Returning home from travel is often bittersweet; the warmth of the familiar also signals the end of a period of excitement. But knowing that I have a home to return to, especially in these troubled times of massive forced migrations–I am humbled by whatever stroke of luck brought me here. And yet, this is not what I was thinking on my return to my brand spanking new apartment in March after being away for two months.

Imagine my dismay when I walked in and saw survey-maps of mildew crawling around the apartment windows and occupying huge corners of the bedroom. The paint around those surfaces had bubbled and cracked with the moisture, making it seem like the apartment was slowly turning into a cartoon monster. Turns out that the windows form such a tight seal, that while I was away, the heat from the radiators under the windows had caused moisture to condense on the sills and then gather mildew. It felt like a disaster. Even the presence of an Amazon package at my door (containing the cutest shower curtain ever—a pastel sketch of the NYC skyline) was not enough to ward off a sense of doom.

After a restless night, my call to the super led to his inspection—mostly him looking grim and saying “Yeah, this is not good”—of the water damage. But in a day or so, two handymen showed up to take care of the problem. They scraped off the mildewed areas and appeared to have painted over it with some sort of mildew-eating mutant paint. I suspect I should be more afraid of it than the mildew itself, which did add some character to the starkness. Even so, every time it rains, I worry about the corner of the bedroom that juts out from the building and gets the most exposure to the elements. But so far, so good. Mutant paint 1: Mildew 0.

As for “decorating” the apartment, it’s been a ragtag combination of old Ikea posters, prints picked up from museums and Christmas markets, and framed images from thrift stores. Amazon, Ikea, and furniture stores have made a steady pilgrimage to my door, dropping off everything from spice rack carousels to sofa-cum-beds and dining sets.

For now, I’m getting used to leaving the windows slightly open, tuning out the sirens from the firetrucks that scream down the block, and watching the phenomenal sky afforded by my east-facing view.


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Water, Water Everywhere

While I’ve been finishing the sprint to the final paperwork that makes me a debtor to the bank, I’ve also been asking around for recommendations on moving companies. Friends mention several, and reviews on yelp suggest a few that seem promising (till I scroll to the inevitable “I hated this company. They are useless and kick puppies” rant each is graced with by some unhappy soul). Finally, out of some strange sense of solidarity, I pick College Educated movers. Their website has a phone number but when I call, I’m asked to write. How delightfully old (and new) fashioned. So we have a few email exchanges where I estimate my worldly possessions and he offers a reasonable quote. We settle on a date with a possible option for rescheduling, though it doesn’t come to that.

Since the course of true moving never did run smooth, however, the morning of the move (which my landlady plans to monitor), sees me taking me a call from one of the movers at 9:30. He lets me know that they are finishing a move before mine—I am scheduled for the 12-3 slot—and wants to know how large a couch I have. That seems like a reasonable query, so I send him a photo and assure him it’s pretty light. A short while later, someone else rings to explain that the first guy (let’s calls him Jim) had to leave because of an emergency so he (let’s call him Tim) is going to move my stuff alone. The query about the couch from scofflaw Jim now makes more sense—he wanted to feel better about abandoning his co-worker. A college education has apparently resulted in this sort of flawless logic and  ethical relativism. I email his boss my worry that the one-man crew seems like a bad idea, not to mention in violation of the agreement we had. To top it off, the weather guys have predicted storm-chaser worthy thunderstorms starting mid-morning, so a quick move is really in everyone’s best interest.

Around noon, while my landlady has parked herself in the hallway and I’m packing the last few boxes with a friend who has come to help, Tim calls again to say that he has finished his morning move. He’s on his way, but he’s going to find someone to help him with mine. I am zen. Instead of freaking out, I ask my friend to help me walk some bags over to the new place (since the quote was based on the number of items that I decided really needed professional movers). We trudge back and forth a couple of times in a misty drizzle. The clock keeps ticking, the landlady’s cousin starts to clean out my fridge—they really want me gone—and the clouds gather like the vanguard of an approaching army.

My friend leaves when I suggest she wrap up other errands on her to-do list as the afternoon passes us by. I almost step out with her to make another run to my new place on foot when we notice the van parked outside. It’s Tim the mover. Cue thunderstorm. Of course.

I take him back upstairs with his dollies while he explains that his helper is finishing another job and will be here any minute. (I am too tired to feel any trepidation when he explains that he tried to pick up a helper by just driving around a Home Depot parking lot.) To his credit, he is quick, as is the second guy who does arrive shortly after. (Let’s call him Bearded Guy from Brooklyn Wearing Plaid because no other dude names go with the Jim/Tim pattern–and because he’s a bearded guy from Brooklyn wearing plaid.)

By this point, the sky is angry and dark and rain is hammering the ground. I try to stay out of their way (which turns out to be a mistake because I will discover months later that I’m missing some boxes of books and pans).

The landlady’s cousin tries to help me in a manner that is part helpful, part eviction-like. I am not bothering to vacuum or do any more cleaning than I’ve already done since they have already notified me of their refusal to return my deposit for some bogus reason (which is apparently standard NYC landlord shadiness).

I hand over the keys to the apartment, drag the trash to the recycling, and walk out of my home of the last three years. Usually, I find moving to be a soul-crushing ordeal; but this one leaves me fairly untouched. It could be that I’m moving three blocks away or that I’m moving to my own home. Irrespective, I follow the van on foot, and though I am being pelted by rain, my face stays dry.

The streets are night-dark as I walk to the service entrance of the building and let the guys park the van before they start unloading. Friends who’ve been waiting all day to help me but need to leave for other tasks by this point, gather to say hello for a minute as the last boxes get carried in. They are wet with some rain but don’t grow mildew despite staying shut for the two months I will be away right after the move. (Or I should rephrase—it’s not the boxes that grow mildew despite staying shut for the two months I will be away right after the move.)

I pay my college-educated peers and tip them for their troubles. The rain hammers away as I look out my new windows but I think it’s nearly over. And it’s almost Christmas Eve day.


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Walkthrough and Closing

The last steps before you finally commit to the home buying purchase is the walkthrough and the closing. In my case, once the closing was scheduled for a Tuesday morning, the listing agent and I scheduled a time for me to do a final check of the apartment on Monday afternoon. While I had thought of doing it earlier, the lawyer’s office advised me that it should be done less than 48 hours before the closing, perhaps even the morning of, so that the period between assuring yourself that you are getting what you’re paying for and making that payment is minimal. Otherwise, for instance, if you do a walkthrough a week before the closing, and the place is somehow damaged during that week, you won’t know till after you have signed and sealed the purchase, at which point it’s your problem to fix, not the seller’s.


(The last walkthrough assumes, of course, that you did a thorough inspection at the time you first saw the place, as did the bank’s appraiser.)

At my walkthrough, I saw that the seller (or co-op) had continued to improve the apartment by re-glazing the tub—the masking tape and paper was still in place. I did have a moment’s worry on noticing a fair amount of water at the base of several window sills, but we realized that it was condensation from the radiators being turned on for a while in a closed apartment. On the advice of various recent home-buyer friends, I checked every outlet by plugging in my phone, flushed the toilet, turned all the hot and cold water faucets on and off, and opened and shut all the doors and windows to make sure everything worked.


The broker turned on the oven to make sure it was operational, but since all the appliances appeared to be new (with the manuals still in their plastic wrapping), things seemed good to go.

On our way out, I checked the building’s closest service entrance so I would know the easiest way to move my stuff in. As we left, the broker left me with a valuable bit of info: the final numbers of what checks I needed to bring to the closing the next morning might not be decided till an hour or two before the actual meeting. I was glad to hear it, because I had assumed I’d get them before the end of the day (so I could go to the bank and get the certified checks that these transactions required); without his remark, I would have been an even bigger basket case than I was at the moment—with the closing, move, and a long international trip scheduled in the next four days!


(Since one of my banks is only in Manhattan, I had taken the precaution of getting a certified check from them the previous week after checking with my lawyer about the name of the payee.)

The lawyer also emailed me at the end of the day of the walkthrough to assure me that if she didn’t get the final numbers from the other attorneys that night, she’d have them for me in the morning. As I planned for the closing, I was also emailing and calling different movers, and finally settled on “College Educated” movers, whose reviews and quote seemed reasonable in light of my meager, non-Waterford possessions.


But there was a hitch. Of course. When I contacted the management company that handles the building to notify them of the date of move (per the house rules), I was told that before I moved (1) they needed a refundable $250 move-in deposit (2) copies of the closing documents. They suggested I give these to the co-op’s attorney at the closing, who could have them messengered over to the management company’s office.

In the eventuality that this didn’t happen—the one thing this process has reinforced in my mind is the need for Plan B—I informed the moving company of the possibility of rescheduling the move from Wednesday to Thursday (Christmas Eve, with its mythic reminder of the search for shelter). They seemed okay with that, and since they didn’t need a deposit, it felt like the best I could hope for.

On the morning of the closing, I continued my packing tasks, in between posting items for sale on Craigslist or for free on Freecycle. (No one would show up to get these in time, which meant they ended up in my building’s recycling room.) The saving grace of the process was that my landlady had already sent certified letters declaring that she would be using my security deposit to clean the apartment, so I wasn’t going to be doing that on Thursday and could rest after the move on Wednesday.

At around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, my attorney called to say that she had received the numbers and I should get the checks as listed in her email. Again, as is the theme of this process, I had a moment of panic on noting that the payee’s name for the primary payment in this list was different from the one she had given me last week when I got funds from my Manhattan bank. I hurriedly wrote her asking if I had to go to Manhattan in the 2 hours before closing to get that check redone, get to a local bank for the rest of the checks, and make it to meeting in Forest Hills at the seller’s attorney’s office. I followed it up with a phone call, which thankfully revealed that the new payee name had a typo and the original one she had given me was accurate.


Armed with the information, my check book, and photo ID, I left for the bank. (Well, not quite. When I checked on the closing’s location, Google maps gave me two different addresses, so I called both my attorney and that office to confirm where on earth I was supposed to go. What a time for Google to be confused.)

The bank had its own drama—because my life is a soap.


As the automated service economy grows, banks are slowly eliminating human tellers, which means that there were two tellers when I got there before 10:45. By the time I got to one, and she began meticulously fulfilling my requests for four certified checks (1 for the remaining cash I owed the seller, 1 for the transfer taxes that I paid as part of buying a sponsor apartment, 1 for December’s maintenance—allegedly refunded after pro-rating—and 1 for January’s maintenance, the second teller had gone on break. This meant that there was a snaking line of customers behind me that slowly turned into the French revolution.


(Note to self: when asking for multiple bank checks, you should not just give the details of the payees and amounts written out on a separate piece of paper, but also fill out withdrawal slips for each one as if you are asking for cash withdrawals. If you need this money to be taken out of multiple accounts in that bank, arrange to have the funds transferred into one account in advance.)

I fled as soon as I could, but was definitely running late for the closing at that point. A quick call to the lawyer has her assistant assuring me that it was not that big a deal. Despite the rain, I managed to get to the office of the G&G legal firm just past 11:30, and thus began the closing. It is, as these things go, fairly anti-climactic (though the paperwork means you are signing your life away).


The attendees included the bank’s attorney, the seller’s attorney, and the co-op’s attorney, as well as my lawyer and me. (The listing agent would come late, since his only role is to hand over the keys.) My lawyer first inspected and tallied all the bank checks, and then passed them to the various parties’ representatives. Following that, she explained that my name on all the documents had to be redone since there was an inconsistency between how it was written on some. Fortunately, it appeared to be a simple matter of showing my ID, and then initialing and signing in documents as and where the attorneys requested. She then notarized the changes as desired.

At the end of this process, I received an enormous tome of the co-op’s details, keys from the broker, and a stock certificate (rather than a deed, which is what one gets when buying property, such as a house or condo).


To be even more accurate, I held the stock certificate for a minute for a photo op, because the original stays with the bank till the mortgage is paid off.)

Though we were technically done at this point, we then spent some time figuring out the management company’s requirements for my move the following day. The co-op’s attorney flatly said that they do not take that move-in check, nor would they messenger the documents over that day. My lawyer suggested calling the management company and asking if I could just bring copies and the check over to their office myself that afternoon. The attempt just reached the voicemail, so on my lawyer’s advice, I took the check back, and left the management company a message with that suggestion. Their work done, all the other parties left, and I wrestled my new paperwork into my bag, and headed back to the subway. As I said, anti-climactic.

The management company and I managed to get in touch while I was on the subway platform and agreed to the handoff if I got to their office before 5. Reassured, I headed in later in the afternoon, having already emailed scanned copies of the stock certificate and some other paperwork that seemed to authorize my purchase. Following a quick chat with the management staff, who seemed very pleasant, I handed over the check for the move-in deposit and headed back to my last night in my rental apartment.





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Waiting for the Goddamned Mortgage

In Medias Res

Nov. 30 2:04 p.m. Your attorney asks the banker if there is anything else she can do to help him clear the file.

Nov. 30: 2:01 p.m. Banker says they have everything.

Nov. 30 6:19 p.m. Banker emails asking for documentation about the name of the person who will represent the co-op and authorization that they can do so.


Nov. 30 6:29 Your attorney writes back saying she had sent a draft of this and never received confirmation if it was fine, so it wasn’t sent for final signatures.

Nov. 30 7:48 Banker writes back saying he had already confirmed that the draft was okay and needs it signed ASAP.

Dec. 1 9:13 a.m. Attorney sends the signed copy of whatever. Requests that we decide on a closing date since the seller’s attorney is leaving soon and the co-op’s attorney has limited availability and needs ample notice for scheduling.

[Closing stays unscheduled. Everyone waits on stage. A plaintive note hovers in the air. Someone is heard sobbing.]

Dec. 1 5:18 p.m. Broker emails banker asking for an update.

Dec. 2 11:29 a.m. Banker informs him that the commitment letter was received and explains that we are waiting for the appraiser’s report.

Dec. 4 1:15 p.m. Appraiser’s report arrives in secure e-mail.


Dec. 4  3:00 p.m. You email banker to say thanks and ask if you need to log into the secure message sent by the loan officer if you’ve already signed the three-day waiting period waiver. He says he has the waiver in the file.

[Closing stays unscheduled. Someone is tearing their hair out. Characters on stage appear motionless. A clock is heard ticking.]

Dec. 8 6:03 p.m. Loan processor emails saying the underwriter can’t read the contract because it’s blurry. File can’t be cleared without a better copy.


Dec. 8 6:16 p.m. Banker re-sends the message. You know, just in case you didn’t reach the depths of despair the first time.

Dec. 9 8:21 a.m. You email the broker asking him to obtain a clean copy from the co-op’s management office since you think your lawyer has the same blurry copy sent to the bank.

Dec. 9 8:58 a.m. You see with relief that your lawyer has obtained and sent a clear copy of the contract to the banker.

Dec. 9 9:36 a.m. You realize that your name is misspelled on the new, clear copy.


Dec. 9 10:05 a.m. Lawyer re-sends the copy with your name spelled correctly. You email to thank her and request that she makes sure your name is spelled correctly and uniformly on all documents. [Chekov’s gun?]

[Closing stays unscheduled. Characters appear to be asleep but one is running around in circles.]

Dec. 10 11:23 a.m. You email the loan processor asking for an update.  Explain that you need this done if the closing has any chance of being scheduled before the seller’s attorney and you leave town.

Dec. 10 11:25 a.m. Banker emails to say that we have the clearance to close and attorneys must talk to each other to schedule the date.

Dec. 10 11:32 a.m. Loan processor emails to say that the closing clearance is now issued but you must keep an eye out for the Closing Disclosure notice that she will send through the secured email account; you must read this at least three days prior to the closing. She hopes to have that notice out later in the day.

Dec. 11 11:18 a.m. You haven’t received the notice, natch. You email the loan processing officer (even though she is not working today) and CC her colleague, her supervisor, and the banker.

Dec. 11 11:59 a.m. The banker emails your attorney asking for the closing to be scheduled. Dramatic irony.

Dec. 11 12:02 p.m. The loan processor’s colleague writes back saying that the notice is held up because the bank attorney is missing some figures, and the remaining attorneys need to coordinate to figure them out. Only then can the notice be generated. How many attorneys does it take to…


[Closing stays unscheduled. A character has a new gray wig. Her walk has slowed. She moves as if in pain.]

Dec. 13 11:01 a.m. You reply to the banker and CC your lawyer and the broker asking for some movement on the process.

Dec. 13 12:23 p.m. The broker says the attorneys need to arrange the closing date and reminds us that the co-op’s attorney needs to be notified soon because s/he needs to prepare the co-op’s documents.

Dec. 13 12:25 p.m. Your attorney responds that the scheduling is being held up because the co-op’s attorney hasn’t obtained some signatures from the co-op board and there is no way to speed that up. She says she’ll talk to the seller’s attorney about who will cover for him when he leaves on vacation–in a day.

Dec. 14 1:24 p.m. Your attorney emails to say that closing has been scheduled for the following week. Dec. 22. Bring money and ID.

[A character erupts with uncouth cheering,


then empties pockets and looks subdued.]

Dec. 14 4:04 p.m. You call and arrange to have your internet cancelled the following week. Also, the gas and the electricity.

Dec. 14 6:15 p.m. You email the loan processor asking about the disclosure notice, since it must be received and read three days before a closing.


Dec. 15 2:14 p.m. The broker writes asking when you want to do the walkthrough (a pre-closing check of the property to verify that there are no glaring structural or cosmetic problems). You ask the lawyer’s office, which recommends the day before, or the morning of, the closing. You settle on the day before.

[No Disclosure notice arrives. A character checks a phone every two seconds.]


Dec. 16. You arrange for funds to be ready for withdrawal from a bank account without running afoul of “minimum balance” rules. You also call moving companies and look for quotes to move boxes and boxes of books and assorted nonsense. You talk to your landlady about her crazy notice of “Damaged Property” that claims you have vacated and damaged her apartment and will therefore lose a portion of your security deposit. You write back refuting the claim–since you still live in the apartment, she has not seen it in a year, and it is not damaged.

[No Disclosure notice arrives. A character keeps checking a phone and occasionally scribbles on a paper.]

Dec. 17 a.m. You pack your books and donate clothes and shoes that you should not carry around any longer.

Dec. 17 4:03 p.m. You email your attorney to find out what name should go on the official bank check you must get to pay the remaining costs at closing. You also ask her if you should nudge the loan processor about the missing Disclosure notice.

Dec. 17 6:25 p.m. She replies that you must receive it by the next day if we are to still close as scheduled. You try without much success to sleep on this.

Dec. 18 9:00 a.m. You text the banker asking about the notice.

Dec. 18 10:25 a.m. You ask the attorney if she knows whether the notice is being held up for the same reason as before. (Cf. Dec. 11 12:02 p.m.)

Dec. 18 10:31 a.m. She replies in the negative–the bank attorney has the numbers and has informed her that he will send the disclosure by the end of the day.

Dec. 18 11:29 a.m. You email a reminder about the notice to the loan processor.

Dec. 18 12:21 p.m. The banker calls you to say that the disclosure will be ready by the end of the day. Also, he will not be at the closing.

Dec. 18 1:00 p.m. The loan processor says she’s following up on the notice.

Dec. 18 1:34 p.m. A secure message arrives with the Closing Disclosure notice.

[A character lies down for a full minute. Everyone else keeps walking around.]


Dec. 18 2:03 p.m. You read the notice and tell the attorney that the seller appears to be asking you to pay the maintenance for the full month of December. She replies that he will pay you back for the first 21 days. The notice also does not include half the transfer taxes you have agreed to pay, so you actually owe even more money than listed.

Dec. 18 8:00 p.m. You look for another moving quote–from “College Educated movers”

Dec. 19 10:45 a.m. Not having heard back, you call them and they ask you to send another request. You go back and forth on the details before you agree on the date and time of the move. You think “Yes, let’s go.”

[And scene.]

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Will It/Won’t It?

One might expect the sale of a co-op apartment that doesn’t need to go through board approval to happen in three months or less. I started wooing this one at the end of August. It is now Nov. 30 and there is no closing date scheduled yet. To add to the fun, my attorney has found out that the seller’s attorney will be going on vacation on Dec. 15–for a month. By the time he returns, I’m scheduled to be out of the country. And my landlady expects that I will be moving out of this apartment in December. I’m starting to wonder if there are Lamaze classes or doulas for home-buyers…

Since the last post, the bank confirmed that they had all but one of the required documents–a form regarding the co-op’s finances that the management company of the building had not sent despite previous requests. On seeing this email, you text the seller’s broker, asking him to check on it. He tells you the manager has already sent it and asks if the bank wants some sort of customized version. You contact the banker again with that query. The banker assures you he received what he needed–before you spent time trying to figure this out with the broker. You take a deep breath and try to feel grateful that the last piece of paperwork is done.

Hah! Gotcha! (says the universe). Not so fast. The lawyer emails you to say that once you receive copies of the “Recognition Agreement” (in triplicate) from the bank, you should sign and send it to her ASAP; she has to send it to the seller for a signature before we can close. You panic since that envelope arrived weeks ago, but because your last experience with these documents suggested that they are signed at closing, you put them aside.

You retrieve them from a pile, sign all three copies (only original signatures, please!) and then take them in person to the attorney’s office after a long workday. You know that the office manager will be there even if the attorneys have left for the day. When you arrive, she takes the forms but explains kindly that you may need to bring a new set–apparently these are printed on both sides, and even though they came from the bank, the bank’s attorney does not like the double-sided printouts. He will be mailing you three new ones printed only on one side. You count to a very high number and remind yourself that the messenger has nothing to do with the message.

She also explains that he will send something called a UCC1 form, which I must complete, sign, and mail back to him with a check for the fee stated in the cover letter. Without this form, they will not schedule a closing date. You go home and try to live your life. When the form arrives, you do as instructed and then mail it back by priority mail with a $75 check.

The banker confirms that they now have every document needed. LOL, not really, j/k. The underwriter (or someone) is still working on approving the building for the loan and the apartment appraiser has yet to submit his report. The banker expects to have the latter by the week of Thanksgiving. I hold out hope that I will be able to give thanks for this. It’s a vain hope. Appropriately enough, all that I get is turkey.

You ask your attorney if the seller’s attorney has a colleague who can do the closing in his place if these issues push the date closer to Christmas. She replies that unless we know where we are in the bank’s process and have a tentative date in mind to close, she can’t ask him to arrange a backup plan. The banker replies that we may get the appraiser’s report this week but it is unclear when the underwriters will clear the submitted documents.

Then, as you are going through your evening preparing for a long work week, the bank’s loan processor calls to explain that the process is almost done–except for the appraisal and the underwriter’s clearance. Horseshoes and handgrenades coming to mind.

It turns out that the appraiser–the second one we got since the first one didn’t get in touch with the broker for mysterious reasons–has had a death in the family. You try very hard to feel sympathetic but you are not a very good person. All you see is more ticking…

The processor also seems to be under the impression that your expected closing date is 2 months away. You try to explain (calmly) that she has the wrong date and that you have told your banker repeatedly that the closing needs to happen in less than 2 weeks. She responds in a voice that social workers might use to convey grim news: not only are we at the mercy of the missing appraisal, which may not be filed till the 3rd of December, the government has new regulations that require you to wait three days after loan documents are cleared (which may not be till mid-December) before you can schedule a closing.

You try to make peace with the fact that you are in a silent movie that involves a fair amount of pain.

The processor explains that there is a form that can be filed to bypass the wait period but if we wait for snail mail, it will take too long to get me the form. So she’s going to email me something that will let me authorize her to email me the form when it is time. She explains that I have to go through the bank’s process of setting up a secure email account for that document. I listen through a fog and try to make appropriate human noises of acknowledgement. I don’t have the energy to explain that I already have that account set up.

The silent movie continues…




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NYC Apartment Hunt: The Saga (or Kitchen Sink Drama) Continues

You get to a point in this process where you start to forget what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Everything acquires a haze of deja vu that alternates with a mental fog. Guy Pierce and Aamir Khan’s drastic tattoo mnemonics start looking perfectly reasonable.



After all, who knows if you sent the bank updated copies of your pay stubs, your bank statements, your unborn, your gall bladder? It’s all pretty interchangeable after a while.

When the lawyer’s office emails you asking for the ID for the bank attorney, you think, “Oh, so the bank attorney has an ID, and I should find out what it is and email it to the lawyer.” When the lawyer’s assistant gently explains that she meant a copy of your ID for the bank attorney, you feel pretty stupid but everyone pretends your IQ hasn’t dropped significantly in the last month.

When the mortgage banker says that you need to address the list of missing documents sent to you by the loan processor weeks ago, you spend hours wading through emails and the pile made up of the last six months’ mail (which you are too afraid to recycle). Surely it’s in there somewhere and you’ve screwed up by not taking care of it right away.


Turns out that that’s not true. The loan processing officer was supposed to email it to the banker and CC you, but she didn’t. Now, if you had a tattoo system, you would not have just wasted so many hours of your (bleak) life looking for something that didn’t exist.

When the list finally arrives by email, along with an attachment titled “Commitment Letter”, you wonder if “commitment” means you’re being sent to the funny farm.


(I submit that this is an understandable assumption since, despite the letter’s claim that the bank is sort of agreeing to give you a loan, it doesn’t commit the bank to anything till you address the list of missing documents.)

You review the list through blurry eyes. There are seven items, two of which are more Kafka-esque than the others: they want you to explain the credit inquiries on your record (which were clearly made by the seller and the bank when you started this process) and the deposit that has appeared on your account (which is clearly the money you paid–out of the same account–for the down payment on the last apartment, and which was returned when that deal fell through). You sign them electronically.

In addition, the list asks for a copy of your rental lease. Your lease has expired and they have the old copy, but you re-send it. Four, they want you to send the cancelled contract on the last apartment you tried to buy. You don’t have any such thing. The lawyer says there is no such thing. It is unclear why they think you would secretly try to buy another apartment. So you send them something sent by the last seller’s attorney when he returned that down payment. The lawyer is supposed to handle the last three items on the list, which have words like “lien” and “aliens have taken over your body”. Just kidding. Mostly.

Then you look for reviews of tattoo artists on Yelp and work on self-care while you wait for the next round:


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Next in NYC Apartment Hunting…

When I last left you, dear reader, I was mostly prostrate from the prior attempt at buying an apartment. I weighed my options for a few days: renew my current lease for another year and risk the home-buying prices going even higher, or ask my landlady to extend my lease and return immediately to the hunt. In the dating scene, I’d pick option one; everyone knows that rebounds do not end well.


But in the New York buying scene, option two seemed the better choice. So I psyched myself up to call my landlady and explain the situation. She hadn’t been fully on board with helping me last time


but this time, she seemed remarkably cheerful and sympathetic. After explaining that she had been turned down by co-op boards as well—and like me, she suspected that it was because she was a single woman—she agreed to extend my current lease for a few months.

Armed with that reassurance, I returned to my Tinder-like sweeping of apartment sites: Streeteasy, Trulia, Realtor, New York Times Real Estate. Swipe left, swipe left, swipe right. Then nothing. Repeat. And repeat. I saw overpriced apartments, massive but mysteriously underpriced apartments, and accurately-priced-but-needs-the cute-contractor-from-Property-Brothers apartments.

Finally, after a week or two, I found a listing that was a few blocks from my current rental. It was further away from the train than I wanted but the walk would be same duration it is now. Also, it had the magic words—no board approval required. In the NYC market, this is called a sponsor apartment and is something of a Holy Grail. When many buildings turned co-ops (from rentals) in the 70s, the first owners were given the right to sell those apartments without board approval when the time came. That’s the kind of apartment it was.


I called for an appointment and went over to see it as quickly as possible. It was in a nondescript building almost abutting busy Northern Boulevard, but on a quiet street. The apartment itself had been updated so that the place gleamed (well, except for the cat pee stains on the hardwood floor).

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I was sold as soon as I saw it–just as I had been on my current rental–but held out for some friends to have a look and give me the go-ahead. That took another week. Once we all agreed that the place seemed like a good fit, location notwithstanding, I made the offer (pitching it slightly below the list price because when it comes to sponsor sales, the buyer pays the transfers taxes).

The seller, apparently an older gentleman who only checks in once a week, took another week to counter and we eventually settled on a price (plus an agreement to split the transfer taxes). The seller’s broker required that I sign a binder (with a “good faith” fee of a $1000) plus send a check for the application fee ($350) to him before he could release the contract and something called the prospectus to my lawyer. My lawyer insisted that the binder needed amendments before I signed it, including an assurance that the fee would be refunded irrespective of whether we went to contract. The broker said his client wouldn’t budge on that because he only did things one way.

towThis argument went on for a few days, even though the broker insisted that it was unnecessarily nitpicky. Since I was paying for a lawyer’s advice, I was disinclined to disregard it so I mentally prepared myself to let this fish go, as it were. But in apparent alignment with dating manual suggestions, my indifference was an incentive for continued wooing, so the binder amendments were accepted and we moved to the next stage.

The lawyer received the contract for examination and I wrote out the checks for the fees. The broker came by to pick them up and give me the three enormous books—the mysterious prospectus, which are just the documents regarding the co-op’s creation and rules. We swapped these through his car window while he double-parked outside my building, for all the world as if we were doing an illicit deal in broad daylight.


Once I had these, I had to hustle to get it to the lawyer and sign the contract because the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur had already meant a long delay between the agreement we had reached with the seller and the signing of the contract. So I took myself off to the lawyer’s office, reviewed and signed the paperwork, gave her the down-payment check and settled down to wait to get the signed contract.


My lawyer was going to be away for a trip in the coming week, but she expected to get the signed contract back while she was gone and had instructed her office to email it to me. This didn’t happen. She was back from her European vacation before we heard anything from the seller. I wasn’t too worried because I had my lease till December, and without the board approval to extend the process, the duration of these stages didn’t seem that pressing.

My lawyer did send a reminder to the seller when she returned, however, and got a scanned copy of the contract in a week. It was terrible. Most of the left hand side margin area was smudged, and this made the left-hand column of the document partly illegible. We waited for the physical copy. She scanned that and emailed it to me but it was not much better. I finally sent it to my mortgage banker to ask if he found it acceptable. He did, which was surprising, but I didn’t want to look a gift-banker in the mouth. In general, that’s a good policy.


Since the bank already had many of the documents needed for the loan application, I just needed to send updated pay stubs and the latest statements of all my assets—which always sounds a tad dirty.

That done, I waited around for the banker to set up an appointment for us to sign another loan application. In the meanwhile, the bank rates seemed to drop slightly, which felt like some consolation.


After another week, I had to nudge the banker again, because there is a legal obligation for the buyer to begin the process of securing financing within a certain period of having received the signed contract.

He got back to me after a delay and I finally went back to the bank last week and signed and initialed another half a dozen documents. Some of the paperwork seemed incomplete or not updated yet, which makes me—a bank official’s daughter—really uncomfortable, but I talked myself into it for the sake of moving the process along.

And that’s where we stand now. I’ll be getting a call from the bank’s loan processor who will probably ask for a dozen other documents. The banker will send someone to meet the broker and appraise the apartment. Will matters proceed to a happy ending? I’d like to know, too.


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