You’d Better Shop Around


Photo from amsac via Flickr

Some people get off on brownstones. Me, I could take or leave them. My real estate fantasy would be to live in a renovated Singaporean shop house, interestingly the subject of a Great Homes and Destinations profile in the Times this week. The only difference is that would want mine to be rainbow sherbet colored, not plain white like the one featured in this article, and I would modernize the interior though probably not to the extent of this firm’s boutique hotel style. I’m ok with most Chinoiserie (though not in my house) and I can’t stand the zen bamboo, celadon pottery and Buddha statues aesthetic. It’s just as bad as terra cotta, dried chile peppers, hand-woven textiles and other Southwestern/Mexican trappings.

Singapore, like Hong Kong, isn’t particularly cheap for Southeast Asia (I’m still reeling over another Times article from last year written by the same author about a couple who rented for $12,470 a month). I think a great deal of the population live in subsidized apartment towers, kind of like projects minus the stigma and crime. Surprising to me, the prices on these narrow row houses are in line with townhouses in Carroll Gardens, hovering around the $2 million mark (I’m still not understanding how people can afford a $1.7 million fixer upper. James called a mortgage broker yesterday and was told that you need at least 40% down now, which would make all of the properties we’ve looked at so far nearly double the price of what we’d, or rather he’d, actually qualify for).

But this couple only paid $473,175 (back in 2001—did it really take eight years to remodel?). That’s reasonable, and is only going to revive my urge to move abroad (despite the sickness-filled foray to Singapore in December). It’s not even an unrealistic fantasy in the scheme of things. I have a job where I could work remotely (though technically a kibosh was put on any more employees going virtual last year. This strange thing happens when fellow researchers want to buy homes/get married/start families; they move to places like Virginia and Vermont. I wouldn’t call it a secret that librarians and those with librarian-ish salaries can’t live middle class lives in NYC without a partner who earns considerably more) and James’ company has an office in Singapore (as well as Manila and a Beijing one getting off the ground, though we both agreed after our China visit late 2007 that it would be a tough place to live. Shanghai, yes, Beijing, a little dreary. The weirdest thing is that James’ crazy mother told him he should buy property in Guangdong province. Who knows where she got that idea, it might be one of the more interesting one she’s had). My ultimate fantasy would be to split half the year in NYC and the other half in Asia. Though it’s hard to be rational when toughing out 12-degree temperatures. Was I not just boohooing the misery of sweltering tropical humidity two months ago?

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