the particulars


a design plan, that is. that’s right, folks. above is the OFFICIAL CONSTRUCTION PLAN FOR THE APARTMENT I AM BUYING IN NEW YORK CITY.

sorry. just had to get that out of my system. but here she is in all her glory! above is what anjie prepared – all the notes are mine, obviously. let’s dig in, shall we?

i have big plans for my little apartment, including busting down an entryway wall to bring in more natural light, and relocating a hallway closet in favor of a little breakfast bar. i’m hoping to hang two of these above the breakfast bar, further creating the illusion of light and space in a rather small area.


showing my friends where the walls will get knocked down and the breakfast bar will magically appear.

all the kitchen appliances are staying in the same spot, which will hopefully save me both time and money. the back wall will be uppers and lowers, while the front wall will house the oven, sink, dishwasher, and bevy of reclaimed wood shelving. like what’s below, but with reclaimed wood instead of marble.


like this, but with wood.

in the main living area, i’ll be creating a small dining nook, mounting the TV and creating a cozy living room area where i can snuggle with penny and watch orphan black marathons til the cows come home. fingers crossed i have enough room for a slim bench along the window for extra seating, or maybe even two occasional chairs (!). the drawing above makes it seem like i might have room for some serious shelving (or maybe a chic sideboard) on the wall opposite the dining nook, but until i can get in there with my measuring tape, i can’t be sure.

in the bedroom, i’ll be adding a floor to ceiling closet (#clotheshorse), and maybe a reading nook if i can swing it. the room is relatively small, so it’ll take some finagling to figure out where the bed/dresser/etc fit best (especially keeping in mind that one of those windows will get a big ass AC unit).


the bedroom, which isn’t nearly as dark as it looks here. the unit is a corner apartment, which means it gets lots of eastern light.

lastly is my little bathroom, where my pride and joy (a refinished clawfoot tub) will live. i can’t recess a medicine cabinet, so it’s more likely that i’ll go for a statement mirror and some small shelves…but that remains to be seen.

will these plans change? probably. will i cry when they do? definitely. but for now, i can stare at this pretty little drawing with stars in my eyes and see not a shithole that needs a ton of work, not a place that requires mountains and hours or work, but my future home.

and that, my friends, is pretty freaking cool.




my architect anjie cho and her drafter measuring and taking notes to draw up the official renovation plans for the apartment

you know what’s really exciting? standing in your soon to be apartment with a real, licensed architect, and talking through the official “plans” for renovation. after the disaster that was my first interaction with an “architect” you could say i was a little weary of moving forward. B had quoted me $3k, all in, to draw up the plans, hire an expeditor, and get everything submitted to both the management company and the city. that number sounded REAL GOOD to me.

but then he went all donald trump on me and basically said, “YOU’RE FIRED (as a client)!” and that was that. it was on to plan B (or, actually, plan A). in this case, A stands for anjie cho, another name my contractor gave me after B fell through. unlike B, who i quickly learned wasn’t even a licensed architect (holy shit new york city what kind of place are you?!), anjie is the real deal.

and guess what?! SHE’S A WOMAN! hell yes. no dicks around here (literally and figuratively). my initial interactions with anjie were so painless, i could barely believe they were happening. i emailed her on memorial day while on the train back from massachusetts. i figured i’d hear from her later in the week, once she was back in my office, but gave my phone number just in case.

to my surprise (and delight!), anjie called about 15 minutes after receiving my email, and proceeded to fill me in on a few things:

  1. she’d heard of B. he was a well-known character in the lower east side real estate game. he got the job done, but he wasn’t exactly above board, if you know what i mean. in fact, he wasn’t even a licensed architect. WTF?
  2. real architects cost more than $3k. anjie’s fees, along with her expeditor, were going to put me around double that. but that was the cost to have things done right, and most importantly, by the book (aka the law).
  3. if i didn’t do things by the book, i could risk legal issues when i went to sell the grand apartment later on. HELLO, danger zone, nice to meet you…NOT.
  4. the first step in this process was the management company. they were the ones who decided whether or not city approval was required. and if it wasn’t, i’d save a hefty chunk of change.

it was basically like being baptized. unlike B, who had literally told me nothing and given me nothing, anjie filled a sista in. BIG TIME. she made me feel like i could understand the process, and that she’d help me through it–and that she would do it in a way that would ensure i wasn’t getting screwed. because who wants to get screwed by a guy who’s not even licensed? NOT ME.

anjie was such a breath of fresh air that i basically said YOLO to the increase in price and resolved myself to find some cheaper lighting fixtures and maybe give up my fancy bathroom tile. or at least, to find some freelance work to make up the difference (holla if you need a writer, friends!).

did i want to pay double the original quote? definitely not. but do i want it done right, and only done once? YOU BET. i won’t be able to confidently say this until i’m on the other side, but my gut tells me that when things are suspiciously cheap, it generally means there’s some under the table BS going on. and when things are on par with industry standards, price-wise (and i should note here that i got multiple quotes beyond anjie’s and she was by far the most reasonable, and the one i liked the most), there’s usually a reason for it. it means you’re getting good work done by good people who know their shit. given that i do not know my shit at all, i need someone who does.

so i signed the contract, handed over my deposit, and we GOT TO WORK. well, really, anjie got to work. i just let her into the building.

tomorrow, the fruits of her labors (and my super high level design plan, eeep!).



unnamed-4above: my friends sara and martha, who i took to see the grand apartment over memorial day weekend. i thought i would close a few days afterwards.

you know what i’ve heard a lot of lately? this:

“so, what’s going on with the apartment?!”

it’s my own fault, of course. because i’ve been, you know, chronicling it on this here blog, and on instagram, and also telling all of my friends and some of my acquaintances and basically anyone else who will listen that I AM BUYING AN APARTMENT.

except that right now, i’m not. right now, i’m doing a whole lot of nothing, because i’m waiting on other people, who appear to be doing just that: a whole lot of nothing.

unnamedme, explaining to sara and martha how i intended to bust out that wall and create a breakfast bar

see, everyone told me that as soon as the co-op said yes, i was good to go. that was the final frontier, the last hurdle. after that, the closing would happen “asap” or in real life terms, “within 7-10 days.”

guess what, folks? it’s been 7-10 days. and AIN’T NOTHING BEEN SCHEDULED. ZILCH. NADA. 


what am i waiting on? just another lawyer. specifically, the co-op lawyer, who apparently has to sign off on the “estate paperwork” from the sellers before closing can officially be scheduled. did anyone think to tell me this, i don’t know, at any point in the process?

of course not. all they said was, “board approval is the last step! then you’re golden and everything starts moving.”

meanwhile, the only thing moving is my heart, which is beating exceptionally fast because it’s trying to keep up with all of my (slightly misplaced) aggression. sorry, heart.

suffice it to say, i am frustrated. and that word barely covers it. i’m angry that no one thought to mention, way back in january when i put in an offer, that buying from an estate would be INFINITELY MORE COMPLICATED and take WAY LONGER THAN AVERAGE. instead, all they said was, “oh, but the potential!”


is the potential there? sure. i mean, can you see it in the above photo? not really. but i could see it in my imagination. and i know that someday, when this is all said and done, the grand apartment won’t just be grand. it will be great. but i am oh so sick of waiting around for everyone else to get their shit together. where is the urgency? these are NEW YORKERS FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. 

and yet, things are moving like molasses. like turtles wading through molasses. like the slowest turtles you’ve ever seen, DROWNING IN MOLASSES. and all i can do, beyond bitching and moaning on the internet, is wait. wait, and preemptively meet with my architect tomorrow (which will hopefully bring about some actual motion in this process, and maybe even a real blog post!). stay tuned, friends. hopefully soon i will have some actual news to report. until then, i leave you with this gem, of me in the kitchen, thinking about just how much work there is to be done, and how much time is a wastin’ every minute that i am not doing anything.



Law & order SVU Spiraling Down stephanie march andre braugher treat williams 2

stephanie march interviewing a witness on SVU//how i felt last night at my co-op interview

my thinking around the co-op board application process went a little something like this. i was all, PLEASE LIKE ME. PLEASE, PLEASE LIKE ME. TELL ME I AM A GROWNUP AND THAT I CAN DO THIS AND THAT YOU THINK I’M FINANCIALLY STABLE AND EMOTIONALLY CAPABLE OF BUYING A HOME.

and they were all, sell us your soul, give us your first born child, oh and while you’re at it, can you please do a full audit of all of your financials, and tell us how much is in your 401k (you haven’t been saving enough…), show us your tax returns (geez, you lose a lot to taxes each year!), and tell us where, exactly, the money for your down payment is coming from, because it’s CERTAINLY NOT COMING FROM YOU, YOU 30 YEAR OLD FAILURE OF A HUMAN.

okay, so that’s not exactly what they said. what they actually said was nothing – not to me, at least. they communicated through my broker, a post-modern game of telephone that was NOT AT ALL FUN. through him, they told me to fill out a boatload of paperwork, and also, to get four references: two personal, two professional. i think these were to rule out that i wasn’t a) party animal, b) a lowlife with no job,  c) an axe murderer and d) a crazy cat lady who’d let her addiction to all things four legged and furry get out of control.

thankfully, i am none of the above. i gave up whatever sort of partying i used to do years ago, i am gainfully employed (#fridaynightjustgotpaid), i’m DEFINITELY not an axe murderer, and i currently only have ONE cat (key word here being currently).

despite the fact that i’m a relatively responsible, relatively normal 30-year old with a good job and a steady income, i was terrified, and i mean TERRIFIED that this part of the process would go horribly wrong. if i’m being honest, i’ve been terrified every step of the way. see, rejection is, in emo therapy terms, my button. it’s my biggest “thing”. hearing i’m not good enough – for anyone or anything – can easily send me on a downward spiral towards dejection and the sense that i am 100% meaningless on this earth and will never succeed at anything, ever.

i’m exaggerating.

sort of. the point is, at every point in this process, from the offer to the mortgage to the coop board, there has been a chance for someone older, wiser, and manlier than me (did i mention this process has been ALL MEN?!) to shut me down. to point a finger at me and laugh in my face and tell me they’re shocked that i ever thought that little old me, she of previous credit card debt and bad saving skills, would be able to buy an apartment in new york city.

incredibly, amazingly, no one has done that yet. at every milestone, i’ve held my breath until the moment my face turns blue, and then, magically, i’ve exhaled. because instead of hearing “no” at every turn, i have heard “yes.”

last night’s interview the co-op board was the last chance for someone (9 someones, actually) to reject me. to crush my dreams and my burgeoning social media stardom (HA) and tell me no. but this morning, instead, i got this text from my broker:


sure, it’s not 100% official. i’m waiting on an email. but impressing a group of people who had every reason to look at their sarah dossier and say, you know what, we can do better? that feels pretty damn good.

the next step, from here, following official official approval, is to close. i’ve been told that once i’m approved, i can close in 7-10 business days, which will put me in early/mid june. the board told me they’d love to me close as soon as possible ($$$), to which i said, GURL, ME TOO. DUH. the sooner i close, the sooner i can draw up my renovation plans, and get them approved by the board. from there, it’s on to get approval from the city. only at that point (more chances for rejection, BUT OF COURSE) can i start knocking shit down and making it new again.

to my two or three dedicated readers (hi, friends!), thanks for sticking around. i promise the good stuff is coming soon.



you know what has amazed me the MOST about this process? not how much money i’m forking over. not that i’m signing my name on 9 million pieces of paper.

that this process is so. effing. complicated. no one really reads this blog right now except a few of my (very dedicated) friends (hi guys! you’re the best), but maybe someday, someone will stumble upon this post, knee deep in the mortgage application process, and think, OMIGOD, I’M NOT ALONE.

so, without further adieu, here are 5 things no one tells you about the mortgage process.

  1. not all banks are created equal. this sounds like a “no duh” situation, so let me elaborate. when you initially set out on your mortgage journey, you’re likely working with a) a bank recommended to you by your broker (my situation) or b) a bank recommended to you by a friend who has been through this process before. here’s the thing, though. those two options are all well and good, but they’re not necessarily the options that will get you the very best rate. see, all banks set their own rates. and those rates change not just daily, but sometimes hourly. so at any given time, you may find yourself asking: am i going with the right bank? could i find a better deal somewhere else? banks are businesses, and just like any other business, they need to make money. so they want you to sign with them, because it means you’ll be paying them your quoted mortgage amount (principal) and THEN all the interest on top of it, over the next 30-odd years. in short: they can make some serious money off of you, so they’re going to talk up their services, and their rates, as much as they possibly can. that’s not to say they don’t have your best interests at heart – sometimes, they do – but for the most part, you need to do what you’d do in any other important situation: do your research, and trust your gut. and then ask a shit ton of questions.
  2. not all paperwork applies to you. as soon as you officially start the loan application process, banks are required by law to send a TON of forms your way. these are called “mortgage disclosures” and almost all of them are legal documents filled with completely confusing legal jargon. reading them, and trying to decipher their meaning, is like attempting to read a book in another language, and then being asked to write a book report on it. and here’s the kicker: though the government requires that the banks send you all this info, not all of it applies to you. as in, your set of loan disclosures might include 30 forms that say “sign and date and send back ASAP” – and yet, you may only ACTUALLY need to sign and date 4 of those 30. nowhere will it say this, you won’t know until you ask. my advice? as soon as you receive your loan disclosure forms, ask your mortgage broker for a list of which documents you MUST review, which ones you MUST sign, date and return, and which ones are purely for, you know, “pleasure” (because who doesn’t like to read legal documents in their space time?). 
  3. your pre-approval is not a guarantee. your pre-approval letter, which you’ll need to submit an offer on a home, is based on a few things, but mostly, the income you tell the bank you have, your monthly expenses, and your credit score. what no one tells you is that your pre-approval is just that: a PRE-approval. meaning, it does not dictate that you’ll ACTUALLY be approved. that will come later, once you’re bared your financial soul, had to account for every single late payment you’ve ever made, and basically promised the bank your first born child. it’s some epically biblical shit, you guys. i swear, i have never felt so self-conscious in my life. i feel like a fraud, like any minute now, someone’s going to tug the rug out from under me, i’m going to go flying, banana peel style, onto my butt, and they’re going to yell, “PSYCHE! YOU’RE NOT CUT OUT FOR THIS! YOU LOSE! NA NA NA POO POO!” your best path forward? to make sure you have all your ducks in a row, financially, before you apply. that means checking your retirement accounts, checking and savings accounts, paying off any remaining student loan debt and credit card debt (within reason, if possible), and basically, making sure you’re as financially sexy as possible so that the bank is all, WE WANT HER!
  4. you’re going to be terrified. this is sort of a continuation of the above, and also, sort of goes without saying, but all anyone has asked me since they heard the news has been, “are you SO EXCITED?!” and yes, i am SO EXCITED. i am also SO FUCKING TERRIFIED. maybe it’s buying in new york, maybe it’s buying a co-op, but there are still so many stages of this process that need to happen before i can even BEGIN to truly feel the excitement and the gravitas of what i’m doing. that’s not to say i’m not happy, but just that i feel, in equal measure, totally terrified. i’m scared what it could fall through. i’m scared of being rejected. i’m scared that it’ll be more money than i anticipate, and that i won’t be accurately prepared. i’m scared that i’ll do something wrong, or misunderstand a piece of paperwork (or, even worse, not understand it at ALL). while my parents (and in particular, my uncle, who is a business whiz) have been completely supportive and insanely helpful, they’re not here, sitting by my side, as i sift through all this paperwork and make big decisions that directly impact my future (and the future of my potential offspring, if i have them). i’m doing this, little old me, all on my own. and that is some scary shit.
  5. you’re not alone – and yet, you are. when i first started this process, i didn’t really realize just how many people i’d have on my team. there’s my real estate broker, eric, who went with me to open houses, sent me listings, helped me submit my offer and then a counter offer, is helping me put together my board package, and has generally been available to answer questions. then there’s andy, my lawyer, who worked with the seller’s attorney to review the draft contract, make revisions in my favor, and then walk me through the final version (which i signed to put the place in contract). then there’s doug, my mortgage broker (not to be confused with my real estate broker) at wells fargo, who has walked me through every single step of the loan application process, churned out dozens of pre-approval letters for me in record time, and has also been around to answer the 9 million seemingly innocuous questions that have been keeping me up at night. and that’s not all. there’s also doug’s assistant, amy, who, well, i’m not sure what she does. then there’s teresa, also at wells fargo, who works as a liaison between doug, who “sold” me the mortgage, and the unnamed underwriter, who is reviewing my application and will ultimately decide my destiny. and that’s just BUYING the place. there’s a whole other set of people assisting with the renovation. and yet, despite having all these people to talk to, and all these people to listen to, at the end of the day, it’s my decision. it’s my decision what type of loan i apply for. my decision that kind of tile i put in the bathroom. it’s my decision whether i pay to bust down a wall and open the place up, or save money and keep it as is. and that’s, you know, kind of a BFG (big fucking deal, for those not familiar). i wish someone had told me this: that despite all the help you’ll have, you’ll still be alone, at the end of the day, in your own head, just like you always are, trying to decide what’s right. since no one told me, i’m telling you. LEARN FROM ME, FRIENDS. SAVE YOURSELF. 

and there you have it: a long, rambling account of all the things i wish i’d known before i started this process.

the funny thing? despite how complicated this is, despite how stressed it has made me, despite how worried i am that something will fall through, i feel this underlying current of peace. this underlying sense that i can do this, no matter how hard it is. this underlying sense that at the end of the day, it’ll all be worth it. and that’s all anyone really needs, right? an underlying sense of peace?

now, if only i could apply that peace to, you know, the rest of my life.

last week, when i first received the draft contract for the grand apartment, my lawyer sent a list of “key takeaways” (his assumption being, of course, that i wouldn’t read the entire contract myself. BUT I DID. not that i understood it, but i tried!). the list looked a little something like this (key areas removed for privacy’s sake):

  1. Purchaser – Sarah Jacobson
  2. Apartment – Apt X, Grand Street, New York, NY 10002
  3. Apartment to be vacant and in broom clean condition at time of closing with the standard items listed in 1.11. Anything else they told you they would include in terms of personal property or furniture? this one made me laugh. pretty please, could they leave behind the ugly dorm light and random bookshelf in the bedroom?
  4. Purchase Price – keeping this under wraps for obvious reasons
  5. Contract Deposit – 10% of total purchase price (YIKES) (Due at the time the Contract is signed by you)
  6. Closing Date – On or about May 2, 2016 (this changed)
  7. Maintenance –keeping this under wraps for obvious reasons
  8. Assessment – None.
  9. Loan Amount – keeping this under wraps for obvious reasons
  10. Occupants – Sarah Jacobson
  11. Pets – None. this had to be corrected to include the queen of my life, my cat, penny lane
  12. Seller’s Rider 42 – Please Review and confirm that all is true.
  13. Appliances – Seller is not making any representation that any of the appliances are in working order. Are you replacing them all anyway? this also made me laugh. i kid you not, i asked my lawyer to write “please remove the fridge” into the rider to ensure that whatever dead body is hiding inside there will NOT be in my apartment when the keys are turned over to me. 

following this list, my lawyer had another one. this one was made up of “everything he could find out about the Corporation (apparently, that’s what the co-op is called) and the building.”

and in that list was this SNEAKY LITTLE ITEM:

Flip Tax – 25% of the net of any first sale of a unit and after the first sale its 15% of the net sale price or $5,000.00, whichever is greater.

i’m sorry, SAY WHAT? i read it multiple times, then read it again. after i handed over all of my savings, a good chunk of my inheritance, my first born, an exhaustive list of my financials and also my soul, THE CO-OP WAS GOING TO TAKE 25% OF THE APARTMENT WHEN I SOLD IT?

oh HELL no.

i called my broker. he told me he’d mentioned this to me, that flip tax was a common thing in the new york real estate world.

look: i know i tend to have selective memory. that and i smoked too much weed in college and so sometimes my memory just isn’t that great. but i swear to god, NO ONE had mentioned this tax. and CERTAINLY, no one had mentioned it in the context of my making an offer on the grand apartment.

my broker tried again. he explained that while i had correctly understood the concept of flip tax, i hadn’t interpreted the ruling above quite right. the “first sale,” he told me, refers to, well, just that. as in, the first people to sell the apartment following its conversion from a rental unit to a co-op unit would pay 25% of the profitbasically, it works like this:

seller A: the lucky person who was living in the unit when the building went co-op in the 1980s. likely got the apartment for a steal (seriously, i don’t even want to know what they paid, it’ll make me cry), and then made a BOATLOAD of money the first time they sold it. let’s just say, for shits and giggles, they bought the apartment for 80k.

seller A’s flip tax situation went a little something like this:

purchase price: 80,000

selling price (the first time the apartment was sold by seller A, the original owner): 500,000

profit made on the unit = 500,000 (selling price) – 80,000 (purchase price) = 420,000

flip tax = 420,000 x .25 = 105,000.

INSANITY, RIGHT? basically, seller A had to hand over 100 grand of their profit to the co-op. you know, because life makes no sense.

i thought this was the situation i was in.

while i wasn’t exactly right, i wasn’t exactly wrong, either. because the “first sale” already happened, my piece of the pie is “only” 15%, not 25%. that softened the blow, a little bit. and that 15% only applies, remember, to the profit i make – not to the gross selling price.

a little research, along with more discussion with my broker, revealed that flip taxes are pretty standard in new york city co-ops. they allow the co-op to make money without having to jack up the maintenance (which, i should add, is quite low in this building).

in other words, as frustrating as that 15% is, there’s no way around it. though it may not be the LOWEST in all the land, it’s also not the worst case scenario (that would be a flip tax percentage that applies to the gross selling price. OUCH).

all parties involved in the transaction (broker, lawyer, mortgage broker, and a few other smart people i talked to) agreed that while 15% wasn’t, you know, great, it also wasn’t the end of the world, nor was it a reason to walk away.

so, i signed. but may this be a lesson for all future apartment hunters: ask about the flip tax, and ask about it early. preferably before you fall in love with a future home and imagine raising your little four legged friends (and maybe even some two legged ones) there.

hindsight’s 20/20, right?