Is It Unreasonable?

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.


  1. Comment by Doug on September 27, 2006 11:02 am

    I know you dont want the burbs baby….but have you considered Arlington or Cambridge? The market is getting good everywhere now…..Funny that you picked Charlotte, when I was considering a move (prior to Mom’s illness) I had picked Charlotte as a potential location. When I did a property search I assumed 225 -250 K would be reasonable. Hell it would have bought me the Carrington Mansion from Dynasty. Im talking 5-6 bedrooms, 3 baths, swimming pool etc etc etc….

  2. Comment by snarl on September 27, 2006 11:55 am

    I’m TOTALLY willing to try Cambridge, Brookline and even Somerville (for those of you not from the Boston area, those are separate cities immediately surrounding downtown Boston).

    Arlington is a bit too inconvenient (with no subway access). And the affordable places in Somerville are nowhere near the subway, either.

    There is one place in Cambridge that appeals to me…

  3. Comment by karyn on September 27, 2006 11:57 am

    You’re preaching to the choir, baby. I feel your pain. Oh, how I feel your pain.

  4. Comment by Erica on September 27, 2006 12:31 pm

    My friend j just bought a nice place in Somerville about a 12 min walk from HLS for the mid-200’s (I don’t know the exact). There are definitely some decently sized options at reasonable prices, certainly tons (i mean TONS) better than what you’re describing from Fenway.

    It would be so totally awesome if you moved to this side of the river…

  5. Comment by J.P. on September 27, 2006 2:03 pm

    Now you know why I lived in fsckin’ Shrewsbury when I lived in Massachusetts. 🙂

  6. Comment by Fred on September 29, 2006 1:47 am

    What about Dogfester? (Dorchester) – it’s on the Red Line, has become much more funky-random-gay-and-ethnic than the South End has been in ages, and has some good places – lots of BIG (like 800+ sq. ft.) triple-decker conversions that can probably be had for $250K…you get closer to $300 and they get really nice…

    Jes’a thought…

  7. Comment by Sam on December 7, 2008 7:13 am

    You should check out the property in Dublin, Ireland, then you would be grateful. I was renting a room in New York for a while and when I came back to Ireland I am now paying(twice) as much. I pay 2400 for a small one bedroom apartment in the city centre. These Motherf**ckers are screwing the people, and there is nothing we can do because that is Dublin. Thankfully(I say this with a little apprehension), the property market has just bellied in Ireland and prices seem to be going down. I always think living in the suburbs means living in a new city, don’t do it. As bad as Dublin is – living outside Dublin, Berlin Paris is a big pain in the ass. I have lived on the suburbs of 5 major cities – one spends the money commuting anyway….

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