Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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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 (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

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.







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. []



Today just flew by at work, as days are wont to do when one has a gazillion things they are trying to get done before they go away for the better part of a week1. My flight is at Ungodly Early O’Clock in the morning tomorrow, so I’m pretty much going to get my packing done and then hit the hay. Right after I finish this blog posting, of course.

Packing, for me, is a challenging affair because it highlights my tendency to be indecisive. How do I know if I’ll want to wear a skirt or pants the day after tomorrow? I should pack both. What if I’m in the mood for a red shirt or a purple shirt instead of a black shirt? Better take all three. And then, of course, I’ll need the shoes to go with all the possible outfits, so I’ll throw them into the suitcase as well.  Oh yes, and then I’ll need the corresponding jewelry to round out each outfit. And I might want to go for a workout in the fitness room at the hotel, so I should pack my running shoes and running clothes. And I might do that more than once on the trip, so I should probably take a few workout outfits.

And then there are the unknowns. Is the hotel going to be too hot or too cold2? I should probably pack both my warm PJs and my satin PJs so that I’m prepared for either eventuality. What if I need something fancy, because you never know when you might get invited to a fancy event? What if it snows? Or rains? Or is sunny?  Clearly, I need boots and a toque and an umbrella and some sunglasses.

And, of course, there is my unending list of Things I Need To Do and my unwavering belief that I can do all of them in an impossibly short amount of time. Which means I’ll pack at least five times as much work as I could ever hope to accomplish3 because I’ll be on a plane AND I’ll have two evenings in a hotel before my family comes to join me, so clearly I’ll be getting some work done!

On a less self-deprecating – and more self-congratulatory – note, I did my Christmas shopping for my family so that I can bring it with me and give it to my sister to bring home and store until December 254. Because shipping is pricey and I am nothing if not a cheap, cheap woman. I did take pity on my dear sister and made sure that my presents are very, very small, as she doesn’t have a huge house in which to store a bunch of stuff.

OK, enough of this blogging… time to get packing!

  1. Notice how days never fly by like that when you have, say, an exciting weekend planned and it’s Friday? []
  2. Because the one thing I do know is that it won’t be the right temperature. []
  3. For this trip, I’ve packed a bunch of materials for the thing that I’m actually going to Ottawa to workshop about, plus files for another high priority project I have on the go, a manuscript for a journal article I’m writing, my application for a professional designation (as I’m waiting for my username and password to allow me access to the online application system), one of the books I’m reading, and the online course I’m going to be teaching next term that I need to update []
  4. I usually start my Christmas shopping no earlier than about Dec 10, so having it done by the first week of November is almost unthinkable to me! []


Packing Update

I spent most of today and a good chunk of yesterday packing.  I now have the kitchen1, the bathroom and the bedroom completely packed2.  And I did all my laundry, including all the blankets and sheets3, and I took books back to both the Vancouver Public Library and UBC Library. The things I have left to do before moving day4:

  • pack up my printer, scanner and the various things in my geek drawer
  • pack all the food from my cupboards5
  • make sure everything is saved off old desktop and laptop
  • take old desktop to Kalev’s storage
  • take various computer thingys to Free Geek
  • take books to used bookstore and other crap to thrift store:

In other packing-related news, I was talking to Betty, my former landlady (who used to own the house until they sold it a few months ago, but is renting the upstairs until the end of this month) who said that I can have any of the furniture in my place (as I’ve been renting a furnished place6).  Which means I don’t have to buy a kitchen table and chairs! Yay!  I’m also taking this furniture, which I’ve been using in my kitchen these past three years:

And Betty let me in on a little secret: that’s baby furniture!  The thing I’ve been using as a microwave stand, is in actuality a baby change table!  As soon as she told me that, I could totally see it, but until that point it had never occurred to me that it was anything but kitchen furniture!

But even as the Flying Spaghetti Monster giveth, the Flying Spaghetti Monster taketh away. As I mentioned the other day, I’m making a concerted effort to get rid of things that I really don’t need.  For the most part, it’s been easy to toss things7 – like stuff that doesn’t fit/I don’t like anymore/is expired.  But there were two things that I needed to toss that gave me pause.  One was my old McMaster jacket.  It’s about 15 years old, and pretty wrecked up.  I know that I’ll never wear it again, but it was still tough to throw it away.  I took these photos to remember it by:

And the other thing I had to toss was my beloved eBay shoes!  You remember them, right?  Oh, the times we had!  I didn’t take a photo of them because they were pretty wrecked up and I want to remember them in better times.  I have photos like these to remember them by:

You will be missed, Mac jacket and beloved eBay shoes.

  1. except the food []
  2. I’m staying at Tod’s this week so that I could just pack up everything at my place and not worry about needing to leave some stuff unpacked to use for the next week []
  3. have to take advantage of the in-home laundry while I still have it []
  4. Feb 15 []
  5. stuff from the fridge and freezer will get packed the day of, for obvious reasons []
  6. I have some of my own stuff, but a fair bit of it is theirs. But they are downsizing to a retirement condo so they can’t even keep all of the furniture upstairs, let alone the stuff in the basement []
  7. or put them into the “to donate” pile []


In Search of Boxes

Given how many cardboard boxes must be used every day to ship all the things that get shipped, you would expect it to be really easy to get your hands on those boxes.  I’m finding out, however, that this is not the case. I went to two liquor stores, a grocery store, a hardware store, and a drug store last night and all I managed to get were two sub-par boxes from the produce section of the grocery.  The drug store told me to call this morning and ask them to put the boxes aside for me, as they break them down and get rid of them right away.  The liquor store said to drop by today as that’s when they get their shipment.

I raided the recycling room at work and when I was at a meeting at another health unit yesterday afternoon, I raided their recycling room too!  Working in health, however, means you end up with boxes like this one:

And this one:

And my personal favourite:


Battle of the Vices

Sometimes you have two vices that are in direct opposition to one another.  For example, my ex’s BFF, who I like to refer to as SFP1 often used to have an internal battle between the vices of “sloth” and “gluttony.”  Would his sheer laziness prevent him from walking to the store to buy copious amounts of peanut butter cups?  It was always amusing to watch such a battle play out.

Right now, I’m having to face my own Battle of the Vices.  My pack rat nature is fighting with my extreme desire to minimize the amount of shit I have to pack and move to my new place.  Fortunately, I have been waging a conscious fight against my tendency to hoard2 and so laziness is winning the battle.

When I moved to my current place more than three and a half years ago, I was finishing up my PhD and so I had a lot of paper.  Boxes upon boxes upon boxes of journal articles, data analyses and multiple versions of multiple manuscripts.  Seeing as I’ve been done the dissertation for three years, all the manuscripts are published, and I no longer do research in that specific area, I think it’s safe to part with the vast majority of that paper3.  As well, I had really, really old financial records that I felt it was time to send on its merry way.

So this is what I took out to the recycling tonight:

The big green bag is shredded paper.  The rest are the paper that didn’t need shredding.

The toboggan, in case you are wondering, is just there because I was too lazy to move it to take the picture.  It’s not being recycled.

  1. Stupid Friend Paul []
  2. which I come by honestly, I might add. []
  3. I have to keep the original data as that’s not replaceable and someone could, in theory, ask to see it, even all these years later.  But all the journal articles can be obtained from the library again should I ever need them and I have electronic copies of all the data analyses []