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Recently my fiance and I went to an open house a little out of our price range. Actually, at $1.3 million (just reduced from $1.6 million), it was a lot out of our one-bedroom fixer-upper price range. But hey, I figured, why not see how the other half lives?
My fiancé did not want to visit the prewar, classic-six co-op on the Upper East Side.
“We’re going to look so out of place,” he protested.
Donning our (Banana Republic) designer clothes for the middle class, we did our best to look like a couple who could afford the place we were going to see.
As soon as we entered the $1.3 million door, a woman in a jogging suit asked us to take off our shoes. Even in my range, I'd never seen a broker in such super casual attire. Maybe she’s the lady of the house? I thought.
We obliged, and she told us to look around. She headed back into the kitchen, her Starbucks coffee in hand.
The living room was gorgeous—an angled ceiling with beams, pristine fireplace and crown molding to die for. The dining room featured tall windows and a southern exposure. Impressive, we agreed.
Next was the updated kitchen, where the woman in the track suit sat on a stool drinking her coffee and flipping through the Sunday Times. She asked us to put our names on the email list. She apparently was, in fact, the real estate agent.
“You guys just hanging out or what?” she asked.
Um, maybe our jeans gave us away.
"Just looking," we explained nonchalantly, and headed off to tour the rest of the apartment.
Here things took an unexpected turn.
In the study, the husband’s papers were spread out everywhere. Private tax information, social security numbers and bank accounts were easily visible. It was unsettling to see the owner's personal information strewn all over the place.
In the teenage boy’s bedroom, a proud display of empty vodka bottles elbowed one another on a shelf above his bed.
The toilet in the kids' shared bathroom was seriously filthy. The master bathroom, meanwhile, sported a gaudy pink tub and gold fixtures everywhere, requiring a complete gut job.
Back in the kitchen, the agent finally got off her rear to show us the maid’s room--a small bedroom that was more of a walk-in closet with stained rug, no windows and one of the smallest beds I’d ever seen. We instantly felt sorry for the maid. And the condition of the kids' toilet made a lot more sense.
All in all, this was not quite what we had expected from a $1.3 million apartment.
The agent merely waved goodbye as we left. Out of the building, I gave a backward glance, thinking how it would be to live on this block, in this neighborhood and to have this money. But something was missing.
Yes, the space and location were enviable. But instead of crippling us with apartment envy, it reminded us that it takes more than space or money to create a home, the kind we envision shaping inside the one-bedroom fixer-upper waiting somewhere out there for us.