I finally had the chance today to read the New York TimesKey magazine, the paper’s pullout real estate feature that appeared last month.

One highlight was this essay called “Appreciating Depreciation” by writer Jon Gertner, in which he examines being a homeowner in a down housing market. In the piece, he uses county records to track every transaction on his house in New York back to the 1920s, when it was just a quarter-acre lot owned by “two brothers named Trimpi.” Here’s a taste:

You would have done OK, in other words, if you owned my house through the right decades. But that history suggests something else, too: it suggests that waiting for residential property to increase in worth can be an epic, unpredictable slog. … And that in the end, we might be better off thinking of appreciation not in terms of years, but in terms of generations.

And here’s another piece called “Social Networking Site” worth checking out: a look at the marketing for condo towers. The condo project in San Diego’s East Village called Metrome — and the marketers behind it — feature prominently.

The writer, Ethan Watters, examines condo marketing for what it promises in terms of “lifestyle,” a murkily defined buzzword, and what it actually delivers. I thought some of the details Watters pulled out from the Metrome campaign were especially telling:

(Kimberly) Stouffer and the other marketers at Greenhaus, the ad agency where she worked, figured that younger buyers would be attracted by a campaign that was sassy and irreverent. They came up with a name for the building by mashing together the words “metropolitan” and “home” to produce “Metrome.” …

Modeling their approach on the Altoids ad campaign, they wrote cheeky ad copy, some of which they put on bar coasters that were given to restaurants and nightclubs around the downtown area. “Priced for a starving artist. Fit for a trophy wife,” one coaster read. Others said: “A good move for you and your hot factor” and “Living here is like dating someone way out of your league.” On the back of each coaster was the classic pickup zinger: “I lost my number. Can I have yours?”

Of course, a big concern now for downtown condo owners: what the other units in their projects are selling for. One of the young condo owners Watters talks to, Bethan Barry, acknowledges she bought at the top — October 2005. But, she met her boyfriend in the elevator on the first day she moved in.

“Cupid was right there in the elevator and shot us both through the heart,” Barry recounts. By the next week the two were a couple. She thinks her condo is probably not worth what she initially paid for it. Then again, how much would you pay to find love? “I think about this all the time,” Barry says. “I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t wait to buy until the market turned down. I could have got such a better deal. But if I didn’t buy when I did, I wouldn’t have met Anthony. Considering that, the price was worth it.”


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