I drove up to the curb, squinting at the numbers on the brick building to check if I was in the right spot. 1824. Yep, this was it. I was a good 5 minutes early, so I parked and glanced around the neighborhood. It took me approximately 30 seconds to see what sites my potential new neighborhood had to had to offer. Which was, basically nothing unless you count the broken down kid’s toys in the yard next to the building I was checking out.
Seeing a short man with round glasses approach the front door of the building, I got out.
“Hi, are you Randy?” I called, feeling a little awkward. Maybe it was a resident, not Katy’s relator friend that offered to show me a few places today. I had the final mortgage preapprovals in hand. I had a bit of a downpayment if I emptied most of my savings account, and I figured that if I could find a decent condo for less than what rent would cost to live at my fancy apartment building, then I’d be good to go on buying something and not just renting. Providing of course, that I didn’t lose my job over my stupid mistake, but I pushed that thought out of my head so I didn’t ruin my weekend.
Luckily the man nodded. “Yes, I’m Randy.”
I was a little taken back at his high pitched voice but reacted as smoothly as possible. “Great, I’m Maddie. Ready to show me around?”
He nodded and started to unlock the first of 2 locks. I widened my eyes and he caught me. “Secure place,” he said and I smiled back. Secure my ass. I’m from NYC, I can tell a ghetto building when I see one.
Despite being thrown off by the locks, I was super excited. I had looked at multiple listings, and didn’t see many that were actually in my price range and distance I wanted from work. With a walk in closet, big bathroom, and den, this one was definitely my favorite. Walking along the halls, I wrinkled my nose. I just hoped the inside was nicer than the outside. I didn’t have to wait long because 5 seconds later, Randy was pushing the door open and I was almost knocked over by the stench.
“Come on in!” He exclaimed, holding the door open for me. I gingerly stepped inside, trying to hold my breath as much as possible.
Randy and I walked around the condo, checking out the 1 bedroom and den. The place looked clean enough, but I couldn’t get over the smell.
“Um, Randy, why does it smell like a wet basement in here?” I finally asked after he showed me the bathroom.
He looked puzzled. “I thought I smelled a little something too. Here, let me look at my notes…oh yes, a pipe leaked a few months ago. Maybe there is some residual mildew or something.”I shook my head. I did NOT want to deal with something like that, at least in my first place. “What else we looking at today?”
For the next 2 hours, Randy showed me 3 different condos that looked promising online but once I got in, it was apparent something was terribly wrong. In one, the wood floors were gouged and cracked. I could put up with some painting or something, but didn’t want to sink major bucks into repairs right after I moved in. The second was ok, but only had on street parking in one of the most populated neighborhoods in the city. The worst though, was for sure the third.
We had just come from looking at the underground parking spot and laundry room, and I was feeling pretty good about this place. The kitchen was nice, if not a bit small, and the living room had a view of downtown if you sat on the far edge of the couch and moved your head to the left. The neighborhood was great, with tons of coffee shops, restaurants, and corner stores within walking distance. I was just checking out the windows in the bedroom when I heard someone talking. ”Did you say something Randy?” I called out to him in another room.”No,” he was just calling back when I heard it again.
“I told you NOT to…” someone was yelling into their phone and I froze. The voice was clearly coming from the other side of the wall, and while I couldn’t make out all the words, it was apparent that the person speaking wasn’t happy.
Just then Randy came in. ”I hear someone on the phone,” I said.
He listened for a minute. “I don’t hear anything -“Just then, the toilet next door flushed and I jumped. “I am NOT going to be listening to someone argue on the toilet every day!” I announced. To his credit, Randy just nodded and agreed.
“So, Maddie, we didn’t around to talking too much about all your wants,” Randy said 30 minutes later over a cup of coffee. We had stopped for a quick break before we went to see the last 2 on my list.
I started picking away at my coffee sleeve. Randy and I had sent some emails back and forth discussing my budget and desired areas, but after that I had basically sent him some links of the places I wanted to check out. I thought I was undemanding in my search – hello, I lived in some really crappy places in NYC – but apparently when you’re looking to buy, it was way harder.
“It’s easy. I just want a 2 bedroom place in a nice neighborhood where I can’t hear my neighbors, has a parking spot, looks nice, no major repairs, and in my budget.”
He nodded. “Seems reasonable, but condos around here are a pretty penny and the ones in that range go fast.” He paused for a second. “Can I suggest a few places?”
I shrugged. What did I have to lose? “Sure.”
Randy got up and tossed his cup in the garbage. “Let me show you a place you wouldn’t have thought of.”
I got in my car and followed Randy’s Lexus for a few minutes. Then a few more. Finally, when I started to wonder where the hell we were, he stopped in front of a small…house?”
This is a house,” I said accusingly once he got out of his car, stating the obvious. “And it’s far away from all the neighborhoods I picked out.”
“I know,” he nodded. “But humor me by looking at it, ok?”
I shook my head, irritated that he took me out to the middle of nowhere to look at a house when I was clearly in the market for a condo near downtown and followed him inside.
“Damn it,” I said 5 minutes later. This place was pretty great.
“A former client of mine’s mother just went into a nursing home and needs to sell her house,” Randy explained. “It’s a great house for someone who doesn’t need a lot of space but wants the convenience of having stuff nearby.” I could see that. The house was small, but it was updated and had 2 bedrooms, a living room, 2 bathrooms, and small dining room. The downstairs was finished into another room, and the kitchen walked out into a small backyard with a patio next to the garage. I could see it being a nice place to live.
But still. I wasn’t looking for a house. I was young. I wanted to be near the action.
“It’s too far away from everything,” I argued.
Randy pointed to the left. “This is small neighborhood, sure, but just a block away, you’ll find 2 restaurants, a yoga studio, grocery store, liquor store, bank and Starbucks, among other things. Not to mention a park within 6 blocks. And you’ll be on the highway and into downtown in under 10 minutes.”
I admit, I was impressed. I didn’t realize the neighborhood had that much.
Still though. “I’m not sure I want to deal with mowing the lawn and painting the outside and all that,” I said argumentatively.
Randy shrugged. “True. Just giving you options, is all. Ready to go check out the last 2 condos?”I glanced at my phone to see what we had left and my lip curled up a bit. One was the least favorite of the 5 or so I sent Randy, but it was in my favorite neighborhood. The other was really small, but looked nice. ”Ready!” I said, walking out behind him.
He was turning to go to his car when I stopped him. “Just curious, how much is this house?”He named a figure that was $15k less than I hoped to spend on a condo and my eyes almost bugged out. “Why is it still on the market?” I asked.
“It’s not even technically on the market yet – the owner’s daughter just called me last week. We’ll be listing it on Monday now that we have the pictures ready.”I nodded thoughtfully and got into my car to drive back closer to the city, wondering to myself what was more important, a nice place to live or being in the middle of the action. My mind floated back to hearing the neighbor flush her toilet and I cringed. Right now I wasn’t so sure.