The Mystic and Skeptic hunt for a townhouse

So, we’re casually looking for a permanent place. We’re in absolutely no hurry, and we may end up just continuing to rent: we have a skyline view apartment with a generous-sized patio, on a major busline with a library right across the street and amazing food every few steps. The only major drawbacks the place has is the shared laundry facility and the no dogs allowed policy. As long as we rent, I won’t own pets: the financial burden and the restrictions, along with the cost of the pet care just don’t make financial or emotional sense to me. I’d rather be in a good place to provide for myself and my puppy; if having the puppy creates a strain, I’ve defeated the entire purpose of bringing a pet into my home. I’ve been to far too many dinner parties where cat women carry on about the health complaints of cats and dogs and in the next breath mention constant financial struggle; not only is this terrible behavior when it goes on too long, it’s a sobering preview into their old age. These are the same people that will tell you all about how their dialysis appointments went, including the color that the urine was that day.

If we can get a townhouse or condo in a decent location (we plan to stay inside Minneapolis) for a decent price – and its amenities outweigh what we enjoy right now – we’ll take it.

Before someone lets fly a volley of “recommendations” please allow me to stop you dead. Mike and I, like yourself, have a specific lifestyle we have worked out for ourselves based on our shared values and personal/professional pursuits.  A living arrangement that works for you may very well not work for us. So please spare me the details on the awesome place in Saint Paul with the claw foot bathtub and copper roofing. I know tons of people will love it. We won’t.

The requirements we’re looking for in general:

  • Built after 1980 (makes computer stuff easier)
  • Washer/dryer hookup
  • Dishwasher in kitchen
  • Central air (after twenty years with a wall unit a/c, this is NOT negotiable)
  • 1000 sq. feet minimum (I refuse to let us turn into people who gather decades of crap.)
  • Reasonable homeowner association fees
  • In Minneapolis. Not the suburbs. Not Saint Paul (and if there’s an exception, I’m not telling you until later.) Minneapolis.

It doesn’t appear on real estate listings, but there are other factors we have to consider. Much of it revolves around how we live in our day-to-day lives.

  • We are a one car household, and we make efforts to minimize car use. Access to public transit matters.
  • We need a home that we can put on Xcel’s windpower program. I’m not wearing Birckenstocks and I use my garbage disposal instead of composting everything but I along with Mike have strong interests in energy efficiency.
  • I need space to grow food. I am growing food in my current 1000 sq ft. apartment right now; floor plans and balcony plans are part of this consideration.
  • I wouldn’t sneeze at underground parking, especially in the winter.

We’re looking for places that suit our basic daily activities. For Mike, that’s basically a place to crash, play on the computer and go to work. For me it’s a place where I write, run my perfume business, exercise/dance (floor space), practice my religion, read, sleep, meditate, watch TV and cook.

A ritual room would be lovely for me. Mike has also mentioned that he would love to have an actual library in our home (even though I’m trying to phase out as many books as I can right now.) We’ve also kicked around a meditation space, a home office for Mike that he can write off, or a guest room. The extra rooms would be nice, but not required.

So, with this criteria in mind we’ve been looking over local real estate listings. Lots look great on paper, but I have a feeling that there are many that will not appeal to me so much in person. Yesterday’s adventure was just such an example.

Mike and I went to look at a townhouse yesterday. Mike liked it: the price was good, the building is new, he can easily turn a blind eye to the neighborhood problems I would have to deal with on a daily basis. I have to admit that the kitchen fit my minimum requirements, a fireplace is a nice but unnecessary amenity, and the place was built to maximize as much natural lighting as possible.

I hated it before we walked in the door. The real estate agent began with, “This place is really cute!” from that moment, I knew it would be a testament to factors in American living that I absolutely hate. Along with the neighborhood being in a high-traffic spot within walking distance of a large shopping complex on Lake Street, the view on one side was industrial trucks and on the other was a neighbor’s chaotic backyard. There was virtually no space for a book case – every room that could, had a closet installed, along with several along hallways. The bedroom actually had three closets; I’m sure most people would have plotzed.

In fact, along with three stories of carpeting I’d be stuck vacuuming with no help from the Roomba, the entire place was a testament to collecting shit you don’t need. Most people in our position would have loved it. The real estate agent tried to hard to sell to that factor, too – “Oh, I couldn’t go back from my five bedroom now. Too much stuff!”

We have stuff. We have a lot of stuff. In fact, I spend a good chunk of every year corralling, editing, and getting rid of stuff. I also, thanks to my time on credit counseling, now work hard to repurpose and reuse what stuff I have. While on paper the decoupage box shipping arrangement isn’t fabulous, in terms of stuff control – and thus lifestyle management – it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

The other major count against the property is that while it had two “balconies” one allowed not even enough space to walk out on, and the other wouldn’t even fit our current deck patio furniture. I don’t want to buy any new furniture for the first four years after a move. I also need the freedom to grow things – while I’m not at a point where I’ve made a dent in our grocery budget, I’m well on my way there, and I’d lose all that education and effort in a blitz of settling “up” that would take away some of the things I value most about my life right now.