Monday, April 25, 2011

Blank Canvas

Here are some pics from closing day:

I wanted to get these up before we start working on stuff. We have already taken down the moments/memories saying.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Officially homeowners

This weekend, we had a very smooth closing day. Like our wedding day, the special moment was marked by a cold, rainy day. Of course. But I think we are getting used to it at this point. :) So, now I can officially say that we are homeowners. And to mark this special occasion, I thought it might be an appropriate time to go through the steps we took to find our house. We started our process in January, right after New Years. I hope this list is helpful for all those of you who might be buying in the future.

1. Figure out what you can afford. Amortization schedules are a perfect resource for this or any mortgage calculator, both of which can be easily googled. Find a number for your monthly payments that isn't going to stress your budget too much. But keep in mind that even though you may find a number that you are happy with, the mortgage company may not agree, so my next suggestion is step 2.

2. Talk to a lender about how much they are willing to lend you. It is pretty easy to find a lender who can give you this information. You could even go talk to your bank. Keep in mind that this person does not have to be the person that you ultimately get a loan from. It was not for us. A good resource for finding a mortgage company is If you add your down payment amount and the amount the lender is willing to lend you, you will have your maximum number for the house you can afford. I would keep in mind that typically, the lender will approve you for more than you will probably feel comfortable with. If you are diligent about knowing your monthly expenses and monthly income, you will be able to adjust the range of prices that are in your range. A word of warning about mortgage companies - staying local, especially for your first home mortgage, is always a better idea. You need someone to be able to answer the phone or go see in person if things get dicey in your process. The same is not true for re-financing, where this doesn't matter as much. But I always like meeting who I am dealing with.

3. Now that you know your housing price range, you can go get a realtor. Now, if you live even close to any metropolitan area, you know that there are a lot of realtors, and knowing which one to pick can feel overwhelming. We used to find ours and it worked out really well. You can also ask friends for recommendations. We met with our realtor before we went out and saw any houses so we could explain what we were looking for and get a sense for whether our personalities would mesh. We wanted someone patient and that was what we got. We were really happy with our choice. We used Virginia Cheezum from Re/Max and she was really patient and helpful during the whole process. Having a good realtor makes a huge difference. I've heard this advice from friends so I will pass it along: don't sign a commitment to a realtor until you are sure you will work well together. We didn't have to sign anything until closing, whereby we were explaining that she was representing us.

4. Find your home. Your realtor will be helpful in showing houses that meet your needs. Make sure you make a list with exactly what you are looking for. This is helpful in evaluating houses that will work for you. Your realtor should be able to tell you if you have unrealistic expectations for your price range. Otherwise, make sure you are getting what you want. It is a lot of money. Somewhere along the process, make sure you solidify a choice for a lender. You will need a pre-qualification letter to make an offer.

5. Once you find your home, make the strongest offer you can to try to win your house. The biggest factors, especially with competition, are down payment, financial stability and contingencies. The sellers want to make sure you can get to closing, so having a strong down payment makes a big difference. A good down payment (>20%) also prevents you from having to pay mortgage insurance, which runs about $200/month.

6. Once you are under contract, make sure you have an open line of communication with your lender and realtor. Most things need to happen quickly so making sure you are able to be contacted is important. Things can come up with the inspection and appraisal. If you have been diligent about finding a good realtor, she/he will be helpful in making tough decisions.

7. Closing day is easy and fun. You sign many papers and get keys to your new house!

There is probably more to say on the subject, but that is all for now!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A recipe: Swedish Meatballs

Okay... so I know I just said this is mostly going to be about house stuff, but I wanted to share this recipe that I picked up from the Decatur Farmer's Market (when I lived in Atlanta) from a book called, Cooking for Two. I made this dish for the first time last night and we both really loved it so I thought I would share. I have really liked everything that I have made in the cookbook, and it is perfect as they have small portions -- perfect for two!

Swedish Meatballs

1/3 lb. gr. beef
1/3 lb. gr. veal (I substituted these two ingredients for a lb of the Wegman's mixed stuff and it worked great)
1 large egg
2 med. shallots (I substituted frozen chopped onions)
3 T. plain bread crumbs
2 T. of milk or heavy cream
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. ground nutmeg (I actually think I forgot this ingredient - oops)
1/2 t. pepper
1 T. flour (I would actually suggest a little more)
1/4 t. all spice
1/8 t. ground cloves
1 14-oz. can of beef stock
2 T. butter
2 T. sour cream (or eyeball it)

1. In a med. bowl, mix the two meats (if not already mixed). Mix in the egg, shallots, bread crumbs, milk, 1/2 t. of the salt, nutmeg and 1/4 t. of the pepper until just combined (make sure it doesn't get mushy). Form this mixture into about 20 balls and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the remaining salt and pepper, all spice, and cloves.

3. Bring the beef stock to a boil (concentrates the flavors) for about 5 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over med. heat. Add the meatballs and saute until browned (about 4 minutes). Sprinkle the flour mixture over the meatballs and shake the skillet to mix the flour with the fat in the pan (do not stir as this can break apart the meatballs). . Continue to cook for 1 minute while shaking the pan (yea I didn't really shake it quite that much) then pour in the stock over the meatballs. Shake the pan to combine the flour and stock. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, basting the meatballs often with the sauce. Stir in the sour cream, cover and remove the pan from the heat. Let stand 5 minutes before serving (yea - I didn't do that step, but it wasn't as thick as I would have liked).

I also served this over egg noodles, which was really good. I would suggest cooking the egg noodles during the simmering part.

Servings: 2 (But we had left overs)

First Post: New Home!

Welcome to my blog! I started this blog in hopes of cataloging my husband and I's life here in the DC area. We are currently super excited about moving into our new town home! We have both been living in apartments, together and separately since we graduated college in 2007. And now we get to move on to home ownership - we close on Friday! I am hoping to post pictures of design changes as we go about making it our home. But, in the meantime, here is a link to photos I took of it when we were doing our inspection. But this isn't our furniture. :)

And here is a link to my Pinterest board where I am posting design ideas for the house!

Can't wait until Friday! As soon as we have our home, we will be re-doing the upstairs floors and painting... so stay tuned. I plan on posting pictures of the house completely empty.