Single Status Update
So, over the last few months, I've been looking for affordable housing around the Chicago suburbs. In any other year, that kind of oxymoron would have stopped any searches before they began, but thanks to the so-called economic collapse, low-class bums like me were able to scour the bottom end of the housing market for possible purchase options.
Absurd property taxes put even the cheapest houses out of the question, which left condos. I looked through about 20 tolerably-sized 2-bedrooms, most of which were $130,000 - $140,000. The few that were cheaper needed about $20,000 of maintenance and more time than I had to spend working on them.
The best floorplan was the smaller Tricks And Traps layout in the complex where my parents moved 2 years ago. The 2 largest models have an octagonal foyer that has 6 or 7 doors leading to the various rooms. The one they got is this epic 1850 square footer. Most condos are glorified apartments - these are stacked houses.
The smaller version is 1450 sq ft. Still felt like a mini-house rather than an apartment. I knew it was the best layout when I walked through it, but the price of the 2 crappiest units I've ever seen in my life were $134,000 and $140,000. The first one had orange stains on the carpet around all the furniture, grout that randomly transitioned from white to black, cracked plastic cabinets, suspended ceiling light tiles turned yellow and brown to match the shape of the lights above them, a collapsing ceiling in the hallway, and half the entire master bedroom ceiling was bloated with water damage. The second had wallpaper. Everywhere. On every wall. Over half the baseboard. On the front door. On the closet doors. On the metal bi-fold doors. On the cabinets. On the sink. And I doubt the carpet had been cleaned since the complex went up in the '70's.
Looked at a bunch of other stuff in the range of 800-1100 sq ft, also running an average price of $130,000. Saw lots of nice decorating and lots of crap, but they were all just apartments that people decided to sell instead of rent.
The thing about the place where my parents live is that it went into construction around 1970 and was marketed as a luxury complex, so a lot of people who were either retired or at the end of their careers sold their house after their adult children had moved out and moved into that complex. Now 40 years later, they're all making their final move to the graveyard, and half the units for sale are being sold by the children of people who've either died or been moved to a nursing home.
Last Thursday, one such estate sale comes on the market - $119,000. Owner died, kids wanted to ditch it ASAP. Saw it on Friday. I was certain from the price it was this other 1150 sq ft model, but turns out it was the Tricks And Traps model. And not only was it not trash, but it was good. They cleaned, patched, repainted and recarpeted. Nothing for me to do but bid. Offered $110,000 on Saturday. Prayed a bit. They returned with $115,000 on Sunday. Took it.
And behold: The Chateau
Of course, I'm too lame to manage the downpayment and credit check myself, so it was joint venture between me, my parents, and my recently deceased grandmother who left us a fair bit of savings. It'll run about $1,100 a month after association fees and taxes, but for the upgrade from my 558 sq ft 1-bedroom apartment which is up to $790 a month and heading past $800 at the next lease renewal, I'd say it's worth it. Especially considering somebody just paid $141,000 for an 1150 sq ft unit on the floor above me.
Now I just need to add 2 more doors to make it a true Tricks And Traps setup. I could add a secret entrance to the bedroom closet - it would be more of a shortcut than a secret, but it would work. I could also add one to the right wall, but that would open into the shower, so I'd rather not. Maybe I should just install permanently locked yellow and red skull doors on the walls instead. And turn the hallway into a crusher :D
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Condos work more like buying a house, but there is an aspect similar to renting an apartment. You own the unit and everything inside, but you're also located in somebody else's building and on their land.
To buy, you go through the standard homebuying procedure: place a down payment and take out a mortgage loan for the remaining cost of the property. However, the building and land are typically maintained by an association, which charges an association fee that can vary from year to year.
You also pay property taxes like you would in a house. When you rent an apartment, the landlord splits your rental money between building costs and tax costs, since he owns the properties. When you own the condo, the association fee covers the building costs and the taxes go to you. This can be a benefit if you're eligible for tax discounts - a lot of these old fossils were paying only a few hundred in taxes for the entire year, so their only monthly property costs after the mortgage was paid were the $300-$450 association fees (rate based on the size of the unit).
At first the association fee seems like an extra hassle, but you have to remember that when you pay the tax, you pay only for the space of the unit you occupy and nothing else. For houses, your property tax covers not only the house, but the total amount of land you own as well. Out here (and I suspect most places), the amount of money you have to dedicate to taxes when you own a house is considerably greater than the combined property tax and association fee of the condo.
Plus at this place, the association actually works for their fees. We get heated garages under our buildings, private parking lots for guests to use without cops ticketing and towing, landscape maintenance (including snow removal in winter), each building has its own maintenance guy and there's 2 head maintenance guys covering the entire complex, and there's also this pavilion that has a party room, game room, pool tables, exercise facility and indoor swimming pool. So it's not like some associations that just leech off condo owners and use the fees to increase their personal benefits.
Getting free maintenance is a bit tricky - you own the unit and everything in it, so you're responsible if you break your own stuff. However, if there's any damage to the unit either due to building issues or other people, the maintenance guys will fix your unit. For example, the people living below my parents' unit had a pipe break in their foyer ceiling last winter and the owner had to drill holes in it to let the water pour into a bucket. Maintenance fixed/replaced everything for no cost. If you own a house, that's your problem.
Anyway, that's about how they work. So no, I don't have that kind of money; I'll be expected to get it each month or face a foreclosure or bankruptcy. The downpayment of $25,000 was possible because of what was left after my grandparents died. The other paperwork was tricky and I'm still not certain what it was all about. Because it's a 3-way ownership split between my parents and I, we were able to do some kind of hackjob on the mortgage and taxes. First, they got a tax write-off for owning a second property (even if only partially), so we (I) save something like over $1,000 a year there. We also had enough combined credit to delay the mortgage payments 5 years and only pay interest until then. During that 5 years, I can put extra money toward the premium to decrease it. It's currently $90,000, but I'm hoping to get it down to at least $40,000. I could just pay the association fee and discounted tax for 5 years, which would be cheaper than my current rent, but that would be stupid and burn me when I least need it.
So yeah, guests are welcome. I'll have plenty space and stuff to do. Sandy'll be at the top of the list.
I'll get pictures when I move in. The deal doesn't close until December 18, so I won't have keys until then.