Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Real Estate Mogul

FOR SALEHey, remember that time I bought a condo? That was pretty awesome and also stressful but mostly awesome. I’ve never done a real estate deal before, as I spent my twenties giving all my money (and a bunch of money that wasn’t mine) to various universities in exchange for letters after my name and the first half of my thirties paying off that crushing level of student loan debt. Couple that with the fact that I live in an insanely expensive city when it comes to real estate and, well, it means that I didn’t really think I’d be buying a place anytime soon. But I’ve really taken a liking to New Westminster and to my neighbourhood in particular. And when a place – almost identical to my current place1 but on a different floor – came up for sale in my building at a price that I was comfortable with, well, the rest is history.

The whole buying process was an interesting experience. I’m sure those of you who’ve done it before think it’s NBD2, but for a newbie, it sure can be overwhelming. I used a realtor and a mortgage broker, referred to me by a friend, who walked me through the process3. Once I’d looked at the place a couple of times, talked to a friend of a friend who happens to be on the strata council in my building and had my realtor look into the building, I was reasonably convinced that the building was solid4. After that, there’s a process of making offers and counter offers and once there was an accepted offer, I had 10 days to “remove the subjects”. I’d made the contract subject to some pretty standard conditions: for example, that I’d be able to get satisfactory financing, that I’d be able to read the strata by-laws and the last two years worth of strata meeting minutes and would be satisfied with those5 and that I’d have a condo inspector check it out and I’d be satisfied with the their report.

The latter one proved extra stressful because the week that I was removing subjects just happened to be the week of the BC Home Inspectors’ conference being held inHouse/Home Inspection Kelowna, so the first few inspectors that I called were going to be out of town until the day that I needed to remove subjects! Happily, I was able to find one guy who got good reviews on the HomeStars.com (basically the Yelp of home-related things) that was not going to the conference and he was able to inspect my place. He gave the building a good review – said it was in great shape and the strata council was doing an excellent job of maintaining the building to keep it in good shape. His only suggestion was that I should replace the rubber hoses, which can breakdown, on the washing machine with braided metal
hoses6.

Money makes the world go 'round.During this time, I was also arranging for a mortgage. Obviously, I wanted the lowest interest rate that I could get and I wanted to pay accelerated biweekly (which automatically saves you money and time on your mortgage), but I knew that I also wanted to have the flexibility to make lump sum payments7. As well, I needed to work with my financial guy  to take money from my Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) under the first time home buyers plan8 and other money out of my Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) for my down payment. Along with other savings that I had, I was able to make a 25% downpayment, which allowed me to avoid paying Canadian Mortgage & Housing Commission (CMHC) insurance9.

So, once all the subjects were removed, I had a deal! And I have to say, I experienced a great deal of relief once it was all settled – I Sold Sign Boardfound it very stressful to be doing all this negotiating, investigating, deliberating, and deciding! After that though, I had to deal with all the usual stresses of moving – hiring movers, arranging cleaning/
steam cleaning of the carpet in my old place, changing over utilities, etc.10. Since I plan to stay in this place for a while (unlike when I was renting), I wanted to do a really good job of purging stuff that I don’t need11, so I was more deliberate in my packing – taking time to consider if I really needed this item or that item, and putting stuff in boxes for donation/recycling/garbage12. The move itself was the easiest one I’ve ever done – I just needed to move up four floors, so I booked the elevator and some movers to move my stuff – didn’t even need a truck! Since the apartment layout is identical, I told the movers to put every piece of furniture in exactly the same place in the new apartment as it had been in the old apartment!

The cats reaction to the whole moving process was exactly what I predicted – they LOVED the packing, as it meant everyday I was bringing cardboard boxes into the apartment and they had tonnes of fun climbing on packed boxes, jumping into and out of empty boxes13, looking inside of boxes that I was in the middle of packing. But the day of the move was a bit stressful for them, especially Watson. I had to lock them in the bathroom while the movers were moving stuff so that they wouldn’t get underfoot or escape into the hallway or onto the balcony and they didn’t like that at all. I went in to visit them, giving them pets and treats, throughout the duration, but Watson was unhappy – he alternated  between sulking and crying/meowing pretty much anytime I wasn’t in the middle of giving him a treat. After everything was moved to the new apartment, I brought them up to the new place and they sniffed everything and checked out the new place, but Watson remained a bit stressed for a while – I can tell because he was panting and following me around the apartment, meowing for attention. Lots of pets and playing and some treats helped to make him feel more secure and eventually he took a nap with his sister on the tallest pile of boxes. Crick remained a lot more chill throughout the whole situation.

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Now that I’m all moved in and have returned from my San Francisco trip, I have begun unpacking in earnest. I made some good headway with the unpacking this weekend and though I still have much do14, I feel like I’ve transformed the place from “giants piles of boxes everywhere” to “somewhat livable.” Perhaps I’ll post some photos once it’s all done!

Image Credits:

  1. The slight differences include that the new place has nicer appliances and fixtures (compared to the crappy appliances and basic faucets one puts into a rental apartment), dark wood laminate floors (instead of crappy carpet that you put in a rental suite), no cheesy wood panelling in the kitchen, a sliding glass door on the tub (compared to a shower curtain rod that often fell down in my old apartment), but no gas fireplace. []
  2. No Big Deal. []
  3. Not to mention talking to other people who’ve been through the process recently and reading tonnes of stuff about the process. []
  4. When I first approached the realtor, she was a bit hesitant about the building due to its age. But once we’d done the due diligence, she was convinced that it was a good building. []
  5. Oddly, I actually enjoyed reading the strata minutes – at least in part because my recent MBA makes me now able to understand financial statements and governance and other such things. I think I’d like to run for strata council next year. Yes, I know that this means there’s probably something wrong with me! []
  6. And since the last thing I want is a flood, I did that the day I moved in! []
  7. a.k.a. “balloon payments”, a.k.a., “prepayments”) and/or to increase the amount of my regular mortgage payments in order to pay off my mortgage faster. This is how I managed to pay off my student loans so fast – every time I got a raise, I figured out the after-tax difference and increased my student loan payment by that amount and when I did any contract work, I’d take the after-tax amount and make a lump sum. By making these types of lump sum extra payments, you pay off your principal quicker, resulting in significant savings on the amount of interest you end up paying. I have a spreadsheet to track all this ((Of course I do. []
  8. For the uninitiated, in Canada one can take up to $25K out of one’s RRSP for the purposes of buying your first home without having to pay tax on it, so long as you pay that money back into your RRSP within 15 years. []
  9. Don’t get me started on CMHC insurance. Basically, if you don’t make at least a 20% downpayment on your property, you are considered a risk to not be able to pay off your mortgage. Thus, in order to be allowed to have a mortgage, you have to pay the CMHC to insure the bank (or mortgage company – basically, whoever lent you the money) in case you default. Let me repeat that – the CMHC insurance protects the *bank* – it doesn’t protect you. And *you* are paying the cost of the insurance. I’ve talked to many people who don’t realize this – they think they are paying for insurance that protects them in some way, but it doesn’t. The thought of paying money for insurance that doesn’t benefit me in any way really irks me, though one of my friends pointed out that it’s basically like a tax for living in the Greater Vancouver area, where costs are so high that few people can save enough for 20%. At any rate, I’m very glad that I got a good deal on my place and have been good enough with my money to have saved enough to have a 25% downpayment. []
  10. Most annoyingly, I paid Canada Post to forward my mail – even though it’s going to the same building! But there’s no other way to get the mail from the old apartment to the new apartment – even if I knew who was moving into my old apartment, I couldn’t ask them to slide my mail under my door, as my building has a security system where your fob only gets you onto your own floor of the building, so they would have no way to get on my floor! []
  11. As stuff I don’t purge now is much less likely to get purged at any other time than during a move. []
  12. Of course, the level of deliberateness with which I packed decreased the closer I got to moving date. I started labeling everything by the room in which the contents belong, along with a description of content (e.g., “Kitchen – Wineglasses” or “Office – Textbooks”), but by the time I was a couple of days ’til the move, every box’s contents was described as “Misc.” []
  13. I swear Watson is spring-loaded – the height he gets when jumping out of a box is incredible! []
  14. Yes, I realize that I could have been unpacking more instead of blogging, but (a) I wrote most of this posting on the plane to/from San Francisco and just hadn’t gotten around to posting it. []

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I Bought A Condo!

mega monopoly has skyscrapers

Here’s a photo of my condo building – it’s the tall one, second from the front. All of the red buildings are wedding dress shops1.

A few weeks ago, my friend Kim came over for dinner. On her way in, she saw a realtor who was waiting for a client who had an appointment to look at  a condo that was up for sale in my building. She came in and said, “Your exact apartment is for sale on the 10th floor. Why aren’t you buying it??” And then she told me the price. And the price seemed too good. My first thought was “omg, what’s wrong with my building? Why is this apartment so cheap?” I should note here that “cheap” is relative. Housing prices in Greater Vancouver are insane and though New Westminster, where I live, is cheaper than Vancouver (or even Burnaby), this price seemed quite good, even for New West. So I went and looked at it and though it was a little weird looking at an apartment that has the exact same layout as mine, there were a few things that made it nicer – better appliances2 and laminate floors3, for example – so I wasn’t looking at an *exact* copy of my place – but pretty close! And then I called a realtor to have her look into the building for me and I talked to a friend of a friend who is on strata4 in the building and everything checked out. And I crunched some numbers and found that mortgage, strata fees, and property tax will be significantly less than my rent. And I realized that I really like my apartment, I like my building, I like New West. And I don’t have plans on going anywhere else. So I put in an offer. And after some negotiation and some due diligence5 ,6 I am now about to be the proud owner of my very own condo – closing on June 23, possession on June 24.

Ok, technically I am going to be the proud owner of 25% of a condo, with the mortgage company7 owning the other 75% of the place but allowing me to live there in exchange for me paying them off for the next 22.27 years8  ).

Monopoly

The mortgage company.

In related news, Watson & Crick are over the moon with all the cardboard boxes that I’ve been bringing home. Moving is a kitty paradise. Until the actual day of moving, when they’ll be trapped in a room as movers make a bunch of noise in the other rooms. I suspect that will drive them crazy.

Cats and boxes

Cat heaven.

Image Credits:

Footnotes:

  1. New West joke! []
  2. My current place has the crappy appliances you put in an apartment for a renter []
  3. Mine has crappy carpet that you put in an apartment for a renter []
  4. For my non-BC readers “strata council” or just “strata” is what we call the condo board in BC. []
  5. Home inspection, reading two years worth of strata minutes and strata bylaws and other such fun things. And I have to say, having done the MBA made reading all this stuff way easier, as I could understand all strata financial statements, which I wouldn’t have known how to do before. []
  6. I really wanted to put in the contract that the offer was subject to the approval of my cats and then to bring the cats up to the unit and let them roam around and then say “Yes, they seem to approve. I’ll take it!” But I figured that might not be very professional. []
  7. Hey, remember when the RBC mortgage calculator told me that I was only eligible for a mortgage of between $69-$71 dollars? []
  8. It’s a 25 year amortization on my mortgage, but I’m doing accelerated bi-weekly payments, which immediately drops me down to 22.27 years (based on my current interest rate, anyway) (or less  ((I’m planning on less. I paid my student loans off in record time by making lump sum payments any time I made a little extra money and raising my monthly payments every time I got a raise. I’m planning to do the same thing with my mortgage and my mortgage broker found me a mortgage with a great interest rate that has the flexibility to do that. []

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The Unpackening

Hey, remember that time that I moved to New West? Yeah, well, even though we still haven’t unpacked most our stuff, I have to say that I’m loving our new place!

Lots o'stuff

Lots o'stuff

The not-yet-unpacked is a function of having had classes last weekend and not yet having access to our storage locker – the keys we got for it don’t work and we have to wait for our landlord to get back from holidays to get it sorted out. Once we get all the storage locker stuff1 out of the living room and spare bedroom/office, things will be a lot better! In the meantime, we are trying to unpack everything we can and consolidate stuff for the storage locker into a corner. Speaking of which, I should get back to it!

  1. Christmas tree, boxes of Christmas tree ornaments, and luggage, I’m looking in *your* direction! []

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Guess Who’s Moving?

Escape From Surrey

Because I figured I don’t have enough stressful things going on in my life, I’m moving. Devon and I have found a place in New West and we are moving mid-March. In the long run, it’s actually going to make my life double plus good, but in the short run, I’ve got a lot of packing to do!

Some random points:

  • I have already commenced Operation Eat-Everything-In-My-Freezer-So-I-Don’t-Have-To-Move-It.
  • Does anyone have any boxes they want to give me?

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I Like To Build Stuff

Not really big stuff – I’m not nearly that skilled1 – but the assembling of Ikea or Ikea-like furniture is right up my alley!

First up for assemblage this evening was my new little table to put by my front door. I really like to have a small, but tall-ish, table by my front door. A place to throw my purse and keys when I first get home (otherwise, I lose my keys. Guaranteed).  You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find a table like this.  Nothing in any of the thrift stores I went to, nothing at Ikea, nothing at the many, many furniture stores I went to.  In fact, when I asked a salesperson at a furniture store if they had anything like this, he laughed at me!  “You aren’t going to find anything like that in a *furniture* store! You have to go to the mall2 to one of those *accessory* stores. Not a *furniture* store.”  Apparently, tables other than of the end, coffee or dining variety are beneath him.  In the end, I found one at Walmart (*hangs head in shame*) – and not even at just any Walmart. I had to go to the freaking “Super” Walmart in South Surrey.  The biggest friggin’ Walmart I’ve ever seen.  Ridiculous big.

Anyway, here’s what the pieces of the table looked like prior to assemblage:

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And here’s what it looked like after I assembled it:

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Next up was a small bookshelf, which I also bought at Walmart while I was there3.  I was so excited to get it assembled that I completely forgot to take the “before” picture! I did remember to take a “during” picture:

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And here’s the “after” picture – as you may recall, I have a propensity to sit in or on things:

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Also, the instructions that came with the bookshelf specifically said not to allow “children to climb on this unit,” and that just sounded like a challenge to me.

  1. my sister took woodshop in high school, so she’s got much more in the way of building skills than I do, as I chose “typing” as my business or tech credit (can anyone say “easy A+”?). I learned the basics of building stuff – e.g., how to hammer a nail and that screws go tighty right, lefty loosy – from my dadm but that’s pretty much the extent of it []
  2. where “mall” was said with a hint of disgust in his voice []
  3. it was only $20 and, though I was expecting it to be made in China, it was made in Canada. Go figure []

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New Home Update

As I mentioned before, I’m working towards having a grown up place. I feel like I’m there with the kitchen – I’m something of a kitchen gadget freak and since I inherited the kitchen table and other kitchen furniture, all I had to do was unpack my many boxes of dishes and bakeware and other such kitchen goodness and it was pretty well good to go1 I’m also very excited that I finally have a kitchen with enough counterspace to keep my Kitchen-Aid mixer out.

The living room, however, is pretty vacant at the moment. From my old place, the only living room stuff I brought was my desk, two small filing cabinets and a couple of bookshelves, all of which I put along one wall in my new place. And that’s it. And it’s a pretty big living room. It actually looked quite ridiculous once I unpacked most of the boxes, which were at least filling up some of the living room. I have now purchased a lovely walnut coffee table and end tables2, which at least takes up some space, but the room still looks pretty silly with just tables and no place to sit.

This week, however, I will be getting a few key things that will make my place more livable. First up, Tod is loaning me an extra couch that he has, as well as a lamp that he’s not using, so that will mean I can sit on something other than my desk chair in the living room and will actually have enough light to read3. On Thursday I’m getting my new mattress, which I bought for half price at Sleep Country4. I wasn’t planning to buy a new mattress, but after I moved my old mattress into my new place, I discovered that it smelled pretty musty. Which I’m sure I just couldn’t smell in my old place because the whole place was pretty musty. I figure that breathing in must and mold 6-8 hours every night can’t be good for me. Hence the new mattress. In preparation for the new mattress, I’ll be going to Ikea to buy an actual bed, as I’ve been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for the last three+ years. I tried checking out a few other stores for beds, but they are all either unbelievably expensive and/or take a month (or more) for delivery. I am both cheap and impatient, so Ikea it is. While I’m there, I think I’ll buy a wardrobe, because my bedroom closet is way too small for all my clothes.

There are also a couple of other things that I’d like to get that I’ve been having trouble finding:

  • a room divider – I’d like to get one of those Japanese rice paper room divider thingys to block off my desk from the rest of the living room. You know, so my living room will feel more relaxing without my work stuff looming. I have no idea where one would buy such a thing.
  • a small table to put by my front door – I want some thing is tallish5 and thin that I can have by my front door. You know, like a place to throw my keys and such. I’ve looked at a few places and haven’t been able to find anything even remotely like what I’m looking for.

If you have any idea where I could get either of these, I’m all ears!

  1. I did pick up those Olympic cups and a few glass jars from Ikea to put stuff in – since I have so much counter space, I figured I could make it look pretty. []
  2. got them used from someone who was downsizing and gave them to me for a really good price []
  3. the room has a light fixture in the ceiling, but it’s not very bright []
  4. yeah floor model! Only $600 for a $1200 mattress! []
  5. like, say, 3ft tall []

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(no title)

I cleared out the last of the stuff out of my old place today.  Though I’d moved all the stuff I was keep to my new place a couple of weeks ago, I still had a pile of stuff to take to a thrift store and some old computer stuff to take to Free Geek.  And, in typical Beth fashion, I left that until the very end of the month to do that. In the end, I took two large boxes and a full back pack to the SPCA Thrift store and an old computer, an old laptop and various other geeky items to the Free Geek.

I also had to go the post office because the screwed up my mail forwarding. I’d signed up to have my mail forwarded from my old address to my new one for six months.  I was most concerned with the fact that it’s tax time and I didn’t want any of my T4s or other tax-related documents to go missing.  However, instead of forwarding my mail to me, they’ve been forwarding some other person named “Snow” who lives a block from my old place. The first piece of forwarded mail I received was from Blue Cross, which happens to be the company that I have my extended medical with, so I opened it assuming that it was mine, only to find that it was a cheque to some other “M. Snow.”  Nice work, Canada Post!  My mail was still going to me old place and thank goodness I still had access, because two of my T4s and my student loan tax receipts were at my old place.  So I went to Canada Post and asked them to fix this because I’d really to, you know, get the service that I freakin’ paid for!

And the last thing I did was say good bye to my old landlady.  She is moving out tomorrow and today was likely the last time I’ll ever see her.  And it was pretty sad.  Betty is a very sweet lady and it’s been pretty nice living in her house.  I didn’t even get to say good bye to my old land lord because he’s been in the hospital for the past few weeks – Betty said he’ll likely get out this week, but she’ll be in her new place by then.  So it’s pretty sad that I never got to say good bye to him.  I will miss them.

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Random Stuff

Apparently technology hates me again.  In addition to having no internets and no cell phone reception at home, the internets/network /all the phones at my office were down for most of the day1.  Stupid technology.

While packing up my kitchen, I discovered that I had orzo and a pleothera rice noodles.  I also have three bottles of balsamic vinegar2.  Tonight I shall make an orzo salad for dinner, and I forsee pad thai in my near future.

I am delighted with the amount of counter space in my kitchen.  I have enough counter space for my coffeemaker, kettle, Magic Bullet blender, toaster oven AND KitchenAide mixer, with room to spare!  I’m most excited about the mixer have a permenant home on the counter, as it’s way to heavy to move on a regular basis, so it’s spent the past several years stored away in a closet and I’ve been mixing things by hand like a sucker.

I also have a bigger fridge and freezer, which means I can actually find things in the freezer rather than having it jammed completely packed so that any time I want something from there, I have to unpack the whole thing.

I nearly have my first full load of dishes and anticipate an inaugural run of the  dishwasher tonight!

Now I’m off to a quick trip to the grocery store on my way home.  Tonight I intend to make that orzo salad and unpack the rest of my kitchen.  Hooray!

  1. It’s back up now, so I’m writing this after hours at the office before I go home and enter the land of incommunicado []
  2. I know that I inherited one from Kalev when he moved, but I have no idea why I had two bottles to begin with []

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Moving Up In The World

Very happy to have just bought a step stool for my new kitchen. So I can actually reach the top shelves!

My apologies for the terrible pun!

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Moved In

Today’s posting will be brief as I’m writing it on my iPhone. I’m writing it on my iPhone because Telus can’t get here to set up my internets until Feb 23. My thought when they told me this was ‘No problem, I’ll just tether my computer to my iPhone for a week.’. Which would be all well and good except I can’t get any cell phone reception in my freaking apartment!! Gaaaaah!

I didn’t even think to check cell phone reception when I looked at this place. And I really should have, because my old place – also a basement suite – had pretty bad reception. Dropped calls all the time. But this place is even worse – I get almost no signal at all! The occasional email will get through, but calls are pretty much impossible. I got one call today, when I was sitting near the door with the door open, but it got dropped pretty quick and i couldn’t get signal again until I went outside and up the steps.

So, anyway. Suffice it to say that I’m moved in, have unpacked about 75% of the kitchen, 25% of the bathroom and made my bed. Now I’m going to go outside where I can get enough signal to post this and then it’s bedtime for Bethy!