My husband and I are looking for a new apartment.
No, that’s not ours in the pic above. But we could still use an upgrade.
We want a real kitchen, a second bathroom, and a second bedroom for my office. (For some reason, Steven doesn’t love having my piles of papers and DVDs in the middle of the living room. ) Also, I want a perfect location like we have now. Tree-lined street, near subways, in or at least close to downtown — because I’m very “downtown.”
And open views, and light. Oh, and we’d both like ceilings that aren’t low enough for me to touch when I’m on tiptoe.
If you think that’s not so much to ask, you’ve never looked at NYC real estate.
From a first look at all the listings, it seems like an embarrassment of riches. But you’d know better if you were familiar with the standard code words. Here’s a quick guide to the euphemisms I’ve come to learn. NYC Real Estate, decoded:
Country cottage in the sky!
Oddly-painted shithole with warped floorboards and floral wallpaper the current owner wouldn’t paint over to sell the place. And, an elevator.
No light. Low floor. All rooms face an air shaft, or look over a courtyard and have picturesque views of garbage cans and electric generators. Maybe a crackhead or two, for extra “urban” flavor. They promise to keep quiet and respect your oasis.
Bring your sunglasses!
Lots of light. That’s a good thing, but if it doesn’t mention views, there are none. Count on a butt-ugly brick wall across the way. Not that it matters, because you brought your sunglasses. As long as they’re as dark as Stevie Wonder’s, you’ll never notice what’s out the window.
Bring your architect and make it yours! Unique opportunity to design your dream apartment!
This obviously means that the apartment is unlivable as is. But there are several forms of this.
1) Looks like a crack den. Or, like a haunted house created by a set designer. Water (or worse) stains on ceiling, peeling walls, rusty bathtub in middle of living room, cobwebs in doorways, zombie taking a shit in the bathroom.
2) Already renovated — per current owner’s “vision” — with bizarre, baffling angles. You’d be amazed by how many people design their home with a tiny, triangular master bedroom (who wants to sleep in a triangle?) and an ensuite jacuzzi the size of a backyard swimming pool. Clearly, these people like to party. Just not in the bedroom.
3) Old person’s apartment. You can tell someone died in there. The details provide a depressing narrative that will leave you sad. From the marbled-mirror dining area to the old, framed photos, yellowed bedspread, and toilet commode in the closet, it’s clear that the owner moved in during the 60s or 70s, never changed a thing in the apartment, lost a spouse, then lived for a decade with a visiting nurse. The apartment would sell better empty, with a fresh coat of paint, but the deceased owner’s children don’t have time to deal.
I saw one place with mauve lacquer built-ins and a platform bed on a base wrapped in carpeting. It looked like it had grown out of the carpeted floor. Or, to quote a friend, “like a giant scratching post for cats”.
Stairway to Heaven
No elevator. Duh. I saw one listing that had the chutzpah to advertise, “You’ll burn calories and melt fat on the way up to your 5th floor paradise.”
Location, location, location!
Shithole near park or some place people line up to get cupcakes.
If there is room for a chair and a soup spoon, brokers will call it “eat-in.”
Townhouse living in an apartment building!
Awkward, narrow layout on the first or second floor.
Full-service white glove co-op
Postwar building. You get a doorman and live-in super, but also low ceilings and lots of old people who moved in in 1962 when the building was new and they were already old. These are the folks who sit on the coop board and will reject your application because that’s the most fun they have in their retirement. It’s the city version of growing tomatoes.
Also, what’s so great about white gloves? Makes me think of a mime.
Separate office or nursery/ guest room
Tiny, interior room with no window. Who needs light or air when you’re typing or sucking a boob? And if you’re a mooching houseguest, who are you to complain? You want a window? Go stay in a hotel, you ungrateful freeloader.
Bad, remote location. Writers don’t need to go anywhere. They just need to stare out the window wondering why they chose such a lonely career path.
There’s no catch here. Who doesn’t love an open house? All you have to do is sign in, with a fake name and email address if you want, and you’ve got PTS: Permission To Snoop. You can peek in closets, bounce on the beds, survey the prescription bottles, sniff the shoes…it’s nosy heaven. And you can just walk out when you’re done, calling “thank you!” to the broker. If there are other looky-loo’s poking around, you’re almost anonymous.
Oh wait, one catch: you could end up all alone with a super-creep broker.
This possibility wouldn’t occur to me if it hadn’t happened the other day. No one in the apartment but me, the realtor, and a silent, greasy-haired man who I’m guessing was his brother. The realtor didn’t get up much from his chair, but his eyes followed me around the apartment.
“That’s a California King in there, by the way,” he informed me as I came out of the bedroom. “You can do a lot of entertaining on one of those, if you know what I mean. Not that you would, ’cause you’re a good girl!” High-pitched giggle. Then: “You know, you could easily add an extra bedroom in here if you need to. Of course, that wouldn’t be my problem, ’cause I’m not procreating!”
I’m glad to hear it, sir.
Have you ever looked for new digs in NYC? Or anywhere? How’d that go? Did I leave anything out of my Decoder? Tell me in the comments.