Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Answering the Condo Question

Hello everyone, this is NOT Red writing now, but his daughter.  As you know, he recently asked me if I had any questions for him (I do, and lots of 'em, as you can see by his recent posts trying to answer them) and in turn, I asked if he had any questions to ask me.  To my surprise, his was about my first property purchase.  Did not see that one coming!

Honestly, I don't remember a ton about my process for it.  This was way back in the mid-90s.  What I do recall very vividly is that, after renting for a couple of years in a small apartment (a decent enough place for a young person out on her own for the first time), I was quickly fed up with elements of shared accommodation.  I especially loathed having to share laundry facilities.  Another tenant in the building was a painter by trade, so go ahead and imagine what the washer drum looked like after he ran a load through!  Ugh.  I disliked having to schlep downstairs, check for timing, have coins ready etc.  I only ever had to do that once more, as I rented when I first moved to the US, and hated it as much or more than ever.  To this day, it's a deal-breaker in real estate for me; I'd never again live in a place where I don't have my own in-suite laundry or the option to install it.  

That said, I also knew well enough that it was far better to own your place than pay someone else's mortgage while they gain all the equity and have control. My parents were homeowners (I think by then they were mortgage free) and it seemed to me it was the "thing to do" as an adult.  After all, the Micromanager was nothing if not consistent and frequent about money talk, and how not to be stupid about it.  Some of that actually sank in.

Also, having a place of my own, even if rented, meant that for the first time, I could start decorating the way I wanted to.  This ignited a spark in me that has meant a life-long love for domesticity in ways I couldn't imagine when I was younger.  I'm only half-joking when I tell people there's a parallel me in a parallel universe and she's renovating and decorating all the time!  Renting doesn't let one go to the lengths I desired in making a space my own, so it made sense to buy.  I learned a lot from those projects and continue to do so.

I can't recall what exactly prompted me to get an agent and start looking, but that's what I did. I remember going to several different places, all condos and townhouses, and assessing which options made the most sense for me, and matched the price I could afford.  Turned out the winner was only 2 blocks from the apartment I was renting (made for easy moving, other than it just had to snow that day and we were using a coverless pickup truck to move all my things).  I believe that was in February 1996.  The picture is a later one, as we had the building trim re-painted at some point (my idea, I'm sure).  It was 4 condo units where a house used to be.  Split level (never again when it means you walk through your entry area to access stairs!) on a corner lot (never again - too much shoveling!!) and maybe 1,000sf in total.  It even had a fireplace, which I loved.  It was bigger than the apartment, it was mine, and it needed all the work I could hope to put into it, which made me happy.  

I do recall that the Micromanager got really mad at me when she found out I bought it.  I suspect, looking back, she was miffed because I didn't get my parents involved in any of what I was doing.  At the time, I was stunned at the reaction - didn't I just check all the boxes in a long list of smart, grown up things to accomplish to get ahead??  It was a trying time, but eventually she came around.  I suppose in some ways I didn't involve my parents because I wanted to do it on my own, I figured I could do it on my own, and I didn't want to have to contend with conflicting opinions or advice on what to do.  I definitely have an independent streak.  Nevermind they lived in a different city, so it wasn't going to be convenient to wait around for them to come over and get directly involved.

From a first-time buyer perspective, it was a great choice.  I was able to walk to work, was in a well located neighborhood that was older and interesting, it had 2 bedrooms, a small yard, off-street parking and such.  I could make of it what I wanted, which wasn't too much at the time as I wasn't making tons of money, but I enjoyed being clever about making improvements on a tight budget.  In the 3 or so years I lived there, I got quite a few things done to improve it (and it needed some improving for sure!) and when it came time to sell, I made a very tidy profit that allowed me a decent down payment for my next home purchase, which was an even larger townhome with more improvement adventures to enjoy.

Dad, does that answer your question to your satisfaction?