True Realty

During a recent dry spell--work, not love--I applied for a couple difference freelance positions on craigslist. The choicest one was writing a real estate blog for The Learning Annex. Me--blog? And get paid? Why, thank you!

Naturally, the longtime blog reader now asks the obvious question--exactly what real estate experience do I have? And of course, I have no professional experience, but I am a New Yorker, and that automatically puts me in the category of semi-obsessed hobbyist.

The two major categories of elevator conversation in Manhattan are weather and real estate. You could be trapped in the elevator with either Justin Timberlake or Justice Scalia and easily slip into the conversation about today's weather, or your apartment or neighborhood. Bear in mind that "real estate" in New York can include everything from rent-per-square-foot to the views from the fourth floor to which building Gwyneth Paltrow now lives in to what's happening with The Rent Control Board is doing. In New York, but especially Manhattan, real estate matters. It counts.

Most people from New York aren't born here (though it seems that most of those who were, never leave). So these shoebox-sized apartments aren't ridiculous to us. Sure, my entire apartment could fit into the biggest room in my parents' old house. But for nesters like me, who hates moving and feels traumatized even thinking about it, these unbelievably tiny apartments are our home. We decorate and paint and care for every teeny-weeny square foot, because this place is going to be our home.

I hadn't actually lived in an apartment before, except when I lived in London as a student. Five girls in two bedrooms at Earl's Court was horrendous, and made worse by the fact that we had no phone. My first New York apartment was a second floor studio provided by NYU Grad. This would have been fine, except I was sharing it, and I never got a night's sleep. (To those who live on the second floor, I salute you). My roommate was J. Big and blond, had the mother of all nasal New Jersey accents--despite having been raised in Weschester--which I found both grating and colorful. She was appalled that I did not know that The Notorious B.I.G and Biggie Smalls where the same person. I was appalled when, I told her my firm thesis was in was about period piece dramas, she asked me what my menstrual cycle had to do with anything.

And surprisingly, we got along, and moved into an apartment two blocks down. Here is where I learned about the mystery of key money (it's illegal) and landlords (ours was the American Legion) and earplugs on weekend nights. My new roommate was V. who was Indian but said her name in tongue-twisting way I'd never heard of. Jobless and supported by her father for over a year, she quickly had a harem of guys (all black) who kept her busy when her boyfriend wasn't around. But yet again, we all got along, and stayed in that apartment until they doubled our rent. (Unless a building is specified as rent stabilized, they can raise it however much they want. This I learned the hard way.

I've been ensconced in my current place for a while now, and over the years, I've acquired a fascination with New York real estate. Do you know I could buy an island in Italy for the price of a two-bedroom in the West Village? This is slightly appalling. But in a town where living rooms are converted into bedrooms by removable walls or curtains, where there's a difference between "light" and "view," where many bedrooms can't fit any more furniture than a queen-size bed, where tipping rates are constantly New York, you have to be addicted to real estate, just to survive.

Now, the Learning Annex blog will be a national one, and I'm sure it has a particular theme and tone that's different than this one. And while there are many New York real estate blogs, there are few national ones. And I welcome the knowledge. One day, when my books have sold a million copies or when I marry rich, I aspire to actually own property rather than temporarily squatted on it. Where, I don't know. I may not be in New York, so writing about national real estate sounds pretty helpful in the long run. And there's lots I want to learn. I hope to unravel the mystery that is a co-op board, the difference between assumed and balloon mortgages, how to deal with surveyors, where the good realtors go. I'll probably try to look everything up online, but I don't mind taking buying some books or even take a course or two. To be honest, I think I'll pick it up quickly, and have fun writing about it, getting wise about it.

The best part? Getting paid to browse listings. Before, I only did this during the Lottery Fantasy. Actually, the lottery fantasy consists almost entirely of real estate and vintage clothing. So if anyone needs a vintage clothing blog out there, just let me know).

And if the Learning Annex doesn't pick me for the gig--well, I'll still have this blog. A blog in a hand is worth two in the bush.

Hmmm...that always sounds so dirty...