06 October 2005

Real estate

I might be buying an apartment. Not now; possibly next year, depending on the market and the size of my January raise. But I've started looking closely at real estate listings, and have gone to some open houses, to get a sense of how far my meager dollars will go in Manhattan. I've climbed to the top of a five-floor walk-up many times, only to discover a "400 square foot loft-like studio," smaller than the one I rent on only the third floor. I don't know where realtors get the cheek to count the closets and bathtub in their square footage calculations.

Tonight, though, I went to see a place advertised as a junior one-bedroom -- a door! that closes! -- 550 sq ft, on Sullivan Street in Soho, off Spring.

I don't know if you know Sullivan Street off Spring, but it is charming. Small buildings, not as busy with shoppers as streets east, full of great places to eat. Blue Ribbon Sushi, anyone? Not to mention Sullivan Street Bakery. The price was almost right, $315,000, because apparently this apartment would need a total overhaul. That's alright, though; my father has his toolbox at the ready.

I met Gal, a man of non-specific western European origin, and two other potential buyers on the corner, a woman in tight jeans and high heels, and a man with a long ponytail. We were all excited as we walked to the building. Which one would it be? Would it be far enough up the block that the windows wouldn't look out over the Mobil station?

It was right next door to the bakery, and that, unfortunately, was the last good thing about it. The outer doorway was nearly too narrow for me to fit through, let alone any of my furniture. No elevator. We walked up one, two, three... yes, you guessed it, to the fifth floor. The model wannabe was pissed. "I specifically said elevator building," she muttered.

Gal opened the door to the apartment and we all tried to walk in.

The thing you have to understand about Manhattan is that an apartment, no matter how small, or how high up, is very valuable currency. So when the first thing I saw was an open jar of peanut butter with a knife sticking out of it, I thought, well, maybe the owner didn't have time to clean up; it could be okay.

It soon became clear, however, that there was no owner and it was not okay. All the stuff that makes up a person's life -- dishes, clothing, food, bedsheets -- was out, on the floor, dirty, unused since the former owner (I'm guessing here) was taken away on a gurney by an EMT. Or a morgue tech. There were prescription drug bottles in the open medicine cabinet, which was in the kitchen, next to the bathtub. I didn't want to leave the doorway to get close enough to see what mental illness the previous occupant had suffered from. The floorboards looked unstable.

"How do you measure square feet," the model demanded, "because there's no way this is 550."

Gal pointed out that the kitchen and main room together were 20 feet, by about 10.

"So where are the other 350?"

Only the ponytail man moved beyond the kitchen. Even Gal seemed unsettled. "This is the first time I've seen it," he protested. The model was about to walk out, but I was blocking the door. I moved out of her way, trying not to touch anything, and when I swung the door a bit, I revealed a small room on the other side of the kitchen.

"There are the other 350," Gal said with relief. No matter that the room was about 10 by 10; you could legitimately call this place a one bedroom.

"I don't think this is my place," I said, pushing the door open with my hip, to avoid touching the handle. "Me neither," said the model, stomping out after me, high heels clicking.

I don't yet know what the protocol of apartment viewing is. Was I supposed to slow down my descent so that the model could keep up? I was wearing my trusty MBTs, and raced ahead, anxious to breathe fresh air. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I shouted to her, "good luck with your search," but she didn't respond.

I struggled all the way home not to touch my face with my hands. I wanted to get home and purify myself, burn my clothing.

Let's compare this experience to the night before, when my choir rehearsed in a soprano's apartment (the school was closed for Rosh Hashanah). Also on the fifth floor, but there was an elevator. We were mostly in the living room -- about 30 of us -- which could easily have held my entire apartment, with square footage left over. A gracious balcony. A kitchen with a little sitting area off it, for guests to mingle near by while you prepare dinner. Every cookbook ever published within arm's reach. I also glimpsed a sitting room, and three bedrooms. The soprano and her husband looked very happy together, and who can blame them?


Blogger PG said...

hmmm, that's odd, because in all the (countless) American films we've watched, at some point we always comment on how large even the 'smallest' apartment is...compared to over here. ;)

The shoe box sounds pretty eechhh...good luck with the house hunt. I do like the sound of the soprano's place!

2:34 PM  
Blogger Pedestrian Rage said...

Honeypot! I wish I'd known you were looking down here! I was out all day yesterday, though -- I'd have been happy to go with you. That's so close to me -- golly, but I wish it had been something. That block is a little odd. How old was the building? The bakery looks out on the gas station, so I guess that apartment does too.... S used to live on Sullivan between Prince and Houston, back in the 1970s, across the street from Once Upon a Tart.

Even as gross as this apartment sounds, I really wish I'd gone with you. Like a typical New Yorker, I will go see ANY apartment.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Excellent Walker said...

That is so funny. I actually started to write you an email to ask you to come along, but cancelled out of it for some reason. Next time, for sure.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Stuntmother said...

Move to Philly!

Okay, not really, but that apt sounded horrible. I am thinking courageous apartment hunting thoughts at you. A beautiful apartement awaits you -- and it has a balcony. I can see it.

11:51 PM  

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