I don't know what makes me think I can afford to buy a condo in Cambridge. I can barely afford to rent here, and yet on Sundays I find myself traipsing all over the city from one open house to another. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps I just like to dream that I can own a home in the city in which I rent. Perhaps it's because the realtors amuse me; it's fun to ask them silly questions. Or perhaps I just like the chance to look inside the closets of strangers. Regardless, I've recently become addicted to open houses. Here's some of what I've seen.
4 Absurdity Place, two-bedroom, $322,000.
"Would it be okay if I took some pictures?" I ask the realtor as I take out my digital camera.
She seems nervous. "Um, I haven't really asked the owners, but I guess that would be all right," she tells me. Moments later, she asks, "You're taking the pictures to show someone, right? I mean, you're not casing the joint, are you?"
She says this with an awkward laugh so that I'll think she's joking, but I can tell she's a little worried. I wonder if I should be insulted. Apparently, I look more like a burglar than a realistic homebuyer. Considering that I would have to take up burglary in order to afford this condo, she may have a point.
126 c---amamie Street, two-bedroom, $309,000.
There are three two-bedroom units for sale in this building, and they're nothing special. But one feature does jump out. The building has only one parking spot, and they are asking an additional $25,000 for it.
After running that through a mortgage calculator, I realize that the monthly payment on the parking spot alone comes to $166. I'm tempted to ask whether I can buy just the parking spot and live there. Throw in a cheap van, and there's your affordable Cambridge housing right there.
29 Cassandra Street, two-bedroom, $319,000.
Is it a bad sign if a black cat crosses your path as you're leaving an open house? Does that mean you shouldn't buy the property? Perhaps so. There's also the fact that they're asking $319,000 for what feels like a shoebox. It's a pretty shoebox, but a shoebox nonetheless. Next.
1530 Chicanery Street, two-bedroom, $295,000.
I spot this one on the way home from the supermarket. I almost don't stop, since I'm juggling two bags of groceries. Can you attend an open house while carrying your groceries? Or will that automatically disqualify you from obtaining a mortgage?
"I'm sorry, Mr. Lavin, but we really prefer selling to someone who doesn't have to buy his own groceries. I'm sure you understand."
At the very least, my chips and cold cuts are not likely to endear me to the realtor. Since I have all this food with me, I think briefly about asking to test out the refrigerator. "You don't mind if I just leave some bologna here overnight? I just want to make sure it's a good fridge."
In the end, I cram all my groceries into my backpack, crushing my chips in the process and no doubt making myself look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame out on a real estate adventure. Interestingly enough, the realtor doesn't ask me to sign in.
1578 Chicanery Street, three-bedroom, $379,000.
They've obviously gone all out on this one. Everything here is immaculate. The furniture looks beautiful. The scented candles in the corner give off a wonderful aroma. ("Oh, what a lovely smell you have here. Here's your asking price, plus $20,000 more. I'll take it.") And the bed looks so comfortable that I'm tempted just to crawl in. In fact, after going to so many open houses, I could really use a nap. Do you think they'd mind?
46 Extortion Street, two-bedroom, $249,000.
Can you tell people that the condo they're attempting to sell is a dump, or would that be impolite? What if they want $249,000 for this particular dump? Since someone is nice enough to show me this condo in the middle of the week, I decide to be nice and not comment on the ugly floor, the unpainted kitchen, or the second bedroom that might as well be a jail cell. I also try not to grimace too much whenever I'm told that the unit is being sold "as is."
As I walk into the bathroom -- so small there isn't even a place to put cleaning supplies, let alone reading material -- I am suddenly reminded of something my friend Jody once asked me about open houses. "Do you have any strange requirements?" she inquired. "My friend Kelly had one weird thing. The house had to have a tall toilet. There had to be at least eight inches between the water and the toilet seat, or he just wasn't interested."
Suffice it to say that with one look at this toilet, Kelly would've been out the door.
2 Absurdity Place, two-bedroom, $334,000.
Sure, this place costs $334,000, but it's no ordinary condo. According to the realtor's information sheet, this one comes with an "outdoor bike rack." Well, damned if that doesn't sway me right there.
"You know, I was going to buy the condo just down the road for $20,000 less, but, hey, you won me over with that outdoor bike rack. It's a good thing you listed it so prominently. Where do I sign?"
Of course, if a parking spot is worth $25,000 here, an outdoor bike rack is probably worth $5,000. Me? I think I'll just get mine at the Home Depot.
|Copyright 2002 by Joe Lavin
Joe Lavin's Humor Column is published every Tuesday at: http://joelavin.com
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Submitted By: Joe Lavin
Feb 5, 2002 09:18