Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why Now Is Still a Great Time To Buy: Tips for a Home Buyer

"It's a seller's market out there!" I hear that phrase quite often in day to day conversations when discussing what I do for a living. Lower inventory of homes in the North Texas area have certainly made for an interesting market, there is still hope for a buyer yet. Now is a great time to buy a home in North Texas and here are a few reasons why...
1. Less stringent loan approval requirements are encouraging lending.
Down payment requirements, as well as credit score requirements, are beginning to loosen, to encourage more people to buy homes. Interest rates are still low. I still continue to hear people say they will have to put 20% down to qualify for a mortgage. This is simply not the case. If you are curious whether you would qualify for a mortgage, there are some great lenders out there who would love to work with you. Concerned about some dings in your credit? There are also professionals out there who only work to get your credit score ready for a mortgage. Working with a Realtor who is patient and able to refer you to professionals in the lending industry is invaluable.
2. Don't let multiple offers scare you.
We are certainly in a situation where houses are going quickly and multiple offers on homes are being seen a lot as well. This doesn't not mean you won't get a home or that you should pay more for a house than it is worth or that you are comfortable with. Working with a Realtor with experience in this type of market is very important. A good Realtor won't let you see a house you might fall in love with if there are already offers on it. They also will be able to explain to you the comps for the neighborhood you are hoping to buy in and whether the price for the home you have found is within your comfort zone.
3. A Realtor can make or break your deal.
While Realtors are not miracle workers, they can certainly help you as a buyer. Numbers are numbers and an offer speaks volumes, but as a seller's agent, you are being sold a buyer by a buyer's agent. Finding a Realtor to represent you that shares your same ideals and is easy to work with is incredibly important. Look at reviews on and search for Realtors that come recommended from friends and family. You want a Realtor who is going to help guide you the process but not push you into doing something you do not feel comfortable with. A Realtor's personality and their business tactics can help get you that home you love. If a sellers has two very similar offers from qualified buyers, a Realtor's ability to show their willingness to work through the deal, be proactive, and treat all parties in the deal fairly and with respect could be the deciding factor for that seller.
4. Know what you want, but try to be flexible and have an open mind.
Go through a process with your Realtor to decide your absolute must-haves, your would-be-nice-to-haves and your absolutely-nots. What is the important thing to you? Schools? Neighborhoods? Space? Rooms? Once you find the most important things on your list, get with your Realtor to start receiving listings via email that will allow you to see the most updated listings that are on the market. Even MLS listings might not exactly depict all of the great things about the property. For example, if you are looking for a 4 bedroom, don't rule out looking at 3 bedrooms with a study. Four bedrooms will generally have a higher list price than a three bedroom, but if you can get a great house with an additional space for less purchase price, would you be willing to consider it? With the number of houses and floorplans out there, you might be able to find a floorplan that works for you that wasn't exactly as the MLS listing described or one that you might not have considered in pictures but is perfect in person.
If you have considered buying a home, now is a great time to do it. Spring is a wonderful time to find a new neighborhood - summer offers great opportuntities to get out and meet new neighbors. It also gives your kids a chance to get acclimated to a new home before starting in a new school in the fall. If you are thinking about buying but haven't committed to it quite yet, getting on an email alert for homes will help you see what kind of home you could get for the price you want to pay. An email alert from me is a no pressure way to start the very first step in the home buying process. I would love to hear from you!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Cousins Love

Colbi came and spent the night with us last night. We love having her here. The girls have SO much fun together (and fight like sisters). They are getting into trouble together too, we had some jumping-on-the-bed instances. Oh, those kids.
We heard ALOT of laughing.
And it wouldn't be an official spend the night at the Whiteheads night if we didn't have popcorn.

Uncle Jason built a fort...they then proceeded to pull everything off shelves within arms distance into it, which is awesome.

And here they are, the angelic angels.

Love those girls!

Vegas, Baby! Take 2.

This was SUCH a lower-key trip than last year.
Jason had a conference at the Mandalay Bay and we got moved to the Delano, which is a tower connected. This is the room...
This was our view at night...

We loved this hotel. It smelled great and it was all suites, so we had a one room, 1.5 bath room. The Mandalay is a pretty place to stay. It's all the way on the south end of the strip, so you aren't close to the Bellagio or Caesars, but I was just fine with that, to be honest.
There was a very nice hotel/beach area. The sodas were $5.50 each, so the hotel was incredibly expensive! But I found ways to eat cheaper and brought a few snacks in my bag, so that helped.

When Jason goes on these trips and I follow him, I have to admit, I spend a lot of time by myself. I think it would be nice to take someone with me next time! I did a lot of eating alone and taking selfies. I did a little gambling and it was nice to have some alone time, but it was a lot of waiting until he was done with his day. We were such fuddy duddies, we were in bed pretty early every night.

There was a Michael Jackson show in our hotel, so we heard a lot of his music in the time we were there!

It was a nice trip, very relaxing. But I am ready to go on an actual vacation with Jason where he doesn't have to work! Maybe we will plan a European trip next fall (ha ha, just kidding!)


Happy 13th Birthday, Jordan!!

My 13 year old.
I said this phrase this morning.
Jordan turned 13 last Thursday. 13.
I can't believe he is a teenager....I can't believe this is the same kid I met when he was 7 that was obsessed with Legos and watching Indiana Jones.

The same kid who always seemed a few years ahead of his time. Who was clean and organized even as a first grader. Who was reading large books in the 2nd grade.
The same kid who surprised us by his interest (and aptitude) for music and joined the choir in 4th grade and band in 6th.
The same kid who was at one time timid about sports but is now the best defender on his soccer team.
I just can't believe how fast he has grown. And how tall! He is almost as tall as me and will probably end up surpassing his dad.
As a 29 years old, I hadn't been around that many kids in my adult life. And I never grew up with boys. Having a boy was a new experience for me....Jordan has always been a kid who has fascinated me. He is smart beyond his years, sensitive, and loving. He loves traditions. He loves order and rules. He loves movies that make you think. He loves Park and Rec (which I love about him).
It's hard to believe this is where we are headed in a couple short years...
Happy birthday, Jordan. We love you so much!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Starter Story: Our Home Journey

I was recently made aware of a company called Compass. It's a home search company that works mainly in Washington D.C. and New York City that helps pair people with neighborhoods and agents that best fit what they are looking for. They are running a series called Starter Stories so it inspired me to write a little about our first homes we shared as a family. I always think of a home as any place you live; it doesn't have to be a house you own, just a place where you come home to be with family.
Jason and I have lived in a few homes in our time together. Our first "home" together was a three bedroom apartment. When we signed the lease, we had the two kids, the two dogs and ourselves. It seemed perfect because it was much bigger than the two bedroom Jason was living in and we only had the kids a portion of the time. Until we quickly found out we would be expecting a baby!
This apartment was the first place Jason's kids had their own rooms (at least for a little while, until Avery came along!).
It was the home my baby came home to for the first time.
We struggled together in this apartment, learned how to survive together here. We were broke, so learned how to redo furniture here. I learned how to make curtains and hang pictures.

It was the first room the girls shared together.

It was cramped. We had no yard, so we felt like we were always on top of each other. I was constantly having to tell the kids to stop running and jumping because we were on the 2nd floor. We didn't even have cable or internet for the longest time!! We had a digital converter box that got us through.
But Avery learned to stand up on her own here.
And we celebrated one happy year of marriage here.
Looking back, it wasn't what we wanted, but certainly what we needed.
We were pretty stoked when we decided to lease a house in Grand Prairie. It was a little larger than the apartment, but it had a wonderful perk - a HUGE backyard!!
The first thing I had the kids do was run and jump as much as they wanted. We loved finally having a house with a garage and a yard and space.
We made our first major home purchase here (new living room furniture).
Avery turned 1 here.

We got to have our first backyard Easter Egg Hunt here.
Once again, it wasn't our "dream home" but it certainly was a step in the right direction!!
I did a lot of makeovers in this house.

I learned that just because it isn't a dream home doesn't mean you can't love living there and make it your own. I learned the feeling of delayed gratification and working hard on something. It certainly helped to learn all of that because our next house has been the biggest project of all!

This is the house we hope to call home for a very long time. It's been a project in the making and will still continue to be, but it's got tons of room for all of us to be comfortable and grow up in.

What is your starter story??

Thursday, March 26, 2015

How I Lost 22 Pounds Since Christmas

I posted on Facebook the other day about a weight loss success I had and I've had several people ask me "HOW?"
Well, I'll tell you, but you probably don't want to hear it.
I ate better and exercised.
When I started this journey, I was very overweight. So overweight, in fact, that my insurance let me see a nutritionist covered by my plan. So, January 1, I went in to see her. She didn't tell me anything I didn't already "know" in my head, but she was able to really help me identify what I could change long term that would help me lose weight. That same week, I found out that they YMCA offered a free training session with a trainer, where he would identify your goals, tell you how to get there, and then show you how to use those sometimes intimidating weight machines. Here are a few things I've learned from them both that might help you on your weight loss journey.
1. Don't make changes to your diet that you can't sustain.
I hear a lot of people say, "Starting tomorrow, no more _____." Fill in the blank with whatever food they think is causing them to be overweight. My nutritionist was very big on this, "I can't make you unlike something you like and I can't make you like something you don't. This is your body and you have to live in it and enjoy living in it." What she meant is that if you don't like spinach, no matter how healthy it might be for you, don't start eating spinach because you will be miserable. You have to find healthy food you DO like that you will continue to eat for years to come. We all have about five go to foods we eat everyday. Mine are usually cottage cheese with pineapple, Wheat Thins, greek yogurt with almonds, tuna, and breakfast bars. I eat these goods almost every single day. My breakfast is the yogurt with almonds and a breakfast bar, so I can get some protein and carbs before I go to the gym. My lunch is hardly ever a large lunch. It's usually tuna (which you can eat tons of for low cals, by the way, as long as you don't load it with mayo and other high cal items!) and crackers, or maybe a scoop of peanut butter and an English muffin, then maybe an apple. I always have cottage cheese with pineapple as a snack because I love it. I eat lots during the day but not usually huge amounts each time. As long as you find the staples in your diet that you love that aren't terrible for you, you can fit it into your calorie goals.
2. Those who count, lose.
You have to know how much you are consuming. If you don't, you will never lose weight. I use MyFitnessPal app which is the best out there for keeping up with calories. You can scan any barcode and it will automatically input the serving size, calories, fat, sugar, etc. Part of my problem with weight gain is not that ate bad, it's that I ate too much. I have talked about my revelation with my coffee creamer - I was easily drinking 300+ calories a day in coffee creamer that also had tons of fat (I still love you, International Delights Cold Stone Creamery Creamer). I couldn't get rid of creamer completely, I love my coffee, but I just started using a sugar free alternative with 15 calories per serving instead of 50, and I only drink 1 TBSP in each cup instead of 2-3. I started making my coffee less dark so I didn't need as much. See - you accommodate and make small compromises you can continue and won't quit doing!
The other benefit of counting calories is that you don't have to put in "cheat days" to your weeks. I don't do well with cheat days because it makes me feel bad the other six days if I don't eat really clean. My life is such that we might get invited to go out to dinner that day with friends, or we might have a movie popcorn night at home. I am not going to not participate and enjoy myself in life because it's not my "cheat day." I am just going to plan my day accordingly so that maybe I eat lighter the rest of the day so I can indulge a little at night. Ever since I started working out, I don't like gorging myself, but I am not going to say no to some chips and salsa and Mexican food because of my diet. That starts a whole shame spiral and guilt that makes it so much harder to keep on track.
3. You have to set goals and be able to change them.
The first month, I dropped off all sugary drinks and was put on a 1500 calorie a day diet. When I went back in and she saw it was working and I was making better habits, it went up to 1800. If I worked out that day, I earned calories as well. I never felt hungry, I never felt deprived. You don't have to restrict your calories forever. Once your metabolism increases, you can eat more. You just have to get your body ready. (You ever wonder why actresses say they can eat whatever they want to still be skinny? They probably are dedicated to working out every single day). Along with counting calories, you have to know how many calories you need to be consuming.
4. Make your workouts count.
Ever feel like you are going to the gym but nothing is happening? I wasn't about to spend an hour of my day working out if it wasn't going to mean anything. That's why I asked a trainer and he informed me that heartrate is everything - getting it up and keeping it up for 30 minutes. And I had to also learn to use weights to build muscle mass. When I started, I would get on the elliptical at a 15 resistance and a 4 incline. That was enough to keep my heart rate up for 30 minutes. I could barely get to 30 minutes. Now, I am at a 35 resistance and a 10 incline. Every day, actually, I have to increase it to keep my heart rate up. That's good - it means my heart is getting into good shape, which has sped up my metabolism. Walking is fantastic, moving is fantastic. But if you really want to lose weight and get in shape, you have to challenge your body and keep on challenging it every time.
5. When in doubt, consult a professional.
I visited with my family doctor and he suggested Weight Watchers. I know it works for some people, it just never worked for me. And I didn't like having to pay. So, I start exploring my options. My nutritionist is paid for by my health insurance (I pay for it every month, might as well use my services!) and my training session was included in my Y membership. Both of these help point me in the right direction of what works for ME. Getting one on one personal attention and instructions helped me more than anything else could.
6. Once you get into a habit, do everything you can to keep it up.
I started out going to the gym three times a week. Now, we are at 4-5. My nutritionist told me the other day that if I can go every day, or at least 6 times a week, even if my workouts are really light, it helps keep me in the habit of spending that time every day. I feel really blah when I miss a workout now. So, even if I just walk outside for 20 minutes, I am much more active. It's become such a habit, it's hard for me to give it up.
I hope this helps you! Stay encouraged!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Little Avery Post...

My four year old is growing into a pretty fun, pretty mischevious child. Her new obsession is jumping on the furniture and coloring on the walls with paint, or markers, or whatever else she can find.
So, that's fun.
We love Magic Erasers in my house.
Other than becoming independent in certain ways, she has also become very much an only child. She loves to whine and pretend she can't do things she can do, like change her clothes or eat dinner. So all in all, I think she is a perfectly healthy kid, hitting all of the major milestones a four year old should.
We also had another addition to our family in the last few months...his name is Jacob and he is Avery's very special friend. Jacob has been Avery's boyfriend, husband, brother, grandpa, and classmate, just depending on what we are doing. Sometimes, Jacob comes with us and sometimes he stays at home. Sometimes, he eats dinner and other times, he is in trouble and was sent to Avery's room. Sometimes, we won't hear about him all day. But Jacob is a fun addition to our lives around here - Avery has nothing if not healthy imagination and the things she says are just as funny as can be! I had a lot of imaginary friends as a kid and would pretend a lot. I love encouraging this side of her personality.
Avery has one more year of preschool before the big K. We love the school she is in and she will stay one more year. It's nice that she only goes a few hours a day, four days a week. I am not ready to give her up to a normal school schedule just quite yet. We are also planning our summer and getting excited about the water park again! We had a great time last year!
Have a great week everyone!