For most part, condo living is easy when snow isn’t melting

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
June 12, 1998

Seven years ago, I decided to take the plunge and invest in a home.

The greedy part of me wanted a house with a huge lawn, 2-car garage and a roomy basement. Then I thought about mowing the lawn eight months out of the year and, worse yet, shoveling snow for the remainder.

Suddenly, a condo sounded like a better alternative. So I checked out various developments and eventually arranged to put down a deposit on a unit. When I got there at the appointed time, I learned the broker had sold the plot of land she had promised to me.

She offered me another spot and sweetened the deal by deducting a few thousand dollars for the “misunderstanding,” and offered me some upgrades.

When I climbed to the top of the site where my condo would be built, I saw why it was being discounted. My view would’ve consisted of a gigantic lumberjack statue in the center of a nursery’s messy storage area.

Eventually, I found a place I liked.

Now it was time to sweat out the guessing game of how long I should wait before I locked in an interest rate for my mortgage.  Of course, I waited too long, and ended up paying a higher percentage. C’est la vie.

Not a big deal.

I’ve got to admit that I was not too savvy when it came to things such as escrow funds. I was initially so clueless that if my sister hadn’t asked, “Hey, why are you paying so much property tax?” I probably wouldn’t have noticed for months that my bank had deducted funds from my account to pay for someone else’s real estate tax.

After that mishap, I arranged to pay my own property tax.

I also had a couple of run-ins with the condo watch brigade. One Monday, I noticed that some garbage I had left out for pickup was still sitting on the curb . . . with a note attached. Each household is allotted two bags of trash per week, and I had been guilty of leaving out three. So I had to take the third one – which had fermented in the summer heat – back into my garage for another week.

Another time, my visiting parents took pity on me while I was recuperating from minor surgery and took my garbage out for me.  They were stopped by a resident who berated them for putting the trash out too early that day. Who knew?

After abandoning revenge plans of leaving bags of trash all around my complex, I settled back into reality.

Plus, I got my own chance to turn on a neighbor when I stepped in her Saint Bernard’s droppings. Even though we all knew it was her dog that was making the huge contributions, there was nothing we could do until we caught the Dog Lady in the act of not picking up after her pet.

That day came, and it was sweet. But it turned out the Dog Lady had a good reason for not picking up after her dog. Besides being unstable – her grown son’s words, not mine – it turned out she had been busy “safe keeping” all the UPS and Federal Express packages meant for her neighbors.

The Dog Lady moved out shortly thereafter, and a nicer couple (with no pets) moved in.

My project for this year is to get the association to repair our leaking roofs, something the property management company does not want to do. But hey, when melted snow seeps into your house and the people in power try to brush it off as an “act of God,” all I can say is, “God would want you to repair our roofs.”

All in all, I enjoy my condo, and I get a kick when my little nieces ask if room service delivers continental breakfast to me in the morning. But would I buy another one? It would depend on how much snowfall there is wherever I decided to move next.

Jae-Ha Kim is a Sun-Times staff reporter and the author of several books. None of them are about real estate.


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