The phone was pressed to my ear, its battery life letting itself be known in the hot thudding pulse that radiated through the cartilage and the soft tissue cage designed to capture sound, but today most notably was holding my fear and shame. How could I have embarked on such a big journey, such an adult undertaking, advanced in my years and yet still entirely unprepared. How had I had not known this thing. My face started to burn, waves of frustration rippling through my chest, tears pricking the fleshy corners of my eyes. I pinched my nose hard.
“Are you listening to me Sarah, asked?” “This kind of thing happens all the time.”
“Was I supposed to know that?” I asked angrily, though the anger was at myself, not this smart, efficient no-nonsense woman. My attorney.
“Of course not”, she replied. “You don’t know until you know.” “You might have gone two or three transactions before stumbling across a Certificate D, as you bought and sold, and searched and renovated.” “I didn’t even start to see this until as recently as last year and I do dozens of transactions every month.”
“ohhhh” I replied feeling just a little bit better than I had when the conversation started.
I didn’t know when I was confronted with the uncomfortable reality that my fire escapes had not passed inspection and would require an expensive overhaul. I was aware that condominiums were all about communal living. That we owned the air inside our space, but not much more, and that decisions regarding repairs required the collective approval of the other owners within the building. Laws are laws. I understood that, but over the years I would be confronted again and again with some sort of a nuance, a new regulation, a new certificate, a difficult party that held a disproportionately large percentage of the building’s ownership and thus could swing a vote in one direction or another.
These blind spots exist everywhere, but then I turn a corner, have something explained to me by one of my team of experts, or a friend that wants to help, and it becomes crystal clear. I’ll never round that corner again and be surprised by what awaits. There will be other corners of course, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get in your car and start driving. The lessons that we learn in real time are the stickiest.
In this weekend of Thanksgiving I am so grateful to all the brokers, builders, designers, vendors, agents and lawyers that have taught me some aspect of homeownership. Schoolhouse Rock used to espouse the belief that “knowledge is power”, and while I don’t disagree with that, I think knowledge is freedom. Every bit of wisdom I am able to tuck away gives me a little more agency in this world. My map becomes full of stop signs, and routes, crossroads and bridges to new worlds. Don’t let a little thing like not knowing something stand it the way of your path forward. One step at a time. I am happy to help and so are countless others. I am grateful for that.