Tales of a Reluctant Brooklyn Renter

It seems like such a short time ago. The sky was falling. Heavily inflated New York real estate prices were deflating in 2009, and there were deals, deals, deals to be had.

Well, sort of. There was, at least, this lovely three-bedroom (left) in Brooklyn's family-friendly neighborhood of Windsor Terrace -- not exactly tony Park Slope, my longtime neighborhood, but a nice place with good schools and good neighbors. They eventually reduced the asking price from $649,000 to $599,000.

I didn't pounce on it. The sky had further to fall, I was certain. And there would be plenty of places just like it.Well, it seems the sky has lifted, and homes like that are nowhere to be found. Housing starts are up in 2010. Condos that were suffering last year reduced prices and are flying off the shelves. Even projects pronounced dead are alive and breathing easy; Fort Greene's Forte condo, for instance, is just about sold out.

That's not what I'm personally looking for -- a highly modern, super high-rise on the edge of a desirable neighborhood. I recently met a high-rise architect in the laundromat (yes, I am looking for a home with a washer/dryer, please) who said she'd never live in any of the buildings she helped design -- the fireproofing companies, she said, do shoddy work. But, boy, would I like to move! Seventeen years in a fourth-floor walk-up takes its toll, especially when you're lugging a baby up and down the stairs. And the laundry.

But while there are plenty of reports that insist the housing market is still suffering and deals should continue to abound, my personal experience, at least out here in over-hyped South Brooklyn, is that the market is hot. Too hot. Impossible to touch. I'm fighting my way through throngs at open houses, and by the time I put my name down on the "interested" list, there's an offer on the joint.

There's an upside to this: it's giving me time to reconsider my interest in being a homeowner. Check out some listings in my zip code, where I am lucky enough to have a rent-stabilized pad. The prices are still outrageous. How about this three-bedroom home, with only one bath, on a not particularly desirable block in a crummy school district. The price: $1.3 million. Imagine what you could get for that in Ames, Iowa, which is purportedly a very desirable place to live.

In fact, more than half a million dollars for less than 1,000 square feet? In a walk-up? With no outdoor space? Never mind lamenting the one that got away. To the rest of the country, our real estate market is still outrageous, still inflated, still just plain too much to ask. And yet owners are asking. And buyers are saying yes.

Well, not this non-buyer. On the other hand, if you have a relatively affordable three-bedroom near the park in a good school district... I'm listening.
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