Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate |

Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate

Alison Berkley
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

So I’m trying to figure out how we can settle down in Aspen.

Now that I’m at the ripe young age of 42, I realize it is time to start thinking about having a family and finding a home that is larger than 620 square feet and has more than one bedroom.

Here’s what I had in mind.

We need three bedrooms. That way, if we do have a little rug rat, our parents can come and stay as long as they want so I can still sleep in and go to yoga if I need to.

Plus, I would really like a sunken tub. I mean, I take baths every single night, and if I can spend a couple grand on a road bike, a big tub is cheap by comparison. While we’re at it, dual sinks would be nice, too. I’m not exactly the cleanest. Somehow I manage to get the toothpaste everywhere but on the brush. Plus, Ryan always leaves the seat up, and my mom is so small that she could literally fall in and we would never know. That’s, like, dangerous. No, guests should have a nice, clean, private bathroom with fancy soap and fresh, clean towels.

I know a view is a lot to ask for, but I didn’t move to the mountains to look at ugly stuff. The smallest space in the world is great as long as it comes with a nice view.

For a half-million bucks, you can buy a pretty sweet house downvalley. If you can afford that, then you can live in a bigger house, drive more, ski less and be tethered to a big mortgage payment.

So I was like, screw this. Let’s do the affordable housing thing! That’s what my financial adviser Super Steve told me to do. He said I should look at my home not as an investment but as a roof over my head. He said if the government is willing to subsidize my housing, I should take it.

I marched right down to that housing office and picked up my application. It was not at all like I imagined. Everyone was all nice and friendly and helpful and kindly told me that Ryan no longer qualifies since he’s working downvalley, but we can still qualify for larger units so long as they’re not in downtown Aspen.

I can work with that, I thought. I can do this. This is gonna be great. I wanted to start dancing around and cheering right in the bowels of the county clerk building, “Low cost of living! High quality of life! Low cost of living! High quality of life!”

OK, so. The first listing that caught my eye was Woody Creek. Yes! I want to be a Woody Creature! I love the Woody Creek Tavern and the cool waitresses who have worked there forever and the Woody Creek Community Center. I can hang out with Anita Thompson and talk about everything she learned at Columbia Journalism School and I can go to whiskey tastings at the Stranahan’s and drink that wine that’s made in Woody Creek, and oh, even pick my own vegetables at that one farm that my friend Amber worked at one summer.

So I go and see the place and it’s in the trailer park. I live in an industrial park now, so I figure the trailer park is probably a step up.

I saw the place and was like, who cares if the yard is measured in square feet? We can work with this! We can build a second story, change the façade, add a few decks, slap on some wood siding and maybe even some corrugated metal. We can rip out these windows and put in French doors and how about some bamboo floors? The kitchen is huge so I’d just want to rip out all the cabinetry and put in updated appliances, granite countertops and a Viking stove.

I am very creative and resourceful. I believe if there is a will, there’s a way.

So the first thing I did was call my friend Saradee who is an architect. Hello, I’m going to do my homework. I’m not just going to dive right into this thing.

She goes, “So, if you wanted to this and that at this much per square foot, it would be about $180,000.”

For some reason, the trailer park is considered Category 6 and the asking price is $315,000. So for around a half-mil, I can have my affordable home. It’s just that now, I can only finance half of it. The other half, I have to pay for in cash. Plus, I can never get what I spent in renovations in equity, so I better plan to die in this house.

Let’s not forget if I want to do the affordable housing thing I’d have to sell my condo. Super Steve pulled out his calculator and started punching in all these numbers, which always makes me nervous and queasy. When he finally looks up, he goes, “Your condo isn’t worth squat. You should just get rid of it.” When he starts talking like that I want to leap across the desk and full-body-slam tackle him to the ground, but I know he’s trying to get a rise out of me, so I don’t.

So now I find out my free-market condo is worth even less than an “affordable” one.

“You should just rent,” Super Steve said.

It’s a good thing Ryan built that storage shed out back – maybe we can look into how much it would cost to renovate that. I bet we could fit a crib and a space heater in there if we had to.

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