Well, I bought a condo yesterday.
This purchase comes as a shock to everyone who knows me—as someone who once duct taped pajamas on windows for curtains and currently uses her trampoline as furniture (both for dining and seating)—I seem like the least likely candidate to ever want to own something permanent.
But as I wrote in a previous post, my upstairs neighbors keep me up every night until 2 a.m.
It was time to do something—and probably due to my lack of sleep, I decided to do something drastic.
I started shopping around for condos. And here’s what I learned along the way:
Find a Realtor
If you’re thinking about buying, find someone to help you. But don’t just Yelp or Google search for Realtors. Do you have any friends or co-workers who bought a place? Ask for a recommendation. Usually, if people have a good experience with their Realtor, they’ll happily recommend you to someone. (Case in point: If you’re in Chicago, talk to Tim Knipper at Conlon Realty. He’s great!)
Live in the area for a while
If I survived four Chicago winters, I have at least five more in me. Before you purchase a condo, make sure you know it’s a city where you’d like to buy. If you lost your job, are there other opportunities for you? Do you get homesick and wish you were closer to your parents? If you buy a condo, be prepared to stay there for the next five to eight years. If you’re having doubts about your city or your job—stick to renting.
Save your cash
Sounds obvious, but getting enough money for a down payment is a considerable investment. And it’s not something you can do overnight—unless, of course, you do considerably well at online poker.
Be emotional (but not too emotional)
When you walk into a place, ask yourself: Does this feel like ‘me’? As soon as I walked into my condo, I had flashes of my future life happening there. Instinctively, I knew it was a good sign (or now looking back, maybe I was just dehydrated). But even during the excitement of finding something you like, you also have to ask yourself: Can I really do this?
Don’t compromise with the essentials
I never wanted upstairs neighbors again. So, when searching for condos, I didn’t even bother considering anything that wasn’t top floor. What can’t you live without? A porch? Big windows? A spiral staircase? If you settle for something less than what you want, you’ll never be happy.
Avoid being condo poor
Make sure your Realtor knows what you can afford. And make sure you know what you can afford, too. Owning a condo is going to require some monetary sacrifice. This means you should also be prepared to save for a “rainy days.” If the heater broke in your apartment, that was never your problem—but now if something breaks, it’s your job to fix it. Make sure you have the money for it.
Take a class—or just hire someone
As an ambitious new home owner, I signed up for classes in tiling and painting at The Home Depot. Even though all my instructors were friendly and informative, I learned one important lesson: “I need to hire someone to do this stuff for me.” Know your strengths and weaknesses as a home owner. I’m good at writing checks, not installing sinks.
Listen to yourself
After you find a place you like, you’ll have to decide if you want to go through with it. On the day that I was trying to figure out my offer, I spent a lot of time talking to my parents, my Realtor, friends, and co-workers. Everybody had advice. I didn’t start listening to myself until I went for a long run, later that night and circled around the condo building a few times. The whole time I was running around the building, I kept wanting to stop and go home—that is, to the place I was about to say ‘yes’ to.