5 Things No One Told You About Owning a Home

5 Things No One Told You About Owning a Home

 

Owning a home comes with a lot of responsibilities. Some are fun, while others...not so much. If you want to go from being a window shopper to being a homeowner, it’s time you get the real story about owning real estate. 

Down Payment or Disneyland?

Life is all about choices. Have you ever budgeted to go to Disneyland? It’s sometimes called The Happiest Place on Earth, and I absolutely agree. But the costs of tickets, flights, food, and hotels add up quickly. You could be faced with choosing between saving for a trip to Disneyland or saving for a down payment to invest in your own home. 

This isn’t to say that choosing Disneyland is a bad option. My own family has chosen the trip multiple times. But in order to afford the home you want, may have to choose which you want more. 

And it’s not just Disney. Really, this has to do with being intentional with spending, and setting priorities for your money. It may not be the Land of Mouse that pulls you away from your savings goals. Perhaps it’s cutting back on eating out, retail therapy, or driving a less expensive car. Whatever it is, saving for that down payment is rarely easy, and can happen only through intentional choices with your money.

The Crawl Space and Attic are Scary

It is a rare breed of human—a hero, really—that doesn’t mind crawling in tight and dark spaces. These heroes are typically skilled plumbers, electricians, and inspectors, although I’ve met plenty of people in those trades who don’t enjoy shimmying into those dark access holes, either!

Hopefully, this expedition will be a rare occurrence for you. But if you’re going to own a home, you should gather your courage, secure a headlamp, and check out the dark areas of your property at least a couple of times each year. 

The main things you want to look out for are cracked or blocked air vents, and signs of moisture. If you have any cracks in your attic or crawl space vents, you’ll want to seal those up ASAP so critters don’t move in. If vents are blocked on the outside by debris, clear it. Find the source of any debris on the inside and address it. Often this is from a critter or perhaps a faulty dryer vent. 

If you have an older roof you’ll probably want to climb into the attic and make sure you don't have any moisture spots on your sheathing (the layer of material attached to the structural frame of the roof).

If you do see any of these things, get a pro out immediately to take a closer look. 

Choosing a Paint Color is Stressful

For real! Have you ever chosen paint colors? Turns out paint isn’t cheap! And getting that just-right color is a challenge. If your property needs some paint protection, I highly suggest buying sample-sized containers. Use them to paint 24 x 24 inch squares on each side of your house. This can also be done for interior walls by painting some swatches on different walls in the rooms you want to repaint. 

Lighting can make all the difference in how a color appears.  Let the sample patches sit for a few days, or even weeks, to see how you like them in various lighting conditions at different times of the day. Then you’ll be much more prepared to dive into the big paint purchase with the peace of mind that you won’t be repeating the painting process—and the expense—for a while. 

Curb Appeal Fades

Some of us love new construction: the on-trend designer color for the front door, the fresh and perfectly placed plantings in the front flower beds, and even the allure of brand new toilets are really important to some. 

(Funny enough, I have heard some version of “I need to know that no one else’s butts have been on the toilets” from various clients multiple times now. By the way, you can replace toilet seats pretty easily…). 

Others want to build their homes themselves to completely customize it for their wants and needs. 

Regardless of whether you're buying new or existing construction, keep in mind that those once-new items will eventually age, and curb appeal typically needs to be refreshed or replaced. What? You mean I’m telling you that owning a home takes work and upkeep?!

Yes. That is exactly what I want you to remember.

It isn’t all a big chore, though. To keep my front porch fresh, for instance, I opted to make a statement with some big black metal planters. About twice a year I replace the fading annuals or past-their-prime perennials with new plantings. This simple change refreshes the entire porch. Other simple ways to freshen up your curb appeal might be to add some seating & accent pillows. 

Everything Costs At Least $1,000

Have you ever heard anyone complain about the expense of owning a boat? One boat-owning friend told me that the word boat is actually not just a simple word— it’s an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand. 

The same seems to be true for owning a home.

“Everything costs $1,000!” is a joke my husband, Josh, and I have going. Since we opted for a fixer upper we have found out why real estate is classified as an investment! Okay, so maybe some projects are less than $1k, but you can bet that most projects will cost more than you anticipated and will take longer than you wanted. 

To help keep projects and spending on track and prioritized, Josh and I have a “Honey Do” list that we share electronically with each other. We use it to track our upcoming tasks and wish list items for the house. Every time we learn the cost of something we’re considering we update the list. This helps us to budget appropriately and makes the process way more fun. 

Even if we had purchased brand new or built custom, eventually we would have projects or updates to do. Understanding up front at the time of purchase that home ownership costs more than just the down payment, monthly mortgage, and property taxes is super important. 

A good rule of thumb is to annually budget 1%-4% of the purchase price of your home for routine maintenance. On top of that, you need to consider the costs of any extra projects to update or upgrade items on your wish list. And the older the home is when you purchase it, the higher the amount you need to budget to spend.

But Fear Not...

I certainly hope none of this scares you away from owning a home. One of my values it keeping it real. I want to help people fulfill their home ownership dreams, but I also want to make sure they’re as prepared as possible.

Are you ready to dive in a little more deeply into seeing how ready you are, or explore the next steps to home ownership after Step Zero: Daydream? Download my helpful guide 6 Steps To Becoming A Homeowner and let’s get you on the path to home ownership!

All the best,

FREE BUYER'S GUIDE

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Renovate or Move

A boy and his grandfather renovate a home

Renovate or Move

"Should we renovate or move?" It's a common question. This time of year can get us all thinking about if our current space fits our current needs. I’m going to guide you through some myths and best practices of the elusive “renovate or move” question, and help you nail down your next steps. 

Have you ever considered adding a room? Dreamed about changing your floor plan? Maybe think you have too much house for your season of life? No matter your current circumstances the real question you should be asking is: 

“Does this property fit my current needs?”

A renovation might fix the problem, but finding a property that already suits your needs could be more financially responsible. Truth be told, renovations can sometimes cost more (in money and sanity) than finding a new place that already has your Top 5 Needs and Wants.

On the other hand, you may want to stay exactly where you are with some updates for a variety of reasons. Your decision will affect more than just your pocketbook. It will affect your commute, relationships with neighbors, and school district selection, just to name a few, so take the time to think it through before you make a choice!

Common Myths

Renovation Myth: Sticking to the budget will keep the project cost effective.

Fact: The problems happen when you allocate $10 per square foot for tile, but fall in love with tile that's $25 per square. Oh, don’t think it can’t happen to you! Or you budget $10,000 for new kitchen appliances, but then Costco has the higher end appliances on sale, and you think, “Well, I can’t walk away from that deal, so I’ll stretch the budget just a little…”. Or your contractor opens up a wall to make a more open living space only to find the support beam is rotten, and the scope and expense of the project gets a whole lot bigger.

The fact is that a renovation that doesn’t have some unforeseen expenses and stays 100% under-budget is pretty much a unicorn. Set a budget, but plan to go over it by at least 10-15%. 

Selling Myth: I can list my house and just see what happens

Fact: Signing a listing agreement means that you have decided to sell your property. Properly marketing a listing costs anywhere from $200-$800, so being wishy-washy about your plan could cost money, plus hours of frustration and discouragement.

In the current real estate environment it is pretty much a given that a properly marketed property will get at least one reasonable, competitive offer. Once you accept an offer, it is a huge ordeal to back out if you change your mind. So unless you are certain you are ready to sign an acceptance and hand over the keys at escrow, don’t "just see what happens" to your property.

Best Practices

The choice to renovate or move is very personal. No one knows your needs better than you do, so ask yourself the hard questions.  Put pen to paper to clarify what really matters to you.

  • Write down your top 5 needs and wants of a property, in order of priority.
  • Create a detailed list of what would need to be done to make your existing place fit those top 5.
  • Speak with a professional real estate agent about your plans so you have an idea what the return on investment would be for each project. 
  • Get at least 3 bids per renovation project from licensed contractors.
  • Compare monetary and emotional expenses for selling versus renovating.

Now What?

Go back to the basics and ask yourself: “Does this house and property fit my current needs?” If the answer is no (you probably wouldn't have read this far if the answer was clear to you), then what are you doing about it? Will you renovate or move? I challenge you to honestly answer these questions, and fill out the Top 5 worksheet—because after all, you have to live here every day! And it should be servicing your needs.

Check this page out to learn more about what it takes to get your house sold.

All the best,

FREE SELLER'S CHECKLIST

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Love the Place You Live

My green-on-green house before we started updating it.

Love the Place You Live

My green-on-green house before we started updating it.

Do you love the place you live? I have learned to love my current house, one project at a time, but it wasn’t always this way. I've not shared my home ownership journey with many people, but lets just say it has not all been smooth sailing. My hope is that no matter what your current circumstances are that my story might help you learn to love the place you live, too.

Our First Home

Call me crazy, but I felt driven to own real estate instead of rent when I was in my early 20s. 

Sure, it could have been from the fact that I grew up in the back of a real estate school but honestly, I never really wanted to be an agent when I was growing up. I really just wanted to own real estate because I knew the financial benefits, and I am naturally a driven person. So when I was a 19-year-old newlywed, and found out we were expecting our first baby, things got real! 

We hunted for what felt like forever and finally settled on a great little condo in Milton, WA. We were officially homeowners!

Back to Renters

That 2-bedroom townhouse condo felt so right at the beginning. That is, until baby #2 and the 2008 recession surprised us. Our perfect 2-bedroom turned into a too-small, drowning investment. We moved into a slightly larger rental home. and rented out our condo for quite a while. We hoped that the market would turn and that we would be able to sell for at least what we owed.

But when the identical  property next to to ours sold for $180,000 less than we owed, we knew we were in too deep. We reluctantly let our condo go back to the bank. We were officially no longer homeowners...

As hard as it was to allow that to happen, the empowering truth settled into my heart during that difficult season of life was that IT’S NOT A SIN TO BE A RENTER! 

After a few years the internal chatter about owning v. renting finally silenced, and I was in a really peaceful place. We were in a perfect location for us. The rental house was big enough for our needs, but still small enough to clean quickly. The landlord handled the yard maintenance, and the rent was so reasonable we were able to start saving some money again.  

Buyer's Itch

Even with all of that chaos behind us, about two years into our lease Josh started to get the buyer’s itch, and started window shopping for a house. I, however, was not ready to go down that path again. I had seen and learned so much since our 2008 experiences, and I was content where we were.

For the first time in my life I was happy with where I was physically positioned in the world. I had learned to be okay with the uncertainty of renting. My two babies were growing by the day, and the Trace Adkins song “You're Gonna Miss This” was constantly playing in my head. I knew we were in a precious season of life, and I just did not want to do anything to upset it, including moving! 

One morning I got a text message from Josh with a picture of a green-on-green house down the street from our rental. Even though Josh couldn’t make it to the showing, he insisted that I go check it out with my mom.

I did NOT love this green-on-green house, nicknamed "Minty House," at first sight!

While we went through the house I gave him a call. I let him know that it needed a lot of work. Although it had four of our five needs and wants, I did not think this was the place for us. 

Let’s just say that I was less than thrilled, but according to Josh’s numbers he knew exactly what we were willing to pay. And because of my housing background I knew exactly what our family needed. We ended up buying the place, dubbed “Minty House,” and we have been working on it ever since. Some projects have been more enjoyable than others, but all in all I am learning how to love this place, too.

Minty house not so green anymore, with my children playing on the expanded front porch.
Minty house is no longer green!

Lessons Learned

Here are some of the limiting beliefs I’ve wrestled with over the years--and learned to turn into empowering truths--while both renting and settling into a house I didn’t think I wanted:

  • Limiting belief #1: I don't deserve to be successful.
  • Empowering truth: Success is in the eye of the beholder and I am grateful for the opportunities I have.

 

  • Limiting belief #2: I’m stuck in a rut and can’t get out.
  • Empowering truth: My current circumstances do not define me.

 

  • Limiting belief #3: I can't share my excitement because others will think I’m boastful.
  • Empowering truth: The people that care about me will rejoice alongside me.

 

  • Limiting belief #4: There are just not enough hours in the day.
  • Empowering truth: Being intentional with my time and resources will help me achieve my goals.

 

  • Limiting belief #5: We’ll never be in our dream home.
  • Empowering truth: There are areas of joy in our home, and I am going to replicate them.

 

Looking for some inspiration on where to start making your home uniquely yours? Learning to love the place I live, even with it’s imperfections, will be a lifelong journey for me, but I created this fun fill-in-the-blank to help us narrow down what brings us joy. I encourage you to give it a try!

All the best,

6 Common First Time Home Buyer Mistakes — Part 2

A grumpy baby looks as if he might have commited one of these six first time home buyer mistakes!

6 Common First Time Home Buyer Mistakes— Part 2

Welcome back! To refresh your memory, last week I started a two-part blog post addressing the first three of six common first time home buyer mistakes that I see way too often. Those first three mistakes were:

1. Not knowing your budget
2. Not researching down payment programs
3. Working with a lender or agent who want to upsell

Now, let’s dive right back in to finish out the list, and get you one step closer to making the best home buying decision possible.

4. Becoming emotionally invested too soon

Any experienced home buyer understands it, that feeling when you walk into a house and your spidey-senses start to tingle: this is THE ONE. You love nearly everything about it, and your imagination starts to run away. 

You see that spot in the backyard that’s perfect for a playset for your growing family. The dining room that can hold a huge table just asks for you to have visions of hosting years and years of Thanksgiving meals. The kitchen with the dual ovens you’ve always dreamed of having... 

You know at that moment that you are Home with a capital H, and you’ll go to any lengths to make it yours.

But not so fast. 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are a number of reasons that a specific property may end up not being right for you despite that love-at-first-sight feeling. There might be expensive structural issues not visible that are uncovered during the inspection process. There might be other buyers with deeper pockets. The house may excite your emotions but not actually have something that you previously stated was a priority for you, like an upstairs laundry room, or ample parking for your camper.

And if you put your heart before your head, you may end up making some poor decisions that are not to your benefit. 

A good real estate agent should help you manage those “but I want it!” emotions, but do your best to keep yourself in check, and you’ll thank yourself later.

5. Waiving the inspection

This first time home buyer mistake is often related to Mistake #4. Keep your feelings in check and pay for a thorough professional inspection to uncover any issues that you may not have seen at first glance. No matter how much you think you love a particular property, trust me, you do not want to be stuck with a bunch of unexpected structural issues and expenses!

You also may be tempted to waive the inspection if there are others competing with you for the property. Do not be tempted to forego the inspection just to get the sellers to move you to the top of the pile of offers. Even if the home looks to be in excellent condition with a cursory walk-through, it’s not worth the risk.

6. Messing with credit during the mortgage approval process

Oh, the heartache I’ve seen this cause. 

I’ll keep this short and simple.  From the moment you submit your mortgage application until you have signed all of your closing documents do not do any of the following:

  • Open a new credit card
  • Increase your credit card debt
  • Miss a payment due date
  • Take out a car loan
  • Co-sign a loan for someone else
  • Substantially decrease or pay off any debt without first talking to your lender (This seems counter-intuitive, I know, but credit usage plays a factor in your credit score, so check first. Always make your scheduled payments, of course.)

Basically, if something involves you borrowing money or will impact your credit score in any way, DO. NOT. DO. IT. If you do, your loan approval may be rescinded, and you may have to start the whole process over again from step one.

That’s it for now. I hope that highlighting these 6 first time home buyer mistakes helps you to steer clear of some serious potential pitfalls as you venture down your real estate journey. 

If you’re feeling hesitant about where to start on your first home buying journey, be sure to get your free Buyer’s Guide. It will help walk you through the process from beginning to end. 

Have you made any of these common mistakes? Or have you made mistakes that I should add to this list? I’d love to hear.

 

All the best,

FREE BUYER'S GUIDE

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6 Common First Time Home Buyer Mistakes — Part 1

 6 Common First Time Home Buyer Mistakes— Part 1

Starting out on your first time home buyer journey?

You have probably already learned that the process can be overwhelming, which can sometimes lead to analysis paralysis. But don’t fret.  I’ve got your back!

Perhaps you’re a novice real estate shopper. Or maybe you have an investor’s drive. If you're looking to make your real estate journey as simple as possible, you're in the right place. This week and next I’ll be covering six common first time home buyer mistakes, and addressing how to avoid them.

Let's dive into the first three:

1. Not knowing your budget

In my years of serving clients, I have seen it time and time again: someone calls asking to be shown a property, or asking for help in finding a house in my area. When I ask them what they have for a budget, I get either silence or stammers, followed by some version of “I’m not sure” or “I haven’t thought about it yet.”

Well, I’m here to tell you: no one else knows your budget better than you.

I’m not talking about what you think you can spend, or relying on some article or quick online calculator. I mean sit down and look at the nitty gritty numbers of your income, spending, and savings patterns. Talk with a lender or financial advisor about your long-term plans and how home ownership fits within them. Understand all of the expenses that come with owning and buying a home, and know that you can handle them when it is time to write the checks.

That truly is the best place to start.

2. Not researching down payment programs

Down payments used to be much more simple. Banks wanted 20% down, and when you had that you got approved for a mortgage, shopped for a home in your budget, signed on the dotted line, and got the keys to your new place.

Now there are so many down payment programs out there, and they all fit circumstances differently. Historically high home values mean that it’s actually pretty rare for someone to come to the table with 20% down. This is especially true for first time home buyers. Working with a trusted lender is so important because they can help you understand all of your options, and the pros and cons that come with each.

3. Working with a lender or agent who want to up sell

Years ago, McDonald’s started their “Super Size Me” marketing program. Every time they sold a combo meal, the cashier was to ask the customer if they wanted to Super Size their meal to a large fry and drink. Studies showed that when people were asked this question, more often than not they did upgrade to the larger, more expensive meal.

Who exactly did this up sell benefit, I ask you? The customer? Nope. (If you’re not sure about this answer, check out the documentary, "Super Size Me").

It only benefited, McDonald’s, of course. The customer didn’t ask for a large drink and fry, so they obviously didn’t step to the counter with that size of hunger in their belly. They purchased the bigger meal because they were presented with the option to purchase it. As a result they got more food than they needed and spent more money than they intended to spend.

Some real estate agents and lenders operate the same way.

You come to their figurative counter with a desire--and a budget--for a home that suits your needs. Then they start asking you if you want to Supersize it. They may take you to houses out of your budget or show you features you never knew you wanted, or encourage you to stretch your budget beyond what you know you can spend.  Before you know it you can’t tell your wants from your needs, and you spend more than you were planning.

Not sure what to look for in an agent to begin with? Check out my post, 5 Important questions for some good questions to ask yourself and your potential agents.

Remember, I have three more critical mistakes for you to avoid, so be sure to check out next week’s blog post for Part 2 of this post.

In the meantime, if you’ve been wondering what your next step should be, download your free Buyer’s Guide today!

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Forming Better Habits for a Better Me in 2020

My family poses for a picture when my oldest children were young--they (and my youngest) are my reasons for creating better habits for a better me.

Forming Better Habits for a Better Me in 2020

My family poses for a picture when my oldest children were young--they (and my youngest) are my reasons for creating better habits for a better me.Well, here we are again, nearing the end of yet another year--and another DECADE! Truth be told, I am not a big fan of this time of the year. It’s cold and grey here in the Pacific Northwest. The holidays can be so busy and exhausting. And now our culture tells me I am supposed to slow down and self reflect on my past and set resolutions for forming better habits in the year to come? 

Ugh. Just—ugh.

I don’t know about you, but that's only fun when there is no pressure. I mean I know I have had some good times and successes, but if I really did take the time to reflect, then I’d have to admit my failures, right? And who has time to talk about that stuff? 

Here’s the thing that has become clear to me recently: I can do better. Without going into too much detail (because it’s not all my story to tell), life has come at me in the last couple of years, and now I realize that I have unintentionally become reactive instead of proactive

What does that even mean, Carmen?

It means that instead of taking control of my time and energy--our two most precious individual resources--I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my days playing catch up, reacting to whatever is happening around me instead of being more intentional with what gets my attention.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m a Mama, Wife, and Daughter before I am anything else—and my family matters more to me than anything—so I’ve not hesitated to drop my own thing to help them with theirs. 

But along the way I have learned that I really do have to put on my own proverbial oxygen mask first if I’m going to continue to be of any help to those I truly do want to help, let alone reach my own dreams in life and business.

Like it or not, I need to set some hard-edged goals to create better habits in order to do better and be better for myself, my family, and my clients. 

So here goes nothing! I’m putting out my three New Year’s Resolutions for 2020 here, onto the eternal public internet, and asking each of you to help hold me accountable. Some of these I’ve already started working on over the last several months, but I want to renew my promise to care for myself with this new year. Will you join me?

1. Stick to a Sleep Schedule

Okay, I know this is nothing new to most of us, but there are only 24 hours in a day. On top of that limiting fact, I find that the more years that go by, the more sleep I need. This is really annoying to me, because sleeping cuts into my time to get stuff done! 

Since I can’t add more hours to my days, I‘m diligently working on implementing these two tasks:

5:30 a.m. WAKE UP

9:30 p.m. BEDTIME

Admittedly, rolling out of bed at 5:30 a.m. when I didn't go to sleep until midnight or later is a huge struggle, so I've had to learn to send myself to bed much earlier than I ever have before. But I am beginning to see how much more productive I can be with my limited time when I protect those eight hours and give my mind and body a rest.

2. Move My Body Everyday

There are days when I sit in my car, at a meeting, or at my desk working for hours on end. While my brain is running a million miles a minute, my body is sitting like a lump on a log. Sound familiar? 

All of this sitting leaves me feeling so sluggish. I used to do heavy workouts every single day, and honestly I loved it, but in this current season of life I just do not have the hours in the day to dedicate to that anymore. 

However, there is a lot of middle ground between heavy daily workouts and sitting like a slug. My goal is to move each day. Shifting my perspective on this is helping me see how to squeeze things in where I can.

I try to remember that the goal of moving my body is not to become a supermodel. It is a form of payment for all the amazing things my body does for me without request. And I am giving myself permission to accept that I don’t have to do anything too intense. Something as simple as squeezing in a brisk 15 minute walk while waiting for my kids to get out of practice, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Bonus if I can get in a kickboxing class at the studio up the road. The point is to get my blood flowing, muscles working, and ligaments stretched EVERY SINGLE DAY!

3. Cultivate Healthy Friendships 

If you’d asked 15-year-old me if I thought I’d still have to deal with bullies and mean girls in my 30s, I would have said I certainly hope not! But news flash: they still exist, and for a lot of people high school never really ends. Some people are just mean. Frenemies are a real thing, and man, can they tear us down if we’re not careful. 

People pleasing and modifying our actions to suit someone else's agenda is just not a good option. It can be hard to determine a frenemy from a true friend sometimes, so I’ve come up with two Secret 3 Strikes rules that have been game changers for me. 

  1. I will not call, text, or communicate with someone more than 3 times without reciprocation. I am not a needy person, but I also know that healthy relationships are not one-sided. If I reach out 3 times and someone doesn’t respond, then the ball is in their court. I won’t chase the ball for them. We can still be friends! But I refuse to be the only one working on the relationship.
  2. If someone gossips to me 3 or more times, I become very careful about what I say around that person, and even limit or cease interaction with them if needed or possible. You know that old saying “If they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you”? If someone gossips to you, you can guarantee they'll gossip about you, too. And I don’t have time for that drama and negativity in my life. There is a huge difference between venting about a situation and tearing someone else's character apart.

So there you have it, the three habits I want to cultivate even more in my life this year to become a better me.

What are your resolutions and goals for the new year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. 

And if you’re looking for some inspiration, check out my 3 Important questions to ask yourself.

 

All the best,

Spread Some Holiday Cheer in 5 Simple Ways

A little bit of holiday cheer spread by a small wide-eyed dog sitting on grey chair leaning against a festive red pillow

Spread Some Holiday Cheer in 5 Simple Ways

Small wide-eyed dog sitting on grey chair leaning against a festive red pillow
It’s the little things that matter most when spreading holiday cheer!

How is your December going? Are you feeling the joy? I sure hope so! If you are, I encourage you to spread the holiday cheer to others, because not everyone is feeling it right now. Here are some fun ways to pay it forward and brighten someone else’s day.

1. Play Ding-Dong Ditch with a purpose.

Did you ever play this game as a kid? I grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of other kids, and I think we played it every summer. Now that I’m a grown up I can see the downfalls to this obnoxious game, so I figure if the kids are going to do it anyway, let’s do it for a FUN reason! We like to make some chocolate covered pretzels, ring the doorbell of a friend or neighbor, and leave them these yummy treats behind. I’m not sure if this makes me an awesome mom, or a terrible one...

2. Share some hot chocolate.

We have had a nice big snow storm here the last few years, so going to the local hills for sledding is one of our top priorities. Last year there was a family that brought a bunch of thermoses to the snow park and shared hot chocolate with us. It was so thoughtful and generous. I don't normally encourage people to take sweets from strangers, but this would be one of those extenuating circumstances. It made our day even more memorable, and motivates me to find ways to do the same for others that cross my path during this hectic season.

3. Deliver coffee & snacks.

My first born nephew was born six weeks premature. He weighed 4 lbs and the smallest little peanut I had ever seen. Thanks to the amazing NICU nurses and doctors he pulled through, and he is now a strapping young teenager. Even though they had their own lives and holiday stresses, the NICU staff never stopped serving the families around them that needed some extra TLC. Over the years we have made it a point to drop off some extra special treats at the NICU for them on Christmas Eve, as a way to honor the ways they serve others even when it’s hard. Who in your world goes out of their way to help others, and might be deserving of a little TLC themselves? 

4. Hand Out Candy Canes.

This trick came from a young friend that had a very difficult lot in life. She told me that her favorite part of the holiday season was getting a candy cane—such a simple thing, that many of us take for granted. I just about cried my eyes out when she told me, but I could tell that she was genuinely grateful for that little gesture. And it’s so easy to do! Carry some candy canes, and hand them out randomly to people you see who may need just a touch of holiday cheer in their lives. Circumstances are hard for a lot of people, especially this time of year, but a moment of simple joy is contagious.

5. Spend Some Quality Time.

We all show and receive love in different ways. Two very important men in my life feel most loved by me when I carve out quality time with them for talking, laughing, and enjoying each other's company. Time is our most precious commodity. No matter how much money is in your bank account or what our job title is, we all get the same amount of time each day so we need to spend it wisely. Sharing it with those who matter is the best investment you can make with your time, am I right?!

I hope you found these fun little ideas inspiring, and that they spur you on to share some cheer.

Click the button below to download a free printable of this list to keep as a reminder!

All the best,

Want more holiday encouragement and ideas? Check out some recent posts below:

The Ultimate Christmas Checklist

A hand taking holding a cell phone up to take a picture of a christmas tree glowing with white lights, the person savoring the moment instead of adhering to a rigid Christmas checklist.

The Ultimate Christmas Checklist

We are T-minus 19 days until Christmas!

A hand taking holding a cell phone up to take a picture of a christmas tree glowing with white lights, the person savoring the moment instead of adhering to a rigid Christmas checklist.
Remember to take in the beauty of the season.

The holiday season is in full swing. Are you feeling the holiday joy? Or are you feeling bogged down by all of the tasks and to-do’s that come with this season, or with the sorrows and bittersweet memories of missed loved ones and years gone by? 

Well, I am here to help. 

Throw out your never ending lists of things to do, and take a deep breath: here is the only Christmas Checklist you actually need.

Poster Version Dec 6th 2019 Ultimate Christmas Checklist

Want to print this to display as a reminder to focus on what matters? Download it and share it, too!

In case you missed it, be sure to check out my recent post about finding holiday joy.

All the best,

5 Reminders to Find Joy in the Holidays

My son and Mrs. Claus at Disneyland feel the holiday joy!

5 Reminders to Find Joy in the Holiday Craziness

My son and Mrs. Claus at Disneyland feel the holiday joy!

Thanksgiving has just wrapped up, and I am looking at the calendar between now and the end of the year, and--wow.  There is so much going on! It’s hard to admit, but finding joy in the holidays can be hard.

Please note: this post may contain links or referrals.  I receive no compensation for these referrals. I simply enjoy the products/businesses, and I think you will, too.

All of end-of year tasks, celebrations and expectations can add so much pressure to our daily lives. 

On top of the general busyness, there is also all of the emotional juggling that comes with this season.  Complicated family relationships, missing loved ones we’ve lost, or learning to navigate how to be joyful when someone we care for is struggling...it can all seem like a lot, and it can start to suck away at our own joy.

So what do we do to ensure that this season of joy doesn’t become a season of stress, sadness, or tension?

Here are 5 things I try to remind myself about during the holiday season:

1. Every family member matters.

That includes you! What do YOU need this holiday season to stay sane and cheery? Speak up and share with your loved ones. They probably have the same goal of Joy for the holidays, but if you don’t communicate your needs, how will they know?

2. It’s about your presence, not the presents.

Gift giving is definitely one of my love languages, but I would never want someone to go into debt or stress about buying something. Time is our greatest commodity so being present for your loved ones is gift enough!

3. Communicate needs, expectations, and extend grace.

My husband, Josh, and I were raised very differently. When we first got married we saw just how differently we viewed Stuff, Money, and Time management. Over the years we have learned to communicate our needs and wants with each other, and we get more in sync every year. However, it has taken a LOT of grace on both our parts to find our middle ground. Extend grace to those around you this Holiday season. You’ll probably need to be given grace at some point so pay it forward friend.

My family’s holiday journey has evolved so much over the years, and just when we feel confident and grounded in our traditions, the ground shifts again and we need to readjust. Such is life.  Communication and Grace are how we move through these readjustment periods, holidays or not.

4. Leave White Space in your schedule.

Give yourself some space to breathe during this busy season. Learn how to decline events or activities. Schedule time for your priorities, so they actually happen. White Space--or time when nothing is scheduled--should absolutely be one of those priorities. Otherwise every second will be filled; that has proven to be very unhealthy for our family, so I now make it a point to block off times on our family calendar where we are “busy” being not busy. Make no apologies for doing this.

5. Serve a stranger or neighbor. 

This ties into the gift of time idea in #2. This time of year can be really hard for some people, so keep an eye out for a need, and fulfill it with no expectation of reciprocation. You may find more joy than you would expect.

Coming up with a game plan for our holidays has been instrumental in cultivating joy filled holidays for our family. As you work through the remainder of this season, remember that as long as people are involved there will always be punches to dodge, areas to be flexible, and soap boxes worth standing on. I think the key to keeping our joy is having the wisdom to know when to do what.

If you are looking for more resources on achieving a peaceful holiday season, I would highly suggest checking out Learn, Do, Becomes FREE Holiday Workshop. They have some amazing tools.

Please tell me I’m not alone! What are some steps you take during the holidays to cultivate joy?

All the best!

5 Biggest Mistakes When Selling Real Estate

Grumpy baby because they made mistakes when selling real estate

5 Biggest Mistakes When Selling Real Estate

Grumpy baby because they made mistakes when selling real estateSo, you are thinking about selling your house, and you want to know how to sell it quickly. Or is your home already on the market, but you’re not getting offers? I am here to help! This post will teach you about the 5 biggest mistakes when selling real estate, and how to avoid them so you can get those great offers to come in quickly.

But before you get to be a successful seller, you must think like a buyer.

Imagine your excitement when searching for a new home. You dream about a comfortable place to have your friends over for a birthday party, or you want to host the next family holiday event. You scroll through different properties online and decide to go see a few in person. 

Now ask yourself, “What differentiates these properties for me?” 

In other words, what helps a buyer filter through all of the properties they see online, and what compels them to see a listing in person? And even more importantly, why do they skip the listings they skip?

After decades of witnessing just about every listing faux pas, misstep, and bad marketing strategy out there, I’ve compiled this list of the 5 biggest mistakes when selling real estate. Read on to see what to avoid, and let’s get your property from one they browse online to one they are compelled to see in person!

Mistake #1: Waiting to market

In today’s social media world, there are plenty of ways to create intrigue before your house officially goes on the market. Make sure your property is marketed and targeted on social media platforms to the right audiences in a timely manner. Preliminary marketing and preparation are just as important as the actual marketing itself.  Don't know the difference? Ask your agent for their detailed marketing plan, including how they create momentum for your listing before it ever goes live in the MLS.

Mistake #2. Showing only by appointment

I gotta’ tell ya’ friend, the most common reasons a listing doesn't get shown is because there is a “by appointment only” requirement for the listing. 

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to want to show by appointment. However, if there are only a few hours each day the house is accessible to be shown, then the likelihood of the buyer viewing and making an offer on another home goes up dramatically. 

To ease the anxiety of showings, I’ve come up with a seller’s care package that cuts down on the anxiety.  There are other options besides showing by appointment and keeping a figurative open door for people to traipse through unannounced. So understand that if you require an appointment, there are some buyers that will never take them time to see your property in real life.

Mistake #3: Posting the wrong photos

A clear, beautiful picture truly is worth a thousand words. Clear, properly composed photos are critical to communicating a property’s value to prospective buyers.

And not only do you need great photos, but you need photos of the right areas! 

Places like kitchens, living rooms, and other areas of the property that stand out should be the only photos listed. You want to encourage them to come to see more, not give it all up at first glance. Strike the right balance with online images to encourage real showings of your listing.

Mistake #4: Ignoring curb appeal

Thanks to shows like Fixer Upper, the DIY craze has inspired and empowered an entire generation to take on home renovations instead of buying brand new. What this means to existing properties is that they no longer necessarily need to take a shot in the dark and guess what a buyer would want, like new floor coverings or kitchen counter tops, in order to receive offers. If a Buyer wants to remodel anyway, they likely won’t care if the house is turn-key.

But the one thing that people will notice right away and draw them to come inside to see more is the first impression. The curb appeal! 

Add some symmetry to the front porch with plants. Consider painting your door a bold, bright color. Clear out the dead shrubs, and maybe spread some grass seed. Remember: that first impression might be all you get when selling, so make it count!

Mistake #5. Not working with a professional

Everyone knows someone who sells real estate. The threshold for entry into the field in Washington State is very low. If you’re serious about selling your property for top dollar, work with someone who has a heart to serve, and the background to cover your ASSet. If you have a friend that is a real estate agent you are considering, check out my list of the 5 questions you should ask yourself before working with a friend or family member.

Here’s the deal: if you want to sell your property for top dollar, you need to speak with someone who can reduce your anxiety, help you take calculated risks, and bring you from just another property on the market to a property that will actually sell. 

Think you’re ready to make the jump and get your home listed to sell?

Get the 7 secrets to a stress free transaction here!

All the best!

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