Monday, December 9, 2013

Painting--Picking the Paint

Pretty much 90% of the new house needed new paint.  I don't have a ton of painting experience (have helped a couple friends, but other than that, I'm a painting novice).  What did I do?  I turned to Pinterest of course.

The very first thing we did was figure out which rooms needed to be painted and what colors we wanted to use.  This part can be done before you move in for the most part.  Alex and I collaborated on pretty much every room, so that took a little more time than if I had just picked them out myself.  

When picking paint colors, make sure you look at them both in "inside" and "outside" light.  It is crazy how colors could look so different inside and outside.  If you room has a lot of natural light, you will want to make sure you like how it looks in the sunlight.  If you aren't going to get a lot of natural light, it will be more important that it looks good in artificial light.

Another tip we followed when it came to a couple of colors is to buy the little samples before picking a final color.  Some people will paint the samples directly on the wall but I chose to paint them onto poster board so I could have the samples painted before we moved and so that we could move them around the room.  It really helped us finalize a couple of colors.  This is especially important if you are choosing a bold color.  I let Alex pick the color for the guest room without getting samples first and I ended up hating the color.

Now after you pick your colors, you have to pick your finish.  

That is a pretty quick and basic primer.  I am not going to pretend to be an expert on paint, so if you have any questions, you will have to ask Google or my Dad.  Speaking of my dad, we went with Valspar brand paint because my Dad likes Valspar.  While I think it is important to use a high quality paint, I am not sure it really matters which high quality paint you use (if it is cheap, its not high quality).

Hopefully it won't be so long before my next post, but we will just have to see what life throws my way.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Dreaded Chore of Packing

Today let's talk about packing.  I don't mind the first few days of packing but by the second half of the project, I am just done.  When we moved last time we didn't have a ton of time to pack, so pretty much everything got put where it would fit when I had a box to put it in.  As a result, it took forever to find some things.  I guess one advantage was that we unpacked pretty quick because we could not find out can opener.  Despite that, I decided that this time I wanted to be a lot more organized.

Like most things, I think packing goes a lot smoother if you have a plan.  The very best place to start, in my opinion, is figuring out who will do what.  I know some people have movers come and pack everything up but we certainly could not afford that.  Plus, I am too much of a control freak for that.  Unless you live by yourself, you have other people in your home who can help with the packing process.  If those people are small, they probably won't be much help but I bet you can get them to at least pack some of their toys or something.

In my home, it is me, Alex (boyfriend), and Scout (dog).  Despite the fact that we constantly ask Scout to help around the house, he does not have opposable thumbs and therefore thinks he does not have to contribute.  We are still working on that attitude, but progress is slow.

So that leaves me and Alex.  This will be our 3.5th move in the four years we have been dating (moved him into my Westport apartment, moved both of us to the Waldo house, moved both of us into an apartment, moving both of us into the new house).  So we are old pros at this.  Thing is though, Alex doesn't much care for packing and is pretty good at procrastinating.  Rather than let these facts frustrate me and make an already unpleasant process more unpleasant, this time around, I chose to adjust my expectations.  We made a deal before any packing took place that I would pack everything but his closet if he would be in charge of making sure I had enough boxes.  This worked out really well for us (and Alex got some help from my mom who found lots of good boxes).  Before you get started, figure out what works for you and it will be much less stress later on.

When it comes to packing, my style is pack early and pack often.  Since packing isn't really something I enjoy, I like to spread it out so I don't get burned out.  Plus, we tend to be busy, so I want to make sure everything gets done before moving day.

Generally, I start with d├ęcor.  You don't need pictures on the wall or other sit around stuff.  Then I move on to other stuff we can live without until we move.  All of my craft stuff got packed up first because I would be too busy with the move to do any new projects.  Another tip is to always pack like things together--this will make it so much easier when you are looking for your can opener post move.  Use fabric from your stash and plastic grocery bags as box filler.

The way in which I was most organized for this move was in labeling the boxes.  Each room got a color of duct tape assigned to it.  After I packed and sealed each box, I took a piece of paper and wrote what was in the box and put the correct color of duct tape on it.  I also wrote on the tape which room it went into just in case.  That way it was super easy to know which box went where in the new house.  We ended up putting everything in the garage and then took boxes upstairs as we were ready to unpack them.  If you have other people putting boxes into rooms, I would say the duct tape is a must, but since it was just us and we were moving slow, we probably would have been okay with just labeling.

Another tip is use what you have.  Use bags and suitcases to hold stuff.  Depending on how you are moving you can also pack stuff in drawers.

To pack our hanging clothes, I used drawstring trash bags.  It made everything super quick.  I just bunched some clothes together (still hanging up) and slipped them in a trash bag. Then I tied up the drawstring and was able to carry four or five times as many clothes in one trip.

After you figure out a system, the rest really is just grunt work.  I packed box after box and had no idea how we had so much stuff in such a tiny space.  But it all got done eventually.  My rule is that if people are going to help us move, everything has to be packed before they get there.  Anything that is not packed is not going to get moved.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone asks you to help them move and then when you show you, you end up sitting around for hours while they finish packing.

Once everything was packed, it was time to move from point A to point B.  But that is a post for another day.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Adventures in Home Buying Part IV

Last post in my Adventures in Home Buying mini-series!

After the offer was accepted we had a certain amount of time (I think it was ten days) to set up inspections.  We had a whole house inspection as well as Radon testing and a termite inspection.  The whole house inspection was recommended for us because it was our first home and we didn't really know what to look for and also weren't really in a position to deal with any big surprises.  You can Google Radon if you want but it is a gas that leaches into the house from the ground and can apparently give you cancer.  Some people we talked to thought it was no big deal but we went with it anyway.

Alex wasn't able to take off work for the inspection so I had his dad come with me because he is a former building inspector so he knows his stuff.  The sellers weren't there, so it was me and Alex's dad plus someone from our realtor's office (he could not be there himself because he was moving that day) and the inspectors.  One guy did the termites and the other guy had set up the Radon tester and then did the whole house inspection.  Mostly I just stood around and took pictures for my own planning purposes why the professionals did their thing.

The house inspector did this whole huge and detailed report with a bunch of pictures.  He pretty much looked at everything and then some.  He gave me a preliminary report on the spot and by the end of the day the whole detailed report was online for me to look at.

We spent the evening digesting all of the information we had gotten and came up with the list of things we wanted the seller to fix.  We ended up deciding we wanted them to address an issue in the attic, termites in the backyard (luckily no damage to the house yet), some grading issues and Radon (it tested like four times the recommended amount).

After a little bit of negotiating, we got to a final agreement.  We told them what we wanted them to do and then they got bids on the work and came back to us with a counter offer.  Looking back the only thing I would change is that I would not have had them do the grading--they did a shabby job and we could have done it much better ourselves.

We then had a bit of a lull because we set our closing date for closer to the expiration of our lease.  We got the financing squared away and then the weekend before we closed we had our final walk through.  The sellers had basically moved out by then so it was kind of neat to see the house empty and waiting for our stuff. 

Closing was pretty uneventful.  The sellers closed earlier in the day and my closing was closer to lunch because I had a hearing in the morning that I needed to go to for work.  Other than the title company not having any outside signage so it was a little hard to find, everything went smooth.  Whenever I am signing something my lawyer instincts kick in and I like to actually read over it so I have a general idea of what I am agreeing to.  Then we got the keys but had to wait a couple of hours for the money to clear before we could actually go in. 

It was super fun to walk into our house for the first time when it was really ours.  We took some cleaning stuff with us because the sellers left it kind of a mess and packed up the dog and just chilled for a few hours.  We opened a bottle of champagne and just soaked it all in.  Then the hard work began...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Adventures in Home Buying Part III

{{I started typing this up forever ago and then we moved so I was swamped.  Sorry!}}

Okay, we're back now and ready to go find a house.  Our realtor set us up on his company's website where we had access to all MLS listings.  I did a lot of online looking and probably reviewed a couple hundred houses.  I was able to mark the ones I liked so we could go look at them. 
We looked at houses over two weekends.  The first weekend we looked at 9 or 10 in the area I really wanted to buy in.  Of those, we kept two on the list of places we would consider.  I will be honest, I was pretty disappointed.  This first set was in the area I wanted but not really the house that I wanted.  The next weekend, we looked at probably 16-18 places in the other area we were considering.  It was right after it was in the news that interest rates were going back up, so some of the places that were available on Thursday when I sent the realtor the list of places we wanted to see already had offers on them when we looked on Saturday.  The second set were the house I wanted but my second choice of area.

How did we pick the house we ended up buying out of all the others?  To be honest, it was the first (and only) house that I got excited about.  It was the only house we looked at that I could really picture us living in and being happy in.  There were other houses that I thought would be fine and other houses that I thought we could live in after 50 projects were done, but this one just gave me that "this could be our new home" feeling.  That's a lot of help, right?  The funny thing is that I think a lot of people make big decisions this way. 

We looked at a few more houses that day after we saw the one we really liked.  We also went to a couple of open houses with my parents the next day but by the end of the weekend we were ready to pull the trigger.

Putting in our offer was quite the experience, so bear with me.  We set up a meeting with our realtor for Monday after work to do the offer paperwork.  Mid-morning, Alex sent me a text saying his buddy had asked him to play softball that night.  I told Alex that if he could get our meeting moved to make it all work, go for it.  The meeting got moved up and we both left work early to be there.  We talked to the realtor about what we wanted to spend on the house and he suggested offering an initial amount that was lower than I thought we would offer, but since he knew what he was doing and we did not, we went with it.  He gave the sellers a deadline of like 10:00 p.m. that night to respond.

Alex ended up having to leave early to get to his game on time.  He was walking out the door when I got home and since we couldn't take the dog to the fields, I stayed home.  I was super nervous all night waiting to hear back. 

Around 8:30 or 9:00ish I think our realtor calls and says that the sellers got another offer at the same time as ours.  The other offer was higher but they wanted to give us a chance to counter.  And we needed to do it within the next half hour.  I call Alex and he doesn't answer so I text him and wait five minutes.  I call him again and he still does not answer.  I leave a message telling him to call me back ASAP.  I was pretty much freaking out because I knew that even if I did not want to, I would resent the heck out of him if we missed out on the house we both loved because he was playing softball. I also knew that even though the house would be in my name I couldn't pull the trigger without him saying okay.  Then I decided to just blow up his phone and called him over and over again until he answered.

25 minutes after I called him the first time, he finally called me back.  We agreed on a counter and let our realtor know who passed it onto the sellers.  A couple long hours later they accepted.  It was stressful.  My advise is that if you are putting an offer in on a house and you have another individual whose input you need, don't be in a different place from them while you are waiting on a response.  Its not a good idea.

Okay friends, one more post on the process then I will finally get around to posting pictures of the new house :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Adventures in Home Buying Part II

And we're back!

I want to start with the preface that none of this should be taken as legal or any other kind of official advice.  I just wanted to share my experience.

We looked at financing before we started looking at houses. I guess some people do it differently, but I wanted to know what I could afford before I started looking so I didn't fall in love with something out of my price range.  I got connected with one of the mortgage ladies at the bank where I have all of my accounts and she was super helpful.  It is a local bank, and I think that helps.  I don't think I would have gotten the same level of service at a big national bank.  I did get pre-approved for quite a bit more than we are going to end up spending.  I am glad we found something at lower price point because it would have been a real stretch to afford the max that the bank would give. 

I will offer one piece of advice on the financial aspect of this adventure--it will be more expensive than you think so figure out what you think you can afford and go less than that. 

Around the same time I started talking to the bank about financing, I also contacted a realtor.  As we didn't know the first thing about buying a house, we decided we needed someone to help us.  I have a general rule against doing business with friends.  Nothing good comes of it. In this case we stretched the rule a little bit and went with someone who is an old friend of my dad.    It ended up working really well because we got someone we felt like we could trust and was looking out for us but no one that we are close to.  I would definitely recommend getting a referral from someone.

Before we started looking, Alex and I went though each part of a house and talked about what we wanted and what we did not as well as what was non-negotiable (we had to have a fence for the dog) and what would be nice (a deck).  We talked about what cities & school districts we would be willing to look in.

This would be a good point to make sure you know whose opinions really count in this process.  I was the one who was actually purchasing the house, but Alex's opinions were important too.  We took advice from other people but ultimately knew that we were the ones who would be deciding.

This is also a good point to realize that unless you are SUPER lucky or have unlimited resources, you are going to have to make sacrifices in what you want.  I had my heart set on finding a house on the Kansas side close to where my parents live and was super upset when we started looking and realized that with our budget we weren't going to find something in that area that was the size & layout that we wanted.  I guess all along I knew that I wasn't going to find exactly what I wanted where I wanted it to be in the price range that I could afford but it still broke my heart a little bit when I realized that it wasn't going to work out for us in my first choice area.

I will be back next time to talk about how we found our new house.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Adventures in Home Buying Part I

(So remember in my last post eight months ago when I said that 2012 kinda sucked.  Well joke was on me and 2013 has proven itself to be unlucky thus far.  But today the sun is shining so lets move on).

We bought a zoo!  Just kidding.  We are almost done with the process of buying our first house, which seemed like an excellent place to start up blogging again.  I want to start at the beginning because I really had no idea what this process would be like.  So hopefully if you are getting ready to buy your first house, this will help you out.

A little bit of background before we begin.  In college, I lived in the dorms my freshman and sophomore year (at the time, the school had a rule that you have to live on campus your first three years unless you were living with your parents).  Then my junior year I was in Cambridge and we lived in a dorm but had a lot more freedom (and a housekeeper which was nice).  When I got back, I knew there was no way I was going to be able to stand living on campus for my senior year, so I rented a duplex with a couple of my sorority sisters.

After college we finished out the lease on the duplex then in the fall right before I started law school, I moved into a little apartment in mid-town KC with another sorority sister.  It wasn't exactly high class but it was cheap and the location was great for school and work.  My sorority sister moved out after a year and a friend from law school moved in.  She stayed for a  year too then Alex moved in.  We had only been dating for a  year and looking back on it, that doesn't seem like much time before making a big commitment like living together.  But I needed a roommate and he needed out of his parents' house so we did it.  I like to think that having three roommates in three years doesn't say anything about me, but who knows.

Alex was never really a fan of the apartment, so after I finished the bar exam, we started looking for a new place to live.  We wanted to rent a house instead of an apartment, so it took a while.  My experience when looking for a place to rent in Kansas City is that you have to pick an area where you would like to live and drive around, calling all the places you would consider.  We ended up finding a cute (and new) little house that was really nice.  I'm not going to go into the whole ordeal here, but after a little over a year, we had to move because the guy who owned the house stopped paying the bank.

We had planned on renting that house for about 18 months then buying but due to a multitude of circumstances beyond our control, that didn't happen.  Right after Christmas, we had to find a new place within a couple of weeks.  We ended up with a short term lease in a cheap apartment in a suburb close to where some of our friends live.  It was always supposed to be temporary and we don't really fit there (going from a house back to an apartment really sucked).

With our lease getting close to being done, we knew it was decision making time.  We decided to buy rather than rent for a few reasons.  First, I am sick of renting and not being able to decorate and being at the mercy of a landlord.  Also, the financial and housing markets aligned and so we just decided to go for it.

Deciding we wanted to buy was the easy part.  Deciding how to go about it was considerably more complicated.  We are not married but plan on being someday (don't ask me when--God is doing his best to make sure we take our time on that one).  Since we aren't married, we did not feel like it was a good idea for both of us to own the house.  Heaven forbid something should happen, we just didn't want to deal with the mess.  Financially, it made more sense for me to buy so that is the route we are taking.  I am sure a lot of people have had great experiences buying a home with a boyfriend/girlfriend, but the lawyer in me just wouldn't let me do it.

Looking back on it, these seemed like big decisions but in hindsight, they were just the tip of the iceberg.  Check back soon for part two of our latest big adventure.   

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Imperfect Progress

If I am being honest, I've not been the biggest fan of 2012.  I am not super bummed to see it go.  The symbolic new start that the new year brings is so refreshing.  I had big plans for 2013.  Then I realized that was my problem.

Big Plans.

I have so many big plans that I have gotten bogged down in being bummed that the big result isn't quite where I want it to be.

I've been too bogged down being bummed that Alex and I aren't ready to get married that I haven't been enjoying our time together.

I've been too bogged down being bummed by our living situation to enjoy making it into our home.

I've been too bogged down being bummed that I don't have a bikini body to really figure out how to get healthy.

And the list goes on.

So I decided to ditch all the big plans for 2013.   I'm going to replace them instead with little plans.  My New Year's Resolution is to be satisfied with Imperfect Progress.  I am going to focus on the baby steps instead of the end result.  It is not realistic to go from zero to a hundred in one step.  So I am going to quit trying to go from zero to a hundred.  I'm going to go from zero to one to two.  And eventually I will get to a hundred.  Sure it will take a while but I'm going to be okay with that.

So there's my resolution for 2013: Imperfect Progress.  What's yours?