Monday, September 30, 2013

House Hunting: We Find a Winner

After attending a few weekends of open houses, we learned that there was a certain process for selling homes in the DC area.  We were purchasing during the most popular time of the year (late spring) and while mortgage rates were still incredibly low, but set to increase any day.  It was the perfect storm for a hot, competitive market.

Therefore, the market worked something like this:

Thursday:  house goes on the market

Saturday/Sunday:  open house

Monday/Tuesday:  deadline for offers/offers presented to seller

Wednesday:  house is under contract and off the market

Basically, if you found a house you liked, you had to move fast.

Complicating things further is the fact that investors with all cash offers and no conditions were clamoring to buy the best properties, preventing those of us trying for a traditional sale from being competitive.

Thus, when we saw a house with promise, we knew we would need to put our offer together quickly.

We didn't expect to find a house we both loved in one of our first outings, but it worked out just like that.  It hit all the marks, it had a garage (and nice curb appeal):

It had plenty of original character and charm from the wainscoting and built in cabinetry:

And I loved the original varied width hard wood floors:

The backyard was beautiful and flat, which can be quite a luxury in this area.
Not pictured, but worth noting:  this house had five bedrooms, and four bathrooms, including a master en suite.  It was in one of our preferred neighborhoods and priced below our budget.
Basically, this house was everything we were hoping to find and then some.  After seeing only a handful of houses, we were ready to make an offer.

Next,  I'll discuss how we structured our offer and the outcome!
Do you live in an are with a competitive real estate market?

Charlie: Twelve Weeks

This was a big week for Charlie; he visited the vet for the first time and we learned he healthy and up to a hefty thirteen pounds!  Everyone at the vet's office thought he was the cutest thing, and we are not ones to disagree with the sentiments of the masses.

I mean, c'mon!

His likes:  cheese, the world's best motivator, running around the yard, giving us 'kisses'

His dislikes:  loud noises, going on walks, teething (I'm assuming because he chews on everything)

Learned this week:  the stay command (well, sort of), that one of this crates is not so bad after all

Love these ears! I've been wanting to get this picture for ages!

Looking forward to:  a play date next weekend, more leaves falling off the trees so he can eat them

Doesn't he look so big (and handsome) in this picture?!
Charlie decided the console in the middle of my car was a good place to take a nap

I managed to lock us out of the house one day, so we had to spend an extended period of time outside while we waited for Brian to come home from work and let us back in.  I used this opportunity to try to take a decent selfie of the two of us.  Needless to say, I failed quite spectacularly.

This was the best one.
Happy Monday from Charlie :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

House Hunting: Wants vs. Needs

I've dreamed about what my future home would look like and contain for years (secret passageway ftw), but it was always just a fantasy.  In the real world of DC real estate, my fantasy home translated into a lot of money.  As in, way more money than we had to spend.  Therefore, we had to prioritize and decide what were truly our wants and needs.

Although we did a ton of research online to know what we could reasonably expect to get within our budget, it was difficult to know what was truly important to us until we actually started seeing open houses for ourselves and realizing what was important.

After seeing a handful of houses, we tailored our needs to the bare essentials, which included:

1500+ square feet-If we were going to invest a large chunk of money into a home we wanted it to be a place we could grow into.  Coming from a <800 square foot apartment, we settled on this size as something bigger than what we were used to, yet still manageable.

Good neighborhood-even though we don't have kids we wanted to live in a family friendly neighborhood because we're old and tired of dealing with drunken college kids on a regular basis.  Along with this, we wanted to live somewhere safe and within one of our preferred neighborhoods.

Ceilings and stairways tall enough for Brian-my husband is six feet, four inches tall, which we learned was too tall for many of the houses we liked before we visited the house.  We knew this could  be an issue, especially since we were focused on older homes, but obviously there is no point in considering a home in which he wouldn't be able to stand in a large portion of the house, like the basement or converted attic space.

Avoiding this situation at all costs-via

....and that's it.  We didn't have the budget or the buyer friendly market to allow  us to be demanding and we knew it, so kept our needs to things we felt were truly needs.

Even though our expectations were reasonable, I was really hoping to also get a few of our wants from our home as well:

3+ bedrooms/2+ bathrooms with all bedrooms on the same level-I wanted 3 bedrooms and two baths not only for convenience, but also looking forward the resale value is much better.  I learned from open houses that I preferred the rooms to be on the same level.  My room growing up was in the basement and it just doesn't feel like part of the main house.

Good location-not to be confused with good neighborhood, location (as defined by Brian) includes proximity to metro, restaurants, and other shopping.  We vacillated on whether we wanted to be within walking distance to the metro, bit ultimately decided it was not a deal breaker.

Basement-as I mentioned previously, my room in our house growing up was in the basement, and although I didn't want a bedroom in this basement, I still wanted one in our home.  Growing up in the South, Brian never lived in a home with a basement, so this was not a requirement for him and hence, why it was not a need.

Walk in closet-do I need to explain this?  Who doesn't want ample space for clothes, shoes, and accessories in their home?

The Container Store-where dreams are made

En Suite master bathroom-I really, really wanted an en suite master bathroom.  It's just convenient and luxurious.

Garage-although we prefer to use public transportation when we can, I would love a place to park my beloved Beetle.  Unfortunately, garages are rare in this area, so I didn't want to rule a house out just because it didn't have one.

What are your deal breakers for a home?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Charlie: Eleven Weeks

This was our second full week with Charlie and while we are still not getting a full night's sleep, we are finally settling into a new, almost manageable routine as a family.   And, after a week of being somewhat reserved, Charlie is really starting to show us his fun and energetic personality.  He loves to run around and play and absolutely loves meeting new people, which is great because it seems like everyone in our new neighborhood stops and wants to talk to him! 

His likes:  eating worms, leaves, and sticks (gross), playing with tennis balls, kids, playing outside

Model pup

His dislikes: being apart from us for any amount of time, crate training, the blender

How Charlie feels about being in his crate

Learned this week: How the go down the stairs, the down command, how to jump off the couch (he's so mobile now!)

Helping Brian pulling some weeds
Looking forward to:  more leaves falling off the trees so he can eat them

The end!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

House Hunting: House Favorites

Before we actually went out to look at homes I had some grand ideas of want I wanted in our home.  That's not to say I expected our first house to actually have these things (I'm not one of those people on HGTV that don't understand you can paint over colors you dislike), but I do think having a clear idea of what you like is a good thing.  Of course, most of what I like comes straight from the Hollywood movies that I grew up watchingand loving.  These are just a few of my favorite homes from movies:

It's a Wonderful Life


Not only is It's a Wonderful Life my favorite movie, but it features my favorite movie house of all time.  I love that the Old Granvile house George and Mary move into is historic and has sentimental value.  I also love that even though the house is worn down, Mary does not fixate on its numerous issues (like a leaking roof), but sees the potential and ends up creating a beautiful home full of original wood features and charm galore.
Home Alone

If I had the 1.6 million this house sold for last March, I would have happily packed my bags and moved to the suburbs of Chicago.  This huge house is still my dream home.  I've always loved the look of brick homes and who wouldn't want to make that awesome attic into their own personal hideaway?  Assuming you're not left up their while your entire family goes on vacation, of course.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

The Griswold home just looks like the quintessential family home to me.  It could be the thousands of Chirstmas lights, but I remember wanting a house just like it for the holidays, it just seems so magical.


Lest you think that I only watched Christmas movies when I was younger, here is proof that I had other highbrow movie interests.  I pretty much thought everything in this movie was the epitome of high fashion (please note, I was in sixth grade when this movie came out), including Cher's Beverly Hills mansion.  The lavish entryway and pool were just two of my favorite features, after Cher's unbelievable closet and classic columns that dated all the way back to 1972.

What's your movie dream home?  Anyone want to watch Clueless with me this weekend and then quote it excessively?!  As if!

House Hunting: Narrowing the Search

Once we decided to buy, our biggest question became where we wanted to live.  DC alone has over 120 neighborhoods in its mere 68.3 square miles.  This is not even taking into consideration the over five thousand square miles of metropolitan area around the District.

So many neighborhoods-Wikipedia

Although we were familiar with the spots we didn't want to live (mainly those areas that have high crime that we avoid anyway), we didn't really know where we did want to live.

I was not aware until I moved to this area, but there is a huge debate among locals as to which DC border state, Virginia or Maryland, is better to live in.  There are impassioned arguments, complete with an array of statistics and accompanying policy discussions.

Luckily, as relative newcomers to the area, we have yet to adopt such an entrenched view on the subject and focused on the truly important aspects of such a monumental purchase--the commute.  Brian works downtown (as do I at the moment) and would rather spend the day at work rather than being stuck in  horrible traffic.

Finding a house with a reasonable commute left us searching Northwest DC and the surrounding suburbs in Virginia and Maryland, which is still a huge area.  To further narrow things down, we drove around some of the areas we were interested in and eliminated those that seemed a little too commercialized for our tastes.  

When one of the partners at Brian's firm offered to have us over so we could check out their neighborhood in the Chevy Chase area of DC, we jumped at the chance (I mean, you don't turn a partner down).  We immediately loved the area.  It was full of young, friendly families in houses from the fifties with original features that just oozed charm. We could see ourselves living there after visiting just once, that's how enamored we were.

We had found out neighborhood, now we just had to find our house!

What's your biggest priority when searching for an area to live?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Charlie: Ten Weeks

The way I feel about our puppy is how I imagine most people feel about their children.  I'm basically obsessed with him and I think he is the greatest thing that has happened in my life (after my husband, since I don't have to clean up his poop).

I've decided the best way to feed my obsession is to share it with all of you with regular updates.  I assume you won't mind too much, because this means more puppy pictures!

Nicknames:  Charlie, Charlie Boy, Bud, Buddy, Dummy (said in your best Dennis Duffy impression), Stinker

His loves:  belly rubs, chewing on anything and everything, sitting on the couch with us, and Pupperoni treats

His dislikes:  being left alone, the vacuum, when Brian sneezes really loudly, and his leash and collar

Learned this week:  how to go up stairs (going back down will take a little more work), the sit command, and his name!

Looking forward to:  Getting housebroken (more so is than him), meeting the other dogs in the neighborhood, and learning new commands.

Alright, I promise to get back to house search posts next!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Our New Addition

It has been a crazy week around our house.  Not only did I go back to work (it's just a contract job, but it's work), but we celebrated two years of marital bliss, and brought home this sweet guy:

Looking a little nervous on our ride home

Our little guy is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, or a Toller for short.  As the name implies, Tollers were bred to look like foxes that lure water fowl in for duck hunters (apparently this action is called tolling...clearly we didn't pick our pup for hunting).

Locked up in puppy jail and hating it

Due to their red coats, they are often mistaken for mini golden retrievers, but they are smaller, males topping out at about fifty pounds.  At just under ten weeks old, our pup only weighs about ten pounds currently.  

Tollers are known for being smart, energetic, and friendly, which were all things we were looking for in a family pet.  We're already working on commands and training, although this first week has been much more about getting used to a new environment and routine.

Practicing the sit command

He definitely has separation anxiety (although I might have it worse) and wants to be with us at all times.  He can be a handful, but we are already smitten with this little guy.  

Already tired of me taking his picture

We haven't committed to a name quite yet, but my suggestions of Waldo (so we could teach him to bark when we say 'Where's Waldo?'), Ferris (for Ferris Buehler, obviously), and Shane (come back Shane!) were all shot down.  If we adopted a girl, I wanted to call her Carmen Sandiego so I could sing the theme song and have her bark.  Obviously, Brian is not recognizing my brilliance at picking out dog names.

And that's been our week.  I hope to write more about our house search and pup as soon as he lets us get a decent nights sleep :)

Happy weekend!  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Friday Favorites: Cotton Anniversary Edition

Our second anniversary is next week and although we do not strictly adhere to the traditional gifts, I think it is fun to think of gifts that fit the custom.  The traditional gift for anniversary number two is cotton, which I found to be much more difficult than the paper tradition for the first anniversary.  These are a few of my favorite traditional second anniversary gift ideas.


Everyone wins with this gift!  Unfortunately, the scenic surroundings are not included.


Not only are Toms comfortable and fun, but purchasing a pair supports such a wonderful cause.  They come in so many fun patterns and colors now, there's sure to be a pair to suit everyone's style.  Plus, you could get matching pairs and start a slow descent into dressing alike.

A Trip to the South

There are no shortage of cotton related buildings in the south, including now defunct plantations and this Cotton Exchange in Savannah, Georgia.  I can personally vouch that Savannah is a lovely place to visit and I think it would make a splendid trip for a second anniversary.  Or, if the beach is more your scene, you could buy beach towels and head to your favorite locale.

Coton de Tulear Puppy

Mickey-Daily Puppy

As you know by now, I am kind of puppy crazy at the moment, so I just had to include these little guys.  Aptly nicknamed the Cotton Dog, these little fluffy pups are just too cute for words and would make such a great addition to any family.

Fancy Sheets

While sheets are a practical gift, that doesn't mean they have to be boring.  Nothing feels better than falling asleep between a luxurious set of sheets, but most of us only get to experience them in hotels because we don't want to shell out the cash to invest in nice sheets (guilty).  I think an anniversary is a great time to splurge a little on something both spouses will thoroughly enjoy.

Do you follow the traditional gift giving guide for anniversaries?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

House Hunting: Deciding to Buy

I have always loved perusing real estate listings.  Every Friday, we would get a pull out section in our local paper of real estate for sale that I would study to find my dream home (spoiler alert-it was usually the biggest and/or most expensive).

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that I started looking at houses as soon as I moved to the DC area almost two years ago.  I saved some money living with my dad the year before our wedding and thought we might be able to find something with a mortgage payment for than less than what we were paying in rent.  I also really, really hated our apartment and couldn't wait to get into our own space. 

I quickly learned that houses out here cost a small fortune, particularly when considering my Midwestern mentality of what homes should contain.  It became clear that we were not ready and able to purchase a house, but I am very grateful for my early research.  It taught me to manage my expectations and understand the market in this area better.

As time went on I continued to browse listings, showing the particularly interesting ones to Brian (I found one two houses down from Dunkin' Donuts!), but with no real idea of when we would be buying.

At the beginning of this year, we decided we wanted to make buying a home a priority.  We saved enough for a decent down payment and we wanted to take advantage of the wonderful interest rates before they inevitably increase.  Plus, the lease on our apartment was set to expire in July, and we did not want to commit to another year of renting.

Armed with this knowledge, we got serious about researching neighborhoods and homes.  Up next, I'll discuss our somewhat unconventional home search.

How did you know it was time to buy?
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