Friends, I am happy to announce that the wait is over.
Finding an apartment has been a challenging process, but one in which we have seen God prove to be just as faithful as ever.
First, a bit of background: in Austria, people do not move often. The concept of hopping from apartment to apartment each year (as we do in America) is a novel one. Sure, according to Austrian lease law you could move out after 15 months, but doing so would only incur a boatload of frustration and unnecessary expenses. Whereas many in America rely on Craigslist to find available properties, then contact the landlord directly, in Austria everything is done through the moderation of real estate agents.
Secondly, in Austria, renting is a viable long term option. In America most people rent with the intention of one day owning their own house. Here however, there are so many laws in place to protect the renter (and their finances) that renting is a common life long commitment. If a family has a comfortable apartment in the city with a park nearby (there is always a park nearby), why buy a house? That family may very well stay there for the next 30 years.
Those things being said, our finding an apartment is not about where we will live for the next year, it is about where we will live for the next 5-10 years (should we choose to stay there that long). Thinking "5 years" rather than "1 year" really changes your perspective when you are looking for a place to live - and frankly, makes the whole process all the more challenging.
In the back of our minds we had a running tally of needs and wants.
Two bedroom, easy access to public transportation, affordable.
Peaceful neighborhood, walking distance from downtown, classic Viennese style building, attractive building entrance sans graffiti, located in the 4th district, nice bathroom, balcony, fireplace, classic style herringbone parquet flooring, built-in cabinetry, washing machine, big windows, top floor, two level "Maisonette" apartment with bedrooms upstairs, mix of classic (my preference) and modern (Jacob's preference) styles, central heating, pets allowed.
Clearly we wanted a lot, though we were not expecting to find a place (that we could afford) that met our every desire. So we searched, discussed, prayed, and probably drove our poor real estate agent nuts as we turned down place after place after place. It was very discouraging. Just as we were starting to think we should lower our expectations, our agent invited us to see an apartment that, in my opinion, did not sound particularly thrilling.
I was wrong. The moment we walked in we had that distinct feeling of home for the first time. I had butterflies in my stomach. We made an offer, and as you know, held our breaths for a dramatic two weeks. We began to expect that the offer would fall through, and our agent began scheduling appointments to look at other apartments.
No one would respond. All calls went to voicemail, all emails were ignored. One person even told our agent a flat out "NO" when requesting to see their property. Odd. This was supposed to be a contingency plan. Why would all the doors be closing for our second-choice apartments? Then she got the phone call we had been waiting for:
Our offer had been accepted with a 5 year rental period. As of yesterday afternoon, the contract has been signed. On Monday we will have the keys.
We have an apartment!
Jacob and I have been praying about our apartment for months. We knew it would be clear to us as soon as we found "the one". But what continues to astound me is how incredibly God went above and beyond our expectations. He could have placed us in a shack under the train tracks and that would have been fine - God's provision would have been perfect and just what we needed.
But that isn't what He had for us.
Friends, we got everything we dreamed of and more. I got my parquet flooring and Jacob got not one but two balconies. I didn't just get big windows, I got an entire wall of windows with a view of the dome of one of our favorite churches. The apartment comes with built-in cabinetry, a washing machine, air conditioning, and central heating, all of which is uncommon in an Austrian apartment. That picture of a building entrance above? As you may have guessed, that's ours. The apartment is located in our all time favorite area of Vienna, in a gorgeous, peaceful neighborhood, a 3 minute walk from public transportation and a 6 minute walk from downtown. We can get a dog.
In the end the time spent waiting for an answer was a mercy in itself. We knew immediately that we wanted this apartment, but the way in which the Lord provided made it all the more clear that it was a gift from Him. And that makes us all the more excited.