what to do with all these walls

Now that we are settled into the new house I am starting to realize just how many walls we need to decorate. I have been searching for new ideas for painting, picture hanging and any other treatment that might work in our house.

I rounded up some of my fellow Wayfair Homemakers to have a little housewarming party so I could get some more great ideas.

Housewarming Logo

Wayfair has some great painted pattern ideas and I am especially partial to the gingham idea.

Shannon at AKA Design has a great idea to create a wall that looks like an old building advertisement. I think this might be perfect in my basement craft and sewing area. Or use the same technique to make it look like and old baseball stadium wall. That thought could have a lot to do with my pending trip to Wrigley Field  tomorrow though.

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I tried a painted stencil in my bedroom last week and it was a big fail. It is already painted over. That makes me think that the patience Stephanie from Sandpaper and Glue had to have to create this look with a template and a sharpie should be applauded.

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First it was a painted brick wall and now this one that looks like a fancy exposed brick wall that just happens to make a great headboard! I didn’t even know these sheets of faux brick existed and now I have the need to add it to at least some spot in my house. I love the detail Kayla, from Freckles in April, took to paint each line of “mortar”.

DIY Faux Brick Wall

Anyone that loves Kate Spade can quickly win me over and this gold dot homage to Kate Spade that Oksana from Foxy Oxie is wonderful. I love that the decals are removable without damaging a wall. Making this less of a permanent commitment than wallpaper. The company she got these from have some other great options too like my favorite, anchors.

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I love the use of a corner wall for a gallery wall. It successfully decorates odd spaces and creates a great flow. I am also drawn to Amanda’s wall because of the scrabble letter and the fact that it is an F which is the initial of our last name.

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I am excited to start decorating and getting more walls done. Do you have a favorite wall treatment? Share it in the comments.

 

house hunting tips: finding a realtor

realtor

 

The most important piece to the house buying process is your realtor. They do so much more than unlock doors and show you around houses. They are your advocate and voice in the negotiation process, a process that lasts well past the price of the home.

Once you reach an agreement on the sale price you will think the tough stuff is over. Unfortunately, it might just be beginning. You will need a home inspection and after the home inspection you will start a new negotiation process about who will pay for needed repairs. Your realtor is your voice in the negotiations. You want to be able to trust that what you tell them gets relayed properly and that he/she stands up for you in the discussion and doesn’t cave to the sellers demands. If you can’t trust your realtor your home buying experience will not be a pleasant one.

Your realtor is also your resource to explain unknown terms, requirements and general questions. You want someone who is knowledgeable about real estate in all areas not just the price of a home. Hopefully they will understand appraisals, repairs and taxes. They are also the person that will handle a large portion of the paperwork so good follow through and attention to details are important qualities as well.

Finding a realtor

Throwing a dart at a list of realtors isn’t a great way to find someone to work with. Since this is such an important piece of the home buying process you will want to put a little more effort into finding the right person for the job.

Family and Friend Recommendations – Family and friend recommendations are probably the most common way people find realtors. This makes perfect sense. Your good friend buys a house and has a great experience and essential vets the realtor for you. They can give you great insight about their style so you can know what to expect. The biggest advice I have for finding a realtor this way is take suggestions from people who have a similar personality to you. My husband and I are quiet and prefer truly knowledgeable, helpful and understated people. Had I taken the recommendation of my most extroverted friends we might not have found their realtor to be a great match. Ask your friends what they liked best about their experience and listen for keywords that are important to you. If you are looking for knowledgeable and helpful and your friends don’t mention those words consider getting more referrals.

Observe and Interview – Before we got our realtor we went to open houses. You are thinking yeah everyone does that. Well we went to the open house to interview realtors not to look at the homes. We of course checked the homes and talked about what we liked and what we didn’t like, but mostly we watch the realtors. The quiet ones that didn’t try to get to know us were no’s because they didn’t seem like the negotiator that we wanted. The over the top sales guy was a no because he seemed more about closing the deal than helping us through the process. It only gives you a snapshot of their personality and style, but it beats throwing a dart and hoping to find a good one.

Review Sites – Review sites are also a helpful way to find a highly rated realtor. In case you don’t have friends or family in the area this can be a good place to find some reviews of prospective realtors. Keep in mind when you are reading these most reviews that get written are positive. You will find some bad reviews, but the majority of reviews left will be glowing recommendations. So if this is how you are going to find a realtor, read the comments closely and look for quantity of reviews. A large number of people willing to leave a review should indicate a good track record and increase your chances of having a good experience. Trulia and Zillow are two of the more popular resources to find agents. Angie’s List also offers reviews if you are a member.

Working with Them

If you are a new home buyer the process is going to be a bit overwhelming and you may have a picture in your head about how this will all happen. I blame HGTV for making it all look so simple. It is like watch a sitcom where no one ever seems to have to poop. There are dirty and necessary details that happen behind the scenes that TV just doesn’t show you. So buying a house won’t be as simple as it looks on Property Brothers.

The other thing to think about is this is a relationship. It is very similar to the relationship you have with your partner or best friend. You may not have to buy them flowers on their birthday, but honest communication and trust are two things you will need for this to work.

Ask lots of questions – If you don’t understand ask. The realtor should be able to explain all of your questions. They may not anticipate them all because to them it all seems second nature. They do this every day so they are going to use terms and forget that you might not know what they are talking about. Do not just nod along like you understand. If you don’t get it ask. This is too big of a purchase to not understand every aspect of what is happening.

Communicate clearly - The most important part of any relationship is to be on the same page. Your relationship with your realtor is no different. Tell them what you want. They can’t read your mind. You have to be specific about what area you want to search, what you like about the house and your expectations of them. Because you have watched too much HGTV you may have unrealistic expectations so ask how the process works and then hold them to that process. If they say they will contact you every Monday you need to let them know if they missed one. On the flip side if they say they will contact you as soon as they know something you need to sit tight and trust them. They will call when they know something.

Change realtors if needed – This is truly a last resort. Hopefully you took my earlier advice on finding a realtor and you don’t need to use this option, but if you can’t work together you don’t have to continue to work with them. The reason this is a last resort is because they only get paid if you buy a house. So having them run you through house after house for months and then you ditch them means they put in a lot of work with no reward and that would just be rude. However, if you go on a weekend worth of houses and the connection isn’t there do the right thing, let them know you will be moving on to a different realtor. Even consider asking for a referral to another realtor because in some cases the first realtor will get a small commission for the referral.

buying a home: home loans

home loan

The scariest part about buying a house for me was the financial part. And not in the way you may think. I am not afraid to buy something so expensive. I am afraid that someone will tell me I am not worthy to buy a house because my financial snapshot isn’t good enough. Because of this we have spent the last 4 years improving our credit and saving so we can complete the dream of being homeowners.

I had a lot of questions along the way about the kind of loans that are out there and the requirements. Happily some beliefs were shown to be wrong, like you may not have to put down 2o percent. Finding this information proved a little daunting because it is all written in legal financial terms. I am going to give it to you in plain english.

Do you watch HGTV, do you wonder how people convince a bank to loan them $30,000 more than the purchase of the house to do renovations? I did. My brother solved this one for me as he was shopping for his house. They went with an older fixer upper and gave the option of a renovation mortgage some thought. A loan that allows you to finance your early repairs into your mortgage. This can be a great option is you don’t have a fat bank account to tap into.

For most of us renovation loans aren’t what we need. There are a few more common types of mortgages and you will likely fall into one of these categories if you are buying a house.

Types of mortgages

Conventional – is the traditional loan. You pay 20% of the purchase price when you sign the final papers to purchase the house. This is great because you don’t have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI). Which can save you thousands over the life of the loan.

Conventional Insured – similar to the traditional loan, but you only have to pay 10% of the purchase price when you buy. You will have to pay PMI but after you have paid a portion of the mortgage, about 70%,  you can file papers to have it removed and lower your mortgage at the end of the loan.

FHA - FHA stands for Federal Housing Authority. An FHA loan is a loan that is insured by the federal government, limiting the risk to the lender/bank. This encourages lenders to lend to people who look like more of a risk and people who can’t afford a high down payment. Not just first time home buyers but some repeat buyers as well. With a FHA loan you can have less than perfect credit and put down as little as 3.5%. You will be required to pay PMI for the life of the loan. The only way to get rid of the PMI would be to refinance the loan at a later date.

Renovation - this is a loan that allows you to borrow more than the purchase price to cover cost of renovation. This is useful if you are buying a fixer upper. Beyond that I know very little about this type of loan. There are a variety of options in this category so discuss this with your lender if you think this might be a good option for you.

Terms

Interest rate – this is annual percentage of the purchase price that you will pay in interest to the bank. This is how they make a lot of their money.

APR – This is the interest rate plus your other fees on the mortgage. Fees such as closing costs, PMI and other misc. fees. Your APR will be higher than your interest rate and could vary from lender to lender. When you shop around after they tell you the interest rate ask what the APR will be. The variance comes from closing costs, PMI costs and other fees that vary based on lenders.

PMI – Short for private mortgage insurance. This is an insurance for the lender that if you default on the loan they have some insurance that they will get back the money they are lending. Unlike other insurance, like car insurance where you get and pay for insurance to protect your investment, you foot the bill for PMI Find out what you need to know about getting a home loan. Preparing you to have conversations with lenders so you get the best deal.instead of the bank because you would be the reason their investment went south.

Process

Apply - The first, and most obvious, thing you will do is apply for a mortgage. If you do this before you shop it is referred to getting pre-approved. This can be helpful because you will know what you can afford before you start shopping. It also makes your offer more enticing because the person selling the house has more assurance that you are going to be financed.

Gathering – Now it is time to gather documents, weird letters from employers and anything else the lender asks for. This process will vary per lender but a safe bet is you will need up to two months of paystubs, two years of tax returns and all bank statements. Just when you think you are done they will probably call and ask for one more thing.

Underwriting – Sometimes during pre-approval your file will go to an underwriter. The underwriter is the person that gives the final yes or no about your approval. they assess the risk and decide if it is a good one for the company. Typically this part of the process doesn’t happen until after you have put in an offer. I will cover it a little more in a post about putting in an offer.

Here is my disclaimer: I am not a financial planner or a lawyer, all situations are different, if you have questions you should talk a mortgage broker or your real estate agent to get the answer that is best for you. I am simply helping you go into those conversations armed with knowing your options.

If you have other questions about home loans leave them in the comments and I will get you an answer.