Honey, get the straight-jacket, there's an Open House... [ Sept. 26, 2003, 11:33 a.m. ]

If you�ve ever dipped a toe into the waters of depression but were afraid to dive in, or if you�ve stood at the precipice of a breakdown without making the leap, I have discovered the perfect insanity-inducing final �push�: shop for an apartment in New York City.

It will be the end of me.

Kent and I have been talking about buying an apartment for a few months now � we�re currently renting a great apartment that is gorgeous but expensive � and we spent the summer attending open houses as �casual� buyers. Our lease is up at the end of March, which means that as we head into fall, it�s time to start looking less casually and more seriously. And oh, sweet Jesus, it sucks.

I know � whine, whine, whine, bitch, bitch, bitch � but it is painfully frustrating to look at apartment in our price range and have the actual conversation that follows:

Kent: �I liked the mailboxes.�

Me: �The mailboxes?�

Kent: �Yeah, in the lobby? They were shiny. Brass, I think.�

Me: �Okay. But the apartment itself�?�

Kent: ��was kinda small. But we could make that work��

Me: �Yeah, I guess. I mean, we don�t really need the couch��

Kent: �And the kitchen table? We hardly ever sit at it��

Me: �There weren�t any closets, so I don�t know where our clothes would go.�

Kent: �Yeah. Well, I�ve got a lot of clothes I never wear anymore, so we could get rid of those too��

Me: �Yeah. The bedroom was pretty small though��

Kent: �But all we need in the bedroom is a bed, right?�

Me: �I suppose. Would our bed fit in there?�

Kent: �Sure it would. I think it would. Maybe it would. We could never get a queen-sized bed, that�s for sure.�

Me: �Hmmm. And if there�s no closet, where would our clothes go?�

Kent: �Uh��

Me: �Well, anyway, I�m more concerned about the kitchen.�

Kent: �I didn�t see the kitchen.�

Me: �That�s because there isn�t one. Just a mini-fridge and a microwave.�

Kent: �Oh. Like in a dorm?�

Me: �We should be so lucky.�

Kent: �Well, there are a lot of restaurants nearby; maybe we don�t need a kitchen?�

Me: �I think we need a kitchen. Or at least a kitchen-like area in which we can keep some food. And dishes.�

Kent: �Well, we could create a kitchen-like area in that little corner space. We could buy an island and��

Me: �That little corner space was going to be the office.�

Kent: �Oh, right. What about over by the window?�

Me: �That�s the living room.�

Kent: �In the hallway?�

Me: �You can�t make a kitchen in a hallway.�

And so on and so on.

We�ve even talked about buying a �big� studio space. Big, meaning about 500 square feet. Think about how small that is, and imagine living in that space with all your belongings, and your spouse. Now you know why I drink.

When we attend open houses, it becomes glaringly obvious that New Yorkers will sacrifice A LOT to stay in this city. Dishwashers and washing machines are luxury items. A �windowed-kitchen� raises the selling price $20k. (And lest you think �windowed-kitchen� indicates an actual room with actual windows, it don�t. Think �narrow space with window in view�). Floors are slanted. Windows face airshafts. And it all costs at least $275k.

Yes, people make more money in New York than in other cities. But still, it seems nearly IMPOSSIBLE to buy a one-bedroom apartment on less than a combined income of $200,000 a year. I�m not exaggerating. Kent and I have looked at the math, figured what the monthly payment would be, and thought, �Damn, we can buy a great apartment!� But that�s not enough. No, you also have to get approved by co-op boards, who want proof of �liquidity� beyond the mortgage payments and maintenance fees. So, even though we can afford an apartment, we can�t really afford it, because co-op boards like you to be able to afford the apartment and have a few extra thousand dollars each month.

I hate whining like this.

Many people are in worse circumstances than I am.

But buying an apartment in New York sucks ass.

Recently, for "fun", Kent and I went to some open houses at these new luxury loft buildings in DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass, in Brooklyn). They were gorgeous. They were big. They had high ceilings and tons of windows and Sub-Zero appliances and were hard-wired for everything. They were my dream apartments. And they were, literally, a million dollars. One million dollars, for a 1-bedroom apartment facing the BQE. I have never been so depressed in my life. Kent and I left, staring at the financing literature, wondering if somehow, someday it would be possible.

Me: �If we decided right now to never have kids, and saved all our money��

Kent: �Fucking New York.�

Me: �I need a drink.�

Now, whenever we go by the DUMBO area, we flip off the buildings and yell, �Fuck you, Sweeney Building!�

It helps a little.

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