I’ve thought about buying a house/condo/apartment several times over the years. When I first moved to New York in 2010, I even had a conversation with the broker that helped me find my first apartment in South Williamsburg about what I would be looking for.
However, my money didn’t go nearly as far as I expected, and even if I managed to save up a down payment, at most I’d be getting a studio or tiny one bedroom for no less than half of a million. As the years went on the prices just went up. The idea of buying went from attainable but hard to stomach to near impossible. Even looking for spaces that needed a little work was an exhausting task and supply was low.
I spent most of my years in Brooklyn in that first apartment on Roebling Street. I lived by myself for a while. Then I had a series of roommates. Some not so great. One that became one of my best friends (I was a groomswoman in his wedding last year).
It was 800 square feet, a true one bedroom but realistically too small for two people. A pre-war walk-up boasting a mini-size sink in the bathroom as a luxury. One of those places where the appliances are slightly miniature and closets don’t exist. The location was convenient to trains and walkable to the excitement off the Bedford L and the DIY venues on Kent. But it was also right on the on-ramp to the Williamsburg bridge where you heard every single siren, truck and motorcycle parade making their way to the city.
But it was mine.
It had hardwood floors, brand new cabinets and was freshly painted. The supers in the building had lived in the neighborhood since birth and they were very kind to me. There was a 24-hour bodega on the corner, in which the proprietors became some of my first friends in the city due to my original night schedule at The Times. The master bedroom fit my queen-size bed and my bike hung like a work of art appropriate for Brooklyn living at the time.
I lived in that apartment for more than five years, more time than I had spent anywhere since leaving my childhood home for college at age 18.
By the time the building was sold and I moved out South Williamsburg was really starting to develop. Glasslands, 285 Kent and Death By Audio were closed and Vice was moving in. The Domino Sugar Factory was slated for demolition. Luxury rentals were going up. I frequented Output and Verboten near Bedford but I increasingly felt alienated from the culture there. My friends were departing for Bushwick and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. I worried about my beloved grocery Mr. Piña’s surviving the transition.
The girls that moved in after me rented the place for $2900. More than $1000 more than what I originally moved in for.
New York City real estate is not for the faint of heart.
When I met Joe and we decided to move in together a couple years later, even though it was bittersweet to think about leaving Brooklyn, I was easily wooed by Jersey City and the promise of having my very own laundry room. The question of buying in Jersey, with it’s still developing neighborhoods, larger spaces, beautiful views, easy transport to Midtown and two incomes became a much easier one to address.
If you had asked me five years ago if I would ever live in New Jersey, let alone buy a house here, I probably would have smiled and look at you quizzically and politely said, no. It’s one of the givens of life, though, that the least expected opportunities arise when you aren’t planning for them.