Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Nice Problem to Have

We are still condo-hunting so, as usual, we walked around to open houses today. The first one, a penthouse duplex in the South End, was unremarkable, except for the large bowl of Lindt chocolate truffles in the kitchen. We sneaked a handful. Made it well worth the hike over there.

The second prospect, a parlor level rear with a floor-through above, was on Comm. Ave. beyond Mass. Ave. We'd been there before — months ago — and hadn't been interested. But lately I realized I'd forgotten why, so we revisited. It has nice 19th-century detail, two living rooms, a pretty view of the street from second-floor bay windows, and there's a small deck off the bedroom. We've been dreaming of some private outdoor space; if we had any, we'd live out there in nice weather. And we'd grow things.

The floors, kitchen, and baths were okay, it has plenty of space, and we can actually afford it. But here's one problem: the washer and dryer are two flights away in the basement, and there's no way to fit them into a bathroom, a closet, or the kitchen. After 20 years of loathing it, I'm through with hauling laundry. My current set-up has spoiled me: our washer and dryer are within a few feet of the closets and drawers where laundry is put away. It doesn't make sense to have it any other way. Especially if you don't enjoy doing laundry. Since it's right in the bathroom, I do laundry several days a week, and I check the dryer often, rescuing clothes before they wrinkle. Hanging things when they're still damp means I iron just a couple of times a year. I really hate to iron.

The other deal breaker: no parking space, and no option for a rental space because there's no alley nearby. Garage parking is some blocks away, and expensive. We're used to parking and walking halfway around the block, but adding a few more blocks to that little hike would be a nuisance.

We moved on. The next place, a floor-through on our own street, was very handsome. Very much like our own apartment, but on steroids — 50 percent larger. The living room had a higher ceiling and more massive moldings, a bigger bay window,  a marble fireplace, original floors. A tiny study adjacent to it, feels just like ours (that is, too tiny). The master bedroom, in the back, was the size of a ballroom, with wide built-in bookcases flanking another fireplace. Another bay window, a walk-in closet. And beside it was second tiny study with a wall of pretty, built-in bookcases. There's just room for a small sofa and a tiny desk. There were two small, no-frills bathrooms, and I think it might be possible to repurpose one into a laundry area: the current one is two flights down, in the basement. We need a washer and dryer more than we need a second bathroom, which would be just for the cats, after all.

The kitchen made me a little nervous. It is compact and dark, with mahogany cabinets and pumpkin walls. It has one of those big gas ranges that looks dangerous because it is, having much more power than most home cooks can use. Worse, the countertops are screaming, lipstick red. And they aren't formica — or anything one can replace minimal guilt. They are "engineered" quartz, a semi-natural material that's as expensive as granite. Why choose red? With decent lighting in there, they'll be blinding.

And there's no outdoor space. Rats.

These issues aside, the place was beautiful. It's in our price range. It's in great shape. There's direct-access parking. Still, something's not sitting right with us. Why aren't we in love, anxious to make an offer? Is it because it's so similar to our place? Are we jaded from looking for too long, to the point where we wouldn't recognize the right place when we walked into it? Are we holding out for some imaginary ideal — or just More, which we probably can't afford? Do we really crave a little 5-month deck more than we want an otherwise amazing apartment? Do we want something different from what we have? Are we just afraid to finally take the big step from looking to buying, not to mention the anxieties and work of trying to sell our current place?

We visited two more floor-throughs a few doors down the street. Both were very similar to the lovely place: same building footprint, square footage, fireplaces, bay windows. But in every other way, they came up short. They had been chopped up into worse layouts, with a larger kitchen, smaller master bedroom, and a tiny second bedroom. These mediocre condos (same price range) should have convinced us of the advantages of the nicer one. It's going to be snapped up quickly, we can tell.

I have no idea why we are feeling ambivalent instead of putting together an offer tonight. I'm tired and confused, so I'm ready to sleep on it. What I do know that we are incredibly lucky. This is a really nice problem to have.

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