No Amount of Planning Could’ve Prepared Me for Closing on a Co-Op in Brooklyn During a Pandemic

published May 19, 2020
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I am nothing if not a planner. According to my husband Mike, my best quality is my ability to skillfully organize every aspect of my life. Whatever I’m doing (buying a blender, choosing a restaurant, planning a vacation), I like—no, need—to know I’ve considered all possible options and chosen the best one. Have these tendencies led me to scour the entirety of the internet for the world’s best bedside table lamp? Maybe. But hey, I am in charge of my own destiny, or something like that. 

It may come as no surprise that I’ve been planning for my first home for years, slowly socking away money and amassing a long list of saved homes on Zillow. Mike and I had viewed buying as a “future” thing, for when we finally tired of New York City and moved back to the Midwest. We never thought we could afford a place in Brooklyn, our home of six years, but that didn’t stop us from browsing. Then, one unseasonably warm fall afternoon, while open house-hopping with our friends, we found it: A two-bedroom pre-war co-op with an unreal amount of counter space. While buying in New York wasn’t part of my original plan, I was happy to change gears. I’d soon realize there was a loft more shifting in store for us.

When our offer was accepted, I knew this home would be my biggest organization project yet. Buying a house requires serious mental fortitude, but buying a co-op in Brooklyn demands you jump through hoops. We had to cough up a minimum of 20 percent down, plus years of past financial records and numerous character references. There was an interview with the building’s board, too, and then months of waiting. I buried myself in research and spreadsheets, learning all I could about mortgage rates and real estate attorneys. I was intent on controlling the chaos, and for a while, I did. But in early March, four months into our home-buying journey and only two weeks until our closing date, coronavirus arrived in New York. 

We all know what happened next. Restrictions, which started out alarmingly lax, became more severe. “Social distancing” entered our lexicon, and non-essential businesses were forced to close. My perfectly prepared timelines and checklists morphed into a flurry of unanswered questions. Would our closing be postponed? Would our movers cancel? Could my parents, who planned to drive out from Wisconsin to help us paint, still come to the city? 

Our closing did happen as scheduled. Two hours and hundreds of signed papers later, we were homeowners. I had imagined this moment: A firm handshake from the seller, maybe a few celebratory hugs, and definitely some champagne. Instead, polite waves and nods of congratulations were delivered from a safe distance, and when our new keys were finally handed over to us, they were wrapped in a Clorox wipe. Rather than elation, I felt relief. 

As soon as I crossed the closing worry off my list, other unexpected stressors appeared. I heard rumors the city would close down bridges and tunnels, putting my parent’s visit in jeopardy. My careful planning began to crumble yet again.

I controlled what I could and, with a degree of difficulty, accepted there was so much that I couldn’t. My parents stayed home, for their safety and for that of their small community, which had not yet been impacted by the virus. We moved out of our rental with ease, thanks to a dedicated moving company and its essential workers. And Mike and I made several trips to our local hardware store to paint our new home ourselves.

This virus has taken so much from so many—celebrations and jobs and loved ones. Sure, we didn’t get a reunion with my parents, help with the painting, or a housewarming party with our friends. But I have my health, my husband, and a home that I’m extremely proud of. We have a seemingly endless amount of time to explore our new neighborhood, cook delicious meals together, and complete our home-improvement projects. It wasn’t what I had planned, or what I could have ever imagined, but at the very least, when we can finally open our door to visitors, we—and our home—will be ready.