Archived Story

Looking for a place to rent can be dicey

Published 8:25am Friday, February 28, 2014

Column: Things I Tell My Wife, by Matthew Knutson

“I feel defeated,” I told my wife after spending the afternoon looking at places to live in Rochester. We’ll be relocating away from Forest City, Iowa, in a few weeks and looking for a place to rent didn’t go too smoothly.

Matthew Knutson
Matthew Knutson

Why was it easier for me to get a new job than to find an acceptable place to live? Probably because getting a job is based on your skills and effort, while finding a place to live is all about numbers. It’s all about cost, the deposit, how many people will be living in the rental, are there pets and more statistical information that removes the humanness from the process.

Sera and I are currently blessed to live on the main floor of a rental home where rent is ridiculously cheap and everything is included in our monthly check. Moving to the big city means dealing with adult things like paying for utilities, television and Internet. Our budget was previously as clear as glass, and now has a frosted tint that you can’t quite scrape off.

Our tour of Rochester housing started with a place I discovered on Craigslist last night. The townhouse was decently sized but had a weird back porch area that could get awkward if your neighbors were weirdos. Plus, the gentleman showing the unit didn’t mention the weight restriction on dogs. That’s kind of important to share, don’t you think? We left that one thankful we didn’t drive all the way from Iowa to see only that place to rent.

Another place we visited smelled intensely of incense and was decorated with Bob Marley posters. I can only assume that the outgoing tenant is relocating to Colorado.

My wife and I did find one place that we enjoyed, but the requirements for living there are incredibly high. One of these requirements was demonstrating you’ve been good tenants for at least two prior years.

It’s not a problem for us, but it did seem excessive. We’re perfectly reliable people, but we could never live there if we hadn’t been renting previously. What if we were retirees who wanted to dissolve themselves of yard work and shoveling, so we sought after the rental lifestyle? Too bad, I guess.

As if finding a place to live wasn’t complex enough, we’ve also have to dodge online scams. As I was waiting to hear back from my future employer about the job offer, Sera and I began to look for places to live just in case things would go our way.

I foolishly got excited when one person responded to my inquiry about their townhouse that was affordably priced and in a good neighborhood. It seemed to good to be true, so when they asked me to send $500 to their Tennessee address and they’d mail me the keys, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I later saw the townhouse posted on another website with an actual real estate agent, so clearly the scammer had just stolen all of the photos and information from that listing. Not cool, Internet world, not cool.

All of that to say, we left Rochester without a clear concept of where we will reside. There is something extremely unsettling to me about not knowing where we’ll be sleeping in a few weeks. Irrational thoughts of homelessness drift into my mind, and then I recall how fortunate I truly am.

Together, Sera and I are learning it’s OK to live in the midst of chaos, especially in situations like this. Many people believe the saying, “Home is where the heart is,” but Sera has refined it to “Home is where Matt is.” Her missionary upbringing meant she never lived in one place for too long, so she’s adapted well to defining home as something other than four walls. That’s something I’ll have to work on.

As our search continues, I’ll be resting in the fact that I’m not making this move alone. It’s incredibly comforting to have my wife by my side as we choose where to live together. While up to this point our search has me feeling defeated, I’ve learned that facing life’s challenges with your spouse is far better than doing it alone. Hopefully our next challenge won’t require a large deposit.


Matthew Knutson is a marketing specialist at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. Find him online at