Friday, April 9, 2010

Reason to Move #22

My last post about "Reasons to Move" was back in August. Back then, I never dreamed we'd have such an unexpected Reason #22. But I've been dreaming about moving since last February, when I realized that, because our building was so noisy, chaotic, and unpleasant, I preferred being in places like the airport and the hospital to being at home.

When you are dragging your feet to leave Logan, you know you have a problem.

But now there's Reason #22: My husband's new professorship came with a tempting relocation package, just as if we were living in Helsinki. So even though we're only across the river, we received an Offer Too Good to Refuse.

So we "have" to move in the next year or so. We'd be fools otherwise. It's lucky that we want to move.

Now we just need to find a place we love. According to my husband's contract, our new home needs to be in the eastern third of Massachusetts, excluding the Cape and islands. (They don't want anyone using this excellent benefit on a vacation home.) We also have to buy a condo or single-family house — no multi-family property with income units. We can't be landlords while we're getting so much financial assistance. This is all fine with us. They've looked over our finances and told us what our price range should be. We could afford a big house in the suburbs if that's what we wanted, or a nice two-bedroom city apartment, bigger than the one we have.

My husband wants a minimal commute, and I sympathize. Ideally, I'd like a quiet, historic village where I might be able to have a real garden and do errands safely on a bike. We've checked out pretty towns like Marblehead, Concord, Charlestown, and Quincy, but neither of us can see ourselves living that far from Boston, burritos, and Trader Joe's. In fact, we're so spoiled that even neighborhoods as close as the South End and Somerville seem inconvenient compared to the Walkability Score we have in Back Bay. So we're looking in Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and parts of Cambridge and Brookline.

What do we want? We don't need many bedrooms or bathrooms. We do need charm and detail. We are depressed by newly renovated, white boxes with open layouts, low ceilings, and no character. But those are everywhere; developers and homeowners have ripped out most of what made our 19th-century housing stock distinctive and gracious, replacing it with stock fixtures, cabinetry, doors, and appliances from Home Depot. We prefer old (creaky) wooden floors, high (cracked) ceilings, deep moldings, wood-burning fireplaces, and the character that comes from being lived in for at least 100 years. To us, that is beauty. And there is surprisingly little of it left around Boston. We also want a private garden if we're outside Boston, or a roof deck if we're in town. (The ultimate fantasy? Adding a brick or slate patio with a stone hot tub and miniature swimming pool to a small, fenced backyard. Dream on....)

I wrote a fantasy post about our ideal house almost exactly a year ago. It is still accurate; I hope it's prescient, In addition, my husband wants a good-sized library/office and a parking space. I long for a traditional pantry (any place that still has a pantry should have plenty of other old-fashioned features, too.) I also want the washer and dryer next to the bedroom, not down in the basement. (If I have to walk more than 10 feet to put away laundry, I feel I might as well head to the Charles and pound my wash on the rocks. Basement laundry rooms are one old-fashioned element I can't stand.)

Of course, we haven't found anything resembling what we want. I'm not convinced it exists in our chosen neighborhoods. We'll almost certainly have to make a lot of compromises. But perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe it's out there, waiting for us to slog through the pre-approval forms we've just received from the University's preferred lenders. I check Redfin all day long, just in case.


  1. I do not mean any offense to YOU by this comment, so please don't take it the wrong way.

    Harvard pays new professors to move even when they already live here?? No wonder they had a fiscal crisis! No wonder their staff are constantly fomenting revolution in the ranks. Sheesh. I think it's possible to be TOO rich.

  2. Hey, Charlotte, thanks for reading, and no offense taken!

    This is a new, endowed and named, senior, tenured position. The person who endowed the position gave a certain sum exclusively for it, and it included the housing benefits. Every other finalist for the job lived hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. Because it went to a local person, it wouldn't have been fair to deny him benefits that already accompanied the job, and it's not like they could have directed that money elsewhere, since it's an endowment for this specific position.

    So there it is. I suppose that if we had refused the housing benefits, they might have upped his salary. But we were in an agreeable mood, and it never occurred to us!

    And Harvard had a fiscal crisis because of poor investment management and too much risk-taking. That's very clear. The endowments for professors' salaries are managed more conservatively — I hope!

  3. The South End area where I live gets 97/100. The condos here (and the single families, even the small ones) are human-scaled, not hobbit-sized (see Beacon Hill).

    Perhaps you should reconsider the neighborhood?


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