To Move Often is the Exception, Not the Norm

It takes money!

Image of very neat pile of belongings via Flickr / Creative Commons

The New York Times Real Estate section is a treasure trove of information that, depending on your outlook and how much you’ve eaten while reading it, will make you very angry or very sad or cause you to sigh loudly and close the tab. Viewing the most ludicrous things that happen in the Real Estate section as a sort of fiction is a helpful approach; it calms the waves of anger when reading about a young woman buying an income-capped apartment with her parents’ money or Bob Vila’s daughter subletting apartments around New York as a hobby.

The former story was ludicrous enough to dismiss outright, but the latter rankled in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on. I suppose it is revolutionary to think of moving apartments as easy as updating your fall wardrobe, but moving takes money. Even if you’ve pared down your belongings to nothing more than a bugout bag full of your favorite t-shirts, some files and whatever it is your cat needs to survive, moving takes money. Yet this subtext is ignored throghout the entirety of Stephanie Vila’s journey and quest to live in “unusual” spaces, all in the service of finding the place that’s just right.

It’s hard to quite figure out why precisely this sat wrong with me. Maybe it’s the implied privilege in being able to move with ease from apartment to apartment, testing out various locations and scenarios, inserting yourself fully into a neighborhood, only to leave after 30 days and checking “live in old firehouse” off of some list you keep in your phone. There’s a whiff of the bohemian to it, a starving artist bumbling about a big city clutching a valise and a pocketful of dreams. Skipping around town living in the kinds of homes that most people would give their eyeteeth to live in is a privilege beause in order to have that kind of freedom, you need to have money.

Money reduces friction; it eases the hell of finding a moving van, paying a broker and transporting all of your things from one place to another. It is the lubrication that makes everything easier. So why ignore that fact when we write about real estate? Is it okay to accept Vila’s choices as normal when it’s clear that moving as often as she does is a privilege and nothing more?

Naturally, all of this subletting and nomadic behavior is in service of a startup — Flip, a company that Vila started that purports to help people break their leases and find short-term sublets. “Don’t plan your life around the terms of your lease,” the site reads “Do what you want when you want, without fees or hassle.” Easier said than done, friends!

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