Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Welcome To My Doorman/Elevator...Tenement

Park Avenue in the 30s -- $2100

Guess what? TR and I got screwed by his co-op board! (Only in New York...)

Now that I've stopped sobbing, I can tell the tale: Last week, on a whim, I called the management company to see the status of our inquiry to sublet out TR's alcove studio since we are having a baby in June. I asked to sublet as of June 1 for up to three years, but I secretly would have taken any day that they gave me.

We got a date all right: Spring/Summer 2010.

It seems that his co-op only allows 15 shareholders at any given time to sublet, and we are on a waiting list with 10 other people. Three of those people are also families who are expecting children.

I asked the woman on the phone if she realized that TR's place is a studio, and that it is likely against some fire code to have two adults and an infant living in essentially 520 square feet, including closet space. (Someone please tell me this is true, and back it up with documents.) She said, "Not to be rude, but you're not the only people in the building who are having a baby." True, but we are likely the only ones in a studio.

You know the old joke about a baby sleeping in a drawer? This might actually be the case for my little bean.

True, it's one heck of a view from the 21st floor, but the board is a little out of touch with the current economic climate or the fact that sometimes rules have to be adjusted in order to keep shareholders happy. Then again, maybe the board doesn't realize their building is on Second Avenue, not Park Avenue.

Other flaws with his board and building (since you asked):

1. They charge for common storage. Even in my rental building, which is also doorman/elevator, and, arguably, nicer, storage is free. Why do people pay to store things in a building that they're already paying maintenance to?

2. Parents cannot buy units for children unless the child is employed and can pay mortgage and maintenance on their own. Granted, if they could do that, they wouldn't need their parents helping them out, would they? (And the board wonders why not one of the six studios on the market have moved in over six months, nor has the two bedroom on the first floor.)

3. At least one doorman is known for hooking up with female resident(s). Klassy!

Again, not the kind policies I would expect east of Lexington Avenue.

Please send booze. Preferably a 2005 Bordeaux, Grand Cru or Premier Grand Cru. Since we're being charged for common storage, I'm turning our slice into a wine cellar/panic room.

Rent To Own: A Creative Financing Option

As owners find it more difficult to fill new developments, they're taking a new approach to filling their units: offering rent-to-own programs. In these cases, prospective buyers are essentially able to try out apartments before taking the plunge to purchase. Or, once the lease is up, they can simply walk away.

Renting to own can be attractive for both sides of a real estate transaction. It brings cash flow to properties that otherwise might be stagnant. Buyers lacking adequate down payments, struggling with poor credit, or even recovering from a recent foreclosure, can build up savings and rebuild creditworthiness in order to get a mortgage.

There is usually a fixed amount of time you have before you commit to buying. Often that is six to nine months, if you want your rent to go towards a down payment.

It's a great option for foreign nationals: Ex-pats can build an American credit history through a rent-to own program, and eventually qualify for a mortgage. Even if they have to leave the U.S., the unit can be kept as an investment property.

Short Sales: What You Need To Know

There's been a lot in the news lately about short sales: when a homeowner's lender agrees to accept less than is owed on the mortgage for the property. They occur all over the country -- even in Manhattan -- and can be a way to get a deal on a place, albeit with a few caveats.

Be Patient With The Process:
Short sales should be called long sales. In some cases, it could take months for a buyer to hear back from a lender, especially if the owner has two mortages or liens against the property. Perhaps just as frustrating as the wait time is the fact that you likely won't be privy to details as the deal is progressing. That could mean going months without an update.

There Are Deals to be Found in Short Sales -- But Don't Expect Outright Steals. A buyer needs to make a fair offer, based on comparable homes that have been sold recently. The offer should be aggressive, but not ridiculous.

Sales Are 'As Is' In a short sale, it isn't likely that you will get allowances from the seller for repairs that are needed, as you might in a traditional sale. Do a home inspection and know what you're getting into.

Have A Back Up Plan: When an offer is accepted and earnest money is put down, remember that you risk losing those funds if you decide to walk away and buy another home.

It's Not Only About Price:
A short sale is only a bargain if it's a home that you truly want to live in -- not something you're drawn to only because of its low price tag.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Empire State Building: Fog Clearing

Photo by TR!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Funny little cartoon about Twitter. It's kinda true.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thoughts After Buying Maternity Clothes

Six and a half months into this pregnancy journey, it occurred to me this morning that I was going to need some maternity clothes. I am literally down to three dresses that fit me, and zero pants. After work this evening, armed with a gift card courtesy of my Pop, I tackled Motherhood Maternity and Pea in a Pod on 57th and Madison.

Observations/Take Aways:

1. Maternity clothes, by their very nature, suck. Apart from some of the higher end stuff, pretty much everything was cut boxy and square and with an empire waist. Basic rules of design dictate that no one looks good in an empire waist, so when you're preggo these clothes only make you look more like an orb than you already are. (For the record, I'm nowhere near being a planet, at least not yet.) I spent two hours in the store and walked away with two pairs of pants and four really cute tops, all for $157. (La Pauline never pays full price.)

I realize there are women who just want to be covered when they're pregnant, and don't care about things like cuts and fabrics, because what is one to do when they're 20 pounds heavier than normal? Unfortunately, I do care. Perhaps vanity is my albatross. Is it wrong to want to look hot when you're pregnant, to not look like some bored, barefoot housewife?

2. I walked away from a super cute green tee with a sparkly collar, that looked great on me, mostly because it was $60, and that's way too much to pay for a t-shirt, no matter how good the cotton/lycra blend. The voice of my father, who worked in textiles for years, echoed in the back of my head. That fabric is probably $3 a yard and the shirt was put together for pennies in Malaysia. The mark up is ridiculous.. I guess I'll just wait for a sale.

3. A Pea in a Pod had maternity wedding dresses. They were off white. Ha!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Best Line Ever In An E-Mail

Received earlier today from a teacher I had at Syracuse University:

"I teach Tupac in my classes now when we talk about contemporary poetry. It always makes me think of you."

Aw shucks, even when I'm pregnant people still think I'm gangsta.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Average February Rents In New York City

Average February Rents -- NYC, originally uploaded by La Pauline.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Peppe Got A Lion's Cut!

Peppe the Lion, originally uploaded by thomasr9.

...and I've never seen him so happy since I first brought him home last December. He loves his groomer, Walter, and he loves going to the "spa."

He also slept on my head all last night. Ah, Persians.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Good Things To Read!

The Secret Formula That Destroyed Wall Street: Piece that simply explains the mathematical tools Wall Street was using that led to the mess we have on our hands now. You don't need to be a quant to understand it. (Wired)

To The Sun-Like Stars: Life Beyond Earth:
NASA to launch new telescope to scan sun-like stars in our galaxy in search of habitable planets. (Financial Times)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Buy Tom Zoellener's Book!

Tom Zoellner and I and His New Book, "Uranium"

There is a very real phenomenon called "Pregnancy Boredom," which usually kicks in around the fifth month. You've done all your tests and sonograms and now it's just time to...wait. For four months. Blergh.

It's definitely hit me and lately in addition to cheeseburgers and fruit smoothies, I've been craving serious intellectual stimulation. (No talk of baby products, please.) Luckily, my very good and old friend, Tom Zoellner, has a new book out about Uranium. I met Tom at a Blacktable party back in 2004, literally at the same time when I first met TR. TR and Tom were standing by a cooler talking, and I went over and started talking to them, mostly because no one else was talking to me. (Despite the awesome outfit I had on. Riddle me that.)

Tom is awesome because he's the guy who follows his passions -- mining, geology, Africa -- and has found a way to write about them for both fun and profit. He is man of science from the American west who will camp anywhere and has been been face to face with several breeds of African rebels. He also always comes to speak to my writing classes whenever I ask.

Tom's first book was about the diamond industry. Get it in paperback!

Tom will be talking about Uranium on March 12th on The Daily Show. Watch it!

He's also a great wedding date! Here were are as mere children, at my friend Laura's wedding in 2005.
Tom and I

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

New Huffington Post Column: Is He Not That Into You, Or Is He On Something?

Sometimes I am convinced that I am the only New Yorker not on some prescription med. I handle my business without it. But when meds go wrong, personal relationships can hurt.

Is He Just Not That Into You, Or Is He On Something

Central Park West Two Bedroom -- $2200

Upper West Side Two Bedroom -- $2200

It's a good week for apartments. Today I just got this listing for a true two bedroom that is literally steps from Central Park. New kitchen, great living/dining area and large bedrooms. High ceilings, hardwood floors. Lots of of closets. Can come with dining room table and chairs. NO FEE! Perfect for shares, Columbia students, etc.

New kitchen
Upper West Side Two Bedroom -- $2200

Upper West Side Two Bedroom -- $2200

Comes with dining room table and some other furniture
Upper West Side Two Bedroom -- $2200

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Sunny Chelsea Two Bedroom -- $3250

Chelsea Two Bedroom $3250

Here's a nice find in Cheslea: a true two bedroom in an elevator building with laundry. Quiet, tree-lined street just steps from Cookshop. Fully renovated, modern kitchen with dishwasher, big windows, central air, harwood floors, part-time doorman, live-in super. Pets OK!

Full specs and more photos here.

King sized bedrooms
Chelsea Two Bedroom $3250

Lots of closets.
Chelsea Two Bedroom $3250

Monday, March 02, 2009

Snow Day!

It's officially a snow day (orders from corporate!) so I think we'll start off with a musical selection. (Later on, I'm going to see the tax man!)

Over the weekend I rediscovered Dar Wiliams on iTunes, including my favorite song of hers, "I Saw A Bird Fly Away." It's short, catchy tune about how to deal with the nutcases who may drive you crazy, and how, in the end, slow and steady wins the race. The song's composition is simple, and it has excellent use of the wah-wah pedal. Listen for it.

While we're on the subject of karma, over the weekend I was watching some old episodes of Sex And The City on You Tube and I came across the scene below. It's my favorite scene in all of SATC.

Carrie was having an affair with Mr, Big, shortly after he married the young Natasha. Natasha caught her in their apartment, a chase ensued, Natasha fell down an flight of stairs and broke a tooth. The follow scene ensues weeks later, when Carrie tries in vain to apologize. It shows that you don't have to shout in order to get your point across, and that no matter how badly you're wronged, the universe irons itself out.