the Maple! Whenever we see its majestic beauty in the Ides of Fall, we silently ask ourselves, in our heart of hearts, “Do we really need any other tree?”

    1. ‘Hello’ Upasna and ‘Hi again’ Brian,
      My name is Nate Helmick, I work with your husband and have known him and Brian for years. First let me welcome you to Michigan and assure you that you’re not alone in thinking that most US housing quality is subprime, especially in the rental market. I can appreciate your critique of typical US homes as I share many of the same concerns even though I’ve lived in the area my entire life (grew up near Toledo, Ohio). My German wife has opened my eyes to many of the differences in our cultures and I’m envious of much of the German ideology but also appreciate the individuality in the US. I can’t stand the many homes built ‘good enough’ for now but it’s definitely emblematic of US culture as a whole (treating most things as perishable). I think Ann Arbor is a good transitional town to go from Germany to the US as it’s pedestrian and bike-friendly but still has plenty of uniqueness. I hope you’ll find your interest in the outdoors satiated as you travel around the area and to all the states as there is such an amazing diversity here (aside from the trees).
      And to Brian, if you’ve never read “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, I think you’d like it based on your reply. He walks a large part of the Appalachian Trail often lamenting the loss of nature and especially the hardwood forests of the East. Robert Redford just made a movie of the book, still haven’t seen it and I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed if I do.

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