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Sunday, January 6, 2008

House Hunting in Hoboken

January 7, 2008

You know I can't really be seriously house hunting at this point. I just signed a one-year lease and I have a house on the market, which may take years to sell and from which I would get the proceeds to buy another abode.

But it seems that one of the favorite pastimes in Hoboken on Sundays is visiting the Open Houses held by realtors all over town. The realtors seem to know few if any of the visitors are thinking about buying; they are all just thinking, "Wouldn't it be nice?" The atmosphere is comfortable and relaxed, and looky-loo's have a great time imagining themselves in upscale apartments they might never be able to afford.

Yesterday I joined the looky-loo's. Inspired by an interesting place on Willow Street that I saw advertised on craigslistnj, I planned to go out at about 1 P.M. and luckily the weather cooperated. It was about 50°, cloudy, and downright pleasant outside. Inside, unfortunately, my heat was working, and my apartment was at least 90. It felt like August in Alabama, except that there was a humidity index of about 2, where in Fairhope it would have been at least 80 per cent.

Headed toward Willow, I had to cross Washington Street, Hoboken's expansive main thoroughfare, a boulevard described in some detail on several of my posts on my blog Finding Fair Hope. Here I was distracted by an "Open House" sign, angled and pointing me several blocks uptown. I followed my nose and found an adorable little two-bedroom with a chatty realtor who grew up in Hoboken and gave me some insights about what to expect. This place had the ubiquitous exposed-brick wall and granite countertops in the kitchen, to my mind, clich├ęs in Hoboken, but they did not detract from the general attractiveness of the apartment. It was one flight above ground level, but an attractive hall -- unlike the place where I now live -- and a well-kept building. Unfortunately it was at least $100,000 more than I expect to have to spend when I have any money to spend. I had a nice talk with the friendly realtor, took his card, and set off for Willow Street.

The Willow Street apartment was in less good shape. It had built-in storage that needed attention, and less space, and was basically less attractive overall. Not one I would buy if I were buying. So I looped back and was distracted by a newly remodeled place on Park Street. A small building, all its units were open but one, which had an offer on it. Each of the units had a slightly different price, but they were all higher than I was expecting, and the renovation gave them a motel-ish look I couldn't see myself in. However, there was an unexpected feature in my favorite of its apartments -- a slam-bang beautiful view of the Empire State Building! This was on the fifth floor of a building without an elevator, 956 square feet, with high ceilings, skylights, and exposed duct work. (I don't think you pay extra for the exposed duct work, but it's amusing and does make the space unique.) Very interesting, but because of the walk-up, the motel makeover, and the price of $579,900, not for me.

At the last house I picked up a flyer for a few more of the offerings from this realtor. I also noted the name of someone I met in a bar in Hoboken when I was here in October and hoped our paths might cross on this day of house hunting. (It didn't happen.)

I set off for a final choice from the realtor's list, the most prestigious and most expensive place I would see, at 1000 Hudson Street. This building was like the kind of place one used to find on West End Avenue in New York, built before WWII, maybe before WWI, with marble floors in the lobby and a marble staircase. It was a two-bedroom with a separate dining room, and remodeled kitchen, and a feeling of permanance and elegance throughout. I could definitely see myself there. The realtor was one I had met on my previous trip to Hoboken and she remembered me. I talked with her friends, ladies of a certain age who had grown up in Hoboken, and they told me of the place of this particular building in Hoboken history. Writers and artistic types had lived there (I assume after they had achieved some success), and it was always the building in Hoboken. If only they had bought condos there when they first went on sale for under $50,000! They are now going for $666,000 and up. The realtor told me the building does have one-bedroom units, but none available at the moment. In fact, they seldom come up at all.

However, I'm not really looking now. Maybe in six months or a year, when my house sells, she'll contact me. I have no doubt that when the time comes, there will be something just right for me -- somewhere in Hoboken. I'm looking, I told the first realtor, for the last place before I go into assisted living. I now know that the trap people fall into is not keeping their homes up to date, and expecting to sell them for the same price people are getting for places that have the amenities buyers demand. At the moment in Hoboken, this means granite countertops and exposed brick walls, but who knows what it will be in 20 years?

I have plenty of time to think about it.

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