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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

Hill: House hunting goes high-tech

Published:

I live in a rental house that I’m not happy with, so I’m looking for another.

There’s nothing the matter with the house, but I rented it as I do a lot of things — without enough thought. As it turns out, it doesn’t fit me, if that makes sense.

Some folks say, “Get an apartment.”

There are several problems with apartments. First and foremost, an apartment involves living very close to other people. Plus, there’s the issue of Scoop the dog and Lilly the cat.

Getting dressed to the nines to take Scoop out first thing in the morning and last thing at night is just not doable.

Ditto with schlepping a litter box down the steps and across the parking lot to the Dumpster. So apartments are out — at least until desperation takes hold.

A house is on the agenda and, since I want to remain relatively close to my kids and the grands, I’m only looking in three ZIP codes.

***

These days, the Internet provides what is actually an overabundance of help finding real estate. Many management companies and real estate agencies have websites that list their properties.

A site called Postlets.com will cross-post real estate, including rentals, on a number of sites including Zillow.com, Hotpads.com and a host of others, many of which have real estate listings in virtually every city and town in the United States.

By the way, be careful if you put “rental in St. Petersburg” in your search engine. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in Russia.

Zillow.com seems to be the Holy Grail of search sites. Trulia.com also has been handy.

Searches can be done by ZIP code, price, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, whether pets are accepted. Or all of the above.

Trulia also offers a “layer” on a map of the property that provides a snapshot of crime in the area, which gave me pause about some of the places I would love to have considered.

Maybe Zillow provides the crime layer, too. If so, I haven’t figured out how to find it.

Of course, all of these websites have, essentially, killed classified ads in the newspaper.

The St. Petersburg Tribune’s website, TBO.com, links to Zillow so all its listings are available through The Tribune. It’s easy to navigate it that way.

Anyway, this time my goal is to be more conscientious in my choices.

***

So, armed with printouts of some of the places listed in the ZIP codes, square-footage and price ranges I want, I’ve headed out on the road.

I’ve lived in St. Petersburg most of my life, which is a long time. I thought I knew every neighborhood, or at least knew of it.

Boy, was I pious — and wrong.

Of course, the problem with searching with only a picture of the property and a map of its location, even a satellite map, is that it doesn’t show the house across the street with trash in the yard and a fence that’s falling down.

And the picture of the house you’re interested in can be a turnoff because of its color.

Let’s face it. There’s pretty yellow — and ugly yellow — if you get my drift.

In any case, in the past couple of weeks I’ve visited Uptown, Downtown, Edgemoor, Historic Old Northeast, Allendale, Allendale Terrace, Northeast Park, Crescent Lake, Crescent Heights, Euclid Heights, Five Points, etc., etc., etc.

For the most part, these neighborhoods are lovely. For the most part.

Funny how you can almost always spot the rental house even if there isn’t a sign in front.

One house in Edgemoor might have been perfect. But someone beat me to it by 30 minutes.

So my search continues.

It may have to expand into other ZIP codes. Who knows? I could end up in a neighborhood near you.

Stay tuned — and Happy New Year!

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