If you haven’t heard the news, I’m a homeowner now! At the end of August, I signed my name on a bunch of dotted lines as the sole shareholder for a co-op in Lafayette Park. After that horrendous experience I had gone through at Mapletree Apartments, this was like a breath of fresh air.
This is my first experience with investing in property, so all of the steps it took to get here and the things I learned along the way were and still are totally new to me. Luckily, I had some knowledgeable people by my side to walk me through things and answer all of my questions.
After the Mapletree situation, I started looking at apartments to rent in Detroit again. But I was running into the same issue as before: Why should I have to pay over $1,200 a month for less than 600 square feet of space? Plus a lot of the places I looked at in the beginning had already rented out the majority of their units. I went back to feeling defeated yet again.
That was until one weekend, I made a proposal to my dad, just to see what he was going to say. “What are your thoughts on condos,” I asked him. To my surprise, he told me that he had been listening to all of these podcasts about millennials investing in property with help from their parents. “We can work something out if you’re really serious about it.” As soon as he said that, my mom and I instantly looked at each other like “Giiiiiirl! Did you hear that?!” I was almost certain that he was going to shut me down! Once we had a talk about our plan of action, the idea of renting pretty much got thrown out of the window, and I started looking at places to buy in the city.
You all know I try to be as transparent with my blogging as I possibly can. So with that being said, I am going to admit that we initially went about this process all wrong! I started making appointments to view places before I spoke to a lender about exactly how much of a loan I’d be approved for. Big mistake! I didn’t know what I could/could not afford, and ended up looking at two places that were way too expensive. One of the agents at Cass & York (yes, I went to go look at their showroom. This place is gonna be beautiful!) was nice enough to give me the contact information to a few people at various financial institutions that would be able to help me out with a pre-approval letter.
Cass & York renderings. Check them out on Instagram at @cassandyork.
I ended up getting pre-approved for a purchase price of $130,000 by a representative at Wells Fargo (another big mistake. Do some research on them and you’ll find out why). Having this information helped me narrow down my searches. I downloaded the Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow apps on my phone immediately, and I would surf for hours on all three trying to find places that stood out to me. Since I didn't have a realtor at that time, I just went along with whoever was listed on the apps I was using. Some of the people I met were nice, and others were okay; I could tell they weren’t really genuinely interested in what I was looking for, they were more so in it to make a sale.
NARROWING IT DOWN
I came across a listing on realtor.com in Lafayette Park around July, and Detroit-based realtor Toni Jennings of Abode Detroit ended up showing me around the property. She was very kind, knew her stuff, and I could tell that she had a true passion for what she does. She showed my dad and I around a 1BR/1BA unit (the one that would later become my new home) that had been renovated in a historic high-rise building. I loved the open concept, stainless steel appliances, huge windows and laminate flooring in the living and dining area. It pretty much had everything I wanted with the exception of a few small things.
The building hosts a lot of amenities, like two swimming pools, fitness and yoga rooms, laundry in the upper basement, storage units in the lower basement, covered parking, 24-hour security and doormen, and even a huge banquet-style room for residents to rent out. Aside from all of that, the thing that stood out to me the most was the number of residents that came up to me saying how much they love living there, how great it is to be so close to Eastern Market, and how everyone that lives in the building is so kind. I hadn’t experienced that type of honesty or sense of community at any of the other places I’d looked at.
Before our visit was even over, I had already made up in my mind that I wanted Toni to be my realtor, so I was glad to hear her say that I could send her the links to other properties that I was interested in. Although I loved the unit we had looked at, I wanted to hold off on taking next steps because of two things: 1) The property was priced at $92.5k, which I felt was too high for a 1BR, and 2) I wanted to weigh all of my options before making such a big decision. So back to the Internet I went.
I found a listing at the Hyde Park Cooperative, which was not too far from the one I’d just checked out. Toni wasn't available to show me around on that particular day, so she sent her associate, LeAnn Allan, to show me around instead. When I met LeAnn, I realized that I had met her once before years ago because she’s friends with one of my besties! Talk about a small world. LeAnn was also extremely pleasant and easygoing, which made the visit a smooth one. This property was a townhouse with a partially-finished basement, hardwood flooring throughout, and two or three bedrooms (can’t remember). It was around 1,000 square feet and I believe it was listed at $120k. There was a nice amount of work that would’ve needed to be done, plus it was cash only, and I wasn't comfortable with the idea of missing out on a tax deduction. So again, back to the Internet I went.
I found another townhouse at the Trevor Place Cooperative that I LOVED. I believe it was priced at $114k, had hardwood flooring throughout, two patios, secure parking for guests, an attached garage, a finished basement, and two bedrooms. I was sold! I went and talked to a different lender at Chemical Bank (note: they are one of the few banks in the metro area that provide loans for cooperatives) to see what my options were as far as trying to get a loan for the property, but unfortunately I ran into the same issue: the seller only wanted cash and was not open to negotiating.
IS THAT YOUR FINAL OFFER?
After I looked around at a few more properties, I realized that my best and smartest option was to go with the 1BR unit at the high-rise in Lafayette Park. The price had gone down to $85k, and I felt like I would be able to negotiate it down a little more. I could obtain a conventional mortgage with this property, and based on developments that are coming to the area within the next few years, I know that the property value will only continue to go up. After another quick discussion with my dad, he agreed that I was making the best decision, so I reached out to LeAnn and told her I was ready to make an offer. After a little bit of back and forth between me and the seller, we were able to come to an agreement. Learning that my offer had been accepted was almost a surreal feeling. I was really about to make a huge investment!
Next steps included getting the unit inspected, meeting with Tonjola Cole, my mortgage lender from Chemical Bank, about down payments, gift letters, and all the fun financial stuff that we all love so much (insert eye roll here). There was a lot of paperwork that had to be read and signed prior to the closing date. I made sure to read everything and asked questions about any and everything that I didn’t understand. It was important for me to be clear on what I was doing.
It was required that I put down 20 percent of the purchase price as my down payment. I obviously didn’t have that money in my account, but it had to come from somewhere in order to keep the ball rolling. This is where my dad came in to save the day. He was nice enough to loan me the down payment money so that we could complete the process. Without his generosity, this wouldn’t have been possible! If you’re a 20-something like me and you have a savings account that isn’t that robust yet but you’re still interested in investing, please consider reaching out to a family member that would be willing to help you out. Like I said, this is a LOAN, so my dad will be getting his money back from me. Asking for money, especially a lump sum, can be intimidating, but closed mouths don’t get fed. If you need/want help, you have to ask for it.
On Friday, August 31, I closed on my condo. After about two months of looking, signing paperwork and still dealing with that whole Mapletree mess, everything finally worked out for the better. I was excited to start cleaning and figuring out how I was going to arrange everything. I really went through with this thing, y’all! I truly feel like this is where I was supposed to be the whole time. I wish I never even had to deal with the apartment situation, but I had to realize that I am not the one in control. In those sad moments, I was being set up for something greater and didn’t even know it.
SO FAR, SO GOOD
Now the move-in process wasn’t seamless – there were some minor things that needed to be fixed, but again, my Dad came in and fixed it all. Since my unit had been flipped, there were some construction issues that definitely could’ve been fixed ahead of time, but luckily it wasn’t anything too alarming.
As of today, I’ve been in my place for about three months now, and I really do love it. Living on my own has brought me a lot of peace, and it’s been fun making my own rules. I’ve joined the special events committee in my building, and I’ve met some really nice people on the elevators and in the laundry room. I’m still not over my view and probably never will be! It just feels great to be here after what I had been through prior to.
I talk about my family often, but that’s because they are the most supportive people in my life. I can’t thank them enough for helping me move from home to an apartment, from an apartment to a storage unit, and then from a storage unit to a condo, without any complaints at all. They mean the world to me and I am so grateful to be stuck with them forever. <3
As always, I am totally fine with you all hitting me up to ask me any questions about home-related things. You can DM me on Instagram, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out the contact form by clicking the “Contact” tab on the blog. I think now is a great time for us to be thinking about the bigger picture, so if I can be a resource for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out! If you’ve made it this far down in the post, you a real one, lol. Thanks so much for reading!