Home Sweet Home

I’m officially moved in, semi-unpacked and getting back into my “normal routine.”  I will admit I have driven the wrong way home from work a few times just out of habit but quickly realized…oops I don’t live here anymore.

One of the feelings I hadn’t expected was the huge since of pride that comes along with owning my first home.  A year ago, I didn’t even think this was a possibility but now that I’m in it, living it, I am so happy I took the leap.  I may have a few extra grey hairs but that’s nothing my hairdresser can’t fix.

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I also feel like more of an adult, that seems silly to say out loud, but right or wrong, I do.  Spending my Saturdays wandering the aisles of Home Depot or sketching out my elaborate backyard Spring DIY projects, it’s been a fun and exciting experience.

In meeting my neighbors, so far I have received rose bush pruning tips by the retiree on the next block over, and I’ve even met several of the neighborhood dogs – Jack has approved and is looking forward to his next playdate with his new furry friends.

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Here are a few lessons I learned after move in…

Ask friends for help. One of the best moving decisions I made was to invite friends over to help unpack.  Now they may not see it that way, but it was a huge time saver when it came to my kitchen.  We had the entire kitchen unpacked out of boxes and in cabinets in an hour.  I always think organizing a new kitchen is hard because you’re not sure how to set it up.  But having five women help organize the kitchen was a life saver.  It was also just a lot of fun having friends come over and hangout.  We played music in the background, ate sandwiches and unpacked – I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

I should have taken notes. This is a little bit like taking your first college exam and flunking it.  When you are in a high stress situation or receiving a lot of information for the first time it’s easy to forget half of everything.  From the final walk through on my house all the way to closing I received a lot of information… most of it started out something like this “Don’t lose this paper, it’s very important.” Or “You will want to fill this out and mail this to ______(fill in the blank).”  So don’t be afraid to take a pen and paper and ask clarifying questions every step of the way.  Here’s your second chance to be the straight A student you never were in college.

Make lists. After moving in I had created a mental list of all of the items in the house of what needed to be fixed or still needed to be done.  This list swam around in my head for days and even kept me up at night.  It’s just good to write it down or create a digital list on your phone or computer.

It doesn’t have to ALL be done today. I really like to knock things out… give me a list and it will be done before noon. I’ve always been that way, I like to just get stuff done even if it kills me or I have to spend the next week catching up on sleep.  After I finally stepped back and made my list of “to dos”, and prioritized them, it really helped me feel more relaxed and I could enjoy my house more.

Change of address. Someone needs to create a button or magic wand for this. I recommend making a list of all of the places you need to change your address starting with the most obvious mail forwarding with USPS.  Others would be your employer, bank accounts and credit cards, updating your driver’s license and most important your Amazon Prime account.

 

Hopefully a few of the lessons I learned will help you with your home purchase.  With home ownership comes new responsibilities, new challenges and new adventures.  I’m excited to see where it takes me.  I’m excited to be home.  – xx Jennifer

Money Saving Packing Tips

The cost of moving can add up quickly.  When I sat down to put pen to paper and created a budget for moving, packing supplies ranked up there as a huge expense.  So I decided to look at ways to pack smart, help the environment and save a few dollars.

So where do you even start?  Overwhelmed by my full closets and the thought of having to wrap every little decor item by hand I knew the first thing I needed to do was get organized.  Before packing all of my possessions into dozens of little boxes, I needed to determine what I was actually going to take with me and I did this in three easy steps.  I put together three moving boxes and labeled them:

  1. Giveaway
  2. Donate
  3. Sell

Although moving can be a pain in the you know what, it is also a great time to reconsider some really really bad purchases along the way.  By creating these three boxes to have on hand during the packing process, it gave me a place to throw items that I wanted to give away to friends, donate to a local nonprofit and sell online for a little extra cash to add to the moving budget.

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Moving on a budget can be a challenge, but one of the big items I immediately took off the list was moving boxes.  This one was hard for me, I’ve always bought new boxes from moving companies and later recycled them, but that can add up quickly.  For this move I sent out a plea to all of my Facebook friends and was pleasantly surprised that they too were on the move and were happy to share left over boxes.  Within a few hours I was set to pack my entire apartment.  If you want to forgo the social media route you can always visit local retailers such as Tractor Supply, Starbucks, Ulta (these were a few suggestions I received from friends) for empty boxes.

Ok serious voice here… buy high quality tape.  Don’t cheap out on this item because after the one thousandth time the tape splits in half or gets tangled on the tape gun you could reach a breaking point.  Save your stress for another time, and buy good tape.

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Most people who know me, know that I love organizing things and creating new organization systems… you know, completely normal type behavior.  So naturally I created a label packing system.  I purchased colored paper, just sticking with your primary colors.  Each color represents a room in my new house… so yellow = kitchen, green = living room, red = master bedroom…. you get the point.

On the colored paper I printed (you can also hand write with a sharpie) the room that the box needs to go to and taped it to the side of the box.  Quick tip:  It’s important that the label goes on the side of the box because once the boxes are stacked it will be hard for the movers to know what boxes they are picking up.

The highlight of my last move was when the moving company complemented me on my box organization.  Life made. I know everyone doesn’t get as excited as I do about moving, but I can tell you two things… 1.  it doesn’t have to break the bank and 2. it doesn’t have to be stressful.

Here is a complete list of supplies to make your moving headache free:

  1. Moving Boxes – ask a friend, ask a neighbor, ask a retailer – save your money and and the planet.
  2. Packing Tape
  3. Tape Gun
  4. Wrapping Paper – I bought this at U-haul – I priced checked other retailers and U-haul just has the best paper.
  5.  Black Sharpies
  6.  Colored Paper 

 

xx-Jennifer

I said YES… to the Lender

Buying my dream home seemed out of reach at the beginning of the year, but I quickly realized that it was more about the fear of the “unknown” than about the actual process.  With information at my fingertips and unlimited resources to buying a home, I felt a little overwhelmed trying to accomplish my goal of becoming a first time home buyer.

The process seemed both exciting and also terrifying at the same time, but I knew I needed to end my marathon of rental days behind me and start the investment in my community.

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I will say that I had a really great experience working with my lender partly because I purchased a home from Stylecraft Builders.  Stylecraft really makes the home buying experience not only special but simple.  Through their in-house lender I was able to easily access the financial resources necessary to purchase my first home.

Knowing that this can be intimidating and slightly scary I’m sharing with you a few questions and documents that I prepared before speaking to my lender.

5 Key Questions:

  1. What loans do I qualify for?  As a first time home buyer I decided to maximize this experience by applying for a FHA loan.  I will never be a first time home buyer again and the FHA loan fit my needs the best.  Ask your lender to put together a few scenarios in a worksheet to visually see the difference between the loans.
  2. What is the current interest rate?
  3. When can I lock in the interest rate?  Working with Stylecraft Builders, they had a very specific point in their construction that they lock in the interest rate.  They will lock in the rate when the counter tops are installed.  This is a very unique situation as I am dealing with new construction, so make sure you really understand when the rate is secured.
  4. Will I pay Private Mortgage Interest (PMI)?  Typically if you put down less than 20% of the loan value you will have to pay PMI.
  5. Can you provide a worksheet on the closing costs and fees – basically how much money will I need to bring to the table during closing?

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5 Documents to bring to your lender:

  1. Drivers License
  2. Social Security Card
  3. W-2’s (2 years)
  4. Bank Statements (2 months)
  5. Pay Check Stubs (2 months)

If you missed out on the last two blog posts in this home buying series, catch up with the links below and read more details about my home buying experience, including the lessons I’ve learned along the way to inspire you to invest in your community! xx-Jennifer

I said YES… to the House

I said YES… the the Real Estate Agent

 

I said YES…to the Real Estate Agent

I set some pretty big goals at the beginning of the year and one of them was to explore the option of owning my first home, with the long term goal of becoming a real estate investor.  I’ve rented in the Brazos valley for over 17 years (wow) and as I continued to deal with paying high rental prices, a leaky rental property roof and all of the college students…. I finally threw my hands up and said enough is enough.  It’s time to move on, move forward and take the leap.

Ok so the decision to buy wasn’t exactly that easy.  Last week I shared with y’all a few home buying tips and lessons I’ve learned throughout this process. But one of the big takeaways for me was interviewing a real estate agent.  I will admit I failed at this part, that’s why I am sharing with you today, the top 5 questions you should ask your potential Real Estate Agent.

Bonus: I’m also sharing a fun exercise you can do that will help you answer questions that a real estate agent will ask you during your first meeting.

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Choosing your Real Estate Agent:  My recommendation is to choose three agents to interview… ask a friends for a referral or use the Dave Ramsey Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) guide.  Once you have narrowed your search down, set up face-to-face meetings.  It is so important to meet your potential agent in person.  I know this is hard to do in today’s world of technology, but trust me you will know within 10 to 15 minutes of meeting the agent if you will be good business partners.

Here are five questions to ask your agent to get the conversation started:

  1. How long have you lived in (insert community name here) community?
  2. How long have you been in the real estate business?
  3. What does the home buying process look like with you?
  4. How will you match my must haves/wish list items with a potential home?
  5. How do you communicate? (via email, phone, in person)

Preparing to interview your potential real estate agent is important, but you should also be prepared to answer a few questions of your own…

What is your timeline?

Have a good idea of when you would like to be moved into your house and when you plan to close.  If you are currently renting and are nearing the end of your lease agreement before you can get into a new home, I would encourage you to speak to your landlord about the option of going month-to-month or extending your lease if you think that would even be an option.  I setup a time to meet with my property manager and explained my circumstances and she was completely accommodating.  The key thing is to just communicate.

What is your budget?

There are new costs of living when you own a home that you need to be aware of outside of your monthly payment, such as PMI (private mortgage insurance) if you are not putting 20% down, home owners insurance and property taxes.  If you have a lender in mind I would recommend speaking with him/her before starting to look at homes.  You don’t want to fall in love with a home that you will never be able to pay for in the end.  Your lender will also provide you with a Pre-Qualification Letter that you will need before placing an offer on a home.  This is a document that shows the seller that you are serious and have the ability to purchasing their home.

Tip:  When you are pre-qualified, the amount will most likely be over your budget, so make sure you have done the math and it is a monthly mortgage payment that you can honestly afford.  I was pre-qualified way out of my comfort zone, so I had the lender decrease the amount listed on the pre-qualification letter, this will help you when negotiating with a seller.  For example if you are pre-qualified to buy a home for $250,000 , but know you only want to spend $200,000, you will want the letter to reflect the budgeted amount. 

Do you have a lender?

My recommendation would be to meet with a lender before starting the home buying process, but it’s not necessary, it just depends on what stage you are at in your home buying process.  For me I am very much a gatherer of information, then I will think on the information for awhile and then make the decision.  So I chose my real estate agent first and then selected a lender.  You’re agent will most likely have two to three lenders that he/she works with and can make a referral to you.

Is there an area in town that you would like to focus your home buying search?

Have a good sense of the neighborhoods that you are interested in and even the ones that you don’t want to live in.  As a single person, I was not concerned with school zones/districts as much as I was on location to my employer and family members who also live in the area.  Another thing to consider is new developments around the particular neighborhood and does it align with your needs, such as grocery stores, restaurants and retail.

What are your Must Haves/Wish List/Deal Breakers?

I’ve put together a fun exercise that will help you to have this ready at hand when asked this question.  My real estate agent provided me with a listing that was in my budget and asked me to basically give a review of the home.  He asked me to tell him everything I liked about the house and everything I didn’t like about the house.  While reviewing this home it allowed me to clearly formulate my must haves, wish list items and also the deal breakers.  Here is a free download to help you navigate your first home time buying experience,  Growing Up Texas_ Yes to the House, Exercise !

Happy house hunting! xx- Jennifer

I said YES… to the House

I said YES to the House… I’ve lived in the the Brazos Valley for over 17 years, all of which has been in a renting situation.  This month I’m breaking down all details on the blog, each Friday, telling you about my experiences in buying a home.  Starting today with the lessons I’ve learned along the way to hopefully inspire you to invest in your community and take the steps to buying your first home.

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Lessons I learned and steps to take to prepare yourself for purchasing your first home…
1. You can do this! – I think part of my hesitation about committing to purchasing a home was mostly surrounded by a fear of uncertainty. I wasn’t sure if I was staying in this community, I felt like I would be trapped and “stuck” here forever.
Once I opened my mind to the possibilities of this becoming a true investment property and not my forever home, I relaxed.  I completely dropped the phrase “I can’t” from my vocabulary and started say “Ok, yeah.  I can do this… now how am I going to do it?”  I started planning and pulling together all of my resources to make my dream of becoming a real estate investor a reality.
2.  Finances – this word scares me if I being truly honest.  But at the beginning of the year I sat down and did a complete audit of my finances … I mean a COMPLETE scary audit of everything.  I decided to enroll in Financial Peace University at my church.
If you haven’t read any of Dave Ramsey’s books or taken a course I would highly advise the six week course.  This helped me to set the stage for getting my finances in order and really educating myself on every area of my finances, which has now positioned me to start building wealth through real estate.
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3.  Real Estate Agents – I did what most people do … just take a recommendation from a friend.  If I were to start over again, I would have interviewed the heck out of at minimum 3 agents.  My advise is to think of this as business transaction, because that’s what it is.  Yes, agents are representing you and should always have your best interest at heart, but be mindful that not all agents are treated equally.  At the end of the day this is how they make their income so choose wisely.
Tip:  Signing a an exclusive agent agreement contract… you do not need to sign this immediately, if you’re agent asks you to sign this upfront then there is a problem.  The terms are negotiable, standard is 90 days, but don’t be afraid to ask for 24 hours, 7 days or even 30 days.
4. Talk to your friends – Before I was sure I wanted to buy a home I spoke to my close friends and family members who own homes to learn about their buying experiences.  It’s always good to reach out to people who you know will give you their honest feedback and also help you along the way.  And I can tell you that not all of my friends were high on the idea of me making the jump and actually advised against it.  But be prepared to take the good and the bad though when asking for other peoples opinions.

5.  Pull the trigger – I got to a place of information overload… I surveyed everyone I knew, my finances were in order, and I had an agent.  So what’s the deal you ask?  Fear… yep that one word that get’s us all.  But I had a major self talk moment and reviewed over all the facts and the bottom line is that I love my community… I don’t think there is anyone more in love with the Brazos Valley than I am.  I also knew that all signs pointed to yes and that’s what I did… I said Yes to the House!

I know that I will continue to look back on this process and thank myself for making the decision to invest in my community.  So much pride and strength comes from owning your own home. I never thought I would do this alone, a single person, but I did… and it was awesome.
xx-Jennifer