November 17, 2013

House Hunters: I want to wake up in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of

Description: India-born Ekta and Sahil love working in the heart of Manhattan, and after a year of renting in Jersey City, they'd like to buy their first home in the big city. But in a town where property sells for $1000 per square foot, their $425,000 budget won't buy them much space, especially when they're determined to get amenities like a doorman, elevator and gym! Will the couple settle for a tiny space, or venture outside the city to find the starter home of their dreams?
Available on

So I really like the song Empire State of Mind but the line, "Concrete jungle where dreams are made of," makes me crazy because it makes no sense grammatically. And grammar is kind of important.

But anyway, today's house hunters are Sahil and Ekta and they are both originally from Mumbai. They were acquaintances there and moved to New York separately. They met up again through a mutual friend and now they are engaged, which is kind of cute.

They are currently renting a one-bedroom apartment in Jersey City, NJ, but they want to buy in Manhattan. I was just on vacation in New York less than a month ago and I know sometimes Chicagoans are weird about New York, but I'll go ahead and say it: I LOVE NEW YORK. This whole New York vs Chicago rivalry thing is stupid because 1.) we should combine forces and focus on the real enemy, LA, and 2.) New York wins. The only things Chicago has New York beat on are alleyways (and, to be fair, we got a do-over), Chicago Cards (but not Ventra Cards; Ventra is a pile of garbage on top of a mound of turds), and pizza. Yeah, I said it. Chicago pizza is better than New York pizza. I know there's been some controversy about it this week, but this isn't even up for debate. And like the only argument they have in favor of NY pizza is semantics. Like deep dish pizza isn't technically "pizza" and is a casserole. Does no one remember freshman English? A rose by any other name! Hit up Pequod's in Lincoln Park and then let me know which city has better pizza. (I think technically Pequod's is pan pizza, which I once got in a fight with my friend Mario about because I said it was deep dish and he said it was pan, but I can admit when I'm wrong. Mario, you were right.) Suck it, New York pizza. Although Di Fara in Midwood was very good. So was Sbarro.

BUT ANYWAY, Sahil and Ekta want a studio or one-bedroom apartment with an elevator, parking, a doorman, and a gym that's close to the subway for $425,000. Yeah, good luck with that. The narrator narrates oddly that they could afford to spend more but they want to keep on a budget, which seems like an odd thing to point out. Like Sahil and Ekta told the producers, "Let them know we can afford more and aren't poor!" or something like that.

They say they want to buy because everyone in Mumbai owns their home and they don't understand why so many people in New York rent. From my understanding, New York is the only city in America where it make more sense financially to rent rather than buy. I don't remember where I read that.

Their realtor is Alejandro and he's concerned that their expectations and budget aren't gonna match up.

Alejandro says that he can only show them what's out there for those prices and that even though he looks like Jesus, he can't perform miracles. I'm pretty certain Jesus had perfect vision and didn't have layers in his hair.

Apartment #1 is a 440 square foot studio in Hell's Kitchen for $439,000. The building has an elevator, a doorman, and a gym like they wanted, but Ekta doesn't like that they have shared laundry and not in-unit laundry. Then you should have put in-unit laundry on your wish list. Alejandro tells them that only 7% of apartments in New York have in unit laundry. He's probably bullshitting them because 37% of statistics are made up, but if it's true I'm guessing those 7% of apartments cost way more than $425,000. 

The apartment opens to the bathroom on the left and the kitchen to the right.

The kitchen, what there is of it, is new and they love the stainless steel appliances. Of course.

Ekta doesn't like the view from the apartment and says, "The view, when you look outside, it doesn't give you Manhattan city views, so that's something that bothers me." No shit, Sherlock; your budget is only $425,000, even though you can allegedly afford more.

Sahil asks, "Am I missing something in this apartment?" and Ekta responds, "It's a studio." So yeah, you're missing a bedroom. I could probably live in this space by myself - it seems like if you configured it correctly you could have a sitting area - but no way could I live here with someone else. You would be on top of each other all the time.

The bathroom is small-ish but nice and it has heated floors.

Apartment #2 is a 450 square foot studio in the Financial District for $469,000. Sahil doesn't like that the apartment is so far out of their budget, but for the extra money they get an elevator, a doorman, a gym, and parking, like they wanted.

This apartment is 10 square feet bigger than the first apartment, but I think it looks smaller.

Maybe it's that storage unit.

Which also happens to be a murphy bed. I don't care if it makes the apartment roomier, I could not do a murphy bed. I think it's because of the Great Muppet Caper. Alejandro tells them that the murphy bed makes the apartment a "one-bedroom convertible," but then says to the camera, "One-bedroom convertible, I totally made that up." Anyone else think Alejandro's kind of a douchebag?

They kind of have a view of the Statue of Liberty as long as they lean over awkwardly.

There's a galley kitchen and they like that you don't have to walk through the kitchen to get to the living space. 

The bathroom is newly renovated.

Apartment #3 is actually in the house hunters' current building in Jersey City and is a one-bedroom, 750 square foot condo for $425,000. Alejandro is just there as a friend and advisor because, as he tells the camera, "I'm not licensed in the state of New Jersey, nor do I care to be licensed in the state of New Jersey As far as I'm concerned, we're in the tundra." Ok. 1.) The tundra? Does he even know what tundra means? As far as I know, New York and New Jersey have exactly the same weather and growing seasons. "Tundra" doesn't mean the same thing as like "the sticks," which is what I think he was going for. 2.) This is why New Yorkers get a bad rap. Every New Yorker I've talked to while visiting has been really nice and really helpful (except for this one guy who seemed like he did way too many drugs in the 70's who got in my face but I was listening to music at the time and couldn't really tell what was happening so I just kept walking, which is why I always listen to music whenever I'm out, except when I'm walking by myself late at night). But there's always a guy like this, who thinks there's nothing worthwhile outside of New York and will say that to anyone and everyone. Dollars to donuts this guy isn't even originally from New York. The transplants are the ones that front the most.

BUT ANYWAY, apparently this apartment is just like their current apartment,but everything's on the opposite side, and there's carpeting instead of hardwood. Ekta doesn't like carpeting and I totally agree. I wouldn't go so far as calling it unhygienic, but I do think it's gross.

They don't like how the kitchen is kind of closed off to the rest of the living space. Alejandro says that the kitchen is pretty dated. Apparently these days anything that isn't stainless steel is outdated, but the kitchen doesn't seem that old, just really white. Alejandro says that since the stove is electric, their electric bill is going to be $150 to $200 a month. Yeah, that's not true. I've lived in apartments with electric stoves before and the electric bills were not that high at all

They have skyline views of Manhattan, which is a perk of living on the other side of the river.

There's a walk-in closet in the bedroom, which is something they would for sure not get on their budget in New York.

Ekta, Sahil, and Alejandro discuss the three apartments over dinner. Apartment #1 was in a good location and had a gym but it was the smallest. Apartment #2 was also in a good location and had lots of amenities but was the most expensive. Apartment #3 is the largest and the cheapest but wasn't in Manhattan. 

They pick apartment #3. This means that since Alejandro did not deign to get his license in New Jersey, he does not get a commission. 

So because Alejandro cannot act on their behalf, Sahil studies up on real estate laws and negotiates himself.

And he must be pretty good at it because they get the apartment for $374,000, $51,000 less than the asking price. Get it, Sahil.

Since they saved so much money they were able to renovate right away.

It's not my style, but they did a nice job.

And now to cuddle up like a couple of newlywedssit on opposite ends of the couch and watch a movie.

September 28, 2013

House Hunters: J+J+J

Description: Jodie loves her adopted city of Chicago so much that she's decided to buy her first home. She wants a loft space close to work with high ceilings and character, two bedrooms, a gym and a view. But her budget may not match up with reality. Luckily, she has her sister-in-law, Jamie, and her childhood-friend-turned-agent, Josh, to help her navigate the city's condo market.
Available on

So today's house hunter is Jodie.

Jodie says she's 31. I'll eat my hat if she actually is 31. Some facts about her that I don't dispute is that she works in ad sales and is originally from St. LouisNellyville. She enjoys "running on the lake." Running on the lake, Jesus?

Helping her with her house hunt is her sister-in-law Jamie.

Jamie has bought homes in Chicago before, so I guess this makes her an expert or something? I don't know; she seems like one of those women who gave up her job when she had kids and now like thinks she's an expert at organizing and decorating and like anything home-related and that like gluing a strand of beads to the bottom of a lamp shade is the equivalent to actually having a career in interior design.

Jodie's realtor is her friend from Nellyville, Josh.

J+J+J discuss Jodie's wish list. She wants a timber loft with skyline views, high ceilings, an open floor plan, and an updated kitchen in River North for $300,000. Josh doesn't know if she's going to be able to get all of that for $300,000 in River North.

And the camera pulls back and there are like 17 other people at the table.

House #1 is a 1 bed, 1 bath 900 square foot condo in River North for $290,000. Jodie doesn't like that there's only one bedroom, but there is a gym in the building, which she wanted. 

Josh holds the door open for Jodie and then Jamie starts to walk in and Josh totally cuts her off. It was amusing.

Jodie likes the kitchen and the black appliances, but Jamie says, "It's not stainless steel, which we were kind of hoping for." We?

The living room is right there too, so Jodie got the open floor plan she wanted.

Josh points out she has city views off the balcony. As long as you lean over the railing. 

The bedroom isn't as big as Jodie wants and she doesn't like that there isn't any natural light. I have a window in my bedroom that's only there to comply with the fire code and it opens to a wall, so there's no sunlight ever, but it's awesome because you're not woken up by the stupid sun at 5:15 in the morning. 

Jodie isn't sure about the size of the whole space, but Jamie says, "You're not gonna live here forever. You're gonna end up in the suburbs one day with me." I saw this episode with my mom - who's like the nicest, least judgmental person - the last time I was at my parents' house and after Jamie said that my mom was like, "Ok, I hate her." According to my mom, you never move out of the city. Although it should be noted that we spent 11 years not in Chicago because of my dad's job.

House #2 is a 2 bed, 2 bath 1300 square foot condo in the west loop for $265,000. The building has a ton of amenities, including a freakin basketball court. Always go with the place that has a basketball court. 

This place is called Haberdasher Square? Amazing!

The condo has a large combined living room/dining room/kitchen. Jodie really likes the tin ceiling, and I agree.

The kitchen is pretty dated and not updated like Jodie wanted. And if you have to add an ugly support beam to your countertops, maybe reconsider going with concrete.

Jamie talking heads that "From all my past experience, I know that kitchens and baths are the biggest expenses." From all my HGTV viewing, I know that too. It's really just common knowledge at this point.

Jodie thinks the walls in the second bedroom are "very, very cool." Really? But...

"There's no door on this bedroom and the ceiling aren't even finished. Do you think that's going to be noisy for my guests?" Does Jodie even know what a loft is? Has anyone in this family ever even seen a chicken?

I really like the juxtaposition of the feminine decor of the master bedroom with the masculinity of the loft style. Jodie likes the size of the bedroom and the walk-in closet. But...

The master bathroom is pretty gross looking.

Jodie says she mostly likes the loft but is "disappointed in the cabinetry." Can you be "disappointed in" an inanimate object? You can be disappointed with it, but I'm fairly certain you can only be disappointed in people. Like my mom was when my sister was in college and drank too much one night and then overslept the next day and missed her bus from Urbana to Chicago, thereby missing my high school graduation. It's funny when your siblings screw up. Anyway, Jamie says she's "a little nervous about the location" of the loft. It's the west loop, not Humboldt Park, for Christ's sake.

Fucking yoga, of course.

House #3 is another loft in the sketchy west loop. It has 2 beds and 2 baths in 1150 square feet for $295,000. 

There's a skyline view from the living room that Jodie and Jamie just love. Jamie says, "This is like the ideal Chicago view, Jodie." And Jodie replies, "This like epitomizes everything I love about this city." And here is why people like Jodie and Jamie suck. They don't want to love a woman with a broken nose; they just want to live near tall buildings and trendy restaurants and overpriced boutiques and try to be as Sex and the City as they can be without having to move to New York. Remember when people who suck just stayed in the suburbs because they were scared of cities? Yeah...

Anyway, back inside the apartment, Jodie thinks the living room is too small and says she's "a little nervous about this overall living space." Jodie and Jamie seem to be "a little nervous" about a lot of things.

They check out the second bedroom and Jamie says that there is "not room for a bed," while literally standing next to a bed.

Thankfully the master bedroom is bigger than the second bedroom, but there's no door.

Again, it's a loft. You're lucky there are walls.

J+J+J go for a glass of wine+wine+wine and they discuss Jodie's three options. House #1 had a gym in the building and is close to Jodie's work, but it's small and there's only one bedroom. House #2 has that cute tin ceilings and has the 2 beds and 2 baths she wants, but the kitchen and bathroom need updating. House #3 had good views and 2 beds and 2 baths, but she didn't like the size of the living area. 

Jodie picks #2, which is the one I would have gone with too.

One month later Jamie and the fam visit Jodie and they say "Hiiiiiiiiiiiii" for like a really long time.

Jamie's painted over the stripes and I don't think this looks good. If you're going to do a contrast wall it should either be a completely different color, like three white walls and one green wall, or in a similar shade, like peacock blue and, well, a lighter shade of peacock blue. These two colors are way too random and don't relate to each other at all.