Two weeks ago, Jon and I took our first trip to Pittsburgh to go apartment hunting! We flew out of RDU on Sunday, and after a stopover in Atlanta, we arrived in Pittsburgh that afternoon. After picking up our rental car, we drove to the Wyndham in downtown Pittsburgh. The airport is actually very close to where we looked for apartments, but we decided to stay downtown so we could learn a little about that area as well.
We were quickly surprised to see that Pittsburgh is very hilly and you can even see the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in the distance! Driving around felt a lot like driving around Asheville to me. (Not as much to Jon since he grew up there.) We were also surprised to see that their main interstate has only two lanes going each direction. We are so used to I-40 with five and six lanes on each side. This highway led us into a tunnel, and when we came out, bam – there was downtown! Jon and I were both in awe for a minute. The buildings, river, and several bridges spanned our view. As our realtor told us the next day, “Pittsburgh is the only city that has its own entrance!”
That night we had a hard time finding a place to eat. We tried going somewhere within walking distance, but the downtown area was so dead. We found we had this great view of PNC park directly to the left of our hotel, though:
The next day our Dwellworks consultant, Jill, picked us up and we began our hunt. She had four places picked out that fit the criteria we had given her (a 2-bed/2 bath, within 30 minutes of the Eaton office, in a safe place, etc.) She had a few more places for us to look at on our own the next day, but she had not been able to get in touch with anyone at those places and was not familiar with them. Unfortunately, the two complexes she thought we would like best out of the four she showed us did not have any availability at the moment. She told us from the beginning that the rental market in Pittsburgh is very tight. There just isn’t much available, but we aren’t really sure why. This was the feeling we got from looking online ourselves, but we were hopeful there would be some more places she could show us. It turned out all four places she showed us we had already seen online! They were all in Coraopolis (pronounced cory-opolis), which is a suburb on the western side of Pittsburgh, about 20 minutes from downtown. This is also where the Eaton office is located.
We weren’t impressed by the first place. We really liked the second place, Ventana Hills, but there were no two- or one-bedroom apartments currently available. It has a gated entrance, is up on a hill with pretty views, and has more updated appliances and features in comparison to the first place. We went on to the third place, the Highlands of Montour Run, which is a sister property to Ventana Hills. It is very similar, and we liked it almost just as much, but they also had no two-bedrooms currently available. They did have a one-bedroom available, though, so we started to think about taking that. Just as we were leaving, the lady who showed us around at Ventana Hills called Jon and told him that a two-bedroom had just become available! Someone had just turned in their 30-days notice! We considered going back to take it right then, before anyone else got it, but we decided to go ahead and see the fourth place. It was similar to the first, so after that, we were almost positive we wanted to take the two-bedroom at Ventana Hills. It was almost 5 p.m. at that point, so we decided to think it over that night and come back in the morning if we still wanted to take it. Jill assured us that the other places she had written down for us to look at on our own would not be better than Ventana Hills or the Highlands. It was great that we already knew we wouldn’t even need to go look on our own the next day.
We had forgotten to bring any checks with us, so Jill took us to the main grocery store in Pittsburgh to get a money order. This was actually one of our favorite parts of the trip – because the grocery store is AWESOME. The store’s name? Giant Eagle! The one closest to the area we were in happened to be the Giant Eagle Market District, which is a super Giant Eagle! It looks so similar to Whole Foods on the inside, but it is so much bigger. They have everything you can think of, and so much more…a coffee roasting station, a dry cleaners, a huge section for imported cheeses, even a lettuce farm where you can see lettuce in its different stages of growth! And of course, a cafe area where you can get all kinds of food, pretty much just like Whole Foods.
Jill also drove us to the Eaton office to show Jon the route he could take to work. The building is huge! Which I guess makes sense, since it’s the electrical headquarters. The best part is that it’s only a 10 minute drive from Ventana Hills.
Jill truly doubled as our tour guide that day, also taking us up to Mount Washington, a neighborhood that sits on a steep hill overlooking the Pittsburgh skyline. If you’ve ever seen a picture of the view of downtown Pittsburgh, it was probably taken from Mount Washington. Cable cars travel up and down the Duquesne and Monongahela Inclines, which happen to be the oldest continuous inclines in the world.
We asked Jill lots of questions about the local food, culture, accents, etc. while we were driving around that day, and because of this, we ended up at Primanti Bros. for dinner that night. Jill told us about their famous sandwiches topped with french fries that visitors are always excited to try. We found a Primanti Bros. in Market Square, an area in downtown with lots of shops and restaurants. We had actually been there at Bruegger’s that morning and watched a protest in the square – it was something about medical insurance. It was much less busy on a Monday night, but we still had fun sitting outside and people watching. I could not bring myself to eat one of the sandwiches with fries on it, so I got a salad – which was topped with fries, of course! You can see Jon’s sandwich next to mine. I don’t think he thought it was amazing or anything, but now he can say he’s tried it.
We crunched numbers that night and decided to go ahead and sign the lease on the two-bedroom at Ventana Hills the next morning. At that point we were strongly considering getting a one-bedroom instead to save some money, so we decided to put our name on the wait-list for a one-bedroom just in case one came available in time for us.
When we went back on our own the next morning, four two-bedrooms were available and would be ready by the time Jon moves! But still no one-bedrooms. We got to drive around to each unit to see where it was located, whether it was upstairs or downstairs, forward-facing (meaning facing the parking lot) or backward-facing (with a pretty view).
Another big factor we were considering with all the apartments we looked at was whether to hold out for a pet-friendly unit or not. No, we had not decided we were getting a dog in this first year. But it was a possibility, and I didn’t like the idea of having a place where we definitely could not get one. I wanted to have that option because I think it would make me feel a little safer if/when Jon has to travel (if we got a dog that would actually bark if someone came to the door!) On the flip-side, we have no idea what kind of job and schedule I’ll have, so always having to go home to let a dog out might not be feasible. Only one of the available apartments was pet-friendly, and when we went over to see it, that whole unit smelled like pets. 😦 Since the complex has a gated entrance and is in a safe area, I realized I’ll probably feel much safer there then I have these past two years in my house in Chapel Hill. So, (kind-of sadly) we won’t be able to get a dog while we’re living here. We decided to take a non-pet-friendly, backward-facing unit on the first level (meaning we don’t go up or down any stairs and we have a pretty view).
Here is our view from the back! That will be our little balcony on the right.
Here’s the entrance to the complex:
We also put our name on the wait-list for a one-bedroom, but we only had one week before anything that came available would not be ready in time for Jon’s move-in date. So we are sticking with the two-bedroom, which means people better come visit us!!
We had to go back to Ventana Hills later that day because we needed to turn in one more money order we didn’t know about. So we made another trip to Giant Eagle and ate lunch there before going back to Ventana Hills one more time. For some reason ALL of my energy completely drained out of me as we were driving to Giant Eagle. I felt so fatigued, so we didn’t do any more sightseeing that day. We drove around the area and Jon got really proud of himself for already knowing how to get places. Then we stopped in Barnes & Noble for the rest of the afternoon, where I tried to take a nap and was told no one is allowed to sleep there!
That night, we met a friend of my friend’s and her husband for dinner. My friend Annie was born in Pittsburgh and has stayed in touch with her childhood friends from there. One of her friends, Jamie, just got married in February to a guy Annie also knew growing up. We met them for the first time that night, and they were so nice! It was comforting to make a connection like that while we were there. It turns out that the church they grew up in with Annie (and still go to) is right behind Ventana Hills!
We went to Giant Eagle that night for a THIRD time (yes, three times in a four-day trip!) to get some snacks and food for breakfast the next morning. Our flight left at noon the next day and we had a stopover in Cincinnati before arriving back in RDU that afternoon. We were so tired when we got home, but so thankful to have secured a place on that short trip.
Moving plans have changed several times, but I think our plans are final now! Jon’s parents are so graciously helping us move out all the things we are taking to Pittsburgh from our houses in Raleigh and Chapel Hill on Memorial Day. Jon and his dad will take everything to their house in Asheville, where the movers will come get everything a few days later. The movers will put it all in storage for two weeks, and then on June 12 Jon and I will drive to Pittsburgh. The movers will bring everything to our apartment the next day, which is when our lease starts. We’ll have a couple of days to unpack things, and then we are both flying to a wedding in Orlando that weekend. One of Jon’s groomsmen is getting married that Saturday. On Sunday, Jon will fly back to Pittsburgh and start work the next day! I will fly back to Charlotte and stay at home until the wedding…which means sometime before that I have to narrow down all my things to just the essentials I’ll need for two months this summer! This has been complicated, to say the least!