Out in California visiting family and getting away from snow, we decided to look for houses. Just to see. To imagine for a minute a life in sunshine and warmth. Brent, a really nice guy and realtor friend of the family, took us around.
“2/2” we said. “It doesn’t have to be close to water—we’ve had it with water (in the basement; when the power goes off and the frozen food defrosts and floods the kitchen.. beach erosion.. you name it. We can live without water). “ 2/2, inland, that’s what we’re after.”
So this nice, really relaxed guy put us in his car and off we went to houses and condos in Southern California, trying to find something small, affordable and out of the busy and fancy parts of town.
First place was a third floor walk-up apartment but the lock-box wouldn’t open, so Brent suggested — in order to get a “feel” for the place — we check out the lobby.
“Tells you a lot about a place” he said.
The second house was a 2/2 in a high rise but we couldn’t see it because the listing broker never showed up to let us in.
“Let’s go hang out in the lobby” Brent suggested, so we sat in the lobby and watched a lot of tan and friendly people come and go. “See — nice people in this building,” Brent said, as if he had just pointed out a gleaming new kitchen with top- of- the- line appliances.
Then we drove to a strange place closer to LA where the door to the apartment wouldn’t open. Brent didn’t get mad or flustered. Didn’t get stressed out, didn’t frantically punch his cell phone looking for answers to this or the other and earlier real estate screw-ups (by this time, if it had been me back in East Hampton with some high end customers, I’d have been apologizing like crazy and nearly in tears.)
“It’s OK, we’ll go see the lobby,” we said (we were catching on to how real estate, along with everything else, worked in California).
Finally, last stop, we got into a two-story 2/2 in Naples. Six-hundred square feet, no storage space and such a mess it was hard to walk around (when I think of the effort Hamptons brokers make to stage and spiff up their listings so they’ll look as if no one lives there, this “property de-construction” was a shock, but hey, this was California).
“It’s only $800,000,” Brent said, “and with all this stuff out of here, it would be great!”
“Doubt it,” I said. But just to be sure, we went to the lobby, sat down, and saw, when we looked out the back window, a bit of a waterview!
“See,” Brent said, “water! If you lived here, you guys could always come down here. Hang out, chill out…”
After four lobbies and the last with a waterview, we’d become friends with Brent.
“Hey, guys”, he said, “to hell with this. Let’s go have lunch.”
So we did. Brent took us to a 1930s mansion on the water (now a small museum and restaurant). We had great food and laughed like crazy, and sat for a long time in the sun looking at the beach, the surfers, the Queen Mary permanently docked no more than a half a mile away. Brent reminded us that people spend all their time outdoors in California because the weather is great and therefore we didn’t really need much space —not like back in New York where the weather is (particularly this year) permanently grey and cold and you stay inside about eight months of the year.
“And there’s so much to do here,” he said. Kayaking, running, pilates in the park, great restaurants every three feet (“so you don’t really need much of a kitchen” he said); dog parades (“because EVERYONE has a dog”), wind surfing and hang gliding, and bike trails, horse shows and world famous golf and tennis tournaments.
“Hey, this is the life,” he told us.
To get back to real estate (though God knows the sun felt great and Brent was a terrific new friend, and it all sounded like a lot of fun), we had to level with our new friend. So we told Brent that Southern California was a swell place to visit but not to live because we couldn’t afford it, and we liked to cook so a kitchen was pretty essential, and being New Yorkers, fun was not at the top of our list, and “finally, and in truth” we told him, “New York has better lobbies.”