By Kathryn Baxter
I first started fantasizing about real estate in 2004. The woman who would later become my wife worried my obsession spoke of unhappiness. Why wasn’t I happy with our home, albeit a rental, where we lived and laughed and built our together-ness?
I wasn’t unhappy. I loved our home! But I really enjoyed thinking about real estate and loved imagining how to make something amazing in those spaces.
At that time, new websites were popping up on the Internet featuring photos, square footage, price and tax history of properties and, best of all, floor plans. I can look at floor plans all day. What walls are likely load bearing and thus too complicated to remove; what were the original builders thinking when putting a sink there; how much outdoor space is there? I fantasize about properties.
On one of our earliest dates, and still early in my real estate obsession, my future wife and I went on a post-brunch walk in my neighborhood and passed an enormous new glass condo building. I’d watched with envy as it was being built, but then there it was: A giant banner announcing the open house.
So, our Sunday walk led us to my fairy-tale glass castle. We decided to go inside. This was not a casual open house. We were required to put our names on a list and offer contact information before we could venture beyond the lobby. This was also my very first open house. We were given a brochure and asked which unit we were interested in. I, of course, took the lead. “We’re not sure,” I said offhandedly as though unimpressed, “but the one-bedroom might be up our alley.”
Allow me to put my situation in perspective. This was 2008, the economy was slowing but had not yet tanked, and I was real estate browsing in New York City, one of the most expensive cities in the country. At the time, I was sharing an apartment with a roommate and paying nearly equal amounts in rent and student loans. I had no real savings and had no business looking at seven-hundred-thousand dollar apartments.
Still, with our backs straight and our chins up, we allowed ourselves to be led through the exquisite lobby, up the elevator to the enormous one-bedroom apartment. The agent’s shoes clacked on the pristine tile hallway floors ahead of us while my Converse sneakers squeaked like a toddler’s.
The apartment’s kitchen featured endless, smooth white countertops. The expansive exterior glass walls overlooked a park, a courtyard and a library. It was downright dreamy. We awkwardly joked, still early in our relationship, that we could easily picture ourselves coming home to this kitchen, mixing one another a martini, staring out over our kingdom. It was heady stuff - this property and now also the fantasy of this incredible person in my future.
At that point, I hadn’t allowed myself to dream about the future of our relationship. It seemed like it would be testing fate and something that would only happen if allowed to do so organically. But dreaming about home-ownership was practical - something we have to plan for it if we want it. Sticking the woman of my dreams into the dream apartment fantasy was my sneaky subconscious at work.
We eventually left and went home to our respective apartments; hers with it’s terrible heating, a bunk kitchen with a refrigerator that didn’t close, and a clinical hoarder for a roommate. I returned to my apartment with its tiny kitchen, peeling linoleum floor, cement wall views, and neighbors who hung out in the hall asking for spare change. In our own ways, we loved our quirky apartments. They represented our adulthood, independence and freedom. But a bug was planted.
That was eight years ago this summer. We continued to rent together for a few years before we bought our condo. I could not be more grateful for that overzealous walk and the absolutely ridiculous fantasy life it conjured for us. We cite that day as our first thought of moving in together. Home ownership is a monumental responsibility for all, a milestone for many, a privilege for me. But mostly, it’s also a love story.