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Sunday April 15, 2007 // By Sandy

The sinking bottom line

Floating invisibly behind all the calculations you’re encouraged to do when you buy a home is the taunting risk of the unknown. There’s only so much inspecting you can do of a property before you have to just start making up odds of how safe things are. Add to that the greenness of being a first-time buyer, and buying a condo ends up being a mix of one part finger-crossing, two parts check-signing, and a splash of here-goes-nothing.

Which is all a lead-up to say the past fiscal year at Titania has been a doozy. It’s been one financial hit after another for the past eight months, and while I’m not quite ready to redub our place a Money Pit, it’s all seemed a bit unfair. Fortunately for both of our mental well-beings, I’m not as meticulous of a bookkeeper as I should be, resulting in a blissful ignorance of how our overall investment in this place compares against what it would have cost to rent instead. Doesn’t really matter, I suppose. Despite all the episodes of crazy, we couldn’t be happier here.

A breakdown:

  • In August, a man wearing a badge and holding a clipboard showed up on our porch. He left without speaking to anyone. Three months later a letter arrived from the city citing us for major porch violations. Several court hearings and $3000 in contractor fees later, we got a thumbs up from the city — for this particular violation. With a 10-year-old porch and a 3-year-old municipal porch law, we’re certainly in violations of other codes, and it’s just a matter of time before the city lays the hammer down on us for those as well.
  • In October, several rats were spotted on our property — most of them dead from poison. But any rats are too many rats, so we decided to get to the root of the problem and have a reputable company come out, stick a lipstick camera into our pipes, then dig up the floor of our boiler room and seal up the place where the rats were coming in. Total cost: $4500.
  • In November, when the boiler started to kick on full blast, we were subject to a hellacious banging throughout the building. Servicemen were called and theories were put forward, but in the end, it turned out to be a periodic problem of buildings with 80-year-old pipes and something we’d just have to deal with at the beginning and end of the season. Meanwhile, we got the boiler thoroughly cleaned, just to be safe, costing the building another $900 or so.
  • In February, water started to leak onto the ceiling of one our third floor residents, forcing the issue of replacing the roof. No one denied it needed to be replaced; we were all just hoping it could wait until the fall. But with a leaky roof and a slowly deteriorating ceiling, we had to act. This one wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as we’d been discussing and prepping for it for years, but it’s never pleasant to write a check for $34,000.
  • In March, despite the promises of eradication by the highly reputable pest eliminators, the rats came back. Fortunately, the company stayed true to their guarantee, and came back and fixed the problem at no cost to us. At least that was their intention. Because they had to check the floor of our storage units for rat doorways, we all had to relocate the contents of our units to the garage for a few days. And because the gods weren’t done with their big Fuck You of ’06-‘07, some enterprising thief chose the right day to cruise down our street with a universal garage clicker, open our garage door, and have his pick of air conditioner. Or hey — why not take all three! Total cost to us: whatever three new air conditioners cost these days.

As building treasurer, I do feel a slight twinge of guilt about these mounting expenses, despite their unpredictability. Because of them, we’ve had to invoke a number of special assessments, two of the most hated words in condo ownership. As far as I can tell the hatred has not filtered down to me, thank god, though with two and a half months left in the fiscal year, there’s still plenty of time for an impeachment.

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