Selling Our Home During a Pandemic

Since buying a house was what prompted my blog in the first place, it seems only fitting that I take it full circle and tell the story about our experience selling our first home.

When I started this blog 7 years ago, my first post was centered around the process of buying of our first home together. Since buying a house was what prompted my blog in the first place, it seems only fitting that I take it full circle and tell the story about our experience selling our first home.

When we officially signed our contract to build a new house back in February (more info on that in a future post), we had no idea what was in store for us and the rest of the world in March.

March came in with a bang and the excitement of building a new home was quickly replaced with feelings of anxiety and fear from all of the headlines about COVID-19, death, and quarantine. March through May we worried about our timing, was this still the right time to sell our house and move into a new home? Would we lose our jobs? How could we possibly list and show our home while the world is closed for business and human contact is essentially cut off? I will say those first few months, we had no idea what was going to happen, but we continued to push onward with all of the preparations as if everything was still on track.

Prepping Our Home to List

Pre-pandemic, we had a list of contractors at the ready to help us check off all of the items in order to get our house ready to put on the market and we planned to list our home at the end of April. Fast forward to April and we realized it was not the time to list our home yet. We still had a lot to do to get the house ready and all of the contractors were closed for business. On top of that, the market was very slow and it seemed that people were hesitant to do the traditional showings due to fear of spreading the virus.

So, we did it ourselves…well, I should rephrase, Bryan did it all! From electrical work, to painting, to drywall, to power washing, to landscaping – and he freaking crushed it! At the time, we were both working full time jobs from home WITH the kids home from daycare which was closed. I still don’t know exactly how we did it all, and I may or may no have some sort of trauma from those few months, but we basically never slept and used anytime we could that was leftover from working and watching the kids to get the house ready to list.

Putting it on the Market

Fast forward to the end of May. Our awesome realtor, Drew, came to the house to ensure the house was ready. He helped us with last minute enhancements and repairs, took photos, wrote up our description of the home, and then BOOM the listing was live June 1.

To our surprise, there really couldn’t have been a better time to list. Because of the pandemic, there were limited houses on the market in our area and the interest rates were at a record low due to economic uncertainty. This creates the perfect market for sellers.

We listed our house on a Monday and by Wednesday afternoon we had 4 offers. I am so grateful the house went under contract so quickly because showing a home while all four of us (and the dog) were home 24/7 was near impossible. Trying to keep the house clean with a 2 and a 4 year old, lugging both kids and Rooney in the car every time we had a showing, and trying to pre-plan to go to a parents house to be able to be on Wi-Fi and work for the day was insanely stressful, and that is putting it mildly. Thank goodness it only lasted three days! We ended up going under contract and accepted an offer over asking price. I can’t stress this enough – if you are even thinking about selling, now is the time.

Moving Day

So a bit of a hiccup in our selling journey…we accepted an offer where the buyer wanted to settle a month sooner than our new build would be complete. What does this mean? Displacement. During a pandemic. BUT, we had a plan if this were to happen. My dad and step-mom SO graciously are allowing us to stay in their home in the interim and we are so so grateful.

Even though we have a place to stay, that doesn’t take away that we then had to plan (and pay) for a double move! We spent weeks packing as much as possible and about a week before the movers were scheduled to come they dropped off boxes and other packing materials and again we had those long sleepless nights.

I literally never want to move again after all that packing. My back, legs, everything was sore for weeks! This past Monday, the movers came and took most of our stuff to storage, Tuesday I spent the day making trips to bring remaining items to my dad’s garage, Wednesday Bryan got everything else, Thursday the cleaners came, and Thursday night we went to the house one last time to say our goodbyes.

The Final Goodbye and Settlement Day

I knew saying goodbye to our home would be hard. This was our first home. We were married in May and moved into the house in August. A few months later we brought our puppy, Rooney into our home. In 2016 we had Lucy, and two years later Conor. This house was where we became a family. These walls have seen it all, the highs and lows and everything in between. The memories we shared together in the house almost 7 years will forever stay in my heart and I thank the house for keeping us safe throughout the years.

As I mentioned, we went to the house one last time to say goodbye. The kids were having a hard time with the move. The first night at my dad’s they were unsure why we weren’t sleeping in our beds anymore and crying because they couldn’t understand why we couldn’t go “home”. Going to the house provided the closure we all needed. Seeing the house empty helped me realize that while it was a wonderful home to us over the years, the real magic was what was inside of those walls. It was us, our family, that made that house a home.

I wanted to create one last memory in the house before we left for good, so after the kids went screaming through the house checking out the emptiness and hearing their echoes bounce off the walls, I had them check the freezer. I had ice cream waiting and together we sat in the middle of the living room on the floor and said our goodbyes while having an ice cream party.

The next day was settlement day, and in true quarantine fashion, we sat outside the settlement lawyers office on a picnic bench, signing our papers in masks. I wish the new buyer a wonderful journey ahead as she gets to start her own story in the house. We handed over the keys, and off we went!

It is such a relief that the selling process is officially over. It was overwhelmingly stressful, but in the end we had limited hiccups and made a decent profit on the house. And now, all we have to focus on is the fun part, MOVING INTO OUR NEW HOME! I will be posting about that once we get into our new home. Currently we are looking at an August 11th settlement date, so stay tuned!

xo, Jen

little feet, little hands, little baby

To celebrate my blogs new appearance I wanted to look back at all of my different title taglines that the old original template lived through. These taglines changed throughout the past 3 years as our life has evolved and I love the story it tells.

After three years of blogging, I decided it was time for a blog facelift!

To celebrate my blogs new appearance I wanted to look back at all of my different title taglines that the old original template lived through. These taglines changed throughout the past 3 years as our life has evolved and I love the story it tells.

taglines_blog

The blog started with a post titled “Home is where one starts from” – a line from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. This was a fitting beginning to our story having just become husband and wife and going through the process of buying our first home. I can remember that time like it was yesterday, eagerly anticipating our life ahead with such excitement and wonder. The reason I can remember the feeling so well is because today I am still filled with the same excitement for what is to come. Our next chapter was bringing home our French Bulldog, Rooney, and realizing that our hearts grew in size as our new love for this silly boy filled them. “Puppy makes three” was a fitting tagline for our new chapter as our life as doggy parents began. I couldn’t imagine how dull our life could have been without our sweet bundle of Rooney in it. He makes us smile every single day and that totally makes up for all of the mischief he gets into!

That leads to the present tagline and the title of this post – “little feet, little hands, little baby”. This is a line from Dave Matthews Band’s song, So Much To Say. Bryan and I both have a strong love for Dave Matthews Band and the line just seemed to fit this next chapter perfectly when we welcomed our daughter, Lucy. Lucy’s entrance into our family has truly been the most amazing chapter of all. I cannot put into words the amount of love we have for her. To honor this current tagline, please find my photos below which reflect the line by showing Lucy’s “little feet, little hands”, our perfect “little baby”. 

 

20160516-IMG_1459

20160517-IMG_1735

20160517-IMG_1569

20160516-IMG_1515

20160516-IMG_1465

20160517-IMG_1642

20160516-IMG_1510

 

 

love & lots of whit – jen xo

6 Things I Learned about First Time Home Owning

Back when we first bought our house I wrote a similar post called 6 Things I Learned about First Time House Buying. Now that we are coming up on our year and a half mark in our humble abode, I didn’t want you all to think the learning stopped at buying – oh no, quite the contrary, we have learned even more tough lessons throughout our first year and a half of being first time homeowners. Don’t get me wrong, owning a house is rewarding and having your own space is priceless…but the little things along the way make me wish that I could just phone up a landlord and have them fix things for me, for free (lucky for me, I do have my dad for that)!

Back when we first bought our house I wrote a similar post called 6 Things I Learned about First Time House Buying. Now that we are coming up on our year and a half mark in our humble abode, I didn’t want you all to think the learning stopped at buying – oh no, quite the contrary, we have learned even more tough lessons throughout our first year and a half of being first time homeowners. Don’t get me wrong, owning a house is rewarding and having your own space is priceless…but the little things along the way make me wish that I could just phone up a landlord and have them fix things for me, for free (lucky for me, I do have my dad for that – thanks dad)!

1. There are certain seasonal things you must do. Picture this, your first few months in your house, the Christmas tree is lit, the stockings are hung…and it is the coldest winter EVER. In the winter of 2014, temperatures dropped to record lows and the average temperature was in the single digits. Ah, nice for us we were warm in our heated house (side note: gas bills that winter were astronomical). One cold night it was time to go get the trash can from our finished basement walk out…and what is this I feel? Why am I sloshing through the carpet? After much panic (half of our basement had flooded), a plumber found a hairline crack in one of the PVC water pipes in our wall. How can one TINY sliver of a crack do so much damage you ask? Well, it shouldn’t have cracked in the first place. It turns out we hadn’t turned the water off that goes to the outside water spigots. The pipes froze and the pressure cracked the pipe. After telling everyone about what happened we learned that it was common knowledge to turn off the water to the outside of the house as soon as the temperatures started reaching freezing levels. So as one new home owner to another, if you are clueless like us, PLEASE make sure you turn your water off to the outside every winter. In the end, insurance came through and last spring/summer we were able to repair the basement (laid tile, installed new carpet, and painted). We still have a long way to go with decorating that space (Bryan’s FIFA man-cave), but when we do I will be sure to post our transformation! Oh another thing on this topic – make sure you change your air filters every 3 months (this also helped that gas bill problem I mentioned earlier). We may or may not have just learned this lesson as my dad practically choked to death on black dust while discovering that we hadn’t changed ours since we moved in.

2. Lawn maintenance is no joke. Bryan and I have the opposite of green thumbs. I am always envious of the people with beautiful gardens and perfectly manicured lawns. Bryan cuts the grass and uses the weed-wacker but that is the extent of our lawn maintenance. If you were to look at our yard in its current state you would probably faint. The backyard weeds are coming through the cracks in our brick patio and the “bushes” that used to be pretty when we moved in are all dead and overgrown. We still have a turtle shaped plastic sandbox sitting in our yard from the previous owners. We have also just received a notice from the gas company that they can’t get to the meter because the bushes surrounding it are overgrown (how embarrassing). This spring, we have decided to focus a lot of our energy on fixing up our yard. Hopefully it is a somewhat enjoyable process – progress updates to come.

3. You can never keep too many spare light bulbs in the house. Every time a light bulb goes out, it seems the moment you replace it another one goes out somewhere else in the house. It’s a conspiracy I tell you!

4. PAINting is a PAIN. How do those people on HGTV look so darn happy as they paint all of the rooms in their house? In our house it’s a lot of near quitting, achy backs, and yelling when we accidentally paint the ceiling. However; the positive side of PAINting yourself rather than hiring an expensive painter is that it is an affordable way to transform a room. Through all the sweat and tears of actually PAINting, the end result far surpasses how you felt while doing it. We have also learned that it doesn’t have to be perfect, in the end only you will notice those imperfections. Each time we paint a room we swear up and down that we will be hiring a professional for the next time we paint, but so far this hasn’t happened.

5. Things you never think would break, do break. It’s pretty much never-ending repairs when owning a home. It’s honestly more humorous than anything. From the kitchen island detaching from itself, the guest bathroom shower rod falling to the ground during a guests shower, the ceiling fans/lights breaking for no reason, and much more – we have been forced to learn how to be handy. Just last week we came home to a buzzing sound on the main level. After investigating the entire house and googling all sorts of worst case scenarios, it turns out that the UPS delivery person must have pushed the doorbell a little too hard and when I went to the door to look at the doorbell I found it completely smashed in with broken plastic all around it. The buzz was coming from the chime box that is on the wall and the fact that the doorbell was pressed in so long before we figured out the problem was enough to blow out the transformer. There was also that time that we couldn’t figure out how to get all the smoke detectors (which are all linked together) to turn off so Rooney hid in the basement while Bryan ran around the house yanking them off the ceiling, un-wiring them all, and ripping the battery back-up out of them (which have since been repaired/replaced). See, humorous right?

6. Through all the mishaps, the good outweighs it all. Bryan and I have learned to take all of the challenges that happen with home owning as lightly as possible. There is no point of getting angry at the situation or blaming each other for things that go wrong. Every homeowner has similar stories and from them they too have learned lessons along the way. We are so fortunate to have our family behind us and they are always there for us whenever we need advice or repair assistance. As I said in my intro, owning a house and having your own private space is rewarding. Over the past year and a half in our first home, the memories we have made are ones I will cherish forever. This home is the beginning of our story as a married couple. This home and fenced in yard enabled us to get our puppy and turned us into a little family. We have an investment now, responsibilities that help shape us and mature us, and we look forward to bringing our future children into this home someday.

Until the next time we learn a lesson…

love & lots of whit – jen xo

Crossing the Threshold!

The past few days with settlement and the big move have been exciting, new, exhausting, eye-opening, busy and oh so worth it.

First and foremost – we are officially homeowners!

Our Home

The past few days with settlement and the big move have been exciting, new, exhausting, eye-opening, busy and oh so worth it.

On Thursday we had our settlement. At our settlement we signed what seemed like a zillion papers (Bryan forgot how to sign his name by the end of it and I had hand cramps) and we met the previous home-owner (who was absolutely amazing). After that we were handed the keys and they were mostly all Washington Redskins patterned house keys so Bryan instantly knew it was fate that we were meant for that house. After we finished our settlement of course we uploaded the standard keys-in-hand photo to facebook: keys Afterwards we headed to the old house to meet my dad to bring the first load of stuff over. Thursday night we unloaded what seemed like thousands of boxes and then we returned to our old house for the night.

“A custom in marriage: the husband carries his wife over the threshold of their new house or home. i.e. he lifts her up and carries her through the doorway into their new home.”
Crossing the Threshold

Friday I started to set up the kitchen and let me tell you, trying to figure out what dishes should go where, and what drawers should hold what was so tough. By the time Bryan was home from work I had organized the kitchen and the bathrooms. The cable guy then came and hooked up our TV/Internet so we were set.

Saturday was MOVING DAY. We loaded all of the furniture into the trailer and the guys made a few trips back and forth carrying all of the heavy pieces while I went back to the old house and packed all of my clothes (an equally hard task if you knew how many clothes I have). By about 5:30 all of the moving was done (phew) and then I cleaned up a little and then we had our first visitors – my Mom and Stepdad. My amazing mom brought us food – because if you opened our refrigerator at that point you would have found nothing. We then shared a bottle of champagne to celebrate. It was wonderful having our first house guests and we look forward to many more. Saturday night was the first night we spent in the house and that is when the realization hit that we were homeowners and this is where we would build our lives together!

love & lots of whit – jen xo

The Walk Through

Sneaking a quick post in today – ONE day until we settle and we are happy to report that there were NO SURPRISES!  Our HUD-1 final settlement statement came in at the amount we expected (actually a tiny bit UNDER which was an extra bonus).  After work we met up with our realtor and did our final walk through and there were no problems to be found – in fact it was even more perfect than I remembered it!  The biggest surprise to me was how big our walk in closet is – I literally forgot about the details of the house since we haven’t seen it in so long! We also found out that the previous owners are leaving us their lawnmower and trashcans which will save us some money that we otherwise would have had to spend immediately!  All-in-all a very good pre-homebuying day!

Seeing this also out front put a HUGE smile on our faces:Image

 

Almost Time to Sign on the Dotted Line!

It’s moving week!

As promised, this past weekend was spent packing! Luckily with my work, I have off every other Friday so the 3-day weekend was VERY helpful. Knowing we would be looking for a house within the year following our wedding – we decided that all of our AWESOME wedding gifts would just stay in their boxes. This was such a good idea in hindsight (though hard because I wanted to use all the new stuff) because packing things that are already in boxes is so much easier then wrapping them all up. Though we are just starting out with little to no furniture – we are going to have an amazing kitchen thanks to our wedding gifts so I think we will just live in there most of the time!

Other than packing – I also managed to restore a piece of furniture! It has been something I have wanted to start for a long time, and with my dad’s instruction while doing this piece, I think that I can tackle many more projects in the future. The piece I restored was an old medicine cabinet that came from my great grandma, Nonna’s house. It has been inside of my dad’s house for a long time and with time comes discoloration. Bryan and I sanded it down and then repainted it with a fresh coat of white paint and cannot wait to put it in our guest bathroom. I am so excited to continue to learn how to restore furniture.

So what is on the schedule for the rest of the week? Well, tomorrow we will be doing a final walk through of the house. I am so excited just to see the house again since it’s been a month since we saw it last. I will be taking some photos for my “before” pictures too while we are there because come Thursday there will be our moving stuff everywhere in boxes and it will no longer be a fresh empty house. Thursday is settlement day! We will be meeting with our attorney after work to sign the papers, hand over the checks, and get those keys in our hands! Once settlement is finished, we will head over to the house with my dad to unpack the first round of boxes and then Friday while Bryan is at work I will start unpacking! Then, the weekend will be used for all the heavy lifting – our furniture! It will be a tiring rest of the week, but all I can think about is how exciting that first night we stay at our new home will be for us!

Still, keep your fingers crossed for us that there are no surprises these next few days with the walk through and settlement!

love & lots of whit – jen xo

My Thoughts on Packing

Why is packing the worst thing ever?

When you have as much junk from the past as I do from never having to condense or prepare for a REAL move – it can take forever! I spent most of my weekend trying to de-clutter and sort through my stuff. Well, realistically, it was an hour of de-cluttering, an hour of complaining about de-cluttering, an hour of watching HGTV dreaming about having a house, and then back to de-cluttering again with the new motivation after watching the nice homes on HGTV. Vicious cycle.

The categories of piles were KEEP, SELL, DONATE, TRASH. I don’t know if it is just me or what – but somehow I get emotionally attached to EVERYTHING. Do I really need to save my history notes from high school, my very first video camera that only records to VHS, my Halloween costumes from the past 10 years? Luckily I was able to trash a LOT of it. I have bags of clothes to donate, and I have a stack of things to give to my dad for his next big yard sale. On the other hand, I have a collection of old cellphones (maybe I should consider opening my own vintage Verizon store?) that are still tentatively in the keep pile, and don’t even try to get me to be able to part with these stuffed animal’s Bryan has won for me over the years in the claw machines!

we love you, jennifer

For now they will just live in a box in our storage room until the next time I have to de-clutter!

As this week continues I will continue to de-clutter, clean, and pack. Luckily for Bryan, he has already moved many times so he doesn’t have anywhere near as much as I do. For now I will just keep telling myself that the less we have to move, the easier it will be on us. In the end it will all be worth it!

love & lots of whit – jen xo

What are some packrat items YOU have that you can’t bear to part with?

6 Things I Learned about First Time House Hunting

Here is a quick list of a few things I learned while we searched for our first home. Like I said previously, I was CLUELESS about house-hunting before we started. Thanks to our realtor, lender, and friends who have recently bought their first home – I now understand it better. This is just a short list of my advice to anyone else who will be looking for their first home soon. If I were to make a true list of everything I have learned along the way – it would literaly take hours to write out!

1. Be realistic in how much you are willing to spend a month on mortgage. Do not even walk into houses that you know are out of your budget. Try to stay as far from your absolute max as possible to ensure that you can still live comfortably.

2. If a nice house comes on the market – it is NOT going to last long. If you are serious about seeing the house go that same day in order to make sure you don’t lose the house before you even get to see it.

3. When making an offer on a house – be realistic. If it has been on the market a while, you may be able to give a lower offer. On the first house we bid asking price a few days after the house went on the market and we were still outbid.

4. Don’t be afraid of fixer uppers. Realstically, if this is your first home, you aren’t going to be able to afford that dream house you have in your head! As long as the house is in a decent neighborhood (and if the price is right) then it might be worth it to offer a lower bid and use the money you saved towards fixing the house. On the other hand – if the house seems like too big of a project (especially as your FIRST home) then it probably is. We visited many houses that would need work – but in the end the house we chose was move-in-ready, and honestly for us that is the best solution because we both have very busy schedules.

5. Location, Location, Location – when buying your first home, make sure you check out the neighborhood facts and crime levels. When you go to walk-through the house also observe your neighborhood to see if it seems like a good fit for you. If you notice trash in your neighbor’s yards, loud noises/music, yapping dogs, etc. – though you do not notice it now, it might become a problem when you move in.

6. The settlement process takes a long time. Like I said in my last post, we are still waiting to hear if we officially have the house. After talking to our lender yesterday, we found that we might not know officially until a few days prior to settlement. Though we are confident that we will get the house, it is still a bit frustrating not knowing OFFICIALLY if we should start packing our things!

love & lots of whit – jen xo

Do you have any advice for first time home-buyers?

Home is where one starts from.

Our story starts when my husband Bryan and I first met.

As the title of my first blog states – Home is where one starts from.  I believe that this is true, though I would like to add a bit more to it!

Our story starts when my husband Bryan and I first met.  The chapters started slow, but by the time we reunited and started to spend time with one another and start dating – the story started moving at lightning speed!  After only 8 months and 26 days of dating – Bryan proposed.  On May 11, 2013 we were married and our fairytale English Garden themed wedding was a day we will never forget. You can watch our wedding video below made by my talented friend Chris Roederer.
Our Wedding Day

After our wedding, we had the most amazing honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands.  It was the trip of a lifetime and we will always remember our honeymoon as true paradise.
Room with a View

Sunset in Paradise

And now is where HOME comes in.  After two months of being married – we decided to start the house-hunting process.  We initially didn’t intend on buying a house until about a year after we were married, but we quickly realized that interest rates were on the rise and in order to guarantee a lower rate – now was the time to act.  House-hunting was a whirlwind of mixed emotions.  As first time home buyers – it’s safe to say that I was literally CLUELESS about the whole process.  We quickly learned our budget and found it hard to find something decent in our area and in our price range.  Being in Maryland – the cost of living is pretty high.  Several times during the process we day-dreamed of moving south where our budget would buy us a much larger home – but with our jobs, family, and friends here, we knew we couldn’t leave our hometown.  After many home tours of the good, the bad, and the downright disgusting – we finally made our first bid on a house that was in our dream neighborhood.  Sadly, we were outbid but that is when we heard the best piece of advice – which at the time sounded cliché.  The advice was that everything happens for a reason, and if it is meant to be – it will happen.  We were very discouraged but only a week later a house popped up on our lists after a previous prospective buyers’ finances fell through.  We looked at this house that same night, and had won our contract on it by the next day.  Needless to say, we were SO excited.

That is where the present comes in.  It is almost as if we are at an intermission in our story.  The contract is ours, but now we are waiting on the final paperwork and loans to be approved.  Our tentative settlement date is August 22.  We are positive that this is what that advice meant; this house is larger and newer than the other we placed a bid on AND less expensive.  It is also the nicest house we have seen throughout the entire house-hunting process.

We are very hopeful & will keep the updates coming!

love & lots of whit – jen xo