Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Speechless

Paul's grandma offered him (us?) a large cash endowment to start our life together. I was taken aback when he told me. He said he had kept her money in a savings account and helped her maintain it over the years, but last night, she told him he could keep the entire balance.

She is a frugal woman, like my own grandma. They both lived under the Soviet system and still re-use plastic milk bags meant to be thrown away. So when I say this is no small amount, I mean it's no small amount even by our (inflated) standards.

I can't quite wrap my mind around it. When I told my parents, my dad was borderline emotional. This woman resides in a tiny bachelor apartment and stores Paul's childhood drawings beneath her mattress (along with photos of her late husband). So she quite literally lives for her grandchildren. And the fact that the gift is intended to be shared between me and Paul? Let's just say her kindness is not lost on me.

Granted, there are strings attached. Both Paul and I believe she expects us to eventually get married. Good thing we're on the same page regarding that or we would be in deep doo-doo.

We plan to use half of it to furnish and decorate the new place, but have yet to decide what to do with the rest. (If I had it my way, I'd use it to pay off the house sooner.)

Everything has been moving along rather quickly and uncharacteristically smoothly. I went to see the mortgage lender yesterday ... and felt super naked. He looked over my financial history and told me it would be difficult to get approval from the top due to my reliance on freelance assignments in the course of MY ENTIRE ADULT LIFE. I brought along stacks of contracts and T4 forms that attested to my consistent employment in the film and news industries, but they were deemed useless. But when my broker joined me at the office, he said I forgot to mention my time spent working at my parents' store. I'd been there since early high school and didn't think it would count.

That sealed the deal though. Funny how my boring job as a retail salesgirl was more readily acknowledged by lending institutions than all my other job titles. I guess that's why my film colleagues regularly advise newbies to marry rich.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

House hunting, home found

Starting May 20, I will be a new homeowner. The negotiating process was a real doozy. My dad brought down the last $3000 by suggesting that all three parties (the sellers and both brokers) surrender a grand each. That worked and we ended up getting it for $12K below the listing price (which was above market value anyway).

The sellers were really stubborn. They even bragged that their south-east view was worth $20K more than anything similar in the building. We called their bluff after only one other (lower) offer came in after the second open house and while they still tried to play hardball, we knew they wouldn't be calling us unless we were the best they could get. So we leveraged that and I got my house.

The mortgage payments will be tolerable on my salary because my parents are gifting me with a down payment worth a third of the total price. For that, I am exceedingly grateful. Paul will be helping me out with the maintenance fees once he starts working, but I can still manage without him.

We're so excited to start our life together. This summer is starting to look up.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

For your consideration

People send me film and TV pitches at work. This one fell into my inbox recently, which I will summarize thusly:

Guy tries to get over his ex by finding another woman to sleep with. So he travels down to the Mexican-Arizona border, falls in love with a local living in a "beautiful hacienda," but she mistakes him for the man who killed her father, so she tries to kill him with a plate of poisoned chicken mole, but she has a change of heart, only to find out the drug lord wants her dead and is now out to snuff out both of them.

This story was predictably binned. Unfortunate because I can probably dedicate a blog entirely to failed scripts (if they weren't such a pain to slog through).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Almost perfect

Paul and I have been house hunting with the help of my parents. We're preparing to make an offer on a place we saw today. Out of all the properties we've visited, this one satisfies every one of our requirements ... except one: the location. It's about a 15-minute walk from the fashionable district we'd be searching in, but it has stuff we'd never be able to afford otherwise: two full bedrooms and two full bathrooms; open concept kitchen and dining space; unobstructed view of the skyline and leafy surroundings; corner unit, south-facing windows; hardwood floors and granite countertops; stainless steel appliances; balcony; parking spot and locker, etc. The asking price is also on the high end of our budget without surpassing it.

The caveat is, of course, that we'd be living a couple of blocks from a men's hostel. I wouldn't say it's a rough neighbourhood. While the area would hardly give Yorkville a run for its money, the condo we're considering is predictably gentrified. And considering the historic buildings and mom n' pop shops nearby, what it lacks in sterility, it makes up for in crazy people.

I know architecture students will probably bemoan my choice for contributing to the displacement of the less-than-fortunate. (Gentrification is a hip term for serious, widening economic disparities.) But it's hard for me to justify plopping down cash for a place I'd only be comfortable describing for politically correct reasons.

Paul is worried that we might get sucked into a bidding war. Fingers crossed.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Keeps getting better

I had a meeting with the co-president of our film division and he was receptive to involving me in long-term projects. After listening to a summary of my experiences, he thought I would be a good fit as a script reader, scouring for creative and commercial potential among the trash. Other duties to follow.

I had been hoping to do something like this since I applied for the job. Who knew all I had to do was ask? Knowing my boss travels a lot on business, I think getting involved in the nitty-gritty will be a challenging, yet, ultimately, worthwhile endeavour. While my loyalties will still lie with him, he's encouraging me to take a gander at other parts of the company; I'm going to see if TV and music might have a need for me in the future. Granted, I know I am in a privileged position to ask for favours, but I still feel quite lucky to be given these chances to prove myself among colleagues of a different circle (i.e. media marketers versus corporate hotshots).

Our company was involved in the distribution of a mega-release that grossed over $700 million worldwide, so I am looking forward to the movies coming my way. (On the other hand, I recently read a pitch for a feature film that contains poisoned chicken mole as a key plot point.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Familiar Territory

The communications director resurrected the company's internal newsletter and put me in charge as the editor after checking out my online writing portfolio. I'm responsible for collecting articles from all the global offices, editing them, and publishing the final copy. He says he's open to any ideas I might have that could improve the publication.

I will be working with a graphic designer to update the look and feel of the whole thing, something more akin to an industry magazine. Super excited and pleased with the amount of freedom he's giving me. My boss knows I don't have much to do when he's flying off to the four corners of the earth so he thought it would be a good idea for me to get involved in some long-term projects in film and TV. He plans to consult with the executives overlooking those departments. Works for me!

It's like being a salaried intern on a rotating curriculum. Better than school!

House Hunting

I never thought I'd see the day when I've become that friend, you know that friend, who slips in market value, home equity, interest rates, and mortgages into casual conversations. Except, I've become that friend.

Paul and I went house hunting on Sunday. None of the places we saw fit my criteria. Paul is even pickier. The properties were all decent, but as an investment, they were far from tempting.

My mom and I agreed that it might be better to look downtown. While the prices are steeper for less living space, these properties aren't as vulnerable to market fluctuations as their suburban counterparts. Furthermore, it's far easier to rent out or sell a one-bedroom to young professionals than it is to growing families in a trendy region of the city.

I spoke to a broker today for half an hour, discussing the pros and cons of Toronto's real estate environment. We discussed the factors that determine maintenance fee hikes under various conditions, seasonal trends, price gouging, etc. It was really quite fascinating.

My main dilemma is this: Should I purchase a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom and pay if off myself or purchase a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom and rent out the extra room?

Although I would be able to afford both scenarios (the latter with the help of the renter), I'm weary about investing in a property that Paul and I will easily outgrow. Granted, my salary might change and Paul will have entered the job market by then, but those are (in)variables I can't consider when I'm looking for a place right now. I also don't want to depend on Paul, knowing his job prospects will be unpredictable in his field. (I have, however, unwavering faith in his abilities to succeed.)

Patience might work out in my favour to an extent. But time is a-tickin' and the prices, overall, are still relatively affordable (at least, for this city). I just don't know how long it will last. A property I had my eye on 2 years ago has already gone up by 200k.

What to do? There are so many things to consider, minor as they are. The location of the property will determine whether or not I can rent out an extra parking spot, which can net me an extra $150-$200 a month. Its distance from my job will determine whether I will have to shell out the $120 for a public transit pass (extortionist to TTC: "Girl, that's a bit much!"). Will I be able to cover utilities? Have I made allowances for food, entertainment, and emergencies? Will I make sure to have enough money in my account to pay off my mortgage on a bi-weekly basis in order to save thousands on interest? (That last one was mostly rhetorical.)

And yet, I feel pretty good about my life. I've had some great adventures in my 24 years and while it may appear that I'm settling down hardcore, I believe I am providing a solid foundation to help usher me into the next phase of my life. While re-tracing Audrey Hepburn's steps in Roman Holiday and walking past throngs of paparazzi were fun, these experiences (and those like them) were fuelled by the need for novelty. I know now that a trip to the Amazon will not help me discover more about myself nor will I suddenly feel the urge to change my values because wherever you go, there you are.

In other words, I believe the next few years will involve developing strong professional relationships so that I may (collaboratively) contribute something tangible and positive to the world. Or maybe, it's my mind at 2:00am speaking ...