Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Another Update

The unit. Big, lovely improvements could be made to its layout. One could knock down a wall to eliminate a skinny bedroom, incorporating it into a handsome, wide living room with three windows overlooking Marlborough Street. Then one could convert the back living room into a spacious master bedroom with a fireplace pretty simply — add a wall with a door and build a closet. Ideally, one would reconfigure the nearby bathroom and laundry closet to make it "en-suite," as they say.

But this would be too costly and difficult for us to undertake while living there, especially with cats who fear noise, strangers, and disruption. We can't stay in our current place for the many months it would take to plan, schedule, and do that work before moving We can't carry so many mortgages for so long, especially on top of construction costs.

These were ideas we believed we'd plan for over a couple of years, after we were more settled financially and knew exactly what we wanted. But we are realizing we can't face the chaos, dirt, and expensive surprises that come with major renovations. Even simpler changes, like bathroom remodeling, are not always simple given the added costs and hassle of doing work in a 4th-floor walk-up.

Live and learn. We renovated our current bathroom and a kitchen, so we're not completely ignorant about what is involved, but we did not think hard enough about all the issues before we bought this place. I think we were just too eager to finally take the plunge after looking for far too long. We thought it would work for us, and it still might. If we can't sell it without taking a hit. We have to move in. Which raises Issue #2:

The secondhand smoke. The smoker is a kind, thoughtful person. She said she's been smoking a lot more lately and she promised to quit, saying our problem might be the "kick in the pants" she needed.

That proves that we've got an unusually considerate neighbor with the best intentions. We love her for it and we're grateful. But can we count on her to quit? And what right do we have to interfere with her choices and activities at home? I realize that quitting can be life-saving, and I strongly encourage everyone to do it. But ultimately, it's not my business and I can't help anyone much on that extremely difficult road. It's up to her, and it's one of the hardest habits to break. I know more people who struggle and fail than those who quit. So while we appreciate her intentions we're not sure we can rely on them. The stakes are too high to take that risk, we fear. If we move in there and the smoke starts again, we're stuck.

So we are going to try to sell the new place. There must be buyers with the time and resources to renovate it to their taste into a great property. And cigarette smoke doesn't seem to bother most people. In that eight-unit building, we were the first to have a problem with it, before we even moved in. So I doubt there's a chance of getting the unanimous vote that is often needed to add a no-smoking policy to the rules.

Between my asthma and our shared distaste for smoke, we now realize that any future condo of ours has to be in a smoke-free building. But such buildings also tend to have restrictive pet policies. so we're probably doomed if we want to stay in the city. (Let me just say that three brokers and a banker visited our place recently, separately. Each told me he didn't smell the cats at all. And they only saw Harris and Possum since the others hid. As far as the agents were concerned, our cats are not an issue for a condo association except in theory. Confirming what I always knew.)

Anyway, it seems we will need to think yet again about leaving our beloved Back Bay for a little house somewhere. Someday. Not as far as Newton. We looked at many tiny houses and rejected them all for their location or lack of walls to hold my husband's library. He may finally decide to jettison many of his books or put them in storage, so we have better options going forward.

But let's jump off that bridge when we manage to stop teetering on the edge of this one.


  1. You're clearly thinking carefully through all the possibilities, and it does seem best to sell (so I wish you good luck and speed with the painting and then the selling). I was thinking about your comments about your vast library, though, and found myself wondering if it's not the book _shelves_ rather than books themselves that present a problem. All the pre made stuff (Restoration Hardware, etc) is big, and mass-produced shelving always seems to be too deep and not really configured right (for my collection, anyway). I've had much better results designing my own substantial shelving and storage and having them built by a carpenter. It costs, but it has allowed me to live happily in smaller spaces. Is it possible that getting custom casework would provide a better solution than moving? Think of Sir John Soane's house in London (wonderful deep window nooks created by shelving) or some of Thomas Jefferson's designs…. Just a thought. Which you've probably already had, but just in case….

  2. I'm not sure which university you husband works for, but your Yale comment this past summer made me think it must be Harvard. My dad worked at the law school while we grew up. We lived in Belmont. It was close enough for him to ride a bike (when the weather was accommodating). Just a suburb to throw into your consideration ring. Best of luck!

  3. well I am sorry this didn't work out, for a multitude of reasons, but I can appreciate this is a good well thought out decision and not one made out of fear.

    Paws crossed you are able to flip this and not take a loss on it. Wouldn't it be awesome if you even made a little money on it?


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