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? Thanks to Urban Compass for asking me to be involved in Starter Stories. Check them out for more inspiration!

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, as inspired by Urban Compass, a New York City real estate platform who invited us to be a part of their collection of blogs sharing their own starter stories.

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.

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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 :)

UFMH – An update

This is not an update I wanted to make. About two weeks ago, shortly after my last post, Pat and I heard from a mortgage broker that we had contacted concerning a second opinion. She broke the news that we were not in a great position to move and would honestly be better off waiting until we were in a better financial position. Shortly after that phone call, we found out our real estate agent (who we LOVE), left his firm (We were informed by the team lead that they had restructured). This cemented things for us. We weren’t ready to start over with someone new, or to force ourselves into a bad financial situation.

So, here we are. Stuck in a home that we don’t love and don’t trust. At very least, I’m trying to remain positive about the situation. We have done a ton of work and now have a much more livable space.

As you can imagine, though, the work came to a grinding halt. There’s still a lot to do. A lot of clutter to conquer. I’m trying to stay motivated, but it’s hard. We did get some news today that put the fire under my ass to do some house work. We may have a house guest staying with us for a bit. We’ll know more next week. In the mean time, I plug away!

Today I:

-Tidied the main floor, including the kitchen, living room, dining room, bathroom and front hall.

-Vacuumed the main floor

-Washed all the floors on the main floor (Love the shark mop!)

-Clean the main floor bathroom

-Did a load of dishes

-Tidied the basement, including the laundry room.

-Did 4 loads of laundry

-Vacuumed and washed the floors in the basement

-Tidied upstairs, including all three bedrooms and the main bathroom

-Vacuumed upstairs

-Washed the floors, sinks, counter and toilet in the main bathroom

-Put away newly cleaned clothing

-Got all garbage and recycling out on the curb

 

I also:

-Made smoothie popcicles (first time this summer! Such a shame I waited so long! Can’t wait to try them)

-Signed us up for a CSA, Bryson Farms. Our first basket arrives Wednesday!

-Put a bag together for donation (pick up next week)

 

It’s been a productive day! It’s going to be a busy week, so I’m glad to get as much done as possible. We’re going to be making a trip to the Experimental Farm/Agriculture Museum sometime with Jan, Beth, Cassidy and Brenda. Cassidy’s birthday party is Saturday and we’re having a family bbq at my SIL’s on Monday. Good times ahead!

 

A better day

Yesterday was a rough day. I won’t get into details, but my spirit was near broken and I just wanted to curl into a ball and weep (followed closely by drink my face off and then collapse into a deep slumber for the next 5 years).  I spent the day powering through work, reading some fluffy urban fantasy (Kim Harrison for those interested) and talking to Tracy and the husband. My co-irker was lovely and got me a haagan dazs ice cream bar. Mmmmm.

After work, I went home and cleaned. I cleaned, and cleaned and cleaned. We found out that money is tighter than we thought, so I plotted dinner ideas for when Jamie comes over tonight using only things we already have in the house. I picked something that works (baked spaghetti/macaroni. Another one of my Mum’s old standbys) and then continued to clean. I finally gave up cleaning at 9, had some sleepy time tea, made some puffed wheat squares (another Mum favourite) and then went to bed at 10.

I’m feeling waaaay more at peace today. Funny how working on ones physical space can make sure a difference with moods and emotions. I also took some time to put up some things that I’ve been meaning to display. One was a soapstone piece that Pat inherited from his Dad. It’s now in the main hallway downstairs. I also put up our family besom (inherited from my mother. No idea what it’s made out of, I just know it’s always been in my family home, as long as I can remember) as well as a gift from the bestie, Leigh. I’ll try to remember to take pictures of these things tonight and share them with you.

I feel ok. Seeing the outrage that people had over how things have been has fortified me. I’m not sure if it’s a gemini thing, or just a me thing, but I constantly worry that I’m being overly sensitive or manipulative. I second guess my reactions all the time. It doesn’t help that I’m being accused of being these things, so having people tell me “No, really, this is nuts!” is a huge help.  I’m looking forward to spending time with Jamie and Pat tonight. I am looking forward to spending time with our Heart family (for my new readers, this is Pat’s best friend and her family. They’ve basically adopted me as one of theirs) this weekend. I’m applying for part time jobs for when my current one drops in hours in about a month.

Sometimes you have to fight for optimism, but it’s there when you’re open to it. I’m thinking about craft courses to take (quilting! Has anyone ever done one of these?). I’m inspired by Alicia Paulson and her beautiful home. I love quilts. My nanny made me one when I was a baby which became my favourite blanket. My Mum actually had to repair it when I was about 12 because it was all worn out in pieces. I also really REALLY want to learn to crochet. I really want to make this:

Another great Alicia Paulson pattern

Overall, I’m good today. I’m making plans, I’m thinking about the future in a positive way. I’m feeling excited about something.  I know that there will be good days and bad days, but I’m so very thankful and glad to have such incredible friends, family and readers out there who share their support. Thank you, so much.

Constant change

I feel like I’ve fallen off the internet wagon the last few weeks. Life has been incredibly busy lately and I’ve had a hard time keeping up.

This past week, in a whirlwind, I started a new job. When we got back from the honeymoon, there was a message waiting for me about getting the interview. When I called them back it turned out that it was the last day for interviews, and they only had one spot open…in two hours. So, I prepped as best I could and ran out the door.

I got a call later that day and was told that I was the best interview they had ever had and that they wanted me to start immediately. So, I bargained with them a bit and now I’m an assistant to the student employment services at the local college.

Lucky for me, I was able to negotiate for a couple of days off when my sister arrives from Calgary, so it’s not too bad. It’s a part time contract job, with full time hours until the end of May.

For some reason, the slight change in hours and the need to use public transportation to get to and from work has completely messed  me up. I’m tired all the time and feel like I don’t have any time at home in the evenings to do anything. Add on top of that the approaching holidays and holiday parties, my husband’s birthday and associated birthday party, and my sister’s visit…I’m feeling completely run down and stressed. On top of that, this weekend my car died. Yes, the car we just bought a couple of months ago. I’m really upset about it, and it only adds more stress to the pile.

How have I been coping? Tea. Lots of tea. And television. There’s a new Canadian show that just ended it’s first season called “Lost Girl”. It’s about a fae girl who realized she wasn’t human when she accidentally kills her boyfriend. She then slowly becomes introduced to the fae world, and the power struggle between light and dark. It’s really really good and I have been looking forward to it every week.

I also spent a bunch of time writing up my Yule/Christmas cards and sending them out this year. Chapters has a great line cards that are super cute and modern.

This week I received my gift from the swap I’m participating in on Rav for some of us pagan crafters. I received a gorgeous hand knit lace shawl, in what seems to be a hand made pouch/purse, with some great teas and a hand tape measure.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. I was having a hard day, and it was so generous, and beautiful that I was very touched. It’s funny how sometimes we get exactly what we need when we need it.

Meanwhile, Pat and I, after a couple of days of celebration in honour of his birthday, finally got started on the guest room again and installed the shelves! I used to have a big bulky black bookshelf in the room, but when we decided to make it a guestroom I knew it had to go. So, the plan was to install some floating shelves from IKEA on the opposite wall to make up for the lack of the bookshelf. It brings everything up and off the ground, allowing for enough space for the bed.

I’m soooo happy with it! Now we just need to find a way to get the bed from my Mum’s place across town. We were going to use my car, but now that that’s died, we may need to rent a truck. Sigh. Nothing ever comes easy. Oh well, at least we’re finally starting to make baby steps.

Speaking of babies, this room will eventually become a nursery, moving the guest bedroom to the basement (once that’s done). That’s a ways off yet, but it’s good to have a plan just in case.

Anyway, I should get back to work, but I’m hoping to post more once my schedule evens out.

Cheers!

Lists, Dreams and Decluttering

Hi all! I hope you had a great weekend :) It was a long weekend for me, thanks to our summer hours program at work. The weekend was full of family and close friends, which is exactly what I needed. No cleaning or yard work was accomplished, but it can wait. I took the time to sit back and let good company mend my heart a bit.

My girls and I, right before the ceremony, taking a moment to breath and connect with one another at my wedding.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, about ways to improve my life. It can be really hard, when you’re completely bogged down by depression, so I’ve been doing something that often helps keep my mind looking to the future – planning, dreaming and list making.

First thing on my list is to take a good look at our place and start to go through things. Don’t ask me when I’ll have the time to do all of this, but I’m going to try. Pat and I need to get ourselves a storage unit soon anyway, to house the stuff that we’re getting from my parents’ estate. I’m thinking it’s a good time to go through everything and make three piles. One for tossing/selling, one for keeping in our current house and one for storage. Our place is just too small for all the furniture and STUFF that we have.

Our office, after I set it all up, but before clutter and AngryAncientKitty moved in

Every room is packed to the brim, and I think this is definitely contributing to my feelings of stress and failure at keeping my house clean and friendly.  There are rooms that are just not getting used right now, and that seems silly to me. Things that I’m planning include decluttering the dining room and make it a formal dining room again, as well as a show case for family pictures. The other room, as much as it pains me, is my craft room. Sure, I use my supplies alot, but never the space. I’m seriously considering making it a guest bedroom. We have guests at least three times a season, so it would be nice to put them somewhere other than our pull out couch in the living room. We’ll see. We don’t have the space for my spare Queen bed, so other then fighting for my Dad’s old single, I don’t know that it’s a feasible plan. Oh well. Something to think about anyway.

For those who are also thinking about decluttering, I have a link to share. Even though he’s not really posting any more, due to illness in the family, I highly recommend my friend phil’s youtube series “Out of the Dog House” where he goes over the process of decluttering your life.

The next thing on the list is figure out how to make myself feel like I’m making an effort with my spirituality. I’ve been blessed with new friends who share some common beliefs, who have given me great conversations and lots to think about. I, for the first time in 8 years, have different plans for Samhain. Since I turned 19 I’ve been attending the  Witches Gathering, a costume party and ritual at a downtown club, hosted by the Ottawa pagan community. Even with all the drama and politics, I’ve only missed one year (2008. Dad had just died, and I wasn’t feeling up to it at all). This year I’m going to a party and rit held by a group that I’ve never met before, but who are close to a good friend of mine. I think it’s important that I start doing other things and forging my own path. Obviously sticking to this old one hasn’t served me all that well, and it’s no longer leading me towards learning and new connections. I also want to start doing some serious thinking and meditating on exactly what I believe and maybe get back to work with some of the exercises I had started with a year or two ago. (Namely some Shamanism stuff by Ted Andrews, more stuff from Ellen Dugan)

The big one on the list is to take some time to think about what I’d like to do with myself in terms of my career. I’ve been in admin for a long time now, but it’s never been where I wanted to end up. No offense to anyone else in the field, I just find I tend to fall into a funk really quickly when I work admin and it’s just not what makes me happy. I’ve attempted a few things over the years, and I find I’m now afraid to try, put money into something and then discover yet again that it’s not my cup of tea. Having said all of that, I am seriously considering working towards getting my Early Childhood Educator’s diploma. I enjoy working with young kids, it would open up some new doors for me, specifically at Mothercraft, which is where I’d love to work. I don’t want to run a daycare, but it would be nice to teach on a part time basis. Also, it would be great for learning those things in general, as I do want to start a family in the next year or two.

So, that’s where my mind has been at lately :) I’m going to try to post more. I have some baking to do tonight, so perhaps I’ll share a recipe!