Sunday, July 25, 2010

Still Looking

We're still on our quest to buy another condo or a small house. We are finally feeling cramped in 800 square feet, and we really want some outdoor space, too. We imagine eating meals outside, doing some container gardening, and having a couple of lounge chairs for reading and relaxing in the shade on these hot summer days. I think the cats would love to roam around safely in a walled garden, too.

I haunt Redfin's website many times a day, but the market is slow right now; there is rarely anything we need to dash right out and see. Usually there's an open house scheduled, so we check out listings on Sundays.

Today we visited a 3 bedroom, multi-level condo and a 3-bedroom single-family house in Beacon Hill. It was hot and sticky trekking up the hill, and I did my best to imagine how it would feel to be hauling grocery bags on icy brick sidewalks instead.

The condo had been recently renovated by someone who loves pale wood cabinetry and sleek, beigey-brown bathrooms and kitchens. It was luxurious, creative, and tastefully done — but not to our more old-fashioned taste. I like darker wood cabinetry and crisp, white bathrooms and kitchens. Plus, the master bedroom was in the basement and had wall-to-wall carpeting. I'd worry about leaks and mold; I have asthma. And the tiny private courtyard was cute but too small to hold more than one lounge chair and a tiny table to two. And rental parking was far away. And in a place that costs more than a million dollars, you'd expect to have your own washer and dryer, not a ratty common one in the hall outside your bedroom, and... oh, never mind.

Still, we loved the huge soaking tub for two and the enormous, glass-walled walk-in shower. And the fridge was hidden behind a matching cabinet door and had two large freezer drawers below, a very elegant and practical idea.

The house, while a bit bigger, was much less to our liking, even though it had the Holy Grail — a parking space outside the door. It didn't help that the broker was pushy. In the first few minutes we were in there, she told us she expected to sell the house to one of the 25 or so people she thought would visit her open house today. She had just sold the house next-door in a day. I don't respond well to pressure tactics. There are plenty of Beacon Hill houses that linger on the market, even with parking.

She said the owner had spent $75,000 to fix up the place to sell it. If only they'd put in an elevator! The ground/entry level held just the eat-in kitchen, which was spiffy — with new stainless (they're always stainless) appliances and a mirrored backsplash that struck me as a great idea for our own tiny kitchen. The formal dining/living room was up a steep, winding, narrow stairway. Imagine carrying a whole dinner up there for your guests, and then lugging all the dirty dishes down again. Forget. I'd be tempted to throw them all out the window instead. And just buy new ones before the next dinner party.

Up another winding little stair were two small, basic bedrooms (offices in our case) with plastering opportunities (exposed brick), and a bathroom with a large window alongside to the tub, looking directly into the windows of what appeared to be a classy private club across the courtyard. You'd never be bored — nor would any club member watching you shower!

The third floor held the master bedroom and bathroom, also with a window by the tub that was perfect for any voyeurs across the way. Finally, a fourth narrow stair led to a small, barren, unfenced roofdeck.  As we looked down from it, another house-hunter said, "Suppose you decided you wanted another drink... it's four flights down!" The little garden in front of the house was even smaller than the one at the condo, so we clattered down the four flights and bailed.

What most disappointed us about these two places was that, although they were 500 to 600 square feet bigger than our place, they seemed equally cramped. It's partly because they have multiple levels, and there isn't much space for bookcases or long walls to hold our antique Japanese tansu chest, for example. Better layouts are possible in bigger flats on single floors, but even those are often carved up into weird, space-wasting layouts by inscrutable or clueless developers.

As you can see, we are either very, very picky, or else there aren't a lot of good units for sale right now.

We'll keep looking.

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