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How do you decide a house (or whatever) is The One?

Circe

Ideal_Rock
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New York-specific advice, or advice from other geographically competitive locations especially appreciated.

I know it's a cliche, and I don't care: apartment hunting sucks. What's oddly fascinating is how it appears to continue to suck, no matter what one's budget is: I've looked as a poverty-stricken college student and a middle-class married lady, and, yeah, weirdly enough, both ends of the spectrum contain a variety of places that you just have to look at cross-eyed to figure out how the hell anybody can live there, ever.

Winners from the last two days of apartment hunting:

- the place where I walked in to an enthusiastic greeting from the Welcoming Committee. By "Welcoming Committee," I mean the kitten-sized waterbug who was waving his antenna at me enthusiastically from the center of the living room.

- the "ground-floor duplex" where, contrary to what you might imagine, the ground floor was the top floor. The bottom floor? A windowless cell. Great if you need a dungeon, but ....

- the place with the tuba player living directly above. NO.

And so it went. What most places seemed to boil down to was, oddly small, oddly shaped, on the first floor looking into a back alley, or some other trade-off: it would appear that for our budget (the price of our 1 bedroomish apt. plus a fourth), the kind of two bedroom we can afford in the same neighborhood will have ... trade-offs.

With one shining exception ....

We found one place that was light-years ahead of the rest. It's a pretty normal two-bedroom with a few fun quirks (after living in La Casa Weirdly Renovated Brownstone With the Cathedral Wall and the Spiral Staircase, I think moving into a straight-forwardly vanilla apartment would make me grind my teeth). So it has the normal stuff, like walk-in closets and a dining nook and shit, but it also has an amazing view of a landmark building rising into the sky, triumphant, over a block-long stretch of backyards, and a fireplace in a wall of exposed brick, and a bizarrely cool curvy wall leading into the two bedrooms like a nautilus.

So, why haven't I already signed a lease? The only actual cons are that the ceilings are low, compared to the ridiculousness of our current place (they're not actually low, they're a perfectly respectable ten feet or something: I'm just spoiled by the grandeur that is La Casa That Cannot Be Child-Proofed): that the kitchen is kind of meh (but, let's face it, I don't cook, and while I am currently chock-full of good intentions, there is an excellent chance that this child will know how to order edamame off the speed-dial before he is five): that the light in the bedrooms is kind-of occluded (they still get light, I'm just worried it might not be morning light, is all); that, at the end of the day, it was our first real day of actual looking, when we've budgeted a month.

Last time we apartment-hunted, we found our apartment on the first day, but last time we apartment hunted, we were, a) frikkin' desperate, and, b) genuinely fell madly in love with the apartment the moment we walked through the door. I would love to have the same thing happen again, but I'm more than a little afraid that I might nitpick my way through a full month, never see anything quite as good as this apartment again, and wind up regretting it. Or, alternately, that I'll sign the lease, and then gnash my teeth when some stupidly palatial apartment in the only brownstone in the city with an elevator pops up, three days out.

Possibly the order of my concerns reveals my true state of mind. At the end of the day, I don't want to be rash, but I don't want to settle, either. ARGH.

Tomorrow, we go back for a second look, armed with a tape measure. Wish me luck, and decisiveness ....
 

centralsquare

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I can relate - having purchased in a pretty competitive real estate market (prices here having been going up all year!). for me, i knew it was the one because i could start seeing myself living there. when we walked in and i saw the dining room...i thought...it'd be great to host a dinner party there. i just had a few moments like that. that said, i still fretted for hours about whether to put in an offer or not.

so, i guess my point is, that you'll probably always doubt but if you could see yourself living there, then perhaps it's The One.
 

Circe

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That's a really good trick. In a lot of the places, I could NOT picture myself living there: I COULD picture myself running out screaming (which is more or less what I did, in some). In this one, I can picture writing ... and playing with the baby ... and having people over. I just ... kind of don't know if it's the most AMAZING image?

Basically, it's a homey family-type apartment. It's a COOL homey family-type apartment, but it's not ... glamorous. When I try to picture myself in the apartment in a turban, waving a cigarette holder, a la Auntie Mame, automatically, my mind fills in a dude in a gorilla suit and another one in a Groucho mask, because obviously it's my Halloween party.

Then again, at this point in my life, perhaps a little practicality isn't the worst thing in the world ....
 

yssie

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Circe, your post made me laugh!

DH and I are in the process of buying a house (in upstate NY - remember that tale?). It's neither geographically nor demographically comparable, but I know *exactly* how you feel. It really doesn't matter what the budget is - nothing is ever just perfect!

We knew this was The One when we walked into the master bedroom and discovered that the fireplace was woodburning. The place has a laundry list of things that we'll need to address before we can move in, but it's got - what's the phrase, great bones? Nice land, it's in a good neighbourhood with good schools and all of that - and yeah, the fireplace sealed the deal. I guess there's virtue to being fickle, when it shoves you forward - for one reason or another!

That said, we're not Can't Live Without It in love with it. If something happens and the deal falls through.. oh well, moving on. Though as the alternative is apartment-hunting (again) the incentive to play nice is indisputable! I much prefer this - calmness, and lack of obsession - to being head over heels, honestly - being willing to walk has already saved us thousands in the negotiations.

I'd say wait and see what you think of tomorrow's offerings. I have grudgingly come to accept that cookie cutter, despite my disdain, is cookie cutter for a reason - reasons that I know I'll benefit from just like so many others!
 

rosetta

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Urgh. I know how you feel.

Looking for a house now.

A 700 square foot flat costs £500,000 in our area.

It's not going well.....
 

kelpie

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My experience was a bit different because we were shopping for a rural house. We looked at close to 40 houses in 3 states. Even liked one enough to make an offer which wasn't accepted. That house was more of a compromise of something we both could agree on so it was a blessing.
When we walked into our house it was like it was built for us. We made an offer and stopped thinking we could be better. It had clawfoot tubs, stained glass windows, a cedar lined walk in closest on five acres. It's old and busted but it's paradise for us. I think when you see something that's perfect for you, you'll be like, "OMG I AM HOME!"
 

iheartscience

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Ugh, I also know the feeling. Lucky for me, we apartment-hunted in the middle of winter, so we had a lot more breathing room than if we were apartment-hunting in the summer. The most important thing for me is always location. Are there restaurants around (another non-cooker here), is it close to the train/bus/etc.? Is it well insulated/quiet? And of course, what kind of people live in the building? My current place skews younger which=loud neighbors. I'm hoping we can move into an over 55 community next. :cheeky:

Do you have appointments to see any other promising apartments? Is there any way you could look at more apartments tomorrow before signing the lease on this place? I will say that we weren't bowled over when we were apartment hunting, so we took the best place we saw. I don't love it, but it's only for a year, so oh well. If you end up hating your place, would you be willing to move again in a year?

Good luck...apartment hunting is the worst! I think it's harder than house-hunting!

ETA the "ground floor duplex" thing is obnoxious! I've run into a few that are "bi-level!" and the other level is the basement. At least they put up pics so I wouldn't waste my time going to see it!
 

Circe

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monarch64|1312087926|2980940 said:
Edited...wrong region. Sorry.
Oh, hey, I appreciate all advice when it comes to the feeling of choosing right. The caveat was more to encourage other New Yorkers or Los Angelenos or whatever to chime in and say, "Dude, you haven't gone to the super of the fanciest building in your neighborhood with a 10K bribe yet? What is wrong with you?"
 

soocool

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I live in SE PA, but a ton of people who live near me (single family homes or townhouses) commute to NYC or Philly. They get more bang for their buck in our neck of the woods and drive 20 minutes to Trenton to take the train to NYC. Many of them have made this trek for 20+ years, mainly because cheaper to live here and secondly very nice neighborhoods with great schools. I have a couple of friends, however, who do live in Manhattan and have for over 30 years (in the same apartment that they were able to purchase many years ago) and from what I sense will probably leave kicking and screaming. They say it is not the apartment but the city that "speaks" to them and makes them want to live there... I do not understand, but they evidently see something I do not.
 

JewelFreak

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Looking for housing is cool when it's not YOU. When it is, yeccchhh.

What things do you want that are permanent & can't be changed?
-- Location?
-- Size?
-- Personality -- obviously yes, I'm with you a million percent -- hate places that are simply several plain boxes joined together!
-- What else? No. of bedrooms, baths? Condition? Fireplace? (Woodburning a must for me), separate dining room? No waterbugs?
(Shiver, I had herds of them in my 1st NYC apt & had nightmares for YEARS!)
--- etc.

All other traits are ones you can change or compromise on if you like a place:
-- Paint & flooring
-- Kitchen condition -- you can always upgrade eventually if you want, not a reason to reject a place
-- Size
-- etc.

Often it takes a bit of looking to get a realistic idea of what's available where & at the price you want. What's important that can't be changed & what are you willing to buy & fix. Or live with.

Good luck! Hope you fall in love!
 

movie zombie

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sort of sounds like the agony of deciding whether to keep a stone or not..........
 

texaskj

Brilliant_Rock
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Gee, why not under the tuba player? :lol:
I feel your pain, it took me six months to find my house five years ago. I looked at 80 houses before finding mine. My Realtor had the patience of Job; she kept reassuring me I was not being too picky. My house went on the market Friday, I made an offer Sunday and they accepted right away. I didn't have the money for extensive repair work, so whatever I bought had to have good bones in good shape. Believe me, after going through that many houses, I could tell you in 60 seconds or less if I could live there. I also had a deal-breaker list I told my Realtor about right away. Everybody will have one; it really helps to figure out what yours are, write them down and be firm.

I've almost gotten to the point where I can't stand to watch House Hunters anymore because the people are so damn picky. They reject places because they don't like the paint color or flooring. Hello?...how do you think the walls got to be that color in the first place? Ever heard of a paint brush? And I know it's only a 30-minute show, but every place seems to be perfect structure-wise. There's never a bad roof or foundation or water problems. We should all be so lucky to have three places to choose from.
 

rainwood

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Circe -

My only experience with Manhattan real estate is reading "The Hunt" column in the NY Times. Based on that, the best advice seems to be "Don't give up." The more places you see, the more likely you will recognize the right place as soon as you see it. But it won't be perfect. If you're looking for that, you'll never find it. Leasing one of the first apts you see is nerve-wracking because of the 'what ifs." If you're okay with losing the first place, it's not the one, but it's a good benchmark against which you can measure all future places.
 

Lady_Disdain

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thing2of2|1312115214|2981021 said:
I'm hoping we can move into an over 55 community next. :cheeky:
I did :bigsmile: I have lived in a building aimed at ladies over 60 of age since I was 23. It is heaven.
 

TristanC

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Can I chip in?

I think if you are renting, but not on a long term basis, it is very different than buying to live. The timeframes are different, and the pain is different. You wouldn't be spending all kinds of money doing it up, so best to pick somewhere that doesn't need any work?

Proximity to work/transport/commute is important. Low crime is important. Not having batshit crazy neighbours is important.

The single most important thing is being able to imagine yourself making a life there. And having a good go at it. The sense of anticipation and the feeling that you made a 'find' is important.

BUT you need to be realistic for your budget. That's the single most important rule. It is ok to madly love and immediately offer a cheque for a house waaay better than your budget allows, but don't always expect that there will be one.

Price is a trade off with other things:
1. Furnishing
2. House Condition
3. Age of development (historic buildings it is apparent age, as it is refurbished with new pipes/heaters/lifts/stairs/AC on occasion)
4. View
5. Proximity to high value regions like city center, the financial district, waterfronts, shopping centers etc
6. Size

So I guess sort through your priorities, and rank them, then score each house you go to out of 5 stars for each priority you list. Not everyone wants all 6, some have added ones (handicapped access, pet friendly, age centered). This won't help you choose your dream house - and you only score those you can imagine living in. Then at the end of the day, if you don't find a dream - you'll have a good idea of which ones are best
 

Circe

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So ... we didn't rent the apartment. We spent the morning looking at more places (crap piled upon crap stacked upon crap - my "favorite" was the "penthouse," which was like a two-room hut shoddily balanced atop the roof of an actual building), and we went back to look at it ... and at the end of the day, it just didn't make my heart sing.

This issue may have been compounded by the fact that, shortly before seeing it, we did see an apartment that made my heart sing, which totally did not have the same effect on the husband: it was a ginormous two bedroom+ with a frikkin' maid's room, which, these days, I like to spell H-O-M-E O-F-F-I-C-E. It had ten foot ceilings, and molded beams on the living room ceiling and an eat-in kitchen and a whirlpool tub (!) and a child's room pre-printed with rodents, and, yeah. Rodents. But, as pre-war buildings often are, it was kind of beat, so, no was his vote, and, at the end of the day, no was my vote, too, because the owner was trying to sell it at the same time as rent it, which makes me nervous. But the other place just didn't look anywhere near as good by comparison: turns out, I really am a pre-war girl at heart.

I was more-than-a-little upset about all this at first: I mean, a) I hate apartment hunting. I mean, I really hate it. It is like an exercise in dispiriting. Today, we saw a place where the building was nice, but the apartment had stealth shag carpeting, and that first place I mentioned ... look, ever been up on the roof of an old building? There's usually a little sort of structure up there, where the stairs let out for roof access, atop which they frequently place the water tower. Well, someone converted that to a one-bedroom, called it "the penthouse," and dubbed the rest of the damn roof a patio. But a patio usually has, you know, a floor and maybe a bench or something, and this was just tar painted silver. So, at the end of the day, it felt sort of like if somebody had built a hermit's hut inside of a satellite dish. And then there was the open house dude who couldn't open the damn house, who, when explaining this dire situation, felt the need to address all his comments to the pregnant lady's tits (not cool, dude), and the one which was actually smaller than most studios, and .... yeah. Apartment hunting is basically the breaking of the city-dweller's spirit. And, b) insult added to injury, the idea of spending a month doing this and not necessarily being able to agree because I am all about the older, the better, baby, and my husband's idea of a nice place is something built of glass and steel, preferably no more than ten years ago , and, c) hormones, and I just wanted to cry.

So I did.

And then I got over it, and we had a nice talk about how much we love our current place and how we can just wear the baby like a backpack every time we need to go up the stairs if need be, and how we won't move unless we find someplace we really really really love, like this place, which is living proof that we can compromise: I mean, at the end of the day, we both want something airy and awesome, it just needs to be, you know, not decrepit for him, and not mundane for me.

And then I tried raising our budget in the search by a couple of hundred bucks, just for kicks. Hoo, boy! The difference a few benjamins make, baby. Suddenly, I'm seeing what look like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious places. I mean, they could be lying (Craigslist does, she said grimly), but ... judging by street addresses and floors, I'm thinking maybe not. So, fingers crossed! Bottom line is, we won't move until we find something we adore, and maybe now we're a little closer to, you know, actually finding it. Continue with the luck-wishing ....
 

Circe

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And now, in order ....

Yssie, thanks! I aims to please. :rodent: I've been lurking in your thread (tho I am afraid that, not knowing the area, I did not have much to offer). Very glad that you found a place you love! Little things like fireplaces totally make the difference for me, too. I don't think of it as fickle, though - I mean, I've never fallen out of love with a fireplace: more just being ... impulsive, I guess. the frustrating bit is that I can't force the impulsiveness when my timeline demands it! On the other hand, though, there is a certain liberation in not being held hostage to one's emotions ....

Rosetta - oh, man. Sympathies in turn ... do you have a hard deadline, or can you search indefinitely?

Kelpie - not only do we have similar tastes in jewelry, it sounds like we have similar taste in houses! I don't need land, but the details sound AMAZING. We need another decorating thread ....

Thing, so true. My husband is all about location. I have to admit, I'm more lackadaisical about it: I mean, compared to where I grew up, out in Queens, anything in Manhattan is a dream! But with a baby coming, perhaps I should be focusing on school districts, first and foremost. Happily, after the misery of today, the market has opened up a bit with The Raising of the Budget (though, in turn, methinks this might mean delaying the upgrade a bit - ah, well, c'est la vie).

Socool, that is totally us! We're city mice - well, city rats, really. :rodent: Now we just need to find the right burrow.

Jewelfreak, yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees. Exactly. (Especially the waterbugs. The waterbug apartment was actually pretty nice, aside from, you know, The Welcoming Committe, and that just killed it for me. Ugh.)

Texaskj, dead on! My husband gave me the side-eye when I rejected today's place because the 8-foot ceilings were too low, but ... hey, he rejected the pre-war place because a bus passed beneath its windows. In the city, can you imagine? :rolleyes: So while I admit we're picky, I prefer to think of it as having some very specific deal-breakers. Anything that I can fix with my two little hands, though? I'M THERE. People really turn places down because of decor? Yeesh.

Rainwood - wise words. I thought about your advice when I was deciding today!

Aaaaaaaaaaand, Tristan, definitely thought about your advice! At the end of the day, my inner Auntie Mame just needed a place with a little more glamor. So the hunt continues apace. Somewhere out there, there is a dramatic apartment with my name on it: I just need to find it. Everything else - condition, etc? That, I can work with.

In summation? Y'all are awesome, and you helped me make the right decision. Many, many, many thanks!
 

centralsquare

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Despite what must have been a pretty upsetting experience, you made it into an awesome story! Congrats on making the decisions to wait a bit (and increase the budget!).
 

yssie

Super_Ideal_Rock
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That sounds promising!!

You do tell a good story - and I hope the Raising of the Budget bears fruit :bigsmile:


Gotta say.. rodent print actually sounds kinda cute.
 

rosetta

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Thanks for the sympathies Circe!

We are only in a rush because my husband and I currently have to live apart for work and the sooner we get a place between our two workplaces, the sooner we can move in together.

We both like big airy rooms but I like georgian and he likes modern post-1960s houses.

Fact is, we can probably only afford a Victorian conversion. I'm still gunning for two bedrooms instead of one.

At least the area is wonderful (hence the sky high prices)

I'm sure that you could manage stairs with a baby (more of a problem when he/she gets mobile) as long as they're not too rickety. You sound like you really like your current place. But if increasing the budget gets you what you really want, then go for it. You'll be spending a lot of time in your new place, busy with baby so I think you should get first pick of apartments rather than your husband! Isn't there some sort of rule that pregnant ladies Must Be Obeyed At All Times? :cheeky: :cheeky: :bigsmile:
 

TristanC

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Hi Circe,
i think I like your hubby. Oh wait. I mean I think LIKE your hubby.

I'm all for brand new, or new-ISH places. Simply because there isn't a musty odour, the pipes don't need to be run for 30seconds to let the rust out, the floorboards don't squeak when I'm stealing a snack from the fridge, and most of all it doesn't smell pre-war.

Obviously the tradeoff is that it is usually smaller. Which you can't do as you need room for both of you and a child. And high ceilings apparently. I also adore modern industrial design, or minimalist industrial, or contemporary modern, or modern minimalist. So yes, metal, glass, stone. Which isn't very prewar. Unless you get a warehouse loft style home.

So i think the best tradeoff for both of you might just be to get in a good neighborhood, which has easy transport access? Subway if that's what you are using; good back roads if that's what you are using (less noise, less traffic snarls) or something like that.

If you trade 20mins of your life each way, whilst it DOES mean 20mins more spent commuting, what it really means is 20mins less spent sleeping. In exchange you get more space, and more new, and more ceiling etc etc.

OR, up your budget by a few hundred dollars. with house hunting, the single easiest factor to make everything better is of course, money.

I hope you find your diamond in the rough, or you find a way to get a couple more benjamins into your home situation soon.

Cheers.
 

mrs jam

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I have always had a serious case of wanderlust and have moved around quite a bit since my undergrad days, so I definitely commiserate with you on deciding on a new abode. I have had a hard time feeling "at home" ever since leaving my posh pink bedroom at my parents' house for my first college dorm room that inexplicably smelled like farts. Always.

What I have done whenever I have had to "settle" for a less-than-perfect place is to spruce it up a bit with higher-end things that I love that can be easily removed so I can bring them with me to the next place. Things like a hanging a sparkling chandelier in my bedroom, replacing old cabinet hardware and drawer pulls in the kitchen, new faucets in the bathroom/kitchen, etc. really help me fall in love with an otherwise "meh" house. I have always told myself that there's no reason to be overly picky until I decide where I want to truly put down roots and live for the rest of my life, but life's too short not to be able to love at least some parts of your home - whether it's a fireplace, lighting fixtures, or a kitchen sink faucet that's somehow exciting.

Good luck whenever you decide to continue your search! I hope you find a place that sings to you as much as your current home!
 

Circe

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I found an apartment! I am off to apply for it now: wish me lots and lots of dust in getting it.

And, I answered my own question: you decide a house (or whatever) is The One when you walk in and decisively know that you'll be taking it, no second opinion necessary.

DUST ME like I'm a crop, bubeles.
 

missy

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Circe|1312286788|2982212 said:
I found an apartment! I am off to apply for it now: wish me lots and lots of dust in getting it.

And, I answered my own question: you decide a house (or whatever) is The One when you walk in and decisively know that you'll be taking it, no second opinion necessary.

DUST ME like I'm a crop, bubeles.

*DUST* *DUST* *DUST* Sending tons of good luck ****DUST**** your way for your dream home!!!
 

rosetta

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Weather forecast predicts a huge dust storm coming to a fabulous apartment near you......
 

iheartscience

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Circe|1312286788|2982212 said:
I found an apartment! I am off to apply for it now: wish me lots and lots of dust in getting it.

And, I answered my own question: you decide a house (or whatever) is The One when you walk in and decisively know that you'll be taking it, no second opinion necessary.

DUST ME like I'm a crop, bubeles.
Ha DUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSST!!!!
 

centralsquare

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Circe|1312286788|2982212 said:
I found an apartment! I am off to apply for it now: wish me lots and lots of dust in getting it.

And, I answered my own question: you decide a house (or whatever) is The One when you walk in and decisively know that you'll be taking it, no second opinion necessary.

DUST ME like I'm a crop, bubeles.
Lots of dust! When you know it, you know!
 

rainwood

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We'll come over and help you clean that new apartment because it's going to be FILLED with PS dust!
 
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