Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Branching out a bit...

Hi guys! Sorry I haven't been around in a while. I actually have made a little progress on the DIY front and I do want to share that with you, but the reason I have been absent from the blog is because lately I've been focusing my energy into a new hobby that has nothing to do with interior design, home decor or crafting. Lately, I've been working on my health and fitness. 

I know, I know. Quite possibly the worst hobby ever. I've debated whether or not I wanted to share this aspect of my life on the blog or not. Basically, I was afraid to share it because if I fail miserably, then it will be public knowledge. I've always been a yo-yo dieter, losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight, gaining weight. Nobody wants to read about that vicious cycle. So, I'm going to try and strike a balance. I'm not going to share publicly my weight loss goals, progress, ups and downs. At least not right now. I don't feel ready for that kind of exposure. Or maybe that kind of accountability. If I tell the world "I'm going to lose this many pounds" than I really will need to lose that many pounds. If I don't follow through, I know I'll feel like a failure. I'd like to avoid this at all costs. Instead, I'll share with you my running goals. 

As part of my never ending quest for fitness, I decided to register for a half marathon. As in 13.1 miles people. That is significantly further than any distance I've ever tried to run before and I am terrified. But I'm also excited. I actually like running. Well, that's not entirely true. I'm not sure what kind of sick people would actually like running. But I do like a good challenge, and I absolutely LOVE having a goal to work towards. Goals keep me focused, and keep me grounded. I have a tendency to let my head get caught up in the clouds, dreaming of all that could be, so hopefully this goal will keep me in the here and now. Also, I am quite possibly the least competitive person in the world. I do not thrive on competition at all. When I see somebody who is stronger than me or faster than me, it doesn't make me want to be stronger or faster, it just makes me feel discouraged. But running is a one man only kind of sport. It has nothing to do with anybody else's abilities, it is just between me, myself and I (and the road, and my feet, and my legs, but you get the point) so I don't feel as pressured to be as good as the next guy. I like knowing that after each run, I'll feel a sense of accomplishment. I like knowing that everyday I get a little bit better. Honestly, I even kind of like knowing that I'm not naturally a "good" runner, or a "fast" runner, because that means I have that much more to be proud of when this is all said and done and I've conquered those 13.1 miles. I'll know I tackled an obstacle that in no way shape or form was easy for me. I'll know I picked something hard, something seemingly insurmountable, and proved myself worthy. 

I have a LONG way to go before I'll be ready for this race. I am doing a 12 week training program that officially starts on September 16th. You can read about that here. Between now and September 16th, I'm running and working out at my own pace, just trying to get myself to a comfortable starting place. So far, it has been going well. Back in May, my friends and I did a 5K (3.1 miles) and I walked ALOT. I couldn't even finish the first half of a mile without walking. I was panting and dragging ass and all around sucking. If it weren't for my friend Lauren cheering me on, I probably would have walked the entire thing. Lauren practically dragged me across the finish line at just about 40 minutes. Since then I have been running and trying to eat healthy. I am happy to report that this past Saturday I was able to run a full 3 miles without walking at all. Even better, I did it again yesterday, so I know it wasn't just a fluke. 

Yep, I ran three miles, without walking a single step, in 34 minutes. And I did it twice. For me, that is a success. That isn't particularly fast by most standards, and let's face it, the further I run, the slower I'll probably be going. Not to mention the fact that this is a full 10 miles shorter than my ultimately goal. But hey, it's a start. It's better than where I used to be. I have been having some knee pain lately, which does make me nervous. What if on race day I'm only a few miles in and already hurting? I guess we'll just have to wait and see. For now, I'm taking glucosamine supplements for joint health (I think it is supposed to be for old people, but whatever) and icing both my knees for 20 minutes after each run. 

All in all, I'm scared/excited/nervous/happy to see what the next few months have in store for me. I am curious how this will turn out. I'm not sure if this is a one time only thing for me, or if I'll become addicted and sign up for races all the time. We shall see. In the meantime, I love reading all about her fitness journey. And hers. Check them out if you want to hear first hand about the lives of women who are more bad ass than you (or maybe you are a total bad ass too, but they are definitely way more awesome than I am). I'll keep you posted on how my training goes! Thanks for the love and support, and please promise not to laugh if and when I fall flat on my face.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Home Buying for the Young Adult

I turned 23 less than two months before I bought my first house.  I dragged my boyfriend (now husband) along for the ride, and learned quite a bit through it all.  I thought I could provide some useful information for those of you looking to navigate the housing market for the first time. I should mention that this post isn't only applicable to young adults, but I figured I would keep with the theme. I should also mention that I am not an expert, these are just examples from my own personal experience.

Before we get started, I thought you might appreciate a few explanations of some common real estate terms that I didn't really understand when I started this process.

And, because I ran out of room on that diagram, let's continue with another:

Step 1: Saving money
I started saving to purchase my house right after high school. I had always dreamed of owning a home (when I was 12 years old, my favorite TV show was House Hunters on HGTV).  Having said that, don't be discouraged if you didn't get such an early start.  It may not take as much money as you think to get into a house.  I went with an FHA loan, because they only required a 3.5% down payment (rather than a traditional loan, which requires a 20% down payment). 

While you're living in your apartment and saving, you likely will still want to make your place feel like home.  I've compiled some ideas for budget friendly decor and making an apartment feel like home that you may find helpful.

Step 2: Establishing Credit
Just as important as savings, if not more so, is your credit score.  If you aren't one of those people whose parents opened up a credit card for you when you were a teenager (I wasn't one of those), you have a couple of options to consider. 

1. Do you own a car?  Even if you had a cosigner, this should get you started towards establishing credit.   

2. Do you have any student loans in your name (not your parents)?  If so, make sure you are paying those babies on time. 

3. Get a credit card.  I recommend starting with something small, because the last thing you want is to get in over your head with credit card debt.   My first credit card had a limit of $500, and I used it for things like gas and groceries.  What you shouldn't do, is use your new credit card for luxuries or splurges.  The quickest way to get in over your head is by feeling entitled to things you can't afford.  Keep in mind that it can take about six months of credit card activity to begin establishing credit.  Get started on this asap.

4. Some lenders will take into consideration your payment history on bills, to boost your credit standing and ensure that you can get approved for a loan.  Make sure you are paying your renter's insurance, cable bill, utilities on time each month.  The more organized and responsible your are with your finances, the better chance you have of getting pre-approved. 

Step 3: Knowing when the time is right
There are several factors to consider when deciding when the time is right for you to buy. How much money you have saved, how secure you are in your employment, and your credit standing are all important factors.  You should also consider how the market is doing.  I got lucky because I was ready to buy when the market was depressed, meaning that house prices were very low.  Every market is different, so you should do your research.  For me, I knew that in the suburbs of Houston, house prices tended to rise in the spring and summer, and dip in the fall and winter.  I think this is because families with children try to move during the summer so they don't have to interrupt the kids school year.  We bought our house at the end of November in 2011. 

Step 4: Getting Pre-Approved
Most people will tell you to get pre-approved for your home loan before you start looking at houses, and they are right.  Except in my case, I didn't know anything at all about lenders or bankers or financing, and had no idea who to contact to get pre-approved.  Do I just walk into the bank and say, excuse me, can I have $150,000 please?  I doubted it.  So, being the responsible barely-an-adult that I was, I skipped this step and went straight to looking at houses.   

Step 5: Finding a Realtor
HAR has this nifty little tool where if you like a house from the pictures posted online, you just click a button to schedule a tour.  Within 24 hours you will be contacted by the realtor working with that property and they will meet you at the house for a showing. There are probably sites like this for most areas in the US, but if not, sites like Zillow and FrontDoor are good resources for all parts of the US.  We scheduled tons of showings this way and met several realtors. Mostly, they were pretty rude to us.  None of them took us seriously. They thought I was just some silly kid wasting their time. I think it was definitely my age that threw them off (I was 22 at the time).  Finally, we were assigned a showing with a woman named Sherri Putt with Prudential. (If you are in the Houston area and looking for a great realtor, you can find her here).  She taught us that realtors are very well connected to lenders, brokers, inspectors, pretty much everybody you need to know to buy a house.  Sherri connected us with a lender and we were able to get pre-approved and start looking for houses in our price range. 

Step 6: The hunting process/knowing what you can afford
This can take time and be discouraging.  There were several houses that we wanted to put offers on that went under contract before we had a chance.  I think this is a normal part of the process and while it can be hard not to get sad when you see "your" house getting snagged up by somebody else, try to keep your chin up.  There are plenty of fish in the sea. Throughout the process of home tours, we learned a few keys points about the finances of home ownership:

1.  You will likely get pre-approved for more than you can really afford.  
The house we ended up purchasing was about $40,000 less than we were pre-approved for, and I'm so glad we decided to go that route.  Had we purchased at the top of our limit, we would have certainly been house poor, and likely would have been forced to sell.  Doesn't sound fun to me.  

2.  If you put down less than 20% of the sale price, you will have to purchase mortgage insurance, which is separate from your home owner's insurance.  

Step 7: The buying process
If I am being honest, this part is a total blur in my memory. After I made the initial offer, the sellers countered, and then I countered, and then they countered, and I accepted. That was an anxiety-riddled afternoon. The most important thing to me was that the sellers agreed to pay the closing costs because I only had enough saved to cover the down payment plus a little wiggle room. Luckily, the sellers agreed to those terms. After my offer was accepted,  all I really remember is exchanging about 10,000 emails with my realtor and filling out 15,000 forms.  The good news is, your realtor will be able to guide you through the entire offering/countering/accepting process, and will hold your hand through all the paperwork and legal mumbo jumbo.  Don't let this part overwhelm you.  It seems like a lot of paperwork, but you don't have to be a real estate or financial genius to figure it out, I promise. 

Step 8: Inspection
In almost all cases, banks will not approve a loan for a mortgage unless the house passes an inspection.  I was required to have a regular home inspection, as well as a pest inspection.  My realtor was able to make recommendations for good companies to hire.  Prepare to fork over about $500 and an afternoon of your time.

I had so much fun at my inspection.  My mom came with me and we got to hang out in the empty house for a few hours. All I could think was "this is all going to be mine"! We explored every room and talked about decor while the inspector guy did his inspector thing and the bug guy did his bug thing. Seriously, so much fun.

Any issues that are found during the home inspection can be renegotiated into the contract with the sellers.  We had a few small things fixed.  

Step 9: Closing
Waking up on closing day was one of the most exciting moments of my life.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was a Wednesday, and the sun was shining through the windows, Reid was so excited,  and I had butterflies in my stomach. 
I also remember seeing a text from my sister with some silly poem saying she was excited for me. I think her poem also had a reference to lambs. Or maybe sheep. I never knew the difference. Is there a difference? Anyway, I digress.
Closing went smoothly.  There was lots of paperwork, lots of signing, and lots of asking Sherri what the heck this crap means. 

Here is a breakdown of the money we had to bring to the table on closing day: 

So, what is it like to be a homeowner at 23?
After we had the keys to the house, the first thing we had to do was stop by the MUD office to get the water turned on.  We then rushed over to the house, unlocked the door (yes, we took a picture)

danced around the living room (yes, we took another picture)

and then got engaged. (Wait what did that say?) WE GOT ENGAGED. Yup, my boyfriend/fiance/now husband is the smartest, most coolest (I know that isn't grammatically correct, but I think it sounds good) guy ever! He made two of my biggest dreams come true in one day. BEST. DAY. EVER. And we lived happily ever after. So far anyway :)

Please note that we look extremely glamorous and stylish. 
Ok, we totally don't. But we just spent all day buying a house, moving tons of furniture and getting engaged. We were a little too busy to worry about fashion.

Ok, so that was a great day.  But what was it really like to be a home owner at 23?  Pretty awesome, I must say.  I have absolutely no regrets.  There were a few things that snuck up on me, so I'll give you a heads up.  These shouldn't scare you.  None of them are huge, and most of them aren't truly "hidden".  It's just good to keep these in mind, so you don't get caught off guard.
After a few months, the dust will settle, you'll no longer be surprised that you are now an adult who needs to buy pruning shears, and you'll get into a financial routine.  Here's what our monthly payments consist of. 

I can't stress enough the importance of setting up auto pay for your mortgage payment.  From time to time you may slip and be late on your cable bill.  While that isn't exactly advisable, it isn't the end of the world.  But you definitely do not want to be late on your mortgage payments.  Did you know that it only takes 3 months of late or missed mortgage payments to go into foreclosure?  I had no idea it could happen that quickly. 

So, if being a home owner is something you dream of, then you should go for it! I totally believe in you!  If I did it at the age of 23, I know you can do it too! I hope this has been helpful.  Let me know if you have any questions.  


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Guest Bathroom Reveal

FINALLY, I am ready to show you guys my guest bathroom. This project has been a royal pain in the a**! You know those women who make everything look easy? Well, I'm not one of them. This supposedly "mini" makeover turned into the most frustrating and annoying project I've tackled in a long time. Brace yourself, because I'm about to share every frustrating detail with you :)
It all started about 15 months ago, when I was trolling on Pinterest and came across these beautiful photos...

and I thought, "Hey, that's pretty! I'll paint the cabinets in our guest bathroom blue!"  So I did. Twice. The first color was not working for me (sorry no picture). It was like a baby boy blue and definitely wasn't elegant. So I tried again. This time, I was happy with the way the color turned out:

At this stage, I was feeling pretty good. Maybe a little annoyed that I had to paint the cabinets twice, but I thought it wasn't so bad and next time I'd just be sure to buy a paint sample first. So about fourteen months go by (which brings us to June-July 2013) and I hadn't really done much else. I'd accumulated various items (a shower curtain, a cute basket to hold towels) but I hadn't really made any changes to the room itself. So, I decided to update the art in there. I did this:

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I bought this art in the first place, actually. I knew I wanted a spa like, serene and airy feeling bathroom. But I bought this art just a couple days after we bought the house and I think I was just so giddy with excitement at the idea of decorating that I was buying everything I saw. 
Note to self, just because something is blue, doesn't mean it goes in your house.

Regardless, I had this art that really didn't fit my style, but I wanted to make it work. After I'd spray painted the frame, I felt better about it. It still wasn't exactly my style, but again I thought "not so bad, lesson learned". 

Update: This art got another makeover in February 2015.  Read about that here.

Moving along.. about one week later I was feeling restless on a Saturday morning and decided it would be a good idea to paint the bathroom. The walls were the same neutral taupe color as the majority of my house which isn't a bad color at all, but I thought a nice pale grey would be more "spa like". Also, the room is small, so I figured it would only take me one day to paint the room. WRONG. As I rushed off to the store to buy my paint, I totally disregarded the lesson I had learned with the cabinets and I didn't buy a sample. Needless to say, the color I picked was ALL WRONG. Also, I didn't realize the color was all wrong until I was pretty much done. DAMMIT. Here is what that hideous grey color looked like:

It's hard to tell in the picture but basically this grey didn't look grey at all. It looked blue. The kind of blue that completely clashes with the blue that I already had on the cabinets. It was like a big blue mess. So I called an emergency meeting with my mom, and we deliberated. We went back to Lowe's and bought about five samples of paint. Ironically, I ended up not going with grey at all in the end. I went with white. Actually the white color that we ALMOST picked for our kitchen cabinets. (Read about that here.) The color we chose is called Frost by Valspar. By this point, the day was over and I didn't have time to repaint it that day. So several days later, I finally repainted. It took like A MILLION coats of paint to get that blue/grey color covered with white and I was kicking myself the whole time for not following my own rule and buying a paint sample before I started the painting process. Finally, this past weekend I finished painting and was able to get the room put back together. But this is not the end to this long and annoying tale.

Saturday night, my lovely friend Valerie came by to visit. While there, she pointed out that I didn't have a toilet paper dispenser. (Side note: when we moved into the house none of our three bathrooms had toilet paper dispensers, which I thought was weird. But for whatever reason, I never got around to getting some and over time I just grew used to the fact that they weren't there. So, thank you Valerie, for reminding me that normal people don't set their toilet paper on the back of the toilet.) So we decided to run to Home Goods for a long and expensive quick shopping trip. While I was there, I picked up this:

We installed it in about five seconds and I was feeling so relieved that finally something in this bathroom had gone smoothly. 

The next day (Sunday) my sweet hubby said that the room looked great, but he thought new switch plates and cabinet hardware would really finish off the space nicely. Never one to turn down an opportunity to spend money, I enthusiastically agreed. We hopped in the car and were off to Lowe's (for the 15th time since I started this bathroom). 

He was definitely right about the switch plates! They were a quick and inexpensive update to the space:

However, he was 100% wrong about the cabinet hardware. When people say that hardware is a quick and easy update, they are lying. I seriously thought those damn handles were going to be the death of me. In the process of installing those stupid cabinet pulls, we succeeded in doing several things:

1) breaking a handle
2) breaking a screw off inside of a handle
3) scraping the paint off one of the drawers
4) breaking my husband's drill bit
5) wasting about 30 minutes trying to figure out why to drill wasn't drilling (turns out we had the direction going backwards. yeah, we're smart like that)
6) having to buy new screws because the ones that came with the hardware weren't the right length
7) installing one handle totally lopsided, which sadly, cannot be fixed in any way I can think of
8) breaking a nail (don't ask why we were using nails) off inside of a drawer
9) using a hammer to get the nail out
and last but not least...
10) creating an entire new vocabulary of swear words

Seriously guys, I will NEVER (and I repeat, NEVER) do this again. Are they pretty? Yes. In the end did they work out? Yes. Does it look better with the hardware? Yes. Was it expensive? No. But seriously, it was totally not worth the THREE days that it took to install them. You'd think a couple who'd remodeled their kitchen, rewired light fixtures, painted everything (EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD), built a patio and stayed happy and in love through it all could accomplish a simple task like installing cabinet pulls. Turns out, this one small project was the worst one we've attempted so far. 

SOOOOO... After all this drama, you'd think we'd have a complete and finished bathroom. NOPE. I noticed that the silver finish on the evil cabinet pulls and the new switch plates was a brushed silver, and the silver on my newly installed toilet paper dispenser was a shinier finish. So I decided one last trip to Home Goods for a new toilet paper dispenser would be the last purchase. I moved the shiny dispenser to our down stairs half bathroom (so now two out of three bathrooms have toilet paper dispensers!) And I bought this:

However, I didn't install this one in 5 seconds. This one took A LOT longer. I have no idea why because the mechanism used to hang it was almost identical to the other dispenser's, but for what ever reason it was not cooperating. I'd say I spent about 30 minutes getting this one hung.

After all the blood, sweat and tears (OK, there wasn't actually any blood. Or any tears, come to think of it, definitely some sweat though) we were done with our "mini" makeover! Yippee! Feast your eyes upon the biggest pain in my a** ever guest bathroom:

Though it was a pain, I am happy with the way it turned out. It does have a "spa like", serene feeling. Of course, one day we hope to do a "major" makeover (new floors, new light fixtures, new counter tops without the seashell sinks, framed mirror, new faucets and a new toilet), but for now we are happy with it.

What about you? Have you had any small projects turn into huge headaches? Was it worth it in the end? 

Thanks for stopping by!

Update:  We got a new floor in here. Check it out