Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Note to Self: One Step at a Time

Radio silence again, I know. No excuse is a good excuse, but (I'd like to think) there is a good reason this time.

Word to the wise (and myself, for future reference): do not purchase property (condo, house, office space, what have you) while actively looking/interviewing for a new job. Just don't do it.

(Be forewarned - this post is somewhat for my own personal documentation purposes and is absurdly long (I'm a memory hoarder). Jump down to the end to get a first peek at the new place and the first of MANY design boards!)

For starters, #1 - you read that right, we bought a condo! But more on that later...

#2 - I have been (eye)balls deep in paperwork, legal documents, Restoration Hardware catalogs, pencil skirts, pantyhose and Polyvore for the last 6 weeks. I can't tell you the last time I made it to the gym more than twice in a week; resume editing, phone interviews, open houses and calls with mortgage brokers have been 100% running my life and I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been suffering daily mini anxiety attacks.

So let's start at the beginning. Shortly after the boy and I moved in last September, it became abundantly clear that while we liked the space we were in, our landlord was leaving a lot to be desired it terms of care and general maintenance, and it was seeming more and more like our money spent on rent was a complete waste of our hard-earned dollars. When we discovered a mouse in our apartment (that soon turned to multiple) and he had zero interest in doing anything about it other than picking up some wooden traps at Home Depot and dropping them in our mailbox, we started to talk about purchasing a condo together for the next year once our lease was up.

To many, this progression seems backwards - it's not extremely common for unmarried couples to own property together (and it comes with its share of legal issues to prove it), but we both made a commitment to being together for the long haul before we moved in. At this point, over 6 months later, I think we both feel as good as married (even though we're not, legally) - so nothing about this decision felt premature for either of us.

What DID feel premature was how quickly it all has happened. Knowing that we were looking to buy something and close on it in the summertime, we signed up for a first-time homebuyers class. Responsible adults; I know. Finding out how much work it is to find and purchase a home was not a shock, but the amount of cash you need to have ready up front to make it happen was where the anxiety began.

Over the last few years, it has become more and more clear how completely indebted I am to my parents for enabling me to graduate from college with no debt. It has allowed me to do so many things that should be out of reach and it has never been more clear than when we went through the pre-approval process. The boy and I did some preliminary calculations to determine what our absolute top budget was for a mortgage payment and tried to determine what size loan we'd be approved for - all of this excluding existing debt and not knowing what our condo fees and taxes would look like.

We paired up with a (fantastic and totally fabulous gay) real estate agent and started to get a feel for the Southie market (where we currently live and were looking to buy) and what we would be able to get at our budget. It became clear very quickly that we would need to make some sacrifices on our preferences to ensure we we got our must-haves (ie 1 bath instead of 2 in a less desirable location to get deeded parking and 2 bedrooms). This was all fine; and a good thing to know in beginning the process.

Two weeks later after poring over daily listings (and realizing that everything that went for sale was sold within three days for significantly over asking price and has 5+ buyers competing for it), we went out on our first "open house Sunday" to see some places in person. One had absolutely everything we wanted, but the location was borderline unsafe (it sold by Monday night), one was a grossly-overprices loft-style that I just could not picture us in, and the last one was not in our neighborhood (but in gorgeous Charlestown) and I completely fell in love with its 600 sq ft roof deck with full city views and  all-white and carrera kitchen, but was 1 bath with no AC or parking and teensy bedrooms.

Throughout the process, the boy was so much more optimistic than I was that we'd find something we loved by the summer, and my anxiety that we'd be investing so much money in something that didn't give us everything we wanted was going through the roof. The next day, we found out that we were pre-approved for over 50K more than what we had expected, and after sighing the biggest sigh of relief, I want to run home and hug my parents (I called and thanked them profusely). But, we had one contingency: we couldn't close until July because the boy is in business school and won't start working full-time until June 1st.

Our realtor assured us this wasn't an issue and started to look at pre-construction properties for us, knowing most on the market right now would be set to finish in June, and knowing out budget had increased significantly since our initial search. That Tuesday morning, a 1200 sq ft, 2 bed 2 bath pre-construction condo with TWO PARKING SPOTS (if you live in Southie, or Boston, or any city, really, you understand how big of a deal this is) that was two blocks from our current apartment went on the market.

Meanwhile, I had 3 phone interviews this week. Our realtor is adamant that we at least go and see the place, but the caveat is that it can only be shown during daylight hours because it doesn't even have electricity yet. The boy goes and sees it first thing Thursday morning (damn business school schedules) and promptly calls me to let me know that 1. the place is amazing and we should put in an offer so we won't miss out and 2. there are already FIVE other offers on the place, and we need to put in our best and final by 7PM that night.

PANIC MODE. I have a phone interview at 5PM that night, but the buying agent is adamant that I see the place (before sundown, mind you) before we put an offer in. I scramble out of work early and rush to the condo to breeze through and meet the buying agent and the developer for all of 10 minutes before I have to decide if this house of wooden studs is our dream home (it is). I leave the boy and our realtor to discuss what we're going to offer while I lock myself in my car to take a phone interview, and run back up to our place to put in my 2 cents (or 60 grand, same thing...). We've decided how much we're willing to pay above asking price, but our realtor recommends tacking on an extra $1,000 (chump change, at this point...) to make it an uneven number with the chance of putting us over the top.

He leaves to submit our offer, and the boy and I make dinner and pretend not to be anxiously awaiting a phone call to let us know our fate. After what seems like hours of trying to find distractions on TV, our realtor texts us at 10:30 asking if it's too late to call (as if we were going to be able to sleep without finding out!). He tells us that it was a very, very close call but after much debate between the selling agent and the developer, they accepted our offer (which was the highest offer by $1,000. Told you our realtor was fabulous).

Then comes the (even more) paperwork and endless emails between mortgage brokers, lawyers, agents, and who even knows who else. Amidst these and having back and forth conversations with multiple recruiters for the last few weeks, I have felt nothing short of overwhelmed - and I am so grateful that the boy has taken a lead with making most of the arrangements.

After a few legal hiccups (ie not being married...) being addressed by our lawyer (and thank god for him!), we are signing the Purchase & Sale agreement tonight. I am anxious-excited (a common sentiment for me these days), but I am so ready for this to be finalized so we can start working with the developer to customize the condo to our (okay, mostly my) tastes.

I'll take this opportunity to apologize in advance - this blog is taking a sharp turn toward interior design for the foreseeable future. Yes, I'm still fitting in my online (stress) shopping when I can, but my free time lately has been consumed by Restoration Hardware catalogs, tracking down granite slabs and hours upon hours on Houzz (I could look at white kitchens with cup pulls for DAYS).

When winter storm Nemo hit Boston, it was really the "perfect storm" (har har) for me; I spent then entirety of the weekend (that I wasn't shoveling, which was definitely significant) on the couch making design boards for the new condo. As I've learned more about what we're working with in terms of things already ordered (appliances, vanities, etc.) they've evolved. I'm sure I'll be continuing to change them on a weekly basis, mostly due to changing item/labor budgets and my ever-changing preferences (let's hope I never get sick of brass!).

Much to my delight (and shock!) the boy told me last weekend that he really wanted this place to have a coastal prep influence (like, who ARE you?). That being said, he is not from New England and our place is 1.5 blocks from the ocean (spoiled, I know) - and we may not live in New England forever, so it only seems right to weave the prep and beachy elements into this place while we can.

This was the first iteration of the guest bath, before I knew what our medicine cabinets, vanities, tile, etc were set to look like. I pretty much die over the Martinique wallpaper (this was before the coastal revelation occurred), and don't even get me started on the globe scones.

After meeting with the seller's agent (who selected almost all of the design elements for the units), clearly a lot has changed in our plans for the guest bath.

Our vanities were chosen and ordered before we even put an offer in on the place, so they're essentially unchangeable (unless we want to pay an arm and a leg), so they're staying. I wouldn't have picked them, but I don't hate them, so that's a plus. We also found out that the sconces will be Restoration Hardware, so byebye globes (for now) - I do love these too.

I do, however, hate the tile they selected. It's a very unnatural looking taupe long rectangular brick tile with thin veining. Going into this knowing that the developer chose carrera mable for all countertops, and that we (the boy) are tragically too messy to commit to such a fragile (but oh-so-beautiful stone, I started looking at this bathroom as a blank slate. 

Speaking of slate, we went to a granite supplier last weekend (gah, grownup weekends!) and started to look for both tile options and find an alternative to the carrera for both bathrooms and the kitchen. I knew we needed some contrast in this bath, but was struggling between the floor and the countertop. After seeing the most gorgeous slab of Super White granite, we decided to go that route for the counter and pop the floor with a slate-esque tile. 

I fell in love with this Ralph Lauren sailboat wallpaper last summer while eating out in Kennebunkport, ME. I was finally able to track it down, and once we decided on a coastal feel, I knew I had to incorporate it somewhere - and where better than a bathroom? With the shades of grey and the blue and white hues, the tone was really set for this room; there will be lots of nautical stripes (but not too many!) and maybe even in a few pops of red for good measure (I DIE over this bathroom from Design Manifest). I'm BEYOND excited to finally have a good-sized tub (and a Jacuzzi at that!), complete with the prettiest bistro-esque Grohe faucets (yet another change we're making from the developer's more modern/streamlined selection).

I'm sure there will be plenty more changes and hiccups to come, but for now, here's to dreamin' of a dream home...

Oh, and you know I had to start a Pinterest board for this project to end all projects. 

Have you ever built or remodeled a home? I'm taking any and all advice to try to keep my sanity through this 4+ month process!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! It sounds like you have had quite a busy few weeks. First, kudos to you for going to a first time home buyers class. I am so impressed with that. I live with my boyfriend and have for over a year, but he owned the house before I moved in...thus, all house related legalities are foreign to me. I hope to learn them all!

    Second, CONGRATS on your new place! That is HUGE!

    Finally, my biggest advice with remodeling is to take it slow and not to feel like you have to have everything at once. We are still working on our house, and try to tackle a small project every few months. It's amazing what paint can do - We painted our bathroom and it made us forget about our BLUE, yes blue, bathtub. Little updates make such a difference.

    Good luck and enjoy it!


Thank you so much for your sweet comments - each one truly makes my day!

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