What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Buying a Condo

Today, barring any major disasters, I get the keys to my new condo. By 5:00 PM, I’ll be a full fledged homeowner.

I’ve been a bundle of nerves about this (and probably annoying all of my friends, but they’re so nice that they never tell me to shut up because they know it’ll all be over soon!) for the last several weeks.

Below are a few things I learned (that Wikipedia can’t tell you) about buying a condo.

The Mortgage Industry Still Uses Fax Machines

I really thought fax machines were a thing of the past (like shoulder pads and Aqua Net). I was horribly mistaken. Andi belongs to this really cool document scanner program, and when she sent me things to sign, all I had to do was click a button, and my signature would automatically appear. I was excited about that (“how modern!”) until I moved along the process. To the mortgage guy. Who needed me to fax back one document six times. I felt bad about the resources being wasted. I even asked him if he ever got audited. He said he did, once a decade. We agreed that the auditor had the worst job ever.

Real Estate Jargon is Difficult to Understand

I said to a friend, “I’m going to be really lucky if I don’t end up with a mail-order bride based on all the things I’m signing.” I don’t really understand a) why there’s so much paperwork, and b) why it isn’t written in plain speak, unless they want to trap poor suckers like me. I like to think of myself as a smart lady, but nearly every time I read something, I would have difficulty understanding it, and then I’d need to have it explained. Maybe twice. Andi’s working hard for her commission here, folks. Working with a mortgage broker made me really skeptical too, because they’re the ones who were “so evil” in the past, so any time I didn’t understand something, my gut would tell me, that dude is trying to pull one over on you and I’d send an email, then get an immediate phone call back, talking me down.

Buying a Condo Takes a lot of Money

frugal portland's new home

this is taking all my money

Earnest money. Home inspection money. Appraisal money (which I earnestly tried to wiggle out of, since an identical unit closed three weeks before I put in my offer). Buying a Washer/Dryer. Closing costs. HOLY COW. Just when I was thinking, “whatever will I do with all this money in savings after I pay off my car?” the answer was: get it the heck out of savings and into someone else’s pocket. ASAP. Thank goodness I’m buying something “off the rack” and won’t have to spend much money in order to make it liveable. I can live with something that looks like a ski lodge timeshare for a little while. I’m determined not to spend more than is absolutely necessary (although goodness gracious there are some pretty throw pillows oh god who am I?) until I have a feel for my monthly cashflow situation during the slow months, which are forthcoming.

There is a Limit to Frugality, even for Frugal Portland

I started packing over a week ago, because I like to plan ahead. I thought I would move stuff in my car once I got keys on Thursday, then move more stuff on Friday, then Saturday get a truck and some strong friends to help with the bed, dresser, dining table, couch, and chair. I started to panic. Moving things in my car will wear me out. My dear friend said I could borrow her big old Subaru, which would cut down the time significantly. But still, I felt stressed and out of sorts. I started dreaming about my friends all simultaneously deciding that enough is enough. So I called Willamette Valley Moving (two friends used them and gave glowing recommendations). They told me that Memorial Day Weekend is a big moving weekend (why on earth did I wait so long to try to book them?) and that they could only move me Thursday afternoon. I signed papers earlier this week, but Oregon doesn’t give you keys when you finish signing papers, and Andi could only guess that I’d get keys by 5pm on Thursday. She wasn’t confident that I could get them any sooner, and she didn’t want me to agree to a Thursday afternoon move. I called them to cancel, sadly. The person who answered the phone said, “well, how about Saturday afternoon?” So, without much thought, I booked it. It’s going to cost $210, plus tip. And I won’t have to lift a finger. Nor will I have to burn through more friend credit. Instead, if my friends want, they can come over Saturday afternoon and help me unpack! Or at least sit on my couch in the new place. It’s probably going to cost me just over $100 more than getting a truck, filling the truck, putting gas in the truck, and buying dinner for my friends.

I Have the Patience of a Small Child Around Christmas

decluttered Christmas

sad Christmas decorations

I finally understand the point of Advent calendars. I wish I’d had one through this process! Since no one has invented those yet, I’m like a toddler, who doesn’t understand the concept of time, looking (but not touching!) all the wrapped packages under the tree. It took a long time to get comfortable with the idea of a mortgage (and I’m still working on that) but once I decided to push forward, something clicked, and I lost my patience. Although, to be fair, patience wasn’t something I had in abundance anyway.

I’m More of a Worrier Than I Realized

All of my worries relate to how I’m going to act once I own my house. Story time: I once had a friend who got a new car. This friend was different than all my other friends who get new cars and stay normal. He was a big weirdo about his new car. He’d wash it by hand every Saturday. Wax it monthly. At first it was fun to have a friend who always wanted to drive everywhere. “It’s okay,” he’d say, “I’ll come pick you up even though we’re going somewhere in my neighborhood?” But after a while, it got weird. His other friends would whisper behind his back. “Doesn’t he know it’s just a car?” they’d ask. Clearly he did not. Once, when it rained, he asked me to take off my shoes. I worry that I’ll somehow be like this guy. Chasing everyone with coasters. Constantly sweeping and mopping. Actually yelling at the dog who can’t help his muddy footprints.

My Family and Friend-Family are Amazing

pros and cons of online dating

dog says, “don’t yell at me, please!”

All this week/month/six-weeks/forevertime,  everyone has been so supportive! The ones who have been through the process before have answered my questions. The ones who haven’t stand by like cheerleaders. I wear my emotions externally, so my friends are reaching out, asking if they can do anything. They fed me after my kitchen was 100% packed. They sat up with me while I fussed about the inspection process. Mom and Dad, holy cow, there aren’t words for how supportive they’re being. Little Sister is moving too, and will distract me from my worrying to talk about wallpaper and paint colors.

I’m Thankful that Real Estate is a Very Irregular Purchase

Title companies? Who needs ’em? Goodness gracious there are a lot of hands in this process.

I don’t know how people make a living out of this. Real estate is not a fun thing to buy. I’m happy that this little piece of Portland will soon be mine, and thrilled about having a place for guests, but I’m OVER the process. I’m much happier in my sales job. It’s a lot easier!


  1. says

    Congratulations on the big move! And yes, there's no way to understand what's happening to you until you go through it at least once.

    I live in an attorney state which lengthens the process and adds a little to the cost. But one thing I love about it is what a great job our local attorneys do explaining all the paperwork to home buyers. In the moment, I think most people appreciate having someone on their side.

    In my home buyer classes I tell people no one will ever let them read their docs in full at closing. That's why I give them copies in the class. We go over the important facts and I tell them where problems could turn up and suggest questions to ask.

    So glad you're sharing your experience.

    Hope you have many happy years in your new home.

  2. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says

    So happy for you, congratulations! There is not much to worry about, just cross any bridge when/if you ever get to it, but for now, enjoy your new awesome homeowner's life.

  3. Anne - Unique Gifter says

    Whew, so close to the end! Please tell me that you have selected a lovely bottle of bubbly for tomorrow? I will virtually cheers you. Yes, there are so very many costs associated. Having a lot of cash on hand is important, not even including a downpayment!
    It will be awesome once you're in and settled though, you'll love it! Plus, you'll get some quality little sis bonding time in the next little bit.
    Here's hoping that it all goes swimmingly and that you don't wear yourself out too much.

  4. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    Congrats, that's awesome! There's nothing quite like that feeling getting those keys and being a homeowner. I agree, I think it's crazy they still use a fax machines. We ran into that a few months ok and just wanted to say, REALLY?! Anyway, in regards to all the paperwork that's "needed", that's one of the main reasons why Warren Buffett thinks all mortgage paperwork needs to be one page. It would make life so much easier…and save a few small forests in the process. ;)

  5. says

    Oh no! I didn't know Aqua Net was out! I still use that stuff, you know *when* I do my hair! It's like $2/bottle. A big, huge, last-you-a-year-or-two bottle. Okay, now I feel old. Anyway, I'm so so happy for you! It's so cool that we are doing this at the same time so we can be totally annoying to one another and it's okay! I am so so so impressed that you have a post for today! You're making everyone else look bad. Best of luck today and this weekend as you unpack, meet the neighbors, and probably end up accidentally spending even more money! ;)

  6. Budget & the Beach says

    Geez house hunters makes the process seem so simple. :) You don't just pick a house and move in? There is a reason moving is one of the biggest stressors in life. Don't worry about being one of those "house people" you are referring too…you may in the beginning but I'm sure you'll settle into things…hopefully by the time I get there. lol! Take a deep breath and take things moment to moment. And a big congratulations!

    • says

      I found out, actually, I am NOT one of those people! This boy I'm dating decided to hang all the towel racks and stuff in the bathrooms and messed up the drywall a bit. I was happy to know that I just did NOT care about holes in the drywall!

  7. krantcents says

    It gets easier after you do it once. You want to push the appropriate people to do their jobs in a timely manner. In many cases, their mistakes will cost you money.

  8. says

    I think you said it best – be glad this is an infrequent purchase. Last year when we were closing, i swear we were just taking fistfulls of high denomination bills and tossing them into the air. Testing for this, testing for that, earnest money, yada yada yada. All of these things cost so much money and it seems like they never stop. For you since you bought a new(er)? unit, at least it will pretty much stop there for a while. For us it continues, every day spending more money on upgrades, etc.

  9. moneybeagle says

    It's an emotional roller coaster ride, that's for sure. I look back to when we bought our house in 2007 and I simultaneously sold my condo. I had ups and downs on both sides of things all the time. The offer on the condo was too low. Someone else was looking at the house. The counter offer was listed as final and was more than I could afford. The closing was delayed.

    Honestly, having a great realtor was the best thing that could have happened. I balked at the price I paid in commission, but looking back, I would have made so many mistakes that would have been more costly than what I ended up paying.

    Good luck.

  10. debtroundup says

    Happy for you closing and excited to see some more posts about the moving and settling in process. Purchasing a place is the most convoluted process I have ever been in. It should really be more streamlined.

  11. says

    Every time someone asks me to fax them something at work, I give them a good long 10 second pause and then ask, "don't you mean email?". I don't know why older folks can't get with the program and just do everything electronically. The new place looks a little like a ski lodge, but also way cute. I feel like the end of an HGTV show. I'm sure your nerves will calm once the papers go through and you actually have the keys!

  12. therandompath says

    Congrats Kathleen! I am so, so very happy for you :) I can relate to your home-buying process. It was like that when we purchased our townhome years ago. Just when you thought you'd signed your last piece of paper…that's what I remember the most. "Sign here." "Sign there."

    And lastly? That story about your friend and their new car and how you had to take off your shoes to get in his car? Still laughing on that one! Ha, ha, ha…

  13. alwayshungry4 says

    Despite the paperwork, hassle, and extra costs – how very exciting!!! Best wishes on the move going smoothly and you settling in nicely in your new digs!

  14. says

    The reality is that all that paperwork is designed to place the legal burdens on YOU and not them. You are on an uneven playing field with no leverage at all to object. But I guess you know that now.

  15. zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com says

    I live in Texas where you can close on a property very quickly if all of your mortgage ducks are in a row. We had an amazing real estate agent who had some very helpful friends and buying our VA approved house took no time at all.

  16. PKamp3 @ DQYDJ says

    Hey – what happened with the mail-order bride thing? Are you safe? Should we dispatch a search party?

  17. theoutliermodel says

    There are a lot of 'extra' costs involved with buying a condo, we try to keep them down as much as possible. There usually is a big difference in cost of lawyers, so we definitely call around to find the best option. There sure is a lot of paperwork though!


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