ne jugez pas trop vite

I learned (well, re-learned) a good life lesson this week.  A friend of mine is having a lot of money troubles...he can't find a job, but has fixed expenses that he just can't get rid of.  I have no idea how big his reserves are, but I know he's dipping into them and it's stressing him out.  He was living high on the hog for a while during his last (very well paying) job, and is finding it difficult to cut back.  Particularly being friends with me, because I think money is meant to be spent on great bonding activities with friends (dinner, shows etc).  Because he's always with me at those events, he gets sucked into my bad spending habits.  So I'm a bad influence. 

But we made a pact a couple weeks ago to try to keep each other in check.  I have a mortgage now, so I need to be more careful.  We were talking earlier this week, and he asked me for advice on how to minimize an unexpected unavoidable expense that sprang up that morning and couldn't wait (emergency plane flight).  We worked it out the best we could, and re-affirmed our pact to try to minimize expenses so that this doesn't add extra stress.

He mentioned that it was bad timing because he had another big expense he just HAD to pay.  I asked him what, and how much it cost, and he described a [_______] a friend of his was selling.  I had heard him talking about it before when he first saw it at this guy's house, and how much he loved it, and wished he could have it.  But he had told the guy he'd have to wait until he could afford it.  Apparently the guy decided he had to unload it RIGHT NOW, and so my friend was going to pay the $600 because the opportunity was just too good to pass up.

I thought this was completely absurd, and I said "um, really?"  In fact, my first reaction was to be annoyed.  During the last couple months, to help him out a little, I have volunteered to pay for a few things (not big things, just treating him to dinner more than I normally would, etc).  And I almost said "Well shit, if you can afford to waste $600 on [________], you must not be as poor as I thought you were.  I guess I don't need to be treating you so often!"  Or something similarly snarky and judgmental.

But then I realized he's a big boy.  Our pact is useful for helping each other make smart small choices, like eating out at CPK rather than Pace when we want pizza.  He doesn't need me to remind him that it's stupid to waste money on something like that when times are tough.  I can just stop spending money on him, without announcing why I'm doing it.  Me being a bitch about it isn't going to do any good at all. So I just chuckled a little, and kept my mouth shut.

When I got home from work last night, he was at my place, with the [________].  It was a GIFT!  He had told me about it because he was trying to feel out whether I'd love it (since he obviously couldn't return it).  Of course he knew he couldn't afford it right now!  If it had been for him, he would have passed on it.  The reason he couldn't wait is because he thought it was the perfect thing for ME, and didn't think he'd ever find something like it again if he let this opportunity pass.  He wanted to show me he loves me, even (especially) when times are tough.  It was a sacrifice, but that's the point.  When he gave it to me, he said "I love you so much.  I just can't get over you." 

By judging him too quickly, I almost ruined an incredibly beautiful gesture.  If I had made the snarky comment, he probably would have given it to me anyway.  But every time I saw it, I would have been reminded of my judgmental bitchiness.  It would have been a symbol of a bad time in our relationship, instead of one of the best times.

ne jugez pas trop vite

land baron

Ok, so do you wanna know what has REALLY been keeping me busy?  I have been BUYING A CONDO!!  I didn't want to say anything until it actually happened, because I didn't want back-seat drivers.  But now it's over!  It has sucked up unbelievable amounts of time. I went through all sorts of stages of hell before I got my keys:

First I analyzed whether I could afford it:  The answer is: sorta, if I stretch.  My Dad kept insisting "it's a buyer's market, real estate is the best way to build wealth, you'll be so happy you got in early" blah blah.  Eh, I don't know about that.  I read all sorts of reports that it's actually maybe NOT good to buy real estate if your sole consideration is long-term wealth accumulation.  But whatever, I was tired of throwing away money to an evil landlord, and there are plenty of intangible considerations.

Then I had to decide whether I wanted to commit to a mortgage (and therefore commit to a high-paying, perhaps un-fulfilling, job): Not really, but I have confidence the market will have bounced back by the time I'm ready (able) to get a new job, and by then I can sell (or rent).

Then I negotiated with my Dad over whether he wanted to go in half, so that I'm not locked into a miserable career: Nope.

So with all that certainty about the money situation (sarcasm), I then had to find a place I love.  That was actually the hardest part.  At first I wanted a multi-unit place, so that I could collect rent.  But there was nothing for less than $1 million.  Then for a while I thought it'd be nice to have a single-family home so that I have a yard and can do whatever I want.  But then I realized I'd have to take care of a lot of stuff, and that the only homes I could afford were shitty little things either in the Valley or not-cool parts of Culver City. 

So then I needed to find a condo.  www.redfin.com is the coolest website ever (after this one, of course), and was very helpful.  I really needed an agent too, but kept putting it off.  Then I went to see a place in Hollywood, and the agent showing it was extremely nice, and HONEST.  Homeliest looking thing you ever saw, with food constantly stuck in the corner of his mouth, a toupee that looks like a rug, no sense of direction, and no ability to park his car without hitting something.  But in addition to being nice, and honest, I really appreciated that he was open-minded.  I took my parents with me that day, but also happened to take a gay friend who was dressed particularly flamboyant.  And the agent just assumed right off the bat that we were a couple, and was cool with it.  "I'm not sure what you and [_____] are looking for, but let me tell you about...."  I liked that. 

We toured a bunch of places, as I slowly narrowed down what I was looking for.  And when I was busy at work, I sent my mom out to look at places for me (she has good taste).  At first I thought square footage was my primary concern.  But then I realized location was more important.  But, of course, good locations cost a lot, so then I was looking at fixer-uppers.  But then I realized that I HAD to have my own private outdoor space, so I started looking only at places with roof decks or patios.  And then I decided I wanted a unit that didn't look out on another building, because I was tired of always having to choose between open blinds and nudity.  And then I decided I would REALLY like to have a view. 

I also wanted a place that prioritized "public" space over private (i.e., I'd rather have a big living room to entertain in than a big second bedroom that nobody will ever see).  And I didn't want a place that was too fixed up.  A fancy kitchen is nice, but I don't want to pay a premium and then be stuck with somebody else's choice of granite.  I'd rather fix it up myself later, if I want. 

Of course, I could never find something that had ALL those things.  Either it had a great location, but looked out at the back of a billboard.  Or an awesome patio, but tiny square footage.  Or a great entertaining space, but my neighbors could watch me shower.  And, of course, I was looking for that certain je ne sais quoi. 

I actually put down an official offer on one place (thank God I got tired of the bidding war...I wouldn't be happy in that place), and came close to offering on another.

And then one day I was looking at redfin and saw a place that had JUST come on the market.  From the description, it seemed way too good to be true.  I arranged to view it the next day, and took my Dad.  My first instinct upon walking in was that I loved it, but then I started agonizing over all the things that weren't quite perfect.  I took my Mom, and she loved it too, but also saw a lot of little negatives.  Then I took my best friend, and immediately upon walking through the door, he said "You have to buy it."  He had been with me to see most of the other places, so he knew what I wanted.  And he knows how I over-analyze everything.  His absolute unwavering confidence that this was the right place was what I needed to push me over the edge.  His attitude was basically "oh stop being such a worry-wart.  You obviously love this place.  It has everything you want.  Just do it!" And he was right, I did want it!  I wanted it bad!  I knew it was THE perfect place for me, and I probably wasn't going to find another place with that perfect combination. 

So I got an inspection done, to make sure it wasn't falling apart.  And then I agonized over how much to offer.  I knew the asking price was an amazing bargain, but I wanted to see what I could get, so I offered less.  But then they came back and said there were two other offers, and that I should make my "last, best" offer.  So I just jumped right up to the asking price.  I didn't want to mess around with a bidding war.  I know they could have been screwing with me, but whatever. 

So we were going through all the paperwork, and I finally found hard evidence of what I'd known since I did my inspection: the square footage was much smaller than what they'd listed.  And there was a problem with the structure of the balcony.  And the air conditioner was on its last legs.  The seller had been dragging its feet with me for so long that the other bidders were long gone, and I knew I was the only guy in the game.  So I dropped back to my original offer, AND insisted they pay to fix the balcony. 

They said "no way, there's no way we'd accept that."  But I called their bluff and said "Fine, try to sell it to somebody else.  But now you have to disclose the true square footage and the structural issue, or you're committing fraud."  I knew I had them by the balls.  And they accepted!  I remember I was at Trader Joe's picking up food for a picnic dinner at the Hollywood Forever cemetery for one of their movie nights when my agent called me.  I was so excited, and my friends were very sweet to celebrate with me! 

But the excitement quickly turned to frustration.  It actually took more than two months after that to finally get through all the paperwork, get the loan, do the final inspections etc etc.  The delay actually worked out for me, since I unintentionally locked my interest rate at the bottom of a trough.  But the delay was annoying nonetheless.  I was really good about my due diligence (I even snuck into an HOA meeting to see whether they were crazy (kinda, but not in a bad way)).  I did everything on time.  But the escrow company was HORRID (they actually fired the person working on my deal in the middle of it, and forgot to tell anybody about it, and forgot to assign somebody else to do it).  And there's still a battle going on between the HOA and the seller about $25k of unpaid HOA dues (but it doesn't directly involve me, so I'm ignoring it). 

I also had a battle with my landlord as I was moving out.  To make a long story short, he got ants in his pants about getting the place fixed up for the next tenant, and in hurrying a little too much he basically trespassed and evicted me without cause.  I got a lawyer involved and scared the shit out of him, and ended up getting what I wanted (a fat chunk of cash).  Trust me, I was a model tenant, and I was as nice as possible and tried to work it out without a lawyer.  But he's a true asshole.  Everybody in the building agrees he got what he deserved. 

Anyway, it all worked out. I had a brief moment of anxiety when the wire transfer went through (life savings: GONE.  I'm back to zero, and feel poor.  Proooobably shouldn't have gone to Italy!)  But I know I got a good deal.  I ended up getting it for more than $300,000 less than they were asking 1.5 years ago.  That was obviously a bubble, but even so, that's a giant discount. 

And after all that, I finally got the keys!  Actually, it was somewhat anti-climactic.  All I got was my agent telling me the code to the lock-box that was stuck to the railing outside the building.  But I already knew the code.  So the only thing that really changed was that I didn't have to put the keys back in the box anymore. 

This has already gotten way too long, so I'll tell you about move-in day (there's a hot boy in that story) and life in the new place next time.