Starter Stories: Tips for finding and buying your first home

Entering the big world of Real Estate can be an incredibly overwhelming and super exciting time for anyone! We were blessed by having family and friends who were able to walk us through the process, which made it a little less terrifying. I wanted to share with you a few little tips and tricks that we learned along the way.

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  • Meet with your financial planner, bank, parent or Mr. Excel and really hammer out your budget. Keep in mind the closing costs, any renos you want to do right away, moving expenses (including boxes, tape, packing paper, pizza, movers, days off work). Some people like to change the locks when they move in, so price that out.
  • Get a real estate agent you trust. DO NOT work with the selling agent. Just don’t. Ask friends and family for recommendations and then do some sleuthing online. Don’t sign anything until you are sure you are comfortable with your agent and that they respect your budget and parameters.
  • Find a lawyer. You will need them for closing.
  • Don’t feel rushed into buying a place. TV tells us that we should be able to choose after seeing three houses, but that’s just not true.
  • Don’t skip the home inspection. Unless you are a contractor with good knowledge of building code, don’t skip this. It is so worth it. Trust me. We walked away from two houses that we LOVED because we discovered over 100k worth of issues during home inspections that needed to be done just to make the houses safe and functional.
  • Make a list of what you NEED in a house, what you’d like to have but can live without and then talk to your agent. You may not have a realistic list for your budget. They can talk you through this. It can suck really bad to hear that you can’t afford the house you grew up in, or even a tiny one bedroom in the area that you want, but that’s life kiddo. It’s better to be in the know so that you can make a decision about moving forward.
  • Having a hard time making your Must Have list? Think about how you live. Do you take a bath every night? Having a soaker tub may be a good thing to add. Don’t have a car, but would like one in a year or two? Look into parking even if you don’t need it right now.
  • Balance your gut with your brain. If a house ticks all the boxes, but doesn’t feel right, it isn’t right.
  • Look at the neighbours and the neighbourhood. Is there light? Are the houses and lawns maintained? Do you hate gardening? If so, you may not want to buy in a super groomed row of houses.That said, you probably don’t want to live next door to the hoarder with the 15 rusted cars beside the playstructure your kids will be using.
  • Be real with yourself. Don’t buy to impress anyone but you and don’t get stuck on the things you can change. Hate the floors? You can fix that. Hate the wallpaper? Take it down. Think you can handle a fixer upper but have no skills? Make sure you have the time and the budget to hire if you get in over your head.
  • Are you moving from your parents place or from a shared apartment? Factor in the cost of having your own set of cleaning supplies, shower curtain and other bathroom stuff (bath mat, small garbage can, a soap holder), a plunger (for the love of all that is holy, do not forget to buy a plunger). Other things that you might need that you didn’t have before: Microwave, toaster, coffee maker, kettle, iron and ironing board, hangers, lamps, cookware, Definitely have a small home tool kit, for those basic fixes.
  • Remember that this isn’t a race. Most people don’t go from closing to OMG THE PERFECT HOUSE in seconds. It’s a process. Honestly, I recommend living in the space with your hand-me-downs for a bit before racing out and buying new stuff. You want to get a feel for how your new place works and what needs aren’t being met by what you have.

This is NOT Sarah's House

“Do you like my chairs? They are the only furniture I have.”

  • No one expects you to be Sarah Richardson with an insane budget. Make your house functional and then start working on making it home.
  • Take advantage of the free classes offered by places like Home Depot. Learn to fix things on your own so that you can save your hard earned cash for Big Issues (like electrical. Don’t touch electrical) or for pretty things (mmmm, custom light fixtures).
  • Educate yourself on your home. Does it have a septic system? Learn about that.

I hope you found this helpful. For those of you who have already been through this, what tip or trick do you wish you had known before buying your first place?

Putting the Home in Starter Home.

Over the past couple of years I’ve talked about our plans to move, to find a bigger place with a bigger yard. We have made several attempts at this plan, and yet each time something happens that takes us down a different path. Life has a funny way of changing things even when you aren’t ready to hear it or see it.

We bought this home almost 7 years ago. We weren’t even engaged yet, and had both just finished school. We bought for the “now” instead of the future and as a result the house isn’t exactly what we expected to be in for nearly a decade. So, how does one take a house and make it a home, after they have already decided to leave it behind? Much like you can make any space, big or small, a home. It’s a process, that’s for sure. Today, I’m going to share an overview of what we’ve shared so far here on IAtH, with updates coming in the next few days. Later in the week I will share tips to help make your own space more homey. This is our starter story.

Outside:

outside1Our place was built in the early 90s, the time when pink was Queen. This was definitely a challenge when we looked at the exterior of our home. Pink brick is something we had to work around. The windows and doors were all wood and showing their wear, so we knew they had to be replaced too.

 

 

outsidenewWe chose a dark bluey grey for all of the wooden trim that we were keeping, as well at the garage door and the front door. The storm door, main door and front window were replaced by one larger door and window, each with a panel of stained glass. We touched up all the white paint, and replaced the mailbox. I hope to replace the light fixtures this coming summer.

 

 

 

Liam’s Room

cr1  The previous owners of our place had used the smallest of the three   bedrooms as a craft room. I did the same for a little while, but once Liam was born we knew he was going to need his own space. I wanted to keep the larger guest room as a multipurpose room, so we decided that the little guy would get the little room. I wanted something bright, fun and with a mix of decor. We ripped up the nasty teal carpet and replaced it with a plush beige carpet. The dark teal blinds had to go too, so we replaced them with black out curtains. The pink walls were painted something much more fun and suitable for a toddler’s room.

lr5  We went with a bright leafy green for the walls. All furniture and frames are a mix of light and medium woods. with accents of white and bright colours. While it may not be super pretty, we have a dark green lazy boy in the room, as I am still nursing my big guy. The room is set up with a montessori approach in mind. This means that everything is designed for Liam’s perspective and appreciation. The art is low, the toys and books are accessible, and everything in the room is safe for him.

lr1

 

 

 

 

 

The Man Cave

The Basement, before Oh, the basement. It was important to us to have a space for hanging out. Ours was a huge fixer-upper. The previous owners had cats and smoked, both of which did major damage in the basement. We tore up the gross carpet, and discovered water damage. We left the space unfinished while we saved up and started to do work ourselves. Unfortunately, the pipe that had burst in the past did so again and we had to start over.

The only thing that we kept was the drop ceiling, which was still in good condition.

BasementThe basement, like most, was cold and dark. We added pot lights, and decided on floating laminate floors. We painted the walls a rich taupe to warm up the cool space. We chose a huge comfy couch that was on sale with plans of many movie and video game nights. The basement is large, so we have a few different area. Across from the seating area, we have our entertainment system and our desks. Both my hubby and I like our tech, so we put it all in a place where Liam can’t get to it without supervision.

Basement We chose darker colours and accents to create a more cozy and adult space. We wanted a place where people would feel comfortable hanging out for hours on end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little round up. I look forward to sharing our home with you :)

Liam’s Gramps

Some of you may remember my baby craft posts from when I was pregnant. I had these grand plans of knitting all of these adorable things for my little one. How is it that I always forget how slow I am as a knitter? And how flighty I am? Well, it took me 2.5 years to complete this one project. My first sweater for my baby boy.

Gramps by Tincanknits

Pattern heregrampsdone3

My Ravelry Project Page

I loved this project. Absolutely loved it. The pattern was well written and the tutorial on the Tincanknits blog made any issues I had completely disappear. This was my first in the round sweater, so I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. It was nice to have the designer walk me through the steps.

grampsdone1MadTosh is the prettiest yarn I have ever had the privileged to work with. It is so soft and supple, while staying strong and solid. The colours are so rich and lovely. Seriously, I could marry this yarn. I never want to work with anything else ever again.

grampsdone2All I have left to do on this project is the buttons. Because it has taken me 2.5 years to complete, it’s actually a little snug on Liam (heartbreak!), so I don’t see him wearing it buttoned up, but I think it would still be a nice detail to add. Which do you prefer? I really like the look of the deer head buttons, but I worry about the light wood standing out too much. Thoughts?

grampsbuttonsI plan on officially giving this to Liam for Yule, though he has worn it and seen it already. I am so very happy with how this turned out. This project has reignited my love for the fiber arts. I have been knitting and crocheting not stop since!

Pushing forward

Starting a conversation can be so hard sometimes. Finding the right ice breaker, the right way to start, can seem impossible. I find myself sitting quietly a lot these days rather than trying to find a way to talk about what’s been going on lately.

After my sister’s visit, I found myself slipping quietly into a funk. I’m not sure if it just started out as that down after a great time that happens to everyone, or if it was the time of year. Either way, I tried to manage it myself. I was diligently taking my meds. I got lots of sleep and ate well. Nothing seem to break the funk though, and eventually it grew into something more. My anxiety and depression reared their ugly heads. Thankfully, I have some amazing friends and family who encouraged me to talk to my doctor about it. My meds have been changed and I am being very careful around my triggers and am managing as best I can.

Unfortunately, the world keeps on spinning and doesn’t care what is already on one’s plate. Shortly after this, I received some news. I don’t want to get into too many details, because it wouldn’t be appropriate, but I am no longer doing any of the social media for Belly Laughs. I mention it only because I feel it is only right that you, my readers, know where to find me and I know that I have directed you there previously. There is a chance that I may do some blogging for them in the future, but that isn’t a sure thing. As of right now, I still work my regular monday night shift, but that’s it.

As you can imagine, the timing isn’t great with the holidays coming up. Thankfully, I did most of my shopping quite early and everything that is left on my Shopping list can be replaced with homemade items. Honestly, I prefer doing it that way anyway. It also so happens that one of my favourite self-care tasks is crafting, so it’s a win win.

The fun didn’t stop there, unfortunately. On my way to work on Monday, our one and only vehicle started making very unhappy sounds. I took it in yesterday (which ended up being a fun adventure for Liam and I, despite the early hour. He ended up having his first bus ride. A wrong bus choice on my part resulted in an unexpected trip to Starbucks and a windy but nice walk home).

liamadventureLooks like our poor wheels are pretty much done. We are putting about $500 in and then will trade it in. This of course means a bad financial situation when things are tough already, and added strain because we will need to finance the next car. Which also means that we will not be able to continue house hunting for a while, at least until things vastly improve.

So, here we are, I am trying my best to be positive about it all, but it’s hard. I probably need to find more work to supplement the hours that I have lost. On the plus side, a close family friend has presented me with an opportunity which may fill that void. We were talking about replacing the car soon anyway (ideally after getting our new home), because it is killer on gas. This situation sort of expedited the whole process. I was feeling torn about the whole house situation anyway, and this forces us to wait until we are in a more stable situation. Which, if I am being honest, is fine with me. Things are tough. Really really tough. I’m not doing great, however I do see that maybe this is the Universe forcing us to do things we have put off and giving us opportunities we may not have taken otherwise. For instance, I am now thinking about focusing more on what I can do in the future to potentially start my own business.

Oh, and I am knitting and crocheting like crazy again. Check it out! I will do a post soon with more deets on these.

liamgrampscommissionhatsHopefully I will have some good news to share soon. In the mean time, I will keep hoping and pushing along. Hopefully these bumps in the road are just new opportunities that we haven’t fully appreciated yet.

Recipe: Golden Milk

Cold and flu season is upon us. Working in retail, in a store that caters to families, means that I am around germs whenever I am not out at the park (germ heaven) with little dude. Don’t misunderstand. I am no germaphobe. I don’t bathe my house in bleach, nor do I carry around hand sanitizer. Instead, I try to eat healthy, take my vitamins and wash my hands. I have been looking for tips and tricks to boost my immune system just a bit more when there are bugs going around. Well, this week Liam developed a nasty cold. I knew it would only be a matter of time before it hit me.

So far, I have dodged it. I hope it is because of my improved diet and fitness, but it could also be my religious drinking of something called “Golden Milk”. Golden Milk is basically a spiced milk drink that is supposed to help you get through cold and flu season. A lot of the homesteading blogs and pages I have been following mention the amazing immunity boosting powers of tumeric, so when I came across this recipe, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.20141027_135456Golden Milk

  • 2 cups milk of your choice (cow, goat, soy, almond or coconut)
  • 1 teaspoon dried turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger (or one-half inch fresh ginger thinly sliced or grated)
  • A sprinkle of black pepper (fresh is best)
  • Unpasturized honey to taste

20141110_192800Add milk, tumeric, ginger and pepper to sauce pan over medium heat. Be careful to stir frequently to prevent boiling over and burning.

Allow to simmer slightly (small bubbles will appear at the rim of the sauce pan) for a couple of minutes. Remember to keep stirring.

Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

You may want to strain this if you are using fresh ingredients or if you want to avoid the silty bottom. Serve warm and add honey to taste. 20141027_135511I actually quite like the taste. I am going to keep enjoying this warm spiced drink this winter as both a tasty nighttime treat and as a way to fight off colds. Let me know what you think, if you try it!

DIY: Cleaning Spilled Scentsy

When we were looking at selling our home, I started looking into Scentsy products. I liked the idea of pretty scents without the fire risk of candles. I find regular plug ins and sprays really artificial smelling and I very rarely enjoy the scents available. My mother was a huge fan of Partylite products and Scentsy, so it made sense to use what I had inherited from her to try. Unfortunately, a cup of liquid wax isn’t always the smartest thing to have in this house.

A couple weeks ago, while playing, a giant ball went flying into the living room where I was knitting and relaxing. It hit the warmer I had beside me and made the room look like a crime scene:

Calling Dexter

Calling Dexter

Thankfully, the warmer itself survived the incident. I immediately started looking online for ways to clean up this mess. The two main methods used and recommended were: Hairdryer and Paper Towel, Iron and Paper Towel. I decided that this would be a good opportunity to try both and report back to you guys. So, uh, I did.

The Iron Method

So, the basic idea is that you put paper towel over the wax, turn on your iron and place it on the paper towel. Some people reported the wax getting on their iron so I was really careful, as our iron is fairly new and well loved around here.

20141105_093418Right away, I realized that this method was really only good for flat surfaces. Not idea of the moulding we have, or the little areas where the floor met the moulding, or the moulding met the wall. I decided to try it out on our side table first.

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It worked! Unfortunately though, despite my best efforts, it did get some wax on the iron which I then needed to carefully clean. I am not a fan of cleaning methods where I need to do follow up cleaning. So, on to the hair dryer method.

Hair Dryer Method

I didn’t get a picture of myself doing this as it worked so fast that I had wax dripping everywhere. This method is really best with two free hands (one holding the dryer, the other holding the paper towel to mop it up). Initially, I was really really impressed! It really seemed to work well! Unfortunately, dark red wax on beige and white paint resulted in some staining. I attempted to do some patch cleaning with the iron, but it was no use. I will need to go at this again with either something scrubby.

Damn.

Damn.

Over all though, not bad considering! This should also help if you spill wax from a candle.