My dog, Stella, at home, where we’ll stay. (Coleen O’Lear)

After months of searching for an apartment, I was starting to feel like Goldilocks. This one’s too small. This one’s too old. This one’s too expensive. Only difference is, the clock is ticking for me to find a place.

Apartment-hunting in the District is no simple task for a dog owner (okay, a 95-pound bullmastiff) on a budget.

My boyfriend and I saw dozens of places in search of a one-bedroom in the District. Most big buildings had been ruled out because of restrictions on weight and breed, so we had turned our focus to privately owned apartments.

We were starting to lose faith when we found a listing for a two-bedroom rowhouse on Capitol Hill. It was dog-friendly with a washer and dryer, lots of space and a little deck outside. The only foreseeable problem: It was at the top of our price range.

At home with Stella. (Doug Haddow)

We were eager to see the place, though. And when we walked into the open house, we realized we weren’t the only ones. From when we parked the car to when we walked down the front steps to leave — a total time of about 20 minutes — we saw eight other couples with interest in the Park Street rental. It wasn’t an hour into the open house and the 30-something tenants already had the tour down to a science. The husband was giving the downstairs tour. The wife, upstairs. This couldn’t be a good sign.

The debate began as soon as we got in the car. We knew we’d have to make a move fast if we wanted the place. But could we afford it? Not really. It wasn’t just going to be a stretch, it was going to be a long shot. The house was $50 more a month than our current apartment in a 17-story building in Arlington. That much we could figure out, but adding in utilities could be a deal-breaker.

Even if we were conservative with electricity, the house’s size in combination with its old appliances and window units would make the bills far more expensive than in our current place. As soon as we got home, I e-mailed the tenant to inquire about the monthly utility costs. When I got my response, I was heartbroken... $200 a month.

We loved the place, but we couldn’t work it out. We talked through all the scenarios. I’d be willing to eat peanut butter sandwiches every day, but it still wouldn’t make up for the fact that my share of the rent and electricity alone would eat up an entire paycheck. We both loved the house’s charm and you couldn’t beat the space it offered. For me, this one was exceptionally hard to let go.  

We’ve since found fewer places to get excited about, and with our lease ending in 12 days, we realize we’re probably staying put.

And that’s okay. Arlington’s not that far from work and friends. Or so I’ll tell myself for another 12 months, then we’ll probably start our search anew — only next time, as wiser apartment hunters.

Coleen O’Lear is a web producer at The Washington Post.

Previous installment: Narrowing the search (with a 100-pound dog)

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