Necklace or a Nice Little Home?

To say that I was slightly derailed by the inauguration of a maniacal idiot as the president of our country would be the understatement of the decade. My apologies for the lack of posts! Now that I’ve gathered a modicum of composure again, it’s time to get back to the important things: places you could buy for the price of the Tiffany’s $2M necklace Jessica Biel wore to the Oscars.

In my humble opinion, it’s a bit much with a gold dress, but I’m no Hollywood actress. What do I know? (And was it just me or were a lot of the women trying to BE an Oscar?) Anywho, were you in the market for something worth two million dollars you could opt for this Whispers of the Rainforest number above, or one of these humble abodes below.

Flushing, Queens – $1,950,000

Sure, you’ll have a bit of a commute to get into the city from Flushing, but with a 2-car garage, 6 bedrooms and 6 baths will you care that much? Maybe not.

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Park Slope, Brooklyn – $1,095,000

You could literally fall out of your front door into the train from this sweet little 2-bedroom in Park Slope. For the price of a half a necklace you get to be around the corner from the best donuts in the neighborhood and have your own private roof deck and working fireplace. The hammock is probably negotiable.

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Financial District, Manhattan – $1,649,995

If an eye-popping amount of space in the Financial District is more your speed, you could get this beauty and pocket $400K for vacations or whatever. And if you’re looking to make a little money on the weekends, rent out your living room as a cool roller skating rink if you want. Only one bathroom, though, so you’ll probably have a line if you’re serving drinks.

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Washington Heights, Manhattan – $1,625,000

Alternatively, you could own a slice of actual history and have a legitimate claim to a piece of Alexander Hamilton if you bought this Sylvan Terrace townhouse. The secluded mews was originally part of the Morris-Jumel estate which we all know was the home that Aaron Burr’s one-time wife Eliza (not Hamilton’s Eliza) owned. And as we all also know, Aaron Burr was the angsty little vice president who did not throw away his shot in a duel with Hamilton. They’re rarely on the market, so scoop this up. Or buy the necklace. Whatever.

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Red Hook, Brooklyn – $1,900,000

I’m a total sucker for Red Hook and if you are, too, this former garage/carriage house that has been restored to perfection could be yours. It has huge bay doors in the front and three beds and baths. While it may be a little susceptible to flooding if and when there is another catastrophic hurricane (our new president says global warming isn’t a thing so maybe there’s no point in worrying?), it oozes modern charm.

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Maybe I should email Jessica and tell her she and Justin could be east coasters if they want to swap that precious bauble for one of these babies?

For $48.5M I Better Get a Butler

Whenever I play the “where would you live in this city if money were no object” game, the West Village is always at the top of my list. I imagine early morning strolls through cobblestone streets to get my latte and a perfect pain au chocolat, saying hi to my neighbor Jake Gyllenhaal along the way. (This is my bedroom, Jake! Just in case.)

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This place is nothing like the “little” townhouse I imagine for myself in that dream life. It’s a glass mid-rise with never-ending views of the Hudson River, which I guess will do. The kitchen is a bit tiny, but if you have a personal chef (which I assume you will), who cares? You’ll probably never set foot in it.

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What really won me over about this place is this bathroom (one of TEN). That soaking tub alone would do it if it weren’t ensconced in a million-dollar, glassy view, but the fact that they’ve got a CGI armchair in there really did me in. Imagine having the time, money and space just to have a seat in your bathroom! Though the towel rack is a bit far from the tub, TBH.

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While you do get your own private, 27-foot pool foot on your sculpted outdoor space, I’m a little annoyed that this place doesn’t come with a full-time butler. Because at $48,500,000 (I just had to stop to count zeros) I really expect a butler.

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And if I’m being picky, which I am, the master suite is a bit far from the other bedrooms. I mean imagine if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night! How will you ever get to them before dawn? Though, I’m probably thinking like a peon here. The night nanny will handle that. But still! What if!

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Who am I to judge though? If you’ve got $50M dollars—or $191,000 (estimated) a month for a mortgage—to plunk down on a West Village penthouse and you can deal with running a marathon in the middle of the night to your children who are so cold and lonely, then more power to you. Tell the brokers I sent you their way.

160 Leroy St, Penthouse North, pics via Elliman

Oh Look! A Reasonable Place!

Let’s dial it back a little with the obscenely beautiful and unattainable homes for just a brief moment. Because, despite protestations to the contrary, there are still total scores out there to be had. I know, I have found them! I am in fact living in one of them at the moment. What it takes to find them, however, is a complete devotion to your search. Not a “Oh, I set a Zillow notification, so I’m on it” dedication, but a doing-it-like-it’s-your-job-except-nobody-is-paying-you devotion.

Some (rational) people trust that they should leave that type of work to real estate brokers. And why wouldn’t they? They are paying them anywhere from 1 month’s rent to their firstborn child to land that perfect spot. I, unsurprisingly, am not one of those people. I am the one who angrily hands over the broker’s fee for them doing little more for me than unlocking the door. Granted, they’re doing a lot of work for the landlord—taking pictures and posting the listings and making themselves available to unlock the door and handling the lease—but for me? Not so much. [REMIND ME WHY I WOULD PAY THE FEE AND NOT THE LANDLORD? Sorry for screaming.]

A few tips I’ve got for you that may or may not be totally helpful:

  1. Check all the real estate search engines. Not all of them have all of the listings. So in New York, I check Zillow and StreetEasy (which my broker friend says is the best as far as accuracy goes). I’ve dropped Trulia because I find it really lags on updating listings. Other cities use Redfin and I’m sure there are others that I’m missing.
  2. Recruit your friends. Seriously, this is the way all the good apartments and jobs get taken: someone knows someone and before you know it you’re living in a garden apartment with an old landlady who never raises your rent because you’re such a nice girl. Appeal to your IRL social media friends. If you’ve got bros who live in a neighborhood or building you like – enlist them. Some of us love to help!
  3. Take Craigslist with a grain of salt. Chances are that perfect apartment you just saw listed is a total lie. But sometimes it’s not! #1 tip for CL: ignore all the posts with ALL CAPS HEADLINES. Be committed to CL, too, if that’s your preferred route. You’ll begin to recognize the dupes and be able to hop on something that’s truly new. Remember this is your new job.

OK, those are all the tips I can think of right now. Now on to the apartment whose very pretty bedroom I’ve posted above. It’s a total steal at $2200/month and there are a few reasons why. It’s pretty narrow – definitely under 16-foot wide federal-style townhouse. If you don’t have loads of stuff, this is totally ok (I fantasize about having this little stuff). Second, it’s alllllllllllmost right under the BQE. The label of “Ft. Greene” is a tiny bit of a stretch. However, if like me you’re trying get your steps in, the hike to the subway will be good for you. Lastly, the kitchen is a little dated and really just a hallway between the living spaces. But it’s totally workable (look, dishwasher!):

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The living room is also “cozy,” as the broker babble goes, but I think it’s really sweet with tons of natural light because I’m pretty sure this is the top floor apartment.

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If you and your architect boyfriend want to give this place with good bones and super white walls a go, here is where you can find it:

79A Clermont Ave, photos via Corcoran

Weep All Your Tears Into This Tub

When I schlep to Fort Greene Park to partake in communal outdoor space because I have none of my own, I often stare dreamily at the row of brownstones that line the north side of the park and fantasize at how lovely it would be to live in one of them. Not only would your view be of sexy soccer players on the dirt patch, er, lawn and the Prison Ship Martyrs Memorial (which you should totally read about and wonder like me, if the highest point in the park is that high because it’s built as a funerary mound – 11,500 Revolutionary War dead were buried there after they were removed from East River – or if it’s just a hill) BUT ALSO! because I could just open my front door and boot my kids out to play across the street until the streetlights come on.

158 Washington Park is one of those brownstones and it is for rent. The whole damn thing for one family or you and your four best friends (4 bedrooms! You split $7,150 four ways and it’s a steal!). You see those two massive Chesterfields snuggling up to that working fireplace? This house makes them look small.

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You can cook on this massive stove and not bump elbows with whoever’s chopping onions for you. Your dog can sit next to you begging for scraps and you will not trip over him when you make a step in either direction (*this claim cannot be verified. Maybe you have a terrible dog?). Had a tough day? Step into your clawfoot bathtub:

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STAHHHHHHHP!

Whatever. Here look at the stupidly spacious bedrooms that you can use for yourself and your very small children (which you can somehow afford at the same time as affording this house) and one thousand of their friends. Plus a bonus floor plan to make you weep.

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158 Washington Park, photos via Corcoran

Not a House for Mere Mortals

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There are houses for normal people with uneven floors, mice that live in the walls and closet-sized bedrooms, then there are houses like this one on Grace Court Alley. This is one of those houses you see and you wonder who the hell lives there. I’ll tell you who: not you. Not me. People who live here eat ambrosia – the real Greek god kind, no the Jell-o and Cool Whip kind – for breakfast, lunch and dinner and they never get fat. They buy new underwear when all the pairs they own are dirty and just throw the old ones away. They have Netflix accounts of their own and don’t even share the password with all of their family members. This is not a house for mere mortals.

Grace Court Alley is in Brooklyn Heights and it looks like a set of what you imagine quaint New York City looks like (Forgotten New York has a deep dive if you want to read it). It’s a movie set of itself. Cars may drive down this alley sometimes, but only the cars that pull into the private garages of the homes here. Anyone else who drives down it immediately thinks to themselves, “Oh god! Oh god! What did I do? I DON’T BELONG HERE!” At one point in time this alley was just the entry point for the stables that belonged to the real showpieces of the neighborhood. But now, most of us would kill to live in the stables of those houses. Because now they don’t look like stables, they look like this:

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Son. Of. A. Bitch.

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Can you imagine eating cereal in your t-shirt and 13-year-old comfy pants one morning in a room this pretty? Well you’re not allowed to. Those pants deserve to be put in the trash just like a pair of single-use underwear. And just forget about sunbathing on this deck or watching the snow gently fall from your glass-enclosed reading nook, ok?

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But maybe you’re a fancy person and you’ve got $10M to spare (up 270%!!!! from its last sale in 2011). If so, 6 Grace Court Alley is the place for you.

 

My Kingdom for a Washer & Dryer

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When I moved to Clinton Hill, Brooklyn 17 years ago I couldn’t afford to buy an apartment. Nearly every day I kick myself for not sacrificing my future and my financial stability to buy, what was then, a $250,000 apartment. But, as a 24-year-old with no income and a distinct lack of down payment (10% or otherwise), it wasn’t in the cards. Now those low-200s 1-bedroom apartments are low 800s apartments and I still can’t buy them. The goal post keeps moving.

But if I could have, I would’ve bought one and turned it into a sick rental like this. And I’d be rolling around in all my money right about now. This one looks like it’s had a second bedroom carved into it but it’s still a good size and the upgrades look on-point. If you’re going to have an open floor plan (ahem, all you House Hunters), you’re gonna want your kitchen to be sparkly and beautiful with a nice pendant or two separating the main living space from the main cooking space.

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The smaller bedroom’s got pretty opaque retractable doors letting the light flow through. 369 Washington is a gorgeous pre-war building, but that natural light doesn’t come easy. Nobody’s peed all over this bathroom before either. Plus, it’s got the holy grail of apartment living: a washer and dryer. Just yesterday I was trying to do laundry in my neighboring building (our building’s laundry room is under renovation) and I lost four dollars and a serving of detergent and did not get any clean clothes out of the deal. Washer. And. Dryer. It’s like you’re whispering sweet, line-dried-scented nothings to me.

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It’s certainly not the deal of the century at $3,369 but if you like pee-free floors and washers and dryers, maybe you want it?

369 Washington Ave, Apt 1A

 

Welcome to House Scouting!

I am guilty of being an incurable house scouter. I live in Brooklyn, NY – the epicenter of housing that is both desired and unaffordable at the same time. The envy that I feel, the what-ifs that roll around in my brain, the mental gymnastics that I go through to figure out just how I could land myself in this brownstone, or that apartment, or that other upstate cabin borders on pathological.

It’s pretty silly that I am constantly looking in the first place. I’m one of those few lucky people who’s been in her rent-stabilized, larger-than-average apartment for 16 years. It fits most of my needs (just barely). To keep myself in good standing as a tenant, I do repairs myself and scream at my kids not to stomp too loudly on the floor so they don’t disturb the super who lives below us. I pay my rent on time and try to fly as far under my landlord’s radar as possible. But I’d consider trading one of my stompy children for a second bathroom, or a postage-stamp sized outdoor space, or maybe another bedroom in a heartbeat.

Rather than trafficking in illegal human trade, I figured I’d do something with this never-ending hunt that I’m on and share it with you. Maybe you need an apartment! Maybe you’re a real estate obsessive like I am! I plan on posting good deals in great neighborhoods, absurdly un-great deals in even greater neighborhoods, apartments and houses that you and I are never going to get to live in but love peeking into anyway, and maybe some design scores that you totally should buy. After all, a good chair may be in your budget even if a corner brownstone is not.

If you see an amazing place that you think I should share, by all means, send it to me at: housescoutingsite@gmail.com because sharing is caring.