Chatting About Real Estate And How Much Stability = Happiness

Ester: Happy May Day / International Workers Day / Beltane, Nicole! When I lived in Copenhagen, everyone took the day off and drank beer in the park on May 1 to celebrate. All I’ve done is eat a kimchi burrito and drink lots of Diet Coke. How about you?

Nicole: I’ve written a number of pieces for various clients! But I’m a few hours behind you, so a kimchi burrito might be in my future. Or, at least, lunch.

Ester: I’ve done some work too but that hardly seems like an adequate way to commemorate a pagan / socialist rite of spring. Ah well. We might go dancing tonight and, because Ben’s dad is taking Babygirl for 24 hours, we might go look at real estate tomorrow.

Nicole: I am also planning to go dancing tonight! But I’m not planning to look at real estate tomorrow. Where are you and Ben thinking about moving?

Ester: Well, we’re not. Or I don’t want to. Or, I don’t know. This is beyond preliminary, like step -1. But Ben grew up for a while in Riverdale in the Bronx and really loved it, and it is unquestionably a part of NYC that is more affordable than many other neighborhoods. If we were going to drag another child into this cruel world, it might make more sense to do it up there, where we would have more space for less dough.

For example, check out this place, the Villa Charlotte Bronte. That is its actual name, btw, and it is an actual three bedroom dream home with leaded glass windows and ivy climbing the walls and charm up the wazoo, and it is actually available for $880K or maybe significantly less, since it’s been on the market for so long; and while that’s insane for anywhere except the Manhattan area, for this region it’s downright reasonable.

Nicole: I do not understand any of these words. A home named after Charlotte Bronte that was built in the 1920s in the style of an Italian villa, and it’s been on the market for a long time, and it’s reasonably priced?

Ester: I know, it’s all bizarre, and the house is probably haunted (almost certainly if it has an attic!), and Ben points out that it’s as inconvenient as it is swoon-worthy, and yet. I mean, just look at it. Or rather, we will go look at it, maybe, tomorrow, as Ben shows me around the area and tries to convince me we could live there. Not necessarily in the Villa; but, you know, in its general vicinity, where there are large coop / condo buildings.

How are your real estate adventures coming along? Have you gone in yet to look at your own dream home?

Nicole: No, and I probably won’t be able to until June! Here’s why: this particular apartment management company (which I am specifically not naming but some of our clever Seattle-area Billfold readers have already identified) only shows its apartments during the first 10 days of every month. If you elect to view an apartment during those 10 days, you have to be ready to move in on the first of the next month. This is because Seattle apartment laws require you to give 20 days notice on your current apartment. So this management company has decided to streamline everything: they show between Day 1 and Day 10, and then you give your 20-day notice to your current landlord and move in on Day 1 of the next month.

Ester: Wowza! That is quite demanding. So your plan is to go in on June 1 and not before?

Nicole: If I were to go in this week, I would have to be prepared to put down the ~$500 application fee and the first month’s rent plus security on the spot. I can’t do that this month because I am still recovering from Being Broke re: Taxes. So… maybe in June. I also took a look at some of the online reviews and they are not all great. A lot of “this building has paper-thin walls,” etc.

I guess the long and the short of it is that, although I was very excited to learn that there might be another affordable studio apartment in the city, I am now tempering my excitement with practicality. As one should.

Except for you. You should buy the Charlotte Bronte villa.

Ester: I’ll be romantic, you be practical. No, I think your MO sounds wise, and that is not surprising. Also, you’ve already thrown up once recently, so you should wait ’til your stomach is definitely settled before going apartment-hunting. Between the anxiety and the brokers, I have found that real estate can definitely make one sick.

And we will be practical too. If we leave Brooklyn, we will be getting more space, and maybe even a view of the water, but we also be more isolated; the vast majority of our friends are down here. Those emotional / psychological trade offs are real, even if they are hard to quantify. How much is community worth in dollars? Plus we know and like so much in our current neighborhood, from the daycare to the park to the take-out places to the library. Up there is the vast, echoing unknown. Which will be slightly less unknown after tomorrow.

Yesterday Ben asked me how happy I was with our current arrangement. My answer was, with some slight equivocations, really happy. His reaction was, Cool! So let’s switch things up. I looked at him like he was crazy. To me, being happy means, Maintain the precious status quo at all costs. What’s your take on that?

Nicole: When I was in theater school, I had a “one thing has to be stable” rule. That is: if it’s a student director and a student cast, the play has to be a published play from an established playwright. If it’s a professional director and a student cast, maybe you can use a student-written play. You have to have at least one thing that you know is solid, so that you have room to experiment and learn around it.

I think that’s a good rule for life. Right now I have a stable freelance client base, so I can think about things like moving into a new apartment. If I were in a position where my biggest focus needed to be getting a new client, I would want to know I had an apartment to come home to where I already knew the rules — like, the noise rules — and how everything worked.

Does that make sense?

Ester: Yes, very much so. Except, as an anxious person, it’s not usually enough for me to have one thing be stable. I want four things to be stable so that I can lay a board over them and pile things on top. 🙂

Nicole: No piles! Pick everything up and ask it if it brings you joy! 😉

Ester: Hahha yes. But see, piles are my nature. I go with tables that I can clutter with stuff; you go with a maypole that you can dance around.

Nicole: I just said “Yes! This is true!” aloud. I have never heard my basic nature clarified so eloquently.

Image via EDCNYC’s Flickr

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