How to Adult: Home Buying Basics

Know nothing about buying a home? Me neither. And I’ve done it. Let’s learn the basics together!

Adobe Spark (10)Facebook kindly reminded me that Jake and I put the offer on our condo in a little over a year ago and I was a pretty blown away. Most days, I don’t feel old enough to not live with my parents, much less to be playing house in a place that I own with my best friend who I married. What is this life?

I moved into our tiny little condo in a super cool part of Austin in November of 2016 before Jake and I were married the following January. This place is our first home and our first giant leap into adulthood. We’re still learning a lot about taking care of it and what it means to be good stewards of a physical home and at the same time, we’re already looking ahead to home #2.

As much as we love our tiny city bungalow, Jake has a dream to follow that includes owning lots of different kinds of properties throughout the Austin area. It’s a pretty brilliant dream and if we can scramble the money to get it started, I think it’ll really work out.

He’s been reading books and listening to podcasts and learning as much as he can about real estate and even though I can say I’ve bought a home now, I’m still not entirely sure how that happened. All I know is that I basically signed my life away and they handed me keys.

For those who, like me, aren’t sure what the home buying process looks like, I’ve had Jake re-explain it to me. I feel like it’s something we should know as adult-type people so let’s learn together, shall we?*

*For the sake of clarity, this is a very easy purchase I’m describing. Things can get pretty fuzzy with negotiations so let’s just assume your first offer is accepted to make this easier on everyone.

Step 1: Have money

A standard down payment (the money you have to pay immediately upon purchase) is about 10% of the total price plus closing costs (fees for inspections and the company that manages the title transfer). For second homes and on, the down payment is typically 20%. So know what you’re price range is and start saving. Don’t know what your price range is? See Step 2!

Pro Tip from Jake: If you’re willing to manage some risk with a fixer upper, check out a 203K loan. These can lower your down payment to 4% and include the cost of renovation within your mortgage, which is usually something you cannot do.

Step 2: Get more money (Get Pre-Qualified/Pre-Approved)

This is the part where lenders (banks) and mortgage companies look at all the things in your life and tell you what you can afford and what they’re willing to loan you. When I say they look at all the things, I mean all the things. Pull out your W-2s from the last few years along with tax documents and anything you find important because they’ll probably want to see that too.

Pro Tip from Jake: You can start doing this now. Your lender’s list might not match this list exactly, but it helps to know what you’ll need ahead of time.

Step 3: Choose an agent and shop around

Having an agent isn’t technically necessary but it’s definitely helpful. Real Estate agents know the market and they can help you get into the homes you want to see. They’re also super handy to have around if you’re not sure what to offer or if you’re not sure what’s going on with price or contract negotiations. They’re your advocate throughout the buying process so find someone with a good reputation in your area and find your new home!

Step 4: Make an offer

Once you’ve found your dream home, you’ll want to make an offer. If you have an agent, they’ll probably have a good estimate in mind for what you should offer based on all the information they have stored in their noggins about the market, location/size/state of your desired property. They’ll draft a contract with the offer price and any terms that will need to be met for the transaction to be successful and legal (see where things get fuzzy?). Make sure your offer has an option period with enough time for you to schedule an inspector.

Step 5: Secure your mortgage

Once your offer has been approved, you’ll need to fill your lender in on the deets and secure your interest rate. Interest rates can be fixed (meaning you’ll pay the same amount of interest consistently the whole time you pay your mortgage) or adjustable (meaning the interest rate changes over time based on whatever’s happening with the housing market). Generally, you want a fixed interest rate that’s as low as possible.

Step 6: Inspections

As a buyer, you’ll call out someone to inspect the property to make sure there’s no crazy damage you weren’t aware of and generally give you a better idea about what you’re buying. If your inspector suggests upgrades need to be made or lets you know that there’s water damage in the ceiling, this can throw off the contract you’ve negotiated with the seller which takes time to get adjusted in a way that makes all parties happy. During this time, buyers and sellers still have the option to back out of the deal.

Pro Tip from Jake: Make sure you write down everything your inspector says. You’ll likely have things they suggest to get fixed or upgraded. And then maybe not put it off forever like we have.

Step 7: Close

Get ready for your hand to fall off because here’s where you sign your life away. But once you do, and once you hand over that nice big fat down payment check and closing fees, they hand you keys and the whole thing is over. You bought a home!

That’s not too bad to understand, right? Maybe I’ll have it down better for property #2. Have you bought a home? What was most confusing to you about the process? Most fun?

When Shelves Ruin the Day

When shelves strike…

When Shelves Ruin the DayJake and I have been married for almost a year now and most days we shake our heads and wonder why people kept (and continue to keep) telling us that marriage is hard. Almost the second we got engaged that was the warning friends and family would leave us with, which, when you think about it, is pretty depressing.

I appreciate the warnings and I fully believe that marriage will only get harder with kids and life changes and all sorts of things we’ve yet to encounter but, for the moment at least, life has been good…except when we hang shelves in our condo.

We’ve done a lot of small, DIY home improvement projects to our tiny little home in the year that we’ve had it and every single one of them has turned out perfectly. Except, recently we bought some shelves to hang over the bed.

Because our bedroom is so small and our bed so large, the most functional place to put the bed is in the corner, and Jake has been sleeping against the wall with no bedside table since he moved in after our wedding in January. And because he codes late into the night, he had no safe place to leave his laptop when he eventually wanted to sleep. So for months, I was sleeping next to a man who unconsciously tries to claim the whole bed for himself…and his laptop.

Fed up, we went to Target to invest in some shelving to resolve the situation. Now, in my brain, we’re not only getting shelves that Jake can safely store his laptop on at night, but that I can display photos and store some of the books that have been piling up on my side of the bed. We could center these shelves above the bed and have both a beautiful and efficient storage solution.

Now, Target is great but they don’t typically sell just one long shelf to center above the bed. But they do have very nice shorter shelves that are the perfect finish to match the rest of our bedroom set. So, in my brain, I’m thinking we get one shorter and one longer and center them above the bed. The shorter shelf can hold my books and the longer one can be Jake’s bedside shelf for his computer and whatever else he needs to store.

My sweet, loving, kind husband, however, had a very different idea to put up the shelves in an L shape in the corner over his side of the bed. Much to my dismay, he proceeded to hang the shelves as he saw in his brain without really talking through my idea first. This put me in a bad mood most of the day which obviously put him in a bad mood, too, and ruined what could have been a lovely day.

Marriage isn’t hard until it is. Until you realize that you’re this person who has their own brain living with another person who has an entirely different brain and the two brains don’t have some kind of Google technology telling them everything that’s happening with the other one. (That would be cool, though. Get on that, Google.)

I know marriage will get harder than putting up shelves because so much of life is harder than putting up shelves. But I also know that God used that experience to teach Jake and I about expectations, communication, and not being selfish and expecting to get our way.
So maybe marriage is harder than I think it is because the little things like putting up shelves are shaping our character, making us more like Christ in small doses, rather than sanctifying us in one fail swoop. Hard or easy, baby steps or one big leap, I’m grateful to be married to Jake.

Just got to remember that we’re not Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Will My Wardrobe Ever Be Capsule-Sized?

I love, love, love capsule wardrobes…So why is this so difficult?

Adobe Spark (9)As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I’m one of those people who doesn’t like wasting money on clothes I won’t wear. Don’t get me wrong, I love shopping and Jake will let you know that most of my spending money and our combined clothing budget gets spent if I enter the mall (or Target or Stitch Fix) without proper supervision.

But one trend I’ve really gotten on board with recently is the idea of a capsule wardrobe.

For those for whom this term is new (have you been living with the mole people?), a capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothing items that don’t go out of fashion and can be augmented with seasonal pieces throughout the year.

Basically, the idea is that you always only wear clothes that you love. The items you wear should be higher in quality, fewer in number, and able to be worn with any other piece you own. Ideally, these pieces would be basic fashion staples that stand the test of time.

Capsule wardrobes have basically taken over my Pinterest as I’ve taken the minimalist plunge. I followed the advice of other like-minded closet purgers and donated over half of my wardrobe in March and have since begun the process of narrowing down the number of pieces I own.

However, the process of refining your wardrobe to a limited number of basic fashion staples is not what it may seem. Currently, the clothes in my closet are only the best of the best. They’re all items that are comfortable and that I wear often. Most of them are nicer quality but also there’s a lot of V-neck tops from Target because that’s usually my go-to shirt.

And this is where I’m conflicted. I’m perfectly happy in my clothes from Target. But I love the idea of buying nicer things that will last longer. Do I want a smaller wardrobe because that’s what Pinterest is telling me to do? Or am I ok with having 10 of one item in various colors because that’s kind of my thing?

I’ve been at this for 6 months and am currently feeling stuck and directionless. Anyone else make a brave attempt at a capsule wardrobe? If so, did you feel as conflicted as I am? Anyone have advice for me?

The Lies of Happiness

Ever wonder why you’re always wanting more?

The Lies of HappinessI’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lies of happiness. I know that’s sounds like such a downer but I’m not depressed or unhappy in any way. Let me explain…

I think society/the world/media/culture tells us that happiness is the ultimate goal. Humans spend their lives striving after it, pursuing some ideal dream, some vague thing that dances just outside of their grasp, only to find out that they can never fill that hole in our heart or satiate that longing.

Some people try medicating with money or power or education or material possessions. Some take the path of humility, striving to serve and give and “be good” in hopes that the elusive happy life they’re seeking will naturally come as a reward. The romantics around us would say that happiness can only be found through love, and so we raise that emotion to the highest pedestal possible and dream about our “happily ever afters.” But here’s the kicker: none of these paths lead to happiness, though the world would not have you believe that.

Many of them lead to comfort which we sometimes confuse with happiness. “I’m in a good, comfortable place in a new relationship so I must be happy.” “I have a brand new tv to play this brand new video game on and it’s going to be awesome!” But how long does comfort really last in these situations? What happens when you’re comfortable in a relationship but you realize you don’t actually like each other all that much? Or what happens when the next version of that tv/video game comes out (because let’s be real, they’re just going to keep remaking things over and over again)? We’re no longer “happy.”

And here’s the thing, most of us do experience moments of intense, pure, true happiness, and when we do, we notice. We get married or have a kid or reach a goal, and we think, “I’m going to hold on to this moment forever” because we recognize the moment for what it is and we know how fleeting real happiness is.

So if we know this truth, that happiness is a fleeting, momentary thing that cannot be bought or bribed or earned, why is it the singular goal of so many of our lives?

And then, most humans hide behind a mask of “happiness” because we see everyone else trying to be happy and we think that this is normal. That if we’re not happy, there’s something wrong with us because we should be happy because everyone else is happy. So we lie to each other instead of being real. We lie to ourselves because we don’t want to believe the truth. We fake how we’re really doing instead of admitting that we might be striving after something impossible. No wonder there’s so much anxiety and depression around us, right?

In a lot of ways, real, true happiness in this world has become more of a lie and a myth than a reality. But if it can’t be found through love or possessions or charity or education or money or the things on this planet, what do we do? Because that’s a miserable and terrifying thought.

Well, first I think we can accept that the things society is shoving down our throats to “fulfill” us are lies. I think we can recognize what we’ve been seeking to complete us isn’t working.

If that’s you right now, if you’re able to acknowledge that truth, my next challenge for you is to google “what the Bible says about joy” with an open mind and open heart.

I know. I just hit you with the Bible. But here’s the thing: God created humanity and we ALL have that same insatiable urge for something greater, the urge that the world tells us is for happiness. But why would a good God create people with this longing desire without the means to fulfill it? He wouldn’t. Or He wouldn’t be good.

But what if I told you that not only did God design a way for humans to experience real happiness, He wanted something more for us than fleeting, momentary emotion we feel from the things of this world? What if He wanted us to experience JOY that never ends? What about lasting contentment and peace and hope?

Good news! That’s exactly what God did and what He wants for us! He designed us with this absolutely infuriating conundrum so that we would seek relationship with Him. All God wants is for us to stop trying (and failing) to do things ourselves and let Him lead us to the life He intended us to have, a life filled with never ending joy instead of fleeting happiness.

Disclaimer: joy and peace and contentment and hope cannot be found in a book, church, or religion. They can only be found in God. So if you’re even the least bit curious, I challenge you to read about how there will come a time when “no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22), how Jesus delighted in dying to save you (yes, YOU) (Hebrews 12:2) or how we can truly enjoy this life we’re given because God is in control (Ecclesiastes 9:7). God wants so much more for your life but you can only truly discover that by getting to know Him.

There’s so much joy and hope to be had in this life. Don’t chase after what you know down deep is fleeting. Don’t give in to the lies of happiness.

Talking Donkeys and Angels With Swords: A Thought on Responding to God

When God’s trying to get your attention, how do you typically respond?

Adobe Spark (8)So, for those who don’t know, I started working with the ninth grade girls in our church’s high school youth group this year and let me tell you, it’s been super awkward, rewarding, and sanctifying all at once! I have so many stories to tell but for now, I’ll stick to something God has really stuck on my heart lately.

Our sermon series this semester is called “When Pigs Fly” and goes over all the crazy, weird, and generally awesome stories in the Bible that might be hard to believe or understand. Recently, we went over the story of Balaam and the talking donkey found in Numbers 22. Please do actually read it because it’s a mind blowing story.

While most people are focused on the TALKING DONKEY (who wouldn’t be, right?), one of the other youth leaders pointed out how unusual Balaam’s response to God is once he finally understands what’s going on. In verse 34, Balaam responds to the angel of the Lord saying,

“I have sinned, for I did not know that you stood in the road against me. Now therefore, if it is evil in your sight, I will turn back.”

When you look at other instances in the Bible where people were visited by angels or otherwise encountered the presence of God, their reaction is to fall to their knees, tear their clothing, fall on their face, weep, or express usually very physical outward demonstrations of their remorse over their sin in the face of the Holy God.

But how does Balaam respond?

“Oops, sorry, I screwed up but I didn’t know you were trying to get my attention. I’ll do whatever you want, Bro.”

Or something like that.

Yes, Balaam is a pagan man, a Soothsayer who believed in many gods and not the One True God of Israel. We do need to keep that in mind. But how often as believers do our responses to God resemble Balaam’s?

I’ve been a follower of Jesus since I was 7 years old, basically since I could remember. I can tell you that God has not failed to get my attention when my intentions have been selfish like Balaam’s and I am grateful that He is faithful to intervene when I stray. But how often do I respond to God with excuses instead of genuine remorse? How often is my heart still focused on doing things my way for earthly reward instead of focused on God and His glory?

Too often, I’m sure.

But how awesome is it that we have a God who loves us and forgives us anyways? Who shows unbelievable grace to the undeserving and incredible mercy to the broken?

Our God cares enough to know our hearts and intentions and He cares enough to show us ways in which our hearts still follow our own path instead of His. God cares so much about your heart that He will do whatever it takes to get your attention. Even if that means making a donkey talk. 

So does He have it?

Fall 2017 Reading List

My fall 2017 reading list is here! What are you reading next?

Adobe Spark (7)I don’t know about you, but I’m a big believer in books. I can’t tell you how many hours days of my life have been spent with my nose deep in some amazing-smelling paperback. I love being drawn into new and exciting worlds led by characters that grow and change and transform the story. Here are just a few of the books I’m planning to read this fall. Want to join along?

The Woman in Cabin 10 (Ruth Ware) ♦

Lo Blacklock is a journalist for a travel magazine who scores the assignment of a lifetime – a week aboard the maiden voyage of a luxury cruise ship with only a handful of cabins. When Lo becomes the sole witness of a girl being thrown overboard, the ship continues as if nothing has happened because all passengers are technically accounted for. While she is sure something has gone terribly wrong, Lo keeps readers on their toes as they (and the other characters) question her credibility and above all ask “who done it?”

Pretty Girls (Karin Slaughter) ♦

When Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister vanished into thin air over twenty years ago, their lives went two very different and very separate directions but neither has recovered from the trauma of their shared loss. When Claire’s husband is killed, the sisters find commonalities between his death and their sister’s disappearance that lead them on a twisty journey to find truth, redemption, and revenge.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling) ♦

The HP series is my go-to fall read but for the sake of reading new material instead of books I’ve read 1,000 times, I’ll just stick to Chamber of Secrets which I connect the most to Halloween.

“The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.”

(If you need a plot description of this book, I’m sorry, we just can’t be friends.)

The Nightingale (Kristin Hannah) ♦

Set in WWII era, German-occupied France, two sisters are leading separate lives striving for survival, love, and freedom, and demonstrating the resilience and durability of women above all else.

May I Have Your Attention Please? (James Corden)

James Corden’s memoir has been on my reading list for a while now. He just absolutely cracks me up and I’m super interested to hear how he became the man he is today.

Sacred Marriage (Gary Thomas)

Sacred Marriage delves into the differences between having a happy marriage and having a holy marriage and how God designed this sacred covenant to train us to love Him and others better. My life group at church will be going through this book together and I can’t wait to see all that God will teach me and Jake!

Turtles All the Way Down (John Green) ♦

This is John Green’s first novel since The Fault in Our Stars and I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t even research what it’s about. At this point, I’m such a huge John Green fan, I would read his grocery lists. And so should you. (Read any of his novels, I mean…)

Thoughts? What are you reading? Have you read any of these yet? Do you have a favorite book? Let’s chat in the comments!


*This post has been edited to include ♦ which signifies that I have finished reading this book. If you would like to talk about a book that I finished, I’d love to hear your thoughts!