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Those who have bought their dream homes in New York
REAL estate ads invariably pitch the home of one’s dreams, but how often does anyone actually find such a thing? For people who fixate on living in a certain neighborhood, on a certain block or even in a certain building, however, success only has to come once. And if they’re exceptionally lucky, clever or patient, they may get their wish.
These people go to remarkable lengths to snag their dream home. They hound real estate agents, besiege landlords, tack notes on doors, drive doormen crazy. They plant their names on waiting lists for hard-to-access buildings. They send beseeching letters to owners, promising to be model tenants. Even if they don’t spend the rest of their days in the home of their dreams — because even the happiest love affairs sometimes wind down or crash entirely — they rarely express regrets.
There’s a reason such obsessions flourish in New York. “In this city, we’re all walkers,” said Andrew Phillips, a Halstead broker who has received his share of “Call me the second the place becomes available” entreaties. “We pass the same building again and again, we walk down the same block, and we think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to live there?’ Being a New Yorker is being slightly voyeuristic. And as we take the same route over and over, our dreams start forming.”
The fact that demand typically outstrips supply compounds the yearning. “The available housing stock is so limited, so fought over,” Mr. Phillips said. “Plus, most people can’t afford exactly what they want. Plus everyone wants what they can’t have.”
For Helen Eisenbach, a writer, editor and longtime Upper West Sider, obsession took the form of an address in or near the East Village. “It’s this little pocket of New York that hasn’t disappeared or been homogenized,” Ms. Eisenbach said. “For decades I secretly dreamed of living there.” But a rent-stabilized studio in the West 90s kept her tethered uptown for more than 30 years. That her brother and her mother, now 90, also lived uptown exerted an additional pull.
The chain of events that dislodged Ms. Eisenbach began five years ago when her rent, by then destabilized, began escalating sharply. “I was on Streeteasy every day,” she said. “Sometimes I’d look forlornly at listings for places downtown, but I knew that was a dream that would never happen. I knew my family wanted me to be near them.”
Then her sister, Susan, a real estate buff who lives in London, arrived for a visit. “As always,” Ms. Eisenbach said, “the first question out of her mouth was, ‘Do you have any apartments for us to look at?’ I had three from Streeteasy that I’d saved out of sheer fantasy. We saw them the next day, and afterward Susan announced to the family that I’d be leaving the neighborhood.”
In December Ms. Eisenbach closed on an alcove studio on East 14th Street, just on the cusp of the East Village, for which she paid under $400,000. The place is so spacious she has room for a grand piano. “Plus even the elevator is gorgeous,” she said. “When do you like an elevator?”
She loves the tiny stores, the hole-in-the-wall restaurants and especially B and H Dairy, “where I practically live,” she said. She pays regular visits to her mother, though for Ms. Eisenbach, an avid walker, the journey takes an hour and a half, not 15 minutes.
“Still, I’m beside myself with joy and euphoria,” she said. “I can’t believe that this is my neighborhood and that I made myself at home so quickly. The past 30 years feel like a faded memory.”