My new upstairs neighbor (the one who apparently opened Boston’s most popular bowling alley above my apartment) has motivated me to more actively search for a condo. I’d been holding out because, by Boston standards, I have a pretty good deal on my current place. In addition, the condo market seems to be getting progressively better for the buyer…and I still suspect that prices and availability will drop even further over the next 12 months.
But enough is enough with the noise. Besides, I’ve been renting for nearly two years now and I had only planned to rent for a year or so after starting my life over (I do have the flair for the drama, don’t I?).
I initially applied for an “affordable housing” unit. You see, Boston requires that all new condominium buildings (or apartment-to-condominium conversations) sell at least 10% of the available units at rates affordable to the median income. Even still, the place I applied for was still going to cost $223,500* for a 600 square foot one-bedroom. That said, despite a 10% downpayment, with mortgage, condo fees and taxes, my monthly expenses were still going to be around $1,650.00, excluding utilities (so much for “affordable”).
There were 233 applications submitted for the available “affordable” units. I was ranked 229. That means I was only 4 applications from the bottom of the list. I’m not sure who you have to blow to get closer to the top spot, but I’m suspecting that my eligibility in future affordable housing lotteries will be disappointingly similar.
Consequently, I’m looking at market-rate condominiums. I went and saw my first property yesterday. There’s an apartment building that’s being converted to condos over in the Fenway (not my first choice of neighborhoods for various reasons, but close to my price range). The units in the building are all nearly identical; loft-style living with a front living/kitchen area with windows…a bathroom in the middle and a sleeping area in the back (no windows/no door). There is also what they consider “loft” space above the bathroom that could fit a mattress and nothing else (there is only about 3 feet of headspace before hitting the ceiling).
Yes, they’re being remodeled with hardwood floors, fresh paint and new appliances/cabinets. But the only units I could afford were on the lower floors overlooking a student-filled tenement apartment building. One of the units (the cheapest) was so close to the tenement building that I could literally hang out the window and hold hands with the tenant in the other building. The idential unit on a higher floor (still no view, but at least some sun) was $40,000 more. Did I mention that the units were just under 400 square feet (440 if you include the “usable” space over the bathroom). And a good chunk of the space was a useless hallway leading from living area to sleeping area.
This is depressing. I don’t want to live in the suburbs (yeah, the condo would be cheaper, but then I’d have the added expenses of a car, gas, insurance, tolls, parking). Besides, I work in Cambridge and two hour daily commutes (as I had when living in Salem…only 16 miles north of the city) are not something I want to return to, either.
I don’t think I’m asking for too much. I mean, I earn a decent wage. I’m fiscally responsible. Is it unreasonable to expect to be able to afford a simple 500 square foot space?
*What kills me is that, for shits-n-giggles, I checked out what real estate would cost in Charlotte, NC. A 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom HOUSE (not condo….HOUSE) can be had for $140,000.
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