Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I think I lack decision-making skills. But I'm not sure.

In April, 2009, I wrote this post:

Wanted: Tiny Single-Family House

Quiet couple with too many books seeks tiny, old-fashioned, single-family cottage.

• Prefer high ceilings, tall windows, fireplace, wood floors, garden. 

• Kitchen and bathroom should be small and old. Status appliances, jacuzzis, vessel sinks frowned upon.

• Must be within easy walking distance to: Red or Green lines, library, bookstore, Trader Joe's, supermarket, bakery, farmer's market, CVS, gym, post office, good pizza. Must be within a few miles of an Anna's Taqueria. 

• If outrageous mortgage is required, should be far away from Apple Store and Anthropologie.

• Neighbors within earshot should not include trumpeters, student drummers, fighting couples, frat brothers, toddlers, motorcyclists, rave partiers, deaf opera lovers, or competitive gardeners. 

• Other desired features (optional): baby grand piano, resident Maine Coon cat, hot tub, tiny heated pool.

Apply with URL, photos, listing information, or any other particulars to the hopeful writer of this blog. Thank you.

* * * * * *
Here we are, still house-hunting more than two years later. This has been a historically low period for housing inventory, according to a broker I know. There's not much out there that interests us; nothing seems workable, let alone perfect. That's mainly because we want some private outdoor space, which often means basement or attic condos. We've seen it all, across many neighborhoods.

But there is this tiny Victorian half-house across the river, about two miles away. Two miles. To me, it might as well be in Lowell. I know that's ridiculous, but it's also an accurate description of how I feel. I love Back Bay, and I've been settled here for decades. Moving away would be traumatic. From here, I also walk to all my other favorite neighborhoods: North End, South End, Beacon Hill, Coolidge Corner. From the tiny house, none of those are in walking distance. On the other hand, I'm tired of city and neighbor noise, and I want a garden.

So let's consider this tiny house. How does it compare with the wish list? No place is perfect ,but this one is nice. It meets many of the criteria except:

• It's a two-unit condo, not a single family. There are neighbors next-door, which is better than above or below, noise-wise. But it's like a Hollywood vision of "old fashioned cottage." There are roses on a trellis over the front gate. It's as cute as an Easter basket inside, too, with some original details, wood floors, and good "bones."

• There's no fireplace worth mentioning. I'd want to add one, if possible. The windows and ceilings aren't majestic — it's a cottage. But there are deep sills for cat perching. There's a deck and a small, brick-paved garden with a grape arbor. A grape arbor. I could grow tomatoes and herbs. We could lounge outside in nice weather. Under our arbor.

• The kitchen and bath are not romantically old (too bad, I love old plumbing), just outdated. Worse, the kitchen is almost as tiny as our current, closet-sized one. I wasn't expecting that in a real house. I'd be fine with a small kitchen, but not another microscopic one.

• The house is fairly close to many destinations I listed, although Felipe's would replace Anna's. But it's far from my gym class, my library, my farmer's market, etc. Nothing is nearly as convenient as it is from this apartment. I'm less than 10 minutes from everything here. From this house, I'd need a bike to get, say, a cake from the supermarket. (Maybe I'd like being a biker. Who knows? Certainly not me.) I can't help regretting that my daily routines will be harder and longer. Is that a worthwhile tradeoff for fewer neighbors and a garden? This is the heart of my dilemma.

• The mortgage might not keep us up nights, but we'd be broke anyhow from fixing the kitchen and bathroom.

• Neighbors: lots of students in the area but they're in high-rise dorms further down the road. The people next-door might be deaf opera lovers. We'd have to ask.

• No hot tub, pool, or piano. Yet.... But a pretty cat hangs out in the garden. 

* * * * * *

So: should we go for it? We've had time to think because the house was crazily overpriced at first. We knew any reasonable offer would be rejected, so we waited. The price just dropped dramatically. We should make an offer now, IF we want to live there.

My husband admires the house but recognizes its shortcomings. It may also be hard to find room for his thousands of books, another problem we didn't expect in doubling our living space. But his top concern is making sure his wife doesn't turn into a wretched mess from missing her gorgeous old neighborhood and easy proximity to cake. So it's up to me.

I guess I'll go to bed and see how things seem the morning. Unless one of you would care to tell us the answer? I'm always interested in advice.


  1. No.
    Not even a discussion. It's not the Back Bay.
    I hope that helps.
    The right one isn't ready for you yet.
    Homes, like good men and MBTA buses, another will be along shortly.
    PS- And what would your new blog be called: A Proper Rebublikan, Life in the People's Republik

  2. I'd ask to see the condo agreement. The current folks may be perfectly lovely but if they sell to crazy people, you have no say. So when the roof needs replacing, how does that happen? Can one side derail or rail-road the other? how are disputes handled? Are escrows in place? How are they funded? What's the procedure if someone doesn't pay?

    If the condo agreement is a mess or non-existent, then I would run far away. And that makes your decision on the other stuff easy.

    The other thing to try is some dry-runs. How long does it really take to walk from the house to various places. What's it like to take the bus or the T to places you'd want to go? Wander around the neighborhood shops, check the reviews on Yelp, talk to people watering their plants or walking dogs.

  3. If you didn't love it when you walked in, if it didn't embace you, then it might not overcome it's location. I think you would know if it's enough, where it is, to make you happy there.

  4. And, what if you left the Back Bay and found that this neighborhood is actually your muse and you just can't write anywhere else.

    Your loyal readers would be at a loss. Your clients would be wordless.


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