Monday, September 05, 2005


gloom in the courtyard

I do not complain about spending beautiful days indoors, since I don't care for direct sunlight. Still, there is no excuse for neglecting this apartment hunt -- other than the holiday, of course, and the deadlines. So we took walks. The first took us through our own neighborhood; then, after returning to the flat for water, we headed out again in the vague direction of Van Vorst Park. Much later, after the deadlines had been met, we walked along Coles Street toward Hamilton Square.

I took a little notepad for numbers. My pad had a Powerpuff Girl on the front, and scatterd notes from Hilary about Alexander Pope inside. I paged to the back and scrawled down everything I saw. Most referred me to realtors. When I got home, I didn't call any of them.

Paulus Hook is busy with signs: For Rent, For Sale, Condominium Available, Under Lease, Brickface Restoration. Some advertise buildings that are clearly under construction -- some are little more than crossbeams and the promise of concrete. A few adverts bear numbers with distant area codes. "Flipping" is real estate slang for buying property in a hot neighborhood, and then selling it as quickly as you can for a higher price. It works on the same logic as does day trading: get in, get out, repeat, get rich.

A middle-aged woman ushered us into The Grandview, a new complex on the corner of Grand and Greene. This is a mixed-use development that was thrown up in a matter of seconds, or so it seems; every vacant lot in this neighborhood has been purchased and has been framed by scaffolding. The newer structures ape the design of rowhouses much in the way that some musicians record artificial crackling in the midst of their CDs to simulate the flipping of a vinyl album. Nobody is being fooled here. Still, we go inside.

The condominium unit for sale at this open house is smaller than the apartment where we currently live. It is handsome and tidy, and its back doors open up to a large brick patio. The kitchen surfaces are all dark marble, and the refrigerator is jet black. It looks like somebody's idea of a bachelor pad for a well-mannered financial services employee more interested in gardens than girls. The price: 550K. Later, we use an online mortgage calculator to discover how far we are from being able to afford this. I feel financially devastated from by brief brush up against the numbers.

Inland, things are dispiriting. Balloons advertise an open house on Varick, one block west of the park. The house is stately and old, but uncomfortable and somewhat woody. A realtor inside is explaining to a young couple that they'd best look in West New York if they expect to find a unit at their stated price. I do not hear the price. The apartment is unrenovated -- cabinets open and close uncomfortably, and the window treatments seem crummy. The kitchen, a pink sliver between the two other rooms, is entirely unworkable. This apartment is leasing for $450 more than our current flat.

I do not tend to generalize from brief experiences, but for the first time in memory, I have a bad feeling about an apartment hunt. Purchasing a condominium unit here -- even a meagre couple of rooms -- is plainly beyond our means. We fully expect to pay more than we are currently, but a 33% increase is tough to swallow. And yet, conditions in Downtown Jersey City have changed so radically over the past two years that bargain hunting here feels daunting.

From now until we settle our hunt, this space will be updated daily.

I'm only mentioning this because you said you had a Powerpuff Girl notebook and most certainly not because I'm not bragging, I was in a Powerpuff Girl commercial once. No lie. Oh, and "Alive to Every Smile" is my favorite TBS record too.
Apartment hunting can be a hassle many times as I used resources on the web to help me locate the perfect apartment. I wish you the best of luck in finding a great apartment.
Hi there, just wandering the blogosphere and I found your blog. I really enjoy how this all works.

This is one to watch.

Many thanks,

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