After years of watching my rent jump like a poodle on fruit loops, I decided to consider buying a con a dominium in Los Angeles. A condominium in Los Angeles costs as much as a house in other parts of the country, yet offers all the comforts of an apartment, My accountant approvingly noted the tax advantages of home ownership. My income does tend to fluctuate like the aforementioned poodle on fruit loops, but darn it, home ownership is practically guaranteed in the constitution. I don’t think it’s in the first ten amendments, but I’m almost positive it’s right after abolishing slavery. It’s a little-known fact that Abe Lincoln was secretly studying for his real estate license, Lincoln hated practicing law and was looking to take advantage of an anticipated boom in property values after the Civil War ended. Curiously, John Wilkes Booth wore a mustard colored blazer to the Ford Theatre. He was desperate to get the White House listing.
I started studying the real estate ads in the Sunday paper to educate myself. Real estate has a whole language all its own. Take the term, “curb appeal.” This means that the house looks better from the curb than it does on the inside. Such homes are perfect if you happen to live by the curb. “Cute” is another real estate word which can be automatically substituted for small. I saw places that were so cute, Barbie and Ken were waiting for me at the curb. Many places were artfully described as needing “a little TLC.” A child who falls down and skins a knee needs tender loving care. These places were dumps that could tax the resources of a Home Depot and make Bob Villa beg for mercy.
In Los Angeles land is expensive; the house itself is cheap. On the East Coast the lots are bigger and people have lawns. Homeowners take pride in their vast acreage. No one in Los Angeles has a real lawn. In order to compensate for this deficiency, area homeowners hire gardeners with leaf blowers to disturb domestic tranquility and use tweezers to manicure mats of astroturf.
I grew up watching the Beverly Hillbillies on television and have always wanted to live there. I checked my finances and came to the stunning realization that I was about two million bucks short of the necessary capital for an entry-level shack in Beverly Hills. I looked to the east, a stretch of Shangri La known as Beverly Hills adjacent. An Aaron Spelling Production called 90210 Adjacent is sure to follow. Homeless people can now take pride in being shelter-adjacent.
After much searching, I was able to find a place I thought I could afford without auctioning a kidney on eBay. Much to my surprise, my real estate agent was firm in his belief that only a full price offer stood any chance of acceptance. Even though the asking price was thousands more than any previous sales in the building. my agent told me this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and if I didn’t go for it, hellfire and damnation were sure to follow.
I broke open my piggy bank. My offer was accepted and I was in escrow. My task shifted to finding some Enron like institution to loan me money. It turned out that my habit of paying bills on time was not only socially acceptable, but also desirable. I was informed that I had a good credit score. I didn’t even study for the test.
As a self-employed person, I had the privilege of declaring my own income on the loan application. I declared that someday I would be a millionaire and declined to specify when that momentous day would be. I consulted with my loan broker about how to proceed. He gently suggested some numbers, which were adjacent to reality. The last hurdle to getting the loan was paying the closing costs. The reason they are called closing costs is because it takes stitches to close the financial hemorrhaging. It was like playing poker and putting all my money in the pot just to see the last card.
I was completely exhilarated when my broker told me my loan was approved. Finally, I was on my way to becoming landed gentry… or maybe it was closer to the pilot episode of The Jeffersons. At least I could tell my landlord to go jump in the nearby ocean, because I was moving up and out.
Moving out was an epic adventure. I had no appreciation for just how much stuff I managed to accumulate in my life thus far until I had to move it to my new place. The movers I hired looked just like movie stars. Unfortunately, it was a prison movie. Upon arrival, I was informed that a tip was expected at the end of the move. I mumbled something about Tony Soprano and extortion. These references sailed over their rather stocky heads-apparently neither gentleman is an HBO sub scriber. I sensed something was amiss at the end of the day, when the movers drove me directly to a furniture store. Being landed gentry isn’t as easy as it looks.
by Gene Feldman