First-time-home-buyers: Our Story

I'm writing this post today because two months ago, I had NO idea what all it would take to be living in our home. Technically, Jason and I were supposed to start looking at houses TODAY.

Jason and I are both hard-core researchers. We research everything before we buy, go, and do anything! Since this whole house thing kind of snuck up on us, we didn't have sufficient time to research and we really just had to walk through it step-by-step.

After we renewed our lease on our apartment last January, we made the decision that we would begin house hunting after our one year anniversary (September 22nd). Once we planned our trip to Seattle, we decided that the day we got back, we'd begin our search. Little did we know, God had another plan.

For all of you out there who are considering buying a home in the future, whether it's the near future, or the distant future, I hope that this post gives you a glimpse into what it may be like. Obviously, everyone's situation is different, so please keep that in mind. But at the same time, I know that I would have loved to read someone's account of buying their first home before I walked through this myself.

Since I'm addicted to HGTV, I thought that we'd have to be pre-approved for financing before we even started looking. I think that's the biggest thing I've been surprised about...because we weren't. I actually saw the listing for our house on a website I frequently looked at. I checked out the pictures, and I loved the price. It was in one of the areas that I knew Jason and I wanted to live in, so I forwarded him the website. He loved it too.

The next day was Jason's birthday, July 24th. It was a Wednesday. Jason wanted to go eat at a restaurant that is out in Trussville, so we did. On the way home, he suggested that we drive by the house that I'd sent him. So we did. We loved the location, loved the outside "in real life", and loved that the FOR SALE sign still said, "Coming Soon". We thought it gave us some time.

Back up a few weeks.

Jason and I were driving home from Publix one Sunday afternoon, and saw an OPEN HOUSE sign in Homewood. We thought it'd be fun to walk through one of the cute little bungalow houses and just see what it's like. So we did. The house was WAY too small for us and WAY too expensive, but the realtor was just right (there's my Goldilocks reference for the week). As I was looking around the house, Jason began talking with him. They just seemed to click. We got his card, and decided in the car that when the time came for us to begin our home search, we'd call him.

So, after driving by our house on Jason's birthday, I emailed Scott, the realtor, to see if we could see the inside of the house. Friday after work, Jason and I met at my office and drove over to "the house" for the first time.

We loved it. It was a great price, great size, and great location. It was everything we'd be looking for in a couple of months...but we weren't at that point in time yet. Standing in the living room of the house, I asked Scott what the next steps would be if we really wanted this house. He explained, and then we left. That night, Jason and I decided that we needed to see a few more houses in the area so that we could compare sizes, price, etc.

We also spent the evening in that area...we ate at the restaurants around, went to the bank around the house, and spent time at a friend's house in the area. We pretended that we lived there, which made our decision to proceed much easier.

The next morning, I went to work on this house stuff like it was my job. Scott emailed me the name of a few mortgage brokers, and he set up showings at a few other house for us. By Saturday night, we were pre-approved, we'd looked at 4 additional houses, we'd gone back our house, and we ended the evening sitting in Scott's office writing up our offer.

The next few days were nail-biters.

We didn't hear back from the seller until Monday. They didn't want to come down much on the price, and they wanted us to pay closing. Boo. We countered. They countered. We countered. They countered with 3 choices that basically gave them the same bottom line, but allowed us to decide if we wanted to pay more for the house over 30 years, or pay closing costs upfront. We chose not to pay closing costs upfront. Our mortgage broker told us that for every $1,000 in the sale price, it's around $7 added to our monthly payment. Good to know.

Just as I was signing the revised contract and sending it back to Scott, we heard there was another offer on our house. The seller wanted our best offer - and we were so afraid we were about to get into a bidding war. After some prayer and discussion, we decided to stick with our original offer that was being written up in the revised contract. We felt like it was a little on the weird side that we'd already agreed on the terms and they came back with a 'best offer' type thing. I know it's pretty common, but it just didn't sit right with me.

The next day, Scott called to say that they accepted our offer and it was ours. The seller did add something to the contract though. She added that she would not fix anything if there was something wrong with it upon inspection. Great...

We had 10 days to get an inspection done. We hired a really eclectic inspector known as Inspector Dave to do our inspection. He was really thorough, and thankfully the house had no big problems. Whew, that was a relief. We went ahead and set the closing date for Sept. 3rd at 4 p.m. Since we knew our closing date, we went ahead and scheduled everything to be turned on and connected the next day.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I sent tons of paperwork to our mortgage broker. Lots of signing, lots of sending. The crazy thing is, over the course of all that paperwork, all the phone calls, and all of the emails, we never met our mortgage broker in person. Technology fascinates me.

Then came the appraisal. Our house appraised at the selling value, but it was exactly our price. I kind of freaked out about that a bit, because we thought we were getting a great price. Turns out, many times, appraisers do that. They just put what the selling price is as long as it's worth that. They don't really look at the actual value unless it's way under the selling price.

More paperwork. More signing. More sending.

As I mentioned previously, we were scheduled to close on September 3rd, which was the day after Labor Day. Well, the Friday before Labor Day, we received a call that our closing was going to be pushed to September 5th. Not a big deal, right? WRONG. Since we'd planned for three weeks for closing to be on the 3rd, we'd scheduled movers, bakers, and candlestick makers cable people, and internet people all to come on September 4th. As it turns out...we would not own the place that day, so I had to call, before a holiday weekend, and reschedule EVERYTHING! It felt like a nightmare.

Later we found out that getting your closing date pushed is somewhat normal, and honestly, it ended up a little better this way.

So, Thursday, September 5th, Jason and I arrived at the closing attorney's office to buy our house. I brought basically every piece of paperwork I'd ever signed in my 24 years of life, plus my passport, marriage license, birth certificate, and social security card, but all we needed was a certified check. Leave it to me to be overly OVERLY prepared. We had our check made out a little higher than it needed to be, just in case. At the end of the closing, the attorney gave us the difference back, and another check for something we'd overpaid on previously. I know this is highly uncommon, but we ended up walking away from the closing with a lot more money in our pockets than we expected. Praise God...He really does take care of us...even in the tiniest things.

After closing, Jason and I drove straight to our NEW HOME, sat on the porch, and had our friend come over and take some pictures of us in front of the SOLD sign.

The process was easy in the beginning, hard in the middle, and then wonderful at the end. But isn't that the way most good things are? We know that God has placed us in our home for a purpose, and we intended to live in it well, for His glory.

Posted on September 24, 2013 .

A King's Bed

Ever since I began reading Young House Love, I decided that I wanted to be more like them. Obviously I don't have nearly the talents or skills, but I figured I'd take it one project at a time. My first real DIY home project that I decided to do was a king size headboard. My plan was to follow their directions for upholstering a headboard exactly, to ensure there would be no errors.

Well, when I showed up at the art store, I was informed that the size frame I needed would either cost me about $90, or it did not exist. I opted out of that, and chose make a stop at Home Depot (which is less than a mile from our house...DANGEROUS) and buy some plywood.

My mom was really helpful in this. She's a pro I tell ya. We ended up buying an $8.00, 4'x8' piece of plywood and having them (Home Depot dudes) saw off the 2' or so that we didn't need. The plywood was about 1" thick, which is really all you need for this. We also bought 2 1"x3" boards that we had cut into 3, 4' pieces. These would serve as the legs for our headboard. We bought a pack of 1 1/4" wood screws to attach the legs to the plywood.

Previously, I'd picked out a fabric from a website that has great quality fabric for a very affordable price. I bought 3 yards, which was probably a little to much, but King beds are huge, so I wanted to be safe. I had also previously bought 3 yards of batting at Joann's Fabrics.

TIP: If you download their iPhone app, there's one coupon a week for 50% a regular priced item.

Just FYI...

 materials, post sawing

materials, post sawing

 probably the most unflattering way I could have done this. but honestly, I didn't know jason was taking pictures. 
also, right after this, we realized that our backyard is really shady, 
so we moved back there. then mom and i got chiggers. any tips on how to 
get those nasty things out of our yard?!?

probably the most unflattering way I could have done this. but honestly, I didn't know jason was taking pictures.
also, right after this, we realized that our backyard is really shady, so we moved back there. then mom and i got chiggers. any tips on how to get those nasty things out of our yard?!?

 the hardworking diy dream team

the hardworking diy dream team

 some intense drilling

some intense drilling

I probably would do a few things differently if we were to do this again. But the process was not bad at all. In fact, my mom and I joked decided that we'd start making these and selling them out of our backyard. So...if you're in the market for a custom headboard...hit us up!

Here's the final product:

bed1.JPG
bed4.JPG

And I must say...it's quite comfortable to lean up against!

Posted on September 18, 2013 .

A Cheerful Welcome - Front Door Makeover

When we moved in almost two weeks ago, we had a black front door with a storm door with bars on it. Very dark, not too pretty. Our porch is one of our favorite things about the house. So Saturday, while my parents were in town, we all 4 went to work on brightening up our front door.

 our front door before

our front door before

Dad removed the storm door.
Jason and Mom sanded down the door.

Mom and I painted.

front4.JPG
front5.JPG

The Outcome: 

front1.JPG
front2.JPG

We will want to add a door knocker, wreath, and maybe our house number just to add some visual interest to the door. But overall, we LOVE the color and the way our front porch looks.

This was a really simple and inexpensive project with big results.

We bought Behr Ultra paint. It's an exterior semi-gloss with the primer mixed it. We chose from the Martha Stewart collection of colors, and they had to color match it. The color we chose is called "Lagoon". This paint cost about $18 for a quart, and we only used half of the quart. We bought a fine sanding block and sanded the door down first. Then Jason used an electric sander to go over everything to even it out. We used liquid sandpaper last because it makes the door a little "tacky" and it holds the paint on really well. Going from a black door to this bright color only needed two coats of paint!

Come and knock on our door... :)

Posted on September 17, 2013 .

Master Closet Makeover

When we moved into our house about 10 days ago, our closet was about four feet wide with two bars to hang clothes on and a shoe rack on the door. We didn't even attempt to put our clothes in there because we knew they would not all fit. The previous owner lived there alone, so her clothes probably fit fine - mine would have for sure. But, Jason and I wanted our new home to be 100% OURS, since our apartment was not that way (I lived there first). This meant we wanted both of our clothes in the master closet. I don't know why that was so important to us, but it was. So we did a little closet reno and it's almost complete!

Phase One: We hired someone to knock out the wall that served as the back of our closet and the side wall of a hall closet. Thankfully, we noticed the two closets were only connected by a nonessential wall when we were looking at the house. We had someone come and look at it before closing, and scheduled him to come knock out the wall only 3 days after we'd begun living there. I must say, the noises that I heard at first (I was the only one home when he got started) scared me to death!

One of the biggest things we've had to get used to about our house is the fact that it's OURS and we can do what we want to it! Since Jason and I have always been renters, that's a hard thing to get used to!

 phase one

phase one

 phase one

phase one

 phase one

phase one

Phase Two: No more insulation! Everything was sealed up nicely and ready for some paint!

 phase two

phase two

 phase two

phase two

 phase two

phase two

Phase Three: Everything is painted to match the hallway and living area.

 phase three

phase three

 phase three

phase three

Phase Four: Shelves were hung and clothes were put in the closet. Originally, we were going to have the shelves hung professionally. But the decision came down to professionally hung shelves or a king size bed, and we chose the king size bed. My parents came in town this past weekend, and the four of us hung our shelves. It was actually pretty simple!

 phase four

phase four

 phase four

phase four

 phase four

phase four

 phase four

phase four

Phase Five: The floor still needs to be stained and some of the trip needs to be replaced. We also want to hang bottom shelves for pants, but we will have to wait until the floor is stained.

(come back to see pictures of the last phase)

Overall, this has been a pretty simple process. I'm very thankful we made the decision to do this project right away, because I don't think we would have ever done it otherwise. As of right now, I have no complaints about our house...but I'm almost positive that we would have both been complaining if we would have had to share that little closet that we had before.

The cost of this project was around $1,000. The shelving was about $250, and the labor and materials were around $750.

Posted on September 16, 2013 .

Weekend Moving Progress

Well, it's been two full days since my last post and I feel like it's been two weeks. Every part of my body is sore, especially my feet. My little Camry has been packed to the brim a few dozen times, and it's currently housing boxes from Ikea that I really don't want to take inside. Jason has been at war with a couple of bugs - he's won most of the battles, but there's one "bird-like" bug in our garage that is currently winning. I've realized that I know nothing about keeping flowers alive or grass green (conversation with my mom: Mom - "Do you have a sprinkler system?" Me - "I think that's what we call rain."). But all in all, the process has been fun and I'm so thankful for what we've been given. I wouldn't want to do this whole moving thing often, but I also wouldn't want to do it with anyone but Jason. He's quite a trooper.

Saturday night we spent the first night in the house. We planned on waiting until this coming Wednesday so that all of our furniture would be there, but after taking a short nap in our new king size bed on Saturday afternoon, we decided that we could not go back to the apartment with it's measly queen bed :) . We are in the process now of figuring out a morning routine...so that's fun. I think Jason got a little too eager about our morning routine today and he showed up to work an hour early...whoops! Y'all, I can't blame him...it's been a LONG weekend.

Anywhoo...here are some photos of our progess:

 This was all we had in our fridge Saturday morning. 
For some reason this just made me laugh.

This was all we had in our fridge Saturday morning.
For some reason this just made me laugh.

 Dining room is the only area that is even close to complete

Dining room is the only area that is even close to complete

 Kitchen is unpacked

Kitchen is unpacked

 Our giant bed is in place

Our giant bed is in place

And yesterday we drove to Atlanta to go to my friend Kate's wedding. We did however stop at Ikea before the wedding and racked up on some great finds. Stay tuned for pictures of those items!

 the beautiful bride

the beautiful bride

Posted on September 9, 2013 .