Homeless (again) in Prague!

Moving in ...
One year ago, we had already unpacked most of the moving boxes but stuff still cluttered the kitchen. 

Sorry for the dramatic title. We're not exactly "homeless in Prague" but we will be if I don't find another apartment very soon.

Every morning, I wake up with a sense of deja vu. My ritual is almost exactly the same as it was a year ago: make a cup of coffee, turn on my computer; search expats.cz for a rental apartment; check other real estate websites; try not to feel too discouraged that there's nothing new on the market; look at my calendar; and start to panic when I realize that there's only 51 days left to find an apartment. It doesn't help that February is a short month.

Certainly, one would think, it can't be that difficult to find an apartment. But, here's the problem. Owners with apartments in the center of Prague have realized that they can make a lot more money by renting to tourists than to long-term tenants. During the past year, several of the apartments in our building have already been converted into vacation rentals. I started to worry that we were living in a ticking time bomb when I noticed a surge in the number of tourists wheeling their suitcases into our building. How long would it be until our owner got on the vacation rental gravy train? In mid-December, someone at the agency that manages our apartment called with the heart wrenching news that we have to vacate our home by April 1. They were breaking our three-year lease. No discussion. To add insult to injury, the agency won't even let us terminate our contract prior to April 1, even if it means that we will have to pay two rents: one on our current apartment and the other to hold our new apartment until April 1.

Our home in Prague, at least until we find another place

Moving is one of the last things that an expat wants to do in the middle of a three to five year assignment. I've already spent a good portion of my life packing and unpacking boxes. The upside is that I'm familiar with Prague and have a good idea of where I want to live. Plus, I get to visit a lot of apartments.

As our search has been focused in the historic center of Prague, we've looked at many Art Nouveau apartments built during the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The enchanting architectural details provide the buildings with distinct characters but the floor plans are often awkward. Imagine living in a place that was modeled after a palace. If you've ever visited Versailles or Schönbrunn, you'll know exactly what I mean. Typical apartments have an enfilade of rooms, one lined up after the other. It frequently goes something like this: master bedroom, living room, dining room, guest room. The communicating doors between all of the rooms would make it really easy for me to greet guests in the morning. I could stand in my room and wave as soon as our visitors opened their door! The unimpeded enfilade also makes it difficult to arrange large pieces of furniture. Our modern couches are considerably more bulky than their 19th century counterparts. And, last but not least, bathrooms, even in massive apartments, are a rare commodity in Prague. Our desire to have two immediately eliminates quite a few contenders.

Floor plan of an Art Nouveau apartment in Prague

And, if it seems that I'm picky about apartments, the owners are even more selective about their tenants. I've been waiting for almost two weeks to hear if we will be accepted by the owner of our first choice apartment. Since we're pretty ideal tenants (no children, no pets, stable income, long-term lease), we're a bit surprised that she hasn't yet responded to our offer. There's a small part of me that wonders if it's because I'm American. Maybe I'll have to go undercover as a Swiss the next time I visit apartments. They're less controversial right now.

If the owner of our first choice apartment turns us down, we may move to an apartment that is diagonally opposite to our current abode. I find myself gazing at it throughout the day and wondering what life would be like on the other side of the street.

Interesting Prague trivia: our current apartment's claim to fame is that it was the home of American actress Jessica Chastain while she was in the Czech Republic filming the soon to be released The Zookeepers Wife.

When I took this photo from our kitchen window last summer,
I didn't know that the apartment across the street may be our next home in Prague. 

Comments

  1. oh Mary Kay, what a drag! I'm so sorry. Sadly I think the AirBnB effect is indeed exacerbating the housing crunch in city centers. I hope that you will be able to get an apartment that you like soon. Even more outrageous having to pay double if you do, because THEY kicked YOU out!! Grrrrr

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  2. Having only experienced the trauma of moving once in 35 years I admire your coolness. For me, never again! This is my forever home.
    I hope you find yours soon.
    Love from England.xx

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  3. Indeed, what a true drag, MK, I'm sorry. The photo of your current flat is gorgeous though, all those bay windows. The second place contender, catty corner, looks far more staid.

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  4. Oh, I'm sorry to read your post, MK. I know how hard it was to locate this apartment when you were leaving Paris. One would think that such miserable winters in Prague would keep those damned tourists away!! The vacation rental boom has gotten out of control. There is a condo on airbnb across from me here in Palm Beach Gardens much to the dismay of the owners. Good luck and keep us all posted. XOXO

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    1. ***That is ..... much to the dismay of we other owners...

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  5. Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear that! It's tough: as a traveler that looks for inexpensive home-stay type options when I travel, airbnb is great, but I also don't want it to ruin the market for actual people to *live* there! No good.

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  6. Mary Kay! I'm so sorry to read this. Having to move and even worse, winter. I saw Joseph last night and he told me he read this on your blog just recently so here I am.

    From your bottom picture you look like you get a lot of sun, I hope the new one gets as much light as this one. I'm a huge fan of a brightly lit home.

    I'm surprised a three year lease would allow for a 60 day out. That seems more appropriate for a shorter lease. I hope you find your next home quickly and that it makes you happy!

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  7. Ugh, sorry to hear that. I hope you're well and truly sorted out by now! I have used AirBnB a few times, but I must admit I do have some ethical qualms over it for these reasons (not to mention the noise and disruption for people who live next door).

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