The more or less of real estate comparisons

When did you last have a conversation with someone who is buying, selling, or remodeling a house or a condo, or thinking of buying or selling? Bet not too long ago. As various commentators have noted, we Americans have real estate on our minds a lot.

Now, I’m as prone to oohing and aahing over great architecture and interior design as the next person. It feels good when my condo gets a compliment. I believe it’s important to like and enjoy one’s home.

Despite professing that I value not having more than I need, I can stretch the definition of need. Since I survived for 22 years in a vintage condo without heat control, air-conditioning, an in-unit washer and dryer, or a balcony, I don’t actually need any of those. But I had them on the requirements list for my next place and was glad to get them all.

As high-rise condos go, however, my one-bedroom, one-bath abode is on the modest side. On a low floor and facing south, it doesn’t have awesome views. The only floor-to-ceiling glass is at the patio door. The kitchen and the living area are separated, and not by a breakfast bar.

Quite a few friends have moved since I did four years ago. When I see someone’s new place — often a place that’s bigger and tonier than mine — I come home and walk around, looking for what could be changed.

I’d do well to think instead about a new acquaintance who recently saw my condo. A single mother, she rents a small one-bedroom apartment where her 16-year-old daughter gets the bedroom. They moved to the South Loop from a larger and more affordable apartment on the North Side so that the daughter can walk to nearby Jones College Prep High School.

This woman also bought a car so that the daughter can practice driving. Of course, her budget is stretched by higher rent and car payments. She’s having to keep close tabs on spending.

She commented about the 8 x 9 alcove that I use as an office; she could use space like that for her bedroom instead of hiding her bed behind shelves in the living room. My condo, 150 square feet larger than hers, “feels very spacious,” she said.

She admired the view — of a few high-rises — that I describe as okay but nothing to swoon over. Her place looks over the street and a diner.

This is a woman as educated as I am, with a master’s degree. She works as a paralegal. I didn’t ask what her degrees are in. I thought, not for the first time, about how unfair is the wage discrepancy between hard-working people in different fields.

It didn’t seem like she was griping. We were just getting to know one another. But I felt greedy and guilty when she left.

I hope to think of her the next time I’m comparing my home with that of someone who has more.

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  • I'm glad this has provided you some perspective. However, there's nothing wrong with wanting a little more as long as it is within your means.

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