Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Think Twice Is What I Say

My medical school holds examination review sessions. I don't agree with them but there you go. In the exam review session (which happens on the afternoon of the examination day), the students sign out their papers and a faculty member stands at the front of the room and goes through the answers one by one. I've never been said faculty member so I don't know the details of what goes on, but essentially the students know what grade they received on the examination by the end of it all (and which questions they got right and wrong).

Another thing that my medical school has is a committee of folks (faculty members) who meet with students who are in any academic difficulty. I am one of said folks. Usually the students who come to meet with us are having difficulties with grades and we offer them remedial assistance and everyone is happy at the end of the day.

These two things (the examination review session and the committee of folks) came together recently. A first year medical student was sent to visit with us after the faculty member running the examination review session caught him drinking a beer in the session. Drinking a beer! It was the final examination of the term and hence also the final examination review session so the student thought that it was entirely appropriate to bring beer to the party. Not only was the student openly drinking a beer but when the faculty member told the student that he had to discard the beer, the student defiantly stared at the faculty member as he proceeded to gulp down the remainder of the beer (which I gather was pretty much the full bottle of beer).

So what happens to a medical student who drinks a beer in a formal examination review session and then acts defiantly to a faculty member? A permanent professionalism (lack thereof) note on the student's record, that's what happens. I hope that the student really enjoyed that beer because it's going to be following him around for the duration of his four years of medical education.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The move was a breeze and the new place is great. So that's good. I've become best friends with my local Home Depot store. That's been fun. I've discovered that I like being a handyman and I really enjoy being able to make my home look the way that I want it. The joys of home ownership abound.

What is not so good (baffling even) is that colleague and I had a paper rejected for publication. It took two months for the peer reviews to be returned. Well, peer review. Singular. One single peer review (what's up with that?) took two months to be returned to us.

The review itself was actually quite good, stating that the paper makes a valuable contribution to research area of awesomeness but that some points need to be addressed prior to publication (and the points were valid and easily addressed). Sounds good, right? Well, the editor of the journal rejected the paper based on that one (what we thought was positive) review. The editor commented that he hoped this would not discourage us from submitting further manuscripts to the journal in the future. Hell yeah, it will.

In any case, we're now submitting the paper to another journal. The journal is a good one but the list of instructions to authors for formatting is long and exhaustive. Silly even. And this is why I look much like this these days:

Ah, there, that feels better. I especially like when my eye ball pops out and starts swinging around my head on the optic nerve. Trust me, it feels fabulous compared to formatting the manuscript.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Two Things

Two things that drive me nuts:

1. People who don't pick up their feet while walking. Rather, they shuffle along making shuffling noises. I make a point of looking at their feet in disgust but, let's face it, if you are too lazy to pick up your feet between steps then you are also too lazy to take note of disgusted looks at your feet. I want to punch you shuffling people in the face.

2. People who can't park. People: I make sure that I am parked with equal distance on either side between my car and the lines on the pavement. If I get out of my car and notice that I have parked too close to a line, I get back in my car and fix the problem. I am sick and tired of returning to my car to find a freaking mini-van parked within millimeters of my driver's side door. Not only am I left with wondering how the hell you got out of your freaking mini-van (and how you expect me to get in my car) that is parked so close to my car, but I am also left wanting to await your return to your vehicle so that I may punch you in the face.

Merry Christmas. Ho Ho Ho.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I Am A Home Owner

I did it. I purchased a condo. I move in next month.

It's been a steep learning curve (there's a whole new language to learn when buying one's first property) but my friends who are already home owners have been terrific at giving me hints and advice along the way. So, in the same spirit, I will now share my experience so that if any of my bloggy friends are thinking about home ownership then perhaps I may be of some assistance.

Step 1. Go to your bank and get a mortgage pre-approval. This involves verification of your job and income and a look into your credit history and FICO score (if you don't know either then you're likely not ready to start this process because they affect your pre-approval in a huge way).

When the bank comes back with a ridiculously high number, crunch the numbers and determine how much such a mortgage will really cost you. There are mortgage calculators all over the internet. Google is your friend. I dropped $100,000 lower than the pre-approved amount to max out at 35% of my net monthly income. It's a number that I am comfortable with because I don't have any other debt. Be sure to add up not only your monthly mortgage payment but also things like condo fees (if applicable), monthly heating and insurance costs and property taxes.

Step 2. Now you know how much you can afford to spend so you can start looking with that number being the maximum home listing price. Find yourself a realtor. My realtor put me on a mailing list (with a minimum/maximum purchase price and neighbourhood-specific results) that sent me any new listings as well as updates to sold listings so that I was able to get an idea for the active/current market.

Step 3. Drive to each of your specified neighbourhoods at the peak of rush hour (both ways). Believe me, you may save yourself a lot of time by not looking in those neighbourhoods if the commute is horrific. In my case, those drives ruled out two neighbourhoods that I was considering because the commute each way approached one hour. I'm not willing to make such a long commute and so I didn't waste my time looking at properties in those two neighbourhoods and instead was able to focus on my third choice of neighbourhood (where I in fact ended up buying and where I will be an easy 10 minute commute from work).

Step 4. Start looking at properties. Your realtor will be particularly useful at this step as he or she can quickly contact the seller's realtor(s) and set up viewings. My realtor was also very knowledgeable about the area and so was able to warn me away from buildings if they had problems.

Step 5. When you find your new home, be prepared for things to move very quickly (especially if you live in a city like mine, which didn't suffer a housing slump over the past year or two ... properties move quickly in this part of the world). I viewed my new home at noon on a Thursday. I put in an offer on Thursday evening. It was countered at 10:30 in the morning on Friday. I countered that counter offer at 3:00 on Friday afternoon and the offer was accepted at 4:30 that Friday afternoon.

Step 6.
It's actually not as simple as that. You need to consider what you are making the offer subject to. I made it subject to a unit/building inspection, confirmed mortgage financing from the bank and a few minor visible repairs. The seller came back and accepted those subjects on the condition that they be lifted and the sale be legally binding and finalized just one short week later. See? You've got to be prepared to move quickly. You also have to be prepared to assign a closing date (the date when you will actually be handed the keys and start paying your mortgage). The seller pushed for a closing date of December 31st, 2009. There's no way that I want to be moving over the holiday period, so I pushed back with a closing date in January 2010. The seller agreed.

Step 7. Find a building inspector. Again, Google can be your friend here or you can ask for a recommendation from a friend. I went with my friend Google and found an excellent, thorough building inspector. The building inspection went ahead on the Monday. It cost me $300 for a two-hour inspection but you can't put a price on the peace of mind of knowing that your roof isn't going to cave in any time soon. He didn't find anything major with the unit or the building but did find some minor small repairs in the unit that my realtor then added to the sale contract. The seller agreed to make those repairs at his cost prior to the closing date.

The other good part about having a building inspection done is that it allows you to spend some significant time in the property. Let's face it, you've only looked at it once so far (at the viewing). The time in the unit served to make me feel really good about the place; I enjoyed the feel of it very much. That went a long way to soothing the anxiety that naturally occurs with such a large purchase. I knew I was in the right place and that it would be a happy home.

Step 8. Confirm your financing with the bank. They will want a copy of the sale contract and other stuff like a title deed (your realtor will know what documents to ask for from the seller). The bank will also want proof that you have money for the down-payment. The payment of your down-payment will likely differ depending on where you live. In my case, I had to confirm the funds and then request a bank draft for 5% of the home value, to be delivered to my realtor in trust on the day that I lifted the subjects. Then, on the actual closing date, I will be required to deliver another bank draft for the remainder of my down payment. I didn't know about this going into the whole process, so it came as a bit of a surprise to have to write such a large cheque so early in the process.

Here's an example of how it works where I live (purchase price is hypothetical):

Purchase price: $500,000
Total down payment confirmed: $100,000
Due on the day that subjects are lifted: 5% of the purchase price = $25,000
Due on the closing day: the remainder of your confirmed down payment = $75,000
Amount of mortgage that the bank will give you: $400,000.

That last point is important because you will sign your mortgage (at which point it will be transferred to a lawyer -- no lawyers are needed in the offer to purchase; the realtors take care of those negotiations) long before your closing date, so they want to be sure that you're good to cover the entire promised down-payment. In short, the bank will give the seller $400,000 on the closing date and you need to be able to cough up the other $100,000 to give to the seller.

Step 9. Prepare to feel panicked, sick to your stomach and dizzy. You now have to make the decision to sign off on the subjects and enter into a legally binding contract of ownership. If you back out after this step then you will lose your 5% deposit and the seller can sue you. It is therefore perfectly normal to feel panicked, sick to your stomach and dizzy. Expect those feelings to last through until the day after you lift the subjects.

Step 10. Meet with your realtor to lift the subjects and sign the document that now makes the home legally yours. This happened for me exactly one week after I put in my offer to purchase (I lifted the subjects a day earlier than required by the contract).

Step 11. Find a lawyer. I took a recommendation from my banker, but you can use a friend's recommendation or Google. You may also choose to go with a notary and they usually cost a little bit less than a lawyer, but they can also be a lot more institutional than a lawyer (this advice comes from a friend who has bought two properties and once used a lawyer and once used a notary). I went with a lawyer. Expect to cough up between $1000 - $1500 in legal fees for a routine, problem-free transfer of title (and whatever else it is that lawyers do with a home purchase ... I've only spoken with my lawyer on the phone so far and I actually haven't yet gone through this step but will do so in early January).

Step 12. Go in and sign your mortgage papers. They will then be electronically transferred to your lawyer (at least they were in my case). I did this the day after lifting the subjects, so exactly one week following the accepted offer to purchase.

Step 13. Now you have some time to breathe. There's no rush to meet with the lawyer. You only have to have all of the papers signed before the closing date. I'll meet with my lawyer two weeks before my closing date in January.

And that is my home buying adventure to date. Now I'm moving on to booking a moving company and other details such as day boarding the kitty cats on the actual moving day.

I still occasionally feel panicked, sick to my stomach and dizzy but by-and-large those feelings have been replaced by excitement and anticipation of moving day.

I did it! I am a home-owner!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

On Home Buying

I'm certain that I could have bought a home long before now, but when I graduated I came up with the plan to first pay off all of my student loans (as in every single last penny and because that was my only debt, be completely debt free) and save a healthy down payment before applying for a mortgage. I'm happy to announce that those two things are done and done and so the home buying adventure begins.

As I begin the search I am aware of how fortunate I am in my current position:

1. My medical school provides a pretty package aimed at assisting faculty in purchasing their first home. It's meant to both attract and retain faculty members and, together with a large cash gift to put toward a down payment, offers a brokerage service for applying for a mortgage.

2. This brokerage service meant that I submitted one mortgage application. The brokerage service then hit up my credit score (so only one hit as opposed to multiple hits were I to go to banks individually) and then sent my application out to all of the major banks (together with the information that I am a tenured faculty member, which obviously decreases lending risks because I can't lose my job unless I become a serial killer or the like) and then the banks competed for my business. Sweetness.

3. As a result, I have been pre-approved for much more money than I would have ever thought and at a lower interest rate than I would have ever dreamed of. I don't see myself ever using the full pre-approved amount (because owing that much money for anything makes me want to throw up a little) but it has certainly increased the scope of the properties that I am able to seriously consider.

All of that fortune aside, I live in a very expensive city. I currently live in the downtown core of my Fabulous City and always thought that I would buy here. However, now that I have started seriously looking at listings, I may not. Sure, I can afford to buy here in the downtown core, but when I look at what I can get here versus what I can get in one of the suburbs for the same (if not less) money then I start to reconsider quite seriously. Think the same amount of money for a one bedroom shoe box (downtown) versus a two bedroom/two bath (suburbs).

Problem: I am not a suburb type of person. The thought of having to drive to get my groceries (for example) makes me want to curl up in a corner and cry. However, all is not lost as not all of the suburbs of my Fabulous City are typical suburbs. I have found one south of the city that is freaking charming. I love it. It's still a relatively easy commute to both the medical school campus and the hospital (albeit not as easy as my current commute) and it's freaking charming.

And so the search begins. I am hardly able to sit still for all of the excitement. Woo hoo! Home ownership, here I come!

Monday, October 05, 2009

My Only Wish ...

... Is that drivers of cars will stop using their great mass to knock me off of my bicycle.

I get it: you are bigger and you will always win.

I wish that you would get: I may be smaller, but I still had the right of way in every incident to date. Police charges and fines back me up on this.

I'm glad that you all have been charged and fined. I hope that you are all poor and that each and every penny of that fine will hurt you as much as you hurt me by running me over with your CAR while I am on a BICYCLE.

Fuck. I am sick and tired of the total body physical pain that follows a bike (me) versus car (asshole) incident.

(Yes. There is a history. And yes, there was another incident today.)