Sunday, May 16, 2004

The Money Trap

My stomach is in knots. I fear that I might blow chunks at any minute. My brain can not hold a thought for more than a nano-second.

I think we bought a house.

Last week, after we got back from our week of tromping through the woods of PA and tossing a ball effortlessly in my in-laws backyard, I felt sure that we had to leave the city. I suddenly knew that it was the right thing for the kids. We can't afford an apartment right next to Central Park or a fancy private education. The four flights of stairs with the stroller and diaper bag have become onerous. It is too expensive to move within the city to a better apartment. We really have no other choice. We'll miss the city terribly -- the community life and the museums. But finally, FINALLY, the pros outweigh the cons. We have to move right away and make some compromises.

To find new possibilities, I made a chart of all the towns in the area. With a column for schools and a column for commute time. (Feel free to mock me now.) And I narrowed it down to Hillsdale, New Jersey, which seemed to have both. The house? We didn't care. Any shack would do.

We made an appointment with the real estate agent for Saturday who promised us three good options.

On Saturday morning, I got calls from all my friends. The NY Times real estate section had just written a cover article about the town highlighting what I just found out. Good schools and a short commute. Argh! The two-income hordes would descend with open checkbooks and push us out again.

We raced over to the newly exposed town and put a bid on house #3. It is a big old home. With good bones, like lots of oak trim and a front porch. But it has suffered from neglect and a bad divorce. We're going to have to do lots of work with sledge hammers and paint brushes, if everything works out.

There is a lot that will just have to remain undone for years. Like putting in a proper stove and a new kitchen cabinets. And questions will have to remain unanswered until we can afford the answers. Like what do you suppose is under that drop ceiling? And why did they put a coat closet in front of a window. Is there wood under the lineoleum? Will the boiler make it through another winter?

In the meantime, we can grill burgers in the backyard, my husband can walk to the train station, and I'll be flopped on the sofa with a book next to a baywindow.

We put in a bid. They upped it by a little and told us about the gutter problem. We accepted. Tomorrow we'll call the bottom crawling lawyers and I suppose that's it. Provided the inspectors don't find bugs. Good Lord, what have we done?

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