Last Fall, in my first semester of graduate school, I wrote in a reflection assignment for class about how I planned to manage it all. “It all” meaning a full-time job, what feels like more-than-part-time school, and providing some semblance of an adequate life for myself (involving a number of s-words: sustenance, shelter, sleep, social life?). I said a few nice things about maintaining a regular schedule and blogging as a creative outlet. My professor commented, “What a great idea!”
On Friday morning there was an incident on the subway that left me really shaken. It had been a long and exhausting week at work and I was so glad to have made it to Friday. On the subway I took my backpack off and nestled it between my feet. I held onto a pole at the center of a long bench of seated passengers as the car filled with people. As usual, I opened up my NYT crossword app and started solving the mini. As the train pulled out of the station, I heard a loud and clear male voice halfway down the car telling a young woman to take her off backpack or move it or something like that. I shrugged because I knew better — seriously, take your backpacks off when you’re on a crowded train. I kept one ear trained on the ruckus because it seemed like this guy was trying to move through the packed train.
To celebrate J’s new job, we decided to cross another item off of our bucket list and jet to Seattle. We lived like kings for 2.5 days in the Emerald City, eating whenever we were hungry (often) and pretty much walking everywhere in between. It rained for most of the time we were there, but on our last day we were lucky enough to get some blue sky and sun.
At some point in my education I realized that, if I just stay quiet in class, people will often assume that I am smarter than I am. People reveal their stupidity all the time by speaking up, but I look like I would be good at schoolwork. I am East Asian and I speak English well. I found that if I quietly hit the markers of intelligent-enough, study up on the side, and try to figure out what the instructor is asking for, I can pretty much sail by, class participation be damned. I’m starting to feel the strains of this in grad school — my reticence to raise my hand, to take up space, to risk answering a question wrongly and reveal that maybe I too have faults. I can contribute this also to pressures as a young Asian female to not make waves. Everyone loves an amiable Asian girl, but one that rocks the boat? I can already feel the disgust and judgment. In the end, though, nobody questions my presence in class, at a university.
My mom once told me that she wondered, when she was at college, about whether she was an Affirmative Action student. She felt the questioning gaze of others, of whether she rightly belonged. Her advisor asked her if she was there to find a husband or take school seriously, because she wasn’t doing that well in class. I don’t know if her advisor knew that college was also a ticket out of the family flower farm, where she had worked with her siblings on weekends and evenings after school as long as she could remember. These are experiences that are difficult for me to grasp. I understand on an intellectual level what that means, but personally is a different story. I will never fully know how being a second generation college student has shaped my experience and helped propel me across the country to attend a private university, to fight for a space for myself and people like me — people of color — and to continue to be involved in this system professionally and academically. How would my experience have been different if I was the first in my family to go to college? Where would I have focused my efforts if I didn’t have this basis of knowing that, in the end, I deserved to be there?
I had a sudden panic attack after J and I made our first offer on an apartment. We had been looking for few weeks and saw an apartment that hit all of our main criteria — two bedrooms, spacious, decent kitchen, amenities (elevator building with laundry), manageable distance from public transportation, and it was in our price range. It even had a friendly doorman and a gym! We went back again during the next week’s open house to check it out and speak some more with the realtor, who was warm, helpful, and made us feel incredibly comfortable. J and I decided to go in without negotiating and offer the asking price. An hour later our offer was accepted and that’s when I panicked.
Sorry for the silence, folks, but I guess the only thing certain in life is that I will never maintain a regular posting schedule. I promise I have more in my series on buying a house, but I’ve flown through my queued posts and now I am writing them as we go and it has been a slow progress.
I haven’t even written about the last two months.
So, your team is assembled, you’ve been pre-approved by the bank, have a decent understanding of the current housing market, and have gone to a number of open houses. What happens when you stumble upon your dream apartment (or at least one that you would be pretty happy to live in for a long time)? You probably want to make an offer quickly, considering this is New York City, the rent is too damn high, and housing is always in demand.
But before you throw all of your money on the table and bare your soul to the sellers, you need to make sure you’ve hammered out the numbers.
One thing I learned during the home buying process was that every single step involves at least two other parties. Because of this, you need to assemble a team that you can trust and like to work with. Think of this part as your Ocean’s Eleven (but not eleven, more like three). You should probably have your team assembled before you go to open houses, but if you’re like J and I and have no idea what you’re doing, then you’re probably doing everything at once — researching, submitting items for pre-approval, going to open houses, asking realtors at open houses if they would recommend getting a realtor (their answers will probably leave you more unsure), and trying to figure out how the hell you’re supposed to find a real estate attorney. Regardless, here are the folks you need to look out for:
Figured I’d give you all a slight break in the posts about homebuying and write more about my home now that I’m actually a homeowner. Sorry, this is all that I talk about now. J and I have been hustling to get as much done on the home before I started grad school (at which point life is pretty much a series of wild cards) so we have quite literally been going hard in the paint (and spackle, and trips to home depot). We had about a month and a half between the time when we got the keys to the place and when I started classes (Thursday, September 3rd)… so every waking moment has pretty much been spent in the maelstrom that is this apartment.
By the time you’ve gotten through all the pre-research and have your commitment letter, you are probably raring to look at some candidates for your future Home Sweet Home. This is the best part of the entire process leading up to home ownership, so enjoy it! This is also probably a good time to get a realtor (if not earlier?), but J and I breezed through that step and jumped heads first into the world of open houses. Looking back, I would possibly recommend getting a real estate agent because if this is your first time, it can be quite confusing to go it alone. Realtors can assist you through the negotiating process when you want to make an offer and many have specific neighborhood knowledge that can benefit you. That said, there are a lot of agents out there so it’s good to find one who understands what you’re looking for — luxury? Pre-War? Fixer-upper? Move-in ready? Find someone in tune with your needs.
As I said, though, J and I just decided to go for it and start looking at places on our own. Continue reading