Chatting About Letting The Children Choose The Real Estate

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Nicole: Hi! It’s the first day of spring! I’m wearing pink. Are you still dealing with the miserable winter weather thing? Winter Storm Aziraphale or whatever?

Ester: Yes, thank you, it’s very unpleasant. I went out anyway to get a free salad, though, because I was so excited to have earned it. What have you done / what are you going to do to celebrate?

Nicole: I haven’t done anything yet, but I am going to go see Cinderella tonight with friends, and I’m also really secretly excited about the Frozen Fever short that they’re running before the movie. (Yes, I am a grown woman.) Are you doing anything to celebrate?

Ester: Hahaha that sounds nice! I really want to do something like that, something that involves going out, since I realized Ben and I have had one date in two months. It’s not coincidental — the one time we went out in February, for our anniversary, friends came and stayed with Lara; it’s just so expensive to get a babysitter, and as it is, when we added up the figures for tax time, we realized we spent over $20,000 on childcare in 2014. When I saw that I laughed til I cried and then I cried til I passed out. It was fun.

Nicole: That is incredible. I feel like making one of those old-person statements: “When I was a teenager I only charged $5 an hour for babysitting!”

Ester: Yeah, man, THOSE DAYS. They are gone. We don’t want to pay someone sad, gross wages, but unfortunately that means we end up not paying anyone at all, because $15 an hour or more adds up. But clearly I am the only person worrying about money in the city of New York right now, because did you read that article in the Times about how children are helping their parents pick up fancy apartments

Nicole: OH MY GAWWWWW yes. That made the rounds of Team Billfold this morning and WAS IT EVER.

Ester: Yeah, I know, I’m asking “So, did you read that … ?” trying to seem all casual when we’ve been shrieking about it behind the scenes. Oh well, cover blown!

Nicole: Shhhh, don’t tell the audience about our backstage magic! Anyway, yes, we read it, and it is—I mean, I had a lot of feelings about it. On the one hand, I’m all for giving children independence and the ability to contribute to real-world decisions like which $14 million home to buy. On the other hand, the old-person part of me is all, “You do not let your child choose your home!” And then the cranky part of me is all FOURTEEN MILLION DOLLARS.

Ester: I’m all for giving kids independence but, like, by letting them walk to the playground, not make crucial real estate decisions. It’s even scarier when the kids seem smarter than their parents though:

Sometimes the children apply the brakes instead of stepping on the gas. Ms. Arroyo recently went to check out an apartment in Midtown, Alexandre in tow. It had three bedrooms and everything else the family was looking for, and the building was great. “My son saw me getting excited and began looking at the sell sheet,” Ms. Arroyo said. “As I was asking the broker a few more questions, Alexandre was tugging at my sleeve and saying, ‘Mommy, Mommy. Look at the maintenance!’”

The number was astronomical, she said. “That’s why the apartment was so well priced. He had noticed and I hadn’t,” Ms. Arroyo added ruefully. “And I was like ‘O.K., broker, have a nice day. This deal is not going to happen.’”

They all have names like that, btw. “Skye van Merkensteijn” and “Alexandre” with the E and R reversed. And it seemed like “Xanthippe Lannister Vorhees” was satire.

Nicole: Well, when I was a kid growing up in rural Missouri, I wanted to name my future children Alexandra and Blaise and Charlotte, so I’m tickled to see that it wasn’t just me, that I was predicting trends there.

Ester: BLAISE. Wasn’t there a Slytherin named Blaise? Again, I’m only pretending to ask; of course I remember there was a Blaise. I even think his last name was Zambini. Does that sound right to you? Anyway, do you think these kids read news clipping about themselves and realize, “Jesus God, I’m a Slytherin”?

Nicole: If they’re making savvy real-estate decisions, or—like that anecdote in the NYT story—hearing one of their friends say “someone in our building is moving” and immediately running to their parents to say “buy that apartment!” … that seems like a pretty Slytherin thing to do.

Ester: Totally. When I was in middle school, by the way, I wanted to name my daughters “Cyria,” “Sienna,” and “Midnight.” Those girls would probably have been Ravenclaws. Your Alexandra and Charlotte have a shot at Gryffindor.

Nicole: Cyria would definitely have been a Ravenclaw. (Also I didn’t answer your question earlier; it’s Blaise Zabini.)

Ester: So close! So embarrassingly close. Of course, Zabini, not Zambini; he’s not an ice-cleaning machine.

Nicole: That’s a Zamboni.

Ester: I know! But Zambini sounds too much like it for Rowling to have chosen it. Anyway, did we learn anything useful or important from this article besides to stay out of Manhattan?

Nicole: Well, kids can often be privy to real estate news that has not yet reached the market. The underground preteen lunchroom conversation can be full of potential real estate deals.

Ester: If your children hang out with the right crowd, anyway. I don’t remember ever overhearing any real-estate scuttlebutt when I was a kid. Also we never moved, so it wasn’t really on my radar. Did you move while growing up in Missouri?

Nicole: My folks moved when my sister and I were in elementary school. I was going into sixth grade. I remember them showing us the house before they bought it, but I don’t remember being a big part of the discussion. It’s also important to keep in mind that my hometown is barely five miles wide; we moved over a few blocks and that was it.

Ester: Do you know why you moved?

Nicole: I mean, I have some very educated guesses. The first house we moved into when my folks moved us to Missouri (when I was 8 years old) was an 1890s farmhouse. Really old, kinda falling apart. Also, none of the rooms had any doors, including the bedrooms. Somebody had gone through and taken all the doors away.

So after three years of living there, we moved into this gorgeous 1904 house that had doors. Also a lot of other features: original woodwork, etc.

Ester: Wow! Yes, doors are important. Though I guess one could have replaced them, rather than move? But it sounds like the new house was an improvement. That reminds me that I ran across an ad for a property, on sale for $40,000, that seemed pretty dreamy.

This quiet property is bordered on the south side by a small, pretty stream which is accessible by a short trail through the forest. For gardeners there are several raised beds and the beginnings of a vineyard-which needs some attention.There are four structures on the property. One rustic large (mostly finished) passive solar 1200 square foot post and beam straw/bale home built in 2005,a small 310 square foot cordwood masonry workshop/guest house, a tiny 200 square foot straw bale/post and beam art studio, a shed for storage and firewood, and lastly there is even a cordwood masonry dog house.

Four structures for five figures! Not bad.

Nicole: Oh wow! I kept scrolling through that listing waiting for “the catch,” but it looks 100 percent gorgeous. You should ask Babygirl whether she thinks you should move there.

Ester: Great idea! She’ll look at me seriously, wipe her nose with her sleeve, and say, “My favorite color is red.” Toddlers love a good non-sequitor.

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