A year ago from today, I submitted my bid for the condo Dave and I are now living in — my first condo purchase!  It was the culmination of a 2.5 month search and my fifth bid for a condo in the Boston area.  It was also the second time I was searching for a condo.  I had briefly looked for a condo the year before. That search consisted of me going on a full day tour of four different condos in the Somerville and Cambridge areas and bidding on the one I thought looked best.  However, after completing an inspection on the place, the inspector found some structural issues and I backed out.  Discouraged by the outcome, I ended my search and didn’t consider buying a condo until the following year (2015).

Buying a condo was a long journey full of emotional ups and downs.  The most important lessons I’ve learned are:

  • Patience is key.  Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a place initially.  The right one for you will come along.
  • A good agent is very important.  My agent was very knowledgeable about all of the different buildings in the Boston condo market, and was able to help me find the options that fit what I was looking for. She was also upfront and honest and would often point things out – both good and bad – that I had missed or not considered.
  • Be flexible and don’t have narrow vision.  Be willing to listen to other suggestions, such as locations that weren’t your first choice or if your expectations are unreasonable for your price range.  Of course, recommendations should taken with a grain of salt.  The final decision is yours and you should decide what’s best for you.
  • Timing is everything.  I don’t know how the market is now, but the condo market was quite hot last year when I was looking, so I had to act quick when I wanted a place.  I thought it helped for Dave and me to see many condos to get a sense of what we liked and didn’t like, so later, we could see a place and quickly determine if its worth pursuing.

My journey is further detailed below with a summary of each bid I made during this search.

Bid #1: Given my prior experience, I decided I wanted be have a condo of sturdier construction such as brick or concrete.  At the time, many new construction condos were going up around Ink Block and the Broadway T stop (Allele Boston has some more new condos available now), so when I saw one in that area that I liked, I submitted a bid 60k lower than the asking price well before the open house.  The seller rejected the offer, and I resubmitted a bid offering the asking price that the seller still didn’t accept.  As the asking price was the max I was willing to pay for it, I didn’t bid again and the condo later sold for 40k over asking: 725k.

Bid #2: Dave and I saw this one at an open house without my agent.  The open house was sparse — there was only one other couple when we were there. My starting bid was 1k over asking.  It turned out there were a few other bidders, so I was asked to submit a best and final offer.  I upped my bid by 6k and was told I didn’t win.  However, the highest bidder must have backed out as the next day, I was told I could have the place if I wanted it. However, my agent mentioned to me that Bid #2 was located very close to Pine Street Inn, one of Boston’s largest homeless shelters, so I decided to pass. I had already moved on at this point and scheduled a visit to another condo that my agent had recommended I see.  This condo would later become Bid #4, although I didn’t bid at this point because it wasn’t in the areas I was considering at the time and it would need some work.  Bid #2 ended up selling at 1k less than my bid (6k higher than the asking price).

Bid #3: This was another condo suggested by my agent. It was in a very nice 3-unit brownstone in South End that had recently been remodeled. After seeing it at a very crowded open house, I bid 52k over asking and lost.  This condo sold for about 76k over asking.  Wow!

Bid #4: After losing out on Bid #3, I revisited the aforementioned condo that needed quite a bit of work.  By this time the asking price had dropped 25k.  This time I was able to see past the condition of the condo and realized how convenient the location was — close to the bus stop, the grocery stores, the post office, the pharmacy, and hardware store.  This is why it’s important not to have a narrow vision.  Also, my commute to work would actually be about the same as the places in Bid #1 and Bid #2.  But even better, if the T broke down or was shut down, I could still walk to work.  Although I could see the pros of this place, I still wasn’t excited at the thought of putting work into it, but I was impatient to get a place.  It felt as though I had been searching for so long!  I bid 50k lower than the asking price, but I was immediately notified that there were two other bidders and we were asked for best and final offers.  What a coincidence!  Time is everything. I raised my bid by 21.5k, but still lost.  The condo sold for about 21k higher than my bid, about 8k lower than the asking price.

Bid #5: I didn’t even see this place before I bid as I was out of town on a business trip.  I know that probably sounds crazy, but I did send Dave to look at the place and after looking at so many places together, I trusted his opinion (And he wasn’t wrong.  I still love the place!  Thanks, Dave.).  Dave went to look at the condo before it even had an open house and immediately texted me that I should bid.  This condo was located very close to Bid #4, so I knew the location was convenient.  I won with a bid 51k over asking and no inspection and mortgage contingencies.  I certainly don’t think it’s wise for everyone to waive the inspection and mortgage contingencies, especially after my experience with my first condo search.  But I had gotten a pre-approval letter (I highly recommend getting pre-approved!) so I was fairly confident in my ability to get a mortgage and this particular building has just been converted to condos less than a year before, so I wasn’t as worried about the inspection.  The selling agent still had the open house, which I attended to see the place for the first time and to pay my deposit.  When the representative at the open house told me that the place was already sold, I excitedly replied “I know. I put in the bid!”.

When I finally moved in, I felt like a million bucks.  Despite the emotional roller coaster that I rode while searching for a condo, I’m really glad I ended up with my current place.

This past Saturday, I attended my last MUG (Master Urban Gardener) class, hosted by the Trustees of the Reservations.  For the past seven weeks I have spent five hours each Saturday listening to lectures on gardening topics and occasionally, participating in some hands-on activities and experiments.  The topics included the following:

  • Soil Health
  • Plant Diseases
  • Botany
  • Starting a community garden
  • Compost
  • Sustainable Gardening Practices
  • Vegetable Garden Planning
  • Seed starting
  • Edible weeds
  • Perennials

Before I started the class, I was concerned that five hours was too much time to take out of my precious weekend to listen to gardening presentations.  I had visions resembling lectures from my college days, which often ended with me dozing off, running through my head.  But time flies when you’re having fun, and I still can’t believe the program is already over.  I joined the program in hopes that I could learn how to maximize the yield from my garden plot and I’ve certainly learned some techniques I hope to incorporate into my garden this summer.  Some of the lectures also broadened my perspective on plants, such as edible weeds.  If you can’t fight off the weeds, maybe you can eat them!

In addition to attending the classes, MUG participants also need to volunteer ten hours with the Trustees of the Reservations, so I still need to do that before I become a real Master Urban Gardener.  Hopefully, I’ll be announcing in a future post that I’ve achieved the title.

I discovered my love for plants four years ago when I spontaneously decided in May 2012 that I was going to start gardening.  Up until that point in my life, I hadn’t had much experience with growing plants other than the times in elementary school when I tried to germinate some bean seeds in a ziploc bag with a damp paper towel.  I recall the seeds germinated but didn’t survive for very long afterwards.  Because of my lack of experience, I thought I would start with a kids gardening and decided to try a Growums kit.

The kit includes peat moss pellets, seeds, labels, and a plastic tray to hole the peat moss pellets.  It looks like this.

As the plants grew, I potted them up into bigger containers.

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Eventually, I transplanted them into grow bags out onto the balcony of my apartment at the time.

By the end of the summer, only the tomato plants managed to survive through the whole summer and produce some small fruit and one siamese twin fruit!

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My very first homegrown tomato!

 

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Siamese tomato next to a toothpick for size comparison.

I didn’t get much produce from my first summer gardening.  It turns out that the balcony at my apartment at the time did not get enough sun to grow vegetables that need full sun.  Yet, the taste of my first homegrown tomato was so delicious, I was inspired to continuing gardening, so I began to search for another place to garden.  I’ll talk more about my other summer garden experiments in future posts.

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