Posts Tagged 'realtor'

Space

When a friend told me recently that she was moving from a New York City suburb into Manhattan, I felt a pang of jealousy – then quickly squashed it.

After all, my husband and I had spent the past several years plotting a move from London to a US suburb. Once we had a toddler and a baby, we wanted a house, a yard and some closet space.

That brought us to Atlanta, Georgia, last November. After living with two kids in a small two-bedroom apartment, we now have a house.

That means I can keep everything. The adorable pumpkin costume my daughter wore for her first Halloween in London went straight to the thrift store on November 1st.
A little pumpkin
As my husband pointed out, she wouldn’t fit into it the following year, so there was no need to keep it (he was not as impressed by the neon orange outfit with the jack o’ lantern tummy as I was).

It was exceptionally puffy, and protruded from the one drawer we had dedicated to keepsake clothing.

Now, we have a closet big enough for a whole wardrobe of pumpkin ensembles. And our house is far from big by Atlanta standards. We put clothes, gyminis, and toddler artwork, along with my maternity clothes, nursing bras, breast pump and other pregnancy/infant gear, into a storage closet. So what if we’re not planning another pregnancy? We have the space!

And we have a yard. When the kids get antsy, we can take them outside with a ball. In London, we had to pack up the double stroller, cross two busy streets, and walk ten minutes to get to the playground. In the rain.

On a warm day, that park would be so packed that I would have to apologize to sunbathers lying two feet away from us when my toddler kicked her ball onto their towel.

While I used to take my toddler to Gymboree four times a week during lousy weather, just to get out of the apartment, we now play in our own playroom. In London, my daughter’s room doubled as my office, and my husband’s closet. Now we have a walk-in closet, and a separate office.

But the suburban lifestyle can be isolating. At Gymboree, I would run into other moms. Fellow mothers are less likely to appear in our playroom, unless we invite them in – and we still don’t know too many people here.

I also miss my street social life. In London, I ran all of my errands on foot. Between the drugstore, grocery store and coffee joint, I generally ran into at least two people I knew. Here, we drive, rather than walk, everywhere – we didn’t own a car in London.

The trade-off is I no longer have bags of diapers and groceries dangling off the stroller handle, with jars of baby food rolling out from the basket underneath.
Suburban life is endlessly convenient. In New York City, where I grew up, we went to the basement to do laundry in communal washers and dryers.

A realtor in Atlanta told me that he couldn’t sell a condo here because the washing machine and dryer were located just outside the front door of the apartment, by the elevator.

My family and I briefly lived in said condo, and loved the fact that we didn’t have to travel downstairs to do laundry. And, the dryer actually worked. This luxury eluded us in London.

An American friend was horrified when she heard that I didn’t have a dryer during my eight years in London. This was not unusual – often, people just didn’t have the space.

We used a drying rack instead. While it’s a greener solution than using an electric dryer, the clothes take a long time to dry. And when both of your kids get a 24-hour vomiting bug, as ours did one awful weekend in London, you have damp sheets, towels and clothes hanging on every imaginable surface. I don’t miss seeing my underwear swinging off doorknobs.

But once laundry becomes less of a focal point of our lives, we might consider moving back to a major city. When I was growing up in New York, I loved going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on school trips. It was always exciting when world leaders we were studying came to town. And as a theatre buff, I loved having access to Broadway shows.

So what if my track team had to run alongside the FDR Drive? What we lacked in gym facilities we made up for in cultural enrichment.

Once the kids have outgrown kicking a ball in the backyard, and I no longer have to sweet talk bus drivers into letting our Bugaboo onto the bus, maybe we will make that move.

But we’ll have to save up so we can afford a place with a storage closet. I don’t want to let another kiddie pumpkin costume get away.

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If It’s Not About Lice, I’m Not Interested

We put in an offer on a house, and it was accepted– then countered.

Had this happened two days ago, we would have been beside ourselves. We would have spent hours talking about the house, whether we wanted to up the offer, how much we liked the neighborhood, how long our drive to preschool would be….and yet, because our realtor’s call came during our lice attack, we didn’t bother calling her back until the next day.

My daughter had been sent home from school that morning with a case of lice. By the afternoon, I was in a fog of laundry, lice spray, fine tooth combs, and toxic shampoo. I could only think about what to wash, comb and spray next. Unless someone called with information about lice, I had no interest in it.

But the good news is, we got the all clear today. My daughter’s lice is gone. The hours I spent combing her hair paid off. Now we just have to make sure it doesn’t come back, with the help of our array of toxic sprays and gels.

Now, on to the house. We are shocked by how quickly things are moving. We put in an offer on Monday. The fact that we had to read and sign a 10 page document to even make an offer was alien to us.

In London, you just make a verbal offer. You haggle back and forth through the agents, agree on a price, then wait for something to go wrong.

And it almost always did: someone might accept a higher offer, even if they already gave yours the green light.

Or, if someone needs to sell their place before buying yours, the process can go on for weeks, or months, if it even completes at all.

When we bought our flat in London, the sale took six weeks to complete. And that was considered quick.

We weren’t in a chain (i.e. we didn’t have to sell anything in order to buy it) and the flat was vacant. So I couldn’t figure out what was taking so long.

Here in Georgia, you can buy a property in three to four weeks, according to our realtor. That seems almost too quick. If you’re distracted for a few weeks (by something like, say, lice, and its itchy aftermath) you might not focus on what you’re doing. The next thing you know, you’ll be living in a house, saying, “We paid WHAT for this?!”

House Hunting

Looking for a house in this market is enjoyable. I had heard that in order to make your house more palatable, you should pull a batch of cookies out of the oven just as the prospective buyers come in.

One of the owners of a house I saw today did even better — she offered up those freshly baked cookies to me and my realtor.

Rather than the scent of baked goods, I smelled desperation.

At another house, a woman was baking a lasagna. It smelled delicious. But it was 3:00 in the afternoon. Who really bakes a lasagna at 3 PM on a Tuesday?

Someone who really wants to sell their house, I think.

A Valentine’s Day Sales Pitch

Our daughter received an unusual Valentine. In her heart-adorned bag, our two year old found lollipops, Starbursts, tootsie rolls, notes from her pre-school classmates, and a business card from a realtor….

Sorry, what was that? Could that have been intentional? It must have been, because the pre-school put the bags on top of the kids’ cubbies, and instructed parents to put their children’s Valentines for their friends into their bags.  

So there wasn’t really an opportunity for something to drop into those bags accidentally. Some enterprising parent must have seen the opportunity to get her card in front of some prospective clients.  

That’s something you wouldn’t find in the UK.  Sales people seemed almost embarrassed to pedal their wares.  

When I suggested to a British friend who’s an art dealer that she start selling paintings as investments, instead of just as wall decorations, she said, “No, I couldn’t do that…” There was more of a sense of protocol there, for better or worse.

But here, it seems that anything goes. And with the real estate market in crisis, maybe that’s the way it has to be. I wonder if any 2 year olds used the card and gave her a call….