Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How To Buy A House Part 3

Below is another post on our experience of buying our first home. I've written a couple previous posts about applying for a mortgage, finding a real estate agent, finding a home, and final putting in an offer. Once you are able to get an offer accepted on a house, then you begin to get into the nitty gritty details of home ownership. I'm sure everyone experiences will differ from my own, but I figured it would be good to put down how it all worked out for Dan and I in hopes that it will help you through this process.

One thing that I didn't realize is that it can take between 30 to 45 days to close on a house. For someone as impatient as I am, this will likely seem annoying/anti-climatic/frustrating, but it will fly by before you know it. During that time period, you should schedule for a third party inspector to do a general inspection of the entire house and yard. Ours was very thorough and came along with notes and pictures of the areas of concern (we used the inspector our real estate agent recommended- it was only a couple hundred bucks and totally worth it).

After you get the results back from the inspector, you and your real estate will start working on a repairs addendum to your contract. Usually you ask for all the large repairs that the inspector pointed out, and the seller will agree to some of them, and you haggle accordingly. We ended up getting our sellers to decrease the overall cost of the home and pay for closing costs (anywhere from $8-10k) in return for us buying the home as is. We decided that we would take the extra money and hire the contractors to do it ourselves. This isn't the right choice for everyone, but it worked for us.

From a bank perspective, you obviously notify them once your offer has been accepted by the seller. We had already decided on what kind of mortgage we wanted, so they drew up all the paperwork. We had to "lock our rate" at a specific time, since mortgage rates change multiple times a day. Be sure to keep on eye on the rate and lock when its at its lowest. A week or two before you close, you will get a HUD, which pretty much outlines all of the costs associated with the house. It shows how much your bank is paying, how much closing costs are, and how much you are paying. It looks pretty complicated, but in the end all you have to check is the mortgage amount and the down payment amount you will have to give up front. The escrow company goes over all the little details during the signing.

Once you get to this point, there are usually three points of contact that you will be emailing/calling: your real estate agent, the bank where you are getting your mortgage, and the escrow company. Obviously  you will know the first two, but the escrow portion was new to me. Pretty much what they do is act as a third party to receive the money from the buyer (and bank if you have a mortgage), get all the paper together, and pass the money onto the seller. Your mortgage company will tell you who is the Escrow company for the property.

Honestly, I was really unimpressed by the escrow company. It sucks that the buyer chooses the company and the seller has no say over it. However, I heard most escrow companies aren't that great, so maybe there weren't any better options. They didn't contact us with an appointment time until the day before we were signing the papers, which give us little notice to block out our calendars at work. They also sent 2 different amounts that we needed to bring a check for, which was very confusing (especially since  you have to get a cashiers check from the bank, which is an extra step).We got it all worked out in the end, but I was honestly a little annoyed with how last minute the process was.

An interesting thing that we learned during this process is that Oregon signing and closing happen on different days. You have to sign all the paperwork and bring the check to the escrow company during signing, which is before you technically close. You don't get the keys until the following business day, after it posts to the county. It was definitely a strange process, because in New Jersey you sign and close on the same day (you sign the papers, hand over the check, and get the keys all at one meeting).

Anyways, after several weeks of signing papers, negotiating, and meeting we finally got our new home!

Here are a couple of lists of things that were beneficial to me throughout the process.

Step by Step Process of Buying a House:
1. Obtain financing (mortgage, savings, etc)
2. Ask for a copy of the preapproval letter
3. Find a house and submit an offer
4. Possible counter offer/ bargaining
5. Mutual acceptance and deposit of earnest money
6. Inspection and Inspection Addendum
7. Negotiate what needs to be fixed
8. Signing with escrow company
9. Final closing, get the keys to the house

Where you need to update you address:
Banks/Credit Cards
Any retail profiles you have
Airline Reward Miles

Be sure sign up for / check the following:
Garbage Collection
Home Security if wanted

Your real estate agent should be able to tell you what companies the previous home owners used for all of these utilities. I transferred all of mine into my name online. Make sure you set these up within the first few days of moving so you won't be stuck without electricity!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Morning Favorites

Alright, so if you are anything like my fiance then you find morning to be the most grueling part of the day. While I don't consider myself a morning person (or even a night owl, is there something in between?) I don't dread the mornings quite as much as Dan does. However, I definitely do struggle from time to time getting any kind of motivation going in the morning. So I thought it would be fun to reflect on the things that help make my mornings a bit brighter.

3 Different Alarms- Ok so I do this weird thing where I have 3 different alarms- one at 5:50, one at 6:00, and one at 6:05. I purposely make the last one have a different ringtone than the first two, that way I know what I actually have to start getting up and when I can stay a little bit longer in bed. I really like being able to wake up knowing that I have a few minutes to snooze before having to start the day.

Dog Alarm Clock- This one is a tribute to my dog Scout, who I seem to constantly talk about. We let him sleep on our bed, and he knows that once he hears the alarm clock go off, it's time to come over and get some attention. If I don't start petting him, he will lick me in the face, sit on me, groan/bark, or nudge me until I am giving him an adequate amount of attention. I secretly love that he helps wake me up.

Daylight through the blinds- While this sounds weird, I feel like having some natural sunlight coming into my bedroom helps wake me up. In the summer, this happens all the time and it's great. However, in the winter the sun is definitely not up at 6am. Not so awesome.

Hot mug of coffee/tea/chai- Any warm beverage in a mug equals pure happiness to me. My fiance things my mug collection is a bit ridiculous, but he goes along with it.

Nap Blanket- Ok this might not get you out of bed, but they are so comfy!

Brookstone Nap Blanket

The Skimm- This is definitely high on my list of favorites. It called The Skimm and its a daily newsletter that fills you in on all of the biggest news stories in a comical, condensed, easy to read format. I'm terrible with keeping up with news, but getting an email once every week day is a great way for me to keep up with what's going on in the world. It's like having a good friend chat with you about the news. I highly recommend you sign up! Sign up for The Skimm here
Setting up my outfits the night before- self explanatory.

Good bye hug- I'll always give my pup and fiance a quick hug good bye, even though my fiance is still sound asleep and my pup has been getting love all morning. It's a good reminder why I get up in the morning and go to work- to support my little family.

If all else fails, embrace the crankiness.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

How To Buy A House Part 2

Here is part 2 of the few blog posts I'm going to be writing about how to buy a house. In this post, I'll cover how to find a real estate agent, initial meetings with the agent, beginning the search, and how to write an offer on a house. It's important to note that the logistics of buying a house does vary from state to state, so there might be some differences outside of Oregon.

When I first began looking for a real estate agent, I was honestly a little overwhelmed by the amount of choices there were in the Portland Metro area. Since Dan and I are first time home owners, I wasn't sure exactly where to start. In general, it is definitely good to ask friends and family for recommendations, as well as doing your research on available reviews of each agent. I asked around and did some research and came up with 3 different options. The person we ended up going with was a recommendation from our mortgage adviser. When she gave us the agents card, she did mention that she wasn't compensated for handing out specific agents cards, but she truly thought that the agent did a fantastic job. I called the agent and set up an initial appointment to meet her at her office and discuss what we were looking for. Below are some of the questions I sent to her via e-mail. 
  • Are you able to show me houses listed with other companies, or only exclusively your own realtor group?
  • Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors?
  • How involved are you in the process? Will you be there for housing inspections, any mortgage meetings (if necessary), and at the closing?
  • Do you often get first time buyers as clients? Are you able to guide us in the process?
  • What is the best way to contact you? Do you check email regularly? 
Similar to getting a mortgage, I think it's super helpful to meet your real estate agent in person. Since you will be working closely with them as well, it's good to get to know them before you have the pressure of trying to get a bid in before someone else buys your dream house! Our real estate agent actually told us that she doesn't spend any money on advertising, since she gets plenty of business thru word-of-mouth alone. Interesting right? Anyways during our first meeting we discussed the basics of what we were looking for in a home.
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Type of House (traditional, modern, etc)
  • Areas/school districts we were interesting in
  • Yard preferences (size, location, etc)
  • Garage
  • Commuting distance from work
  • General Neighborhood Feel

After we described what we wanted, she went to work to show us some of the houses she thought were good contenders. Some of them we already knew because of zillow which I found pretty funny. We then set a date to go out and look at houses! She checked in with all 6 houses before we went out that day to get the seller's approval for the date/time of when we were coming in. She was super organized and brought us to 6 houses, including one that Dan and I had emailed over to her and said we wanted to see. I was surprised how quickly we were able to move through the houses, especially the ones we weren't feeling. It definitely helped us decided what we need (a backyard for the dog!).
Isn't he cute? Anyways we didn't find anything we loved until we got to the 5th and second to last house, which was the one we had requested to see. We started walking the backyard and I thought it was so beautiful. There were huge porches overlooking the yard, with plenty of space to play fetch with a dog.

I started getting pretty excited, and then I walked into the house. Let's just say I was getting pretty obnoxious with home many times I said "I love it" and "It's perfect!". Dan thought I was a crazy person for getting so excited, but I just had a good feeling about it. The more I walked around, the more I knew that this was the house I wanted. And it happened that quickly! Which is why I tell people that you should start actually looking until you are ready to put an offer down, because you just might fall in love with a house like I did! 

Our little group went to one final home, which to be fair was very nice but not the same as the previous one. I know I had made my decision! After checking with Dan and making sure he was ok with it, I told the real estate agent that we wanted to go back to the office and make an offer on the house! She called the agent handling the house to make sure that it was indeed still on the market, then we got to work. She showed us a bunch of different houses that were similar in size and close by so we could have an understanding of how much we should put down into our offer. As I mentioned in the previous post, we had determined that we wanted to put at least 20% down so we could avoid Private Mortgage Insurance. We ended up going a little over the asking price (yes, some negotiators out there will shake their heads to that) but we both felt it was fairly priced. So we signed the papers, wrote a check for $10k for our in earnest payment, and left the office with our fingers crossed. The next night, we found out that our offer was accepted! We were really getting the house I'd fallen in love with! It was an amazing feeling.

Ironically, the house ended up appraising for the original offer that we put down, which goes to show that it's super beneficial to do your homework before writing an offer so you have a better estimate of how much the house is worth. Our real estate agent helped us with that, but if they don't immediately offer that, make sure you ask (or do your own research on Zillow). Another word of advice that I found useful is to remember that the agent is working for you, not the other way around. It's their job to put in YOUR offer, not the offer that they want. Always remember that so  you don't feel pressured into making an uncomfortable decision. 

I should also note though that we were REALLY fortunate that our first offer worked out. I've heard from other coworkers that it can take up to 6 months to get a house, so keep that in mind when you are beginning to work on your timelines. Also note that it usually takes between 30-45 days to close on a house (i.e. until you hand over your down payment and it's officially your house), so don't do it the month your lease expires!  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Planning My Best Friend's Bachelorette Party

Today I've got a fun post coming to you! It's all about planning my best friend's bachelorette party. I had a lot of fun working with the bride-to-be's sister and girlfriends to plan a memorable event to celebrate Krista's upcoming wedding. We started out knowing the basics- that she wanted a bachelorette party in Las Vegas (which is conveniently a quick cheap flight from Portland!) in the Spring or Early Summer before her wedding at the end of September. She set up a facebook group with everyone who was invited in order to help organize the event. We were able to set a date, establish an estimated cost, and coordinate booking a hotel through facebook. Krista's sister ended up booking the rooms and the attendees all paid her back via Venmo.

In case you never heard of it, it's a phone app that acts like a digital wallet and lets you send money (up to $299) to your friends safely through your phone. There are a few other apps that allow you to do this, but Venmo worked out well for everyone. All you have to do is link your bank account to Venmo and then you can make deposits or pull funds from your account. It's a great way to split a bill if a restaurant doesn't want to take 8 different credit cards for one check (Article with more info.).

Once we confirmed the dates and got the rooms booked, we had everyone individually take car of their flights, coordinating in advance around what time people should arrive and depart. Since many people were coming from the east coast, we decided to have people arrive late Friday morning and depart Sunday night. After getting all of that figured out well in advance (like 5-6 months prior to the party) I hadn't started to do any other planning until about a month prior to the event. I had honestly never been to a bachelorette party (I unfortunately had to miss one a couple of years ago because I didn't have any PTO at the time) so I began to do research online.

After some simple google searches and reading a couple blog posts about other Vegas bachelorette parties, I started to get some fun ideas to make this event extra special for the bride-to-be. A read about a cute Q&A game that I got from Julie on her Peanut Butter Fingers blog.The idea behind it is to send 10-20 questions to the groom-to-be before the bachelorette party. Have him e-mail the responses back. Make sure there is a good mixture of cute and silly questions! Then put the questions and answered together in the book to give to the bride-to-be. It thought it was fun to put the answers on the back side of the questions, so the bride-to-be could guess the answers before seeing what her groom-to-be put down. Here are some sample questions.
When and where was your first kiss with the bride-to-be?
What was the menu for the first meal your bride-to-be ever cooked you? 
What was your first date with the bride-to-be?
What is your most obnoxious habit?
What is her's?
What do you love most about the bride-to-be?
What do you think the bride-to-be's favorite gift is from you?
What is the strangest gift your bride-to-be has given you?
What is one item that the bride-to-be cannot live without?
What was the silliest thing your bride-to-be has every ever done?
Which day would you like to experience again with the bride-to-be?
What quality first caught your attention about the bride-to-be?
What is a big dream your bride-to-be has?
What is one thing your bride-to-be will never forget that you did for her?
Between you and your bride-to-be, who is the money saver and who is the spender?
Who does your bride-to-be talk to most on the phone?
What was the last thing you and your bride-to-be argued about?
Who takes longer to get ready in the morning?
In order to put everything together, I took a trip to Michael's to get some supplies. I ended up getting a photo album and cutting our card stock to write the questions and answers on. I also picked up some stickers and fun colored markers to use. It turned out to be a fun project!

Another little surprise came in the form of tank tops for the bride and her girls! I found some really cute shirts on Etsy and decided to buy everyone a shirt to wear for one of the pool parties.

Once we began getting all of the plans together, I made a quick and simple itinerary using Microsoft Word. I thought it would be fun to add a bit of color and make it match the Q & A book.
As I mentioned before, Krista's friends and sister were a huge help in planning this as well. I couldn't have done it without them! It was great to be able to leave the decorations and cute favors up to other girls so I could concentrate on making my contributions as fun as the could be. Hopefully this will give you guys some good ideas to use in the future!

Monday, June 1, 2015

How To Buy A House Part 1

Hello There! I apologize for the very long hiatus from this blog. Life has been very crazy recently, but the more I get busy with work, the more I realize that I need some form of creative outlet. Time to resume the blog!

I wanted to start off with a few blog posts on buying a house. D and I are in the process of purchasing our first house and as first home buyers I have learned A LOT about mortgages, HUDs, inspections, credit scores, negotiations, etc. But let me tell you, I was clueless going in. I tried researching it online and found very few resources of buying a house from start to finish, so I wanted to document our experience so far. But to whet your appetites, here a picture of our future home!

Yay! Just seeing it makes me excited. In this "Part 1" post, I will talk about deciding we were ready to buy a house, getting pre-approved for a mortgage, and the wonderful world of Zillow. Without further ado, let's jump into it!

Are we really ready for this? Ok so this was obviously the first question we faced. We've been talking about it a bit over the past couple of years, but neither of us felt ready to commit to staying in one place for over 5 years and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on something. It was honestly having D propose to me a few months ago that began to cement the idea in my mind. He was making a large commitment to me, and I wanted to reciprocate and commit the next few years of my life to Portland. What better way then buying a house together! And yes, I do realize that I'm buying a house while I'm planning a wedding, but we aren't getting married until next June, so we will have a full year to adjust to the new house before the wedding. Hopefully that should work out alright! 

Buying a house obviously comes with a large amount of responsibility, both financially and maintenance wise. It's important to be fully committed before starting this process, because once it starts everything seems to fly by, and you want to make sure you aren't second guessing yourself along the way. Some questions we thought thru:

Are you ready to not have the flexibility of living in an apartment? 
Are you ready to deal with things when they break or need updating? 
Do you have enough money to comfortably put down a strong down payment?
Are you ready to commit to one location for the next few years?
What is happening in the marketplace?

What is my price point? Once you have had those deep discussions and have decided it is indeed time to start looking, how do you figure out what price points you are looking at? While it's important to have enough money to put down a solid down payment, there are a lot of other fees that go along with buying a house. In general, a good rule of thumb is to put down 20% for a down payment. Obviously not everyone will have the ability to do this, but D and I decided that it was definitely a goal we wanted to hit. We calculated out how much we were willing to spend on a 20% down payment and multiplied that by 5 to see what the max price would be. After looking at the number, we decided to be a bit more conservative than that and set our max price a bit lower than what our original equation told us. 

Example: $100,000 down payment means your limit should be $500,000, with an extra $10,000 in closing costs/inspections/etc. 

Remember that there are a lot of additional costs that go along with buying a home. Our closing costs came in around $8K, so be aware of that when you are figuring out how much you can afford. There are also fees associated with getting the house inspected (definitely necessary!!!), checking the sewage system, and checking radon levels (optional). 

How do I get pre-approved for a mortgage? After deciding upon your upper limit, start to do your research on interest rates for your state and loan amount. In general, it's a good idea to have an idea of how much you want your loan to be and what kind of mortgage works best for you. 

D and I ended up going with his credit union. We scheduled to meet a mortgage adviser in person, which I strongly suggest. For whatever reason, it really makes a difference having an actual person in front of you as opposed to doing this over the phone or online. Since you will be working with this person for the next couple of months, it's great to meet them at the beginning to insure you like working together. 

For our actual appointment, we had to bring a bunch of different documents for our adviser to review. Here's a list of things that we needed to bring.
  • Last 2 W2s from our employers
  • Last 2 pay statements from our employers
  • Last 2 bank statements 
  • Last 2 retirement statements
  • Any stock or trust statements you may have
  • Any current loans statements (student, auto, etc).
  • Drivers License 
You will need to know your social security number, so if you don't have that memorized jot it down. When we met with our adviser, we discussed what price ranges we were looking at, the amount of down payment we were putting down, what loans we were interested in, and any other lingering questions we had. I highly recommend getting pre-approved before you start looking at homes so you can concentrate on houses in your price range and have the legitimacy of a bank backing you up.

What is Zillow? After you get your pre-approval done, it's time to start scouting out potential homes! Zillow is a great tool for this. Zillow is an online real estate marketplace that gives you access to TONS of listings in your area. If you are a visual person, you are going to love this tool. You can choose what neighborhoods/areas you are interested in, as well as filter on rent/sale, price, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, etc. 

Once you choose a house, Zillow gives you estimates on houses in the area, neighborhood information, previous tax amounts for the house, information on the school district, and lots of information on the property. 
An interesting thing to note is that even if you don't want to have kids, buying a house in a good school district is a good idea because if/when you eventually sell it, it is in a desirable area for new families looking for a new home. D actually found our house on Zillow! We emailed our real estate agent saying that we wanted to look at that one specifically and it turned out to be the one.  

That's all for now! Stay tuned for a couple more installments of "How To Buy A House".