7 Things They Don’t Tell You About Becoming a Homeowner


My fiancé and I recently bought our first condo. It was awesome and exciting and super grown-up-feeling. We’re obsessed with it, and I’m amazed and grateful every day that I walk into it (this is partially because I truly feel hashtagblessed that I can own a lovely condo, and partially because I still can’t believe I went from living in a one-bedroom-converted-to-three shoebox apartment in New York to owning a condo with windows in every room in Chicago). That said, there was a whole lot of shit we did not see coming when we decided, ‘Hey, let’s take this terrifying plunge and buy a condo.’ Here, just a few of them:

1. No seller will give your offer a second look unless you’re pre-approved. For a mortgage loan, that is. And getting pre-approved is a pain-in-the-ass process that requires you to dig up tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, medical records, sleep schedules and school report cards for the last 20 years of your life. (I may have made up three of those things; I’ll let you decide which ones they are.)

2. You have 2.5 minutes to think between seeing a place and making an offer. If you see a place that you kind of, maybe, might possibly, love, you can think about it for the amount of time it takes to walk out the door and get out of earshot of the listing agent. (Really, we deliberated while standing in the garage of the condo; didn’t even have time to leave the property.) Then, you need to speed race to your realtor’s office to make an offer (better have that pre-approval letter on your person at all times). Once submitted, keep your fingers crossed so hard that when you walk into your inspection days, weeks, or months later there isn’t some lovely surprise that you just happened to miss in that 10-minute showing waiting for you. Oh, there’s only one light switch to control all the bedrooms? The crown moldings are actually made of plastic and attached with crazy glue? Too damn bad.

3. You don’t just write a personal check for the down payment, get your keys and go on your merry way. After your offer is accepted, you have to be all sorts of responsible adult and do things like set up a wire transfer, purchase and prove you have homeowner’s insurance, make sure your property taxes will be paid, and oh, so much more. Then, at the closing, you have to sign approximately 1,571 papers that you trust say and mean what your attorney says they do (actually reading them is for suckers, and it’s basically a foreign language, anyway). And don’t forget the millions of additional costs on top of your down payment: closing fees, attorney fees, inspector fees…they bleed you dry, I tell ya.

Outside our first–rental–apartment together, blissfully unaware of what homeownership would hold.

4. Something will break. Approximately every month. It could be the shower, the air conditioning, the fridge…the possibilities are endless, but trust me: there will always be something that needs to be fixed, or replaced, or thrown out the window in frustration. And you can’t just call or email your landlord, who will in turn get everything taken care of without you doing or spending a thing. Nope, it’s on you now. So save some of that money you were planning to spend on Overstock.com to hand over to repair men instead.

5. Speaking of repair men…You don’t need to call them (or other professionals) for everything. Like, apparently it doesn’t take an electrician to set up your built-in speakers. And you don’t need a heating expert to tell you that your heat isn’t working because your gas isn’t turned on (but if you do bring one in, he’ll cost approximately $90 to share that lil nugget of info and flip that switch).

6. You have to be a part of—and answer to—a condo association. Unless you are one of the lucky ones who purchased a single family home, chances are you’re going to be part of a condo association. That means if you want anything done in the common areas of the building—Fancy up the front lawn? Install motion detector lights?—you have to go through them, and it’s gotta pass a majority vote (unless you want to pay for it out of your own pocket, in which case, well look at you.)

7. But you can do whatever you want to your own unit. This may seem obvious, but it’s hard to get used to the fact that if you want to paint, you can do so—and it can be any color you want. And if you want to change the backsplash in your kitchen to neon green tile? Or install a chandelier made from recycled beer bottles? Go for it! The world is your oyster! (But if you want to install outlets in the floors, apparently that is not an easy task, considering it involves hacking into your downstairs neighbor’s ceiling. Apparently.) On a related note, you become absurdly excited about things like backsplash and paint and outlets, and there is no turning back. You’re a homeowner now.

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