It is said that one of the most stressful parts of PCSing overseas is finding off-base housing.
Of course, we have the option to live on base, but we’ve always known we’re going to choose to live off, in a surrounding village. We feel that if we are going to live in Germany, we want to really feel like we LIVE in Germany. We want to walk outside our house and it be obvious that we are in Europe, to have German neighbors, walk to our local market, and be able to really immerse ourselves in the villages and culture.
But in order to make that happen, first you have to find a house (with little help) and you have to do it fairly quickly…
If you remember from my last post, we are currently living in a TLF (Temporary Lodging Facility), which is essentially an extended stay hotel. This is where they put everyone when they arrive at Ramstein. It has everything you need to get by, while you wait on your things to arrive and begin the transition into a more permeant living situation. Although we are very much over living out of suitcases, we are thankful for a centrally located place to rest, as we settle into living overseas.
When I first thought of German housing, I imagined these quaint, warm, little cottages on a rich green hillside. And although, we have seen some picturesque homes like that, the majority are not. Expectation vs Reality…
So we were advised by many people to begin looking for houses online (before arriving) to start getting an idea of what is actually out there, what we are looking for, and/or where we would want to live.
Andddd I’m so glad I did. One, because it gave me a few months to take in the many differences in American and German homes. Most of the homes here have small kitchens with even smaller appliances (hello college mini-fridge!), NO closets in the bedrooms, NO central air (or even ceiling fans), bathtubs instead of showers… just for starters. I think learning all of this after I arrived (with different expectations) would be difficult for me.
And two, it helped us get an idea of how far from the base we would be comfortable living. The base is surrounded by little villages (each one separated by some land) so when you ask someone where they live they respond with something like: “Spesbach” or “Hauptstuhl”, referring to their village.
So when we were looking at houses online, we always made sure to also look up where they were. We had decided we didn’t want to be more than 25 minutes away from the base and that we didn’t want to be in the city (Kaiserslautern), but besides that we knew we would need to actually get here to start really making decisions…
Over the span of 5 months looking for houses online, there were definitely a few I “fell in love with”… of course, only to be dissapointed when they were taken down the next week. It was hard to look (but not get attached), knowing rental houses here don’t last long.
We had been warned over and over that you have to act VERY quickly when you arrive. That although you have up to 30 days in TLF, as soon as you are offered base housing (and you deny it) you will then begin paying out of pocket for the TLF. So you definitely want to have some options before you are made to pay daily to live on base.
But the main reason to act quickly is that the homes in this area go extremely fast. It is not uncommon to be looking at a house and while you’re still there, be informed that it was JUST rented.
We arrived January 5th and began looking at houses on January 6th. To our advantage, homes were not rapidly going off the market at this time. This is because it’s not as common to move here in January. “PCS Season” is normally in the summer, so we didn’t have as many competitors. But to our disadvantage, this also meant we didn’t have a great selection to pick from — most of the ‘better’ houses were picked over when we arrived.
This did have me a little worried, as I tend to be on the pickier side when it comes to a home 🙂 I lean toward homes with neutral and simple ‘bones’ and colors. Which can be hard to find here………… eh hm:
But there were 3 houses I did have in mind (I say I because William didn’t have much preference in this area). So we made all 3 appointments in our first 2 days here and ventured off base (for the first time) in hopes of finding our home!
House #1 felt old, not very well-maintained, and on the small side. Even the German realtor showing it to us said she “didn’t love much about the house”… Ha! It was a short distance to the base and had a large patio and ‘garden’ (yard) but definitely didn’t feel like our home. At this point, I was worried that all of houses would be worse than they are pictured online, but we stayed hopeful and moved on to house #2….
I had my eyes on House #2 for a while. I had been emailing with the landlord for almost a month and it was definitely the home I was most excited about seeing upon arrival. William kept reminding me not to get my hopes up though — we were definitely skeptical as it had been listed for awhile longer than other houses here. He was concerned thinking “there has to be something wrong with it”. But I had a good feeling…
It was a 21 minute drive to the base (all autobahn/highway)… which was a bit further than House #1, but still under our 25 minute range. I couldn’t stop smiling as soon we stepped inside. White walls, original hardwoods floors, a fire place, a brand new kitchen, huge windows, 3 bedrooms, a garage, yard, on a quiet street. It was perfect (and a VERY rare find in Germany). We both felt it, as we walked around imagining our lives there. I began measuring rooms to make sure our furniture would fit when suddenly another family walked in to take a look…. my eyes got big as I looked across the room at William. He knew what I was thinking. In that moment, I knew I didn’t want to lose this house.
Thankfully, the family with children, decided it was too small for them and left within 10 minutes. Phew. (As we were obnoxiously waving “buh-bye” from the other room.) At this point we started asking the owner/landlord more questions about the home and himself.
You have to know that this was THE nicest, funniest, most generous landlord I have ever met. He was so sincere as he explained the home (he LOVES) to us. Through broken english, he kept assuring us that if we lived there, he could and would do anything we needed or wanted. Not in a sales pitch kind of way, but in a ‘I’m a really good and honest man’ kind of way. He is very handy and very intentional with this house.
When we started asking about utilities he quickly assured us that he would take us (and translate for us) to get everything set up. He said…. “What is that Michael Jackson song? ….then starts singing… “You are not aloneeee”, as we all cracked up”. (I’m telling you, he’s seriously the cutest thing). I could tell this was just the beginning of a sweet relationship.
As if we weren’t already sold on the house itself, the landlord was a true selling factor. He brought us such comfort in something that was suppose to be so stressful. He told us that no one else was scheduled to look at the house the remainder of the day and that we could go home and think about it so we didn’t have to “be pressured”… So we said, “Ciao!” and floated over to House #3 (since we already had the appt.)…..
House #3 was shockingly nice. I walked in assuming I would hate it after already knowing I wanted to live in House #2. But it was also very clean, with hardwoods floors, neutral walls, with 2 garages — again, all rarities here. I think I said something like, “Oh no, I kinda like this purple house…” to William, to which, he laughed.
But in the end we both decided, it really was just too big for us (5 bedrooms), and definitely on the modern side, which we usually don’t gravitate towards.
So we got back in the car and on the drive home decided we didn’t need to sleep on in. We knew. We wanted House #2 to be our 2nd home. So we texted the landlord….
Are you kidding me?! Thank you, Jesus! We were bursting with excitement as we drove back to our TLF…. tears actually flowing down my face. I was in complete awe of the Lord’s graciousness to us in that moment. I had been so concerned about finding the right house, when He knew where we would be all along… AND He made it clear to our landlord as well.
That night I wasn’t able to sleep… I couldn’t stop thinking about the day, and the house, and how I would make it our home. But even more than that I couldn’t stop thinking about what our new landlord, Dominik, had said…”You are not alone”. And although he was simply quoting Michael Jackson, which makes it semi-creepy:
To me, it actually felt like the Lord was speaking to us, through him… “You are not alone, William and Brittany“. It felt like a direct reminder that He has gone before us and has promised to always be WITH us in this journey. Oh, what a great God we serve.
Our first shipment (Unaccompanied Baggage) moved in this morning, so hopefully we can actually start living there (with the bare minimum) within the next few days (still needs appliances)! The 2nd and largest shipment (Household Goods) most likely won’t arrive for a few more weeks….
but until then, we will sit and wait, thankful for what we do have and most importantly, that we are not alone.
More details on our ‘haus’ once we get settled 🙂