Thursday, August 29, 2013

Vegas Baby!

Let me just start by saying I have always hated Vegas. I never thought it was that great and way too overrated. Mind you, I still think it's a little overrated. But I now have a much better opinion on the city. It was kind of awesome while we were there.

We went on this trip to get away for our anniversary. ONE YEAR! And as Jake puts it, "I'm STILL not sick of you!" That's the amazing part. But on a serious note, marriage has been the best thing to EVER happen to me. I love my husband with all my heart. I couldn't have found a person better for me. He is everything I could have hoped for. He is kind, loving, hard working, hilarious, and so much more. I realize every day how blessed I am to have him and so grateful for the decision we made and the opportunity we had to be sealed together and married 1 year and 11 days ago.

We left Friday after work and drove down to St. George, Utah. J's grandparents own a little place down there and so kindly let us stay whenever we want. Saturday was actually Jake's birthday as well and all he wanted was to go golfing. So we did! We stayed in St. George just for that reason. We knew it would be hot while he golfed, but little did we know that it would be 110 degrees.. None-the-less, he loved it all the same. I just hid myself in the shade as much as possible and he may or may not have golfed half naked. We also hung out around the city, we went to Tuachan and other places we'd never seen. It was pretty amazing.

Next, we were on to Vegas. One of our goals during the trip was to gamble, of course. Neither of us had ever legitimately gambled and we HAD TO try it. I just had the notion that we'd each take $20 and come away from Vegas $40 short. I wasn't ready to drop $100's, but I was willing to throw away a little money. Well, we went to the Palace Station casino for their buffet. When we were in line they told us that if we signed up for their club membership then we'd get half off the buffet. So we did. The membership was free and basically used to get people to gamble in their hotel. With the membership, they gave us 3 dollars in slot money. We took it to a penny slot machine and low an behold.. We won $50 on the 1 cent machine!

Well, we both had been dying to play craps. We'd prepared ourselves with youtube videos and were ready to lose some cash. But hey, it's fun! So we took $30 of the $50 we had won and took it over to the craps table. We played and won another $100! We probably could have kept playing and kept winning, but neither of us were there to risk losing $150 of free money. So we just cashed out and decided we are NEVER gambling again. You only get beginners luck once right?

We stayed at the Palms resort. If we ever go back to Vegas, I don't think we'll stay anywhere else now. We had an awesome pool, free breakfast buffet, free entrance to all events and clubs at the hotel, which includes concerts and entrance to the #1 club in Vegas. Better believe we hit that up. 

Naturally we went down Freemont Street and saw all the performers and casinos and whatever else they have. We bought ourselves some dollar margaritas while we were there as well. I threw mine in the trash long before this picture.

Our last night there we went to one of the clubs in the Palms. It was AWESOME! They take you up to the 55th floor where you have this amazing view of the entire city. There's a big dance floor, plus a balcony outside. The balcony had a glass floor! So when you're standing there, you can see down 55 floors to the street. It's terrifying. The roof on the club was also retractable, so halfway through the night, they open it up and you're now looking at the stars. It was so fun! But Jake lost his mind with excitement. I have never, in the 7 years that I have known my husband, seen him as excited as he was in the club. He was dancing his little heart out. I eventually was exhausted and had to leave. I had to drag Jake out, and he danced by himself the whole way back to our hotel room. All he wants to do now is go dancing. 

This is the view from the club. Pretty great right?

The best thing we did in Vegas? Cirque de Soleil. Handsdown. (Though Jake just might say the club.)We went to Mystere, which we picked merely because it was the cheapest Cirque show. My goodness. It was incredible. I had fairly high expectations given the price and what we had been hearing. But it blew all my expectations out of the water. If you get the chance to go, do it! It's worth every penny.

Finally, our last day before we drove home, we did a session at the Vegas temple. Yes, we went from gambling and clubbing to the temple. It was fine. But this temple really was SO beautiful outside, and even prettier on the inside. I'm really happy we were able to do this before we went home, and it was a great end to the trip.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Home Buying Tips for your 20's

Jake and I bought our home a over a year ago now. We were both 21 at the time. This never seemed strange to me as we had been in the market and playing with the idea of purchasing a home long before this. However, after we signed, I heard a lot of feedback regarding our age, and the responsibility of home ownership. We also got a lot of questions on how we were able to buy at this time. So we have some advice for anyone our age interested in looking. These also include factors for deciding on purchasing vs. renting.

Take whatever advice you find useful, but remember that we are nothing near experts. We've just been through the process is all.
This picture is after we realized all we were getting ourselves into. :)
  • Shop based on your monthly budget, not a purchase price
Start with how much you can afford each month. Now take out how much of that will be Mortgage insurance, home insurance, HOA, and other added costs. Once you determine how much your principle and interest will be each month only, then determine how much house you can afford for that amount.
  • Don't be stuck on finding a "move in ready" home
When we first started looking, we were determined to find a home that was updated, clean, and ready for us to move into it, without us lifting a finger. We passed up so many opportunities because we didn't want to replace the carpet, and we didn't want to fix up the yard. In our budget we were looking at older home, or new townhouses. We had already decided we didn't want a townhouse, so that limited us to only fixer-uppers. Now the first homes we passed up may have just not seemed worth the price for the amount of work that needed to be done. When we found ours we knew. It had WAY more work to be done than any other home we'd seen, but for half the price.

With the money we saved by buying a fixer-upper, we were able to remodel the ENTIRE home, AND have money left over.


By this I mean ALL your expenses. Don't live out of your means. If you really want a home, you are going to have to put a lot of money up front. Save like crazy and spend frugally. It will cost you money, and you're going to be hurting if you don't have some money set aside in a savings account.
  • Determine where you will be in your future and how long you will be there
A house is a commitment. If you know you're going to be moving away in a year, you might want to rethink your decision. If something comes up, you can always sell your home and move on. But don't put yourself through paying the costs of purchasing (and selling) a home if you're not going to be there long enough to reap the rewards.

When we bought, I was done with college and accepted to grad school close by. Jake was going to school close by. We both had established jobs and family nearby. There are also many opportunities in Jake's field so close to this home. We were pretty set that we'd be staying. There is still a chance that Jake will get work somewhere else, but for now, it's perfect.

There are more options however. If you want to buy for the equity and are willing to rent out your place in the future as well.
  • Never base your house shopping on paint color!
Exhibit A; Our walls looked like this when we first saw our home.

Yes, that is blue on one side, white on the other, and not pictured, the back wall is bright pink. I'm sure the previous owners had fun... but we got rid of it immediately. The point being; wall color is the absolute easiest thing to change in your home. Don't stress if it's not what you like. 

Oh and if you haven't seen any of my previous posts on our home. We did remodel it completely. It doesn't all look like this still. The fireplace remodel is shown here. Any other projects that I've actually taken the time to blog about can be found under the "Our Projects" tab.
  • Be ready to work HARD
I don't just mean to make your home move in ready. The work on your house NEVER ends. Never. Don't forget you now have a yard to take care of, appliances to maintain, the home to upkeep. The list goes on and on. The thing is, it's worth it because it's yours. Just be prepared to put in A LOT of time and energy into making your home comfortable and just how you want it.
  • Budget in expenses you wouldn't have were you to rent
Example; with most rentals you will be provided with laundry facilities and kitchen appliances. This may not be the case when you are buying a home. Take into account the fact that you may need to put more down for these expenses. 
  • Shop around for interest rates
Don't swoon over the first quote you receive. Don't go with your bank because you've done a lot of business with them, or because they'll give you and I-Pod touch for signing with them. One of the biggest factors determining your mortgage is going to be your interest rate. Sign the best rate. This factor alone can save or cost you hundreds of dollars monthly.

The best bid we got happened to be through an outside agency who sold our loan to a bank after we signed. We dealt with the agency during closing and made all our agreements with them. After we closed, they sold the loan to a bank, who then had to abide by all the terms. I thought this was great way of doing it. But again, I would have gone through someone else had we gotten a better interest rate.
  • Try to put down the 20% where possible
The standard downpayment when buying a home is 20%. It's important that if you can put this down, you do it. Without 20% you are required to now pay mortgage insurance premium. We didn't put down 20 and our mortgage insurance is about an extra $110 a month. Yes, an extra $1320 a year, and an extra $39600 for the life of our loan. 

However, keep in mind. You can get rid of your mortgage insurance, BUT to do so you must; have paid it for at least 5 years AND paid down 20% of your initial loan amount. Once you sign for your house you are promising to pay that 5 years. It doesn't matter if you pay the 20% the next day. You still must pay it for 5 years. For us, that's a guaranteed $6600. It might be worth it depending on your situation. That's what we had to do.

After 5 years if you are ready, and would like to get rid of the mortgage insurance, you must refinance your loan to do so. For us that will probably mean a higher interest rate. We were lucky enough to get an interest rate of 3.5%. I'm pretty sure 4 years from now, the rates will be higher.
  • Take into account the additional costs onto your mortgage
I mentioned this before when you are determining how much you can afford each month. When doing this, you're going to have to consider all the monthly costs of your loan and owning a home. 

These include; the principle and interest, mortgage insurance, home insurance, HOA fees, property tax and any other costs. 

We used those online calculators to determine how much home we could afford. Those didn't include everything though. On average we found that we were really going to be paying about $200 a month more than what it would calculate. Just keep in mind that you have more to pay for. 
  • Determine what you're willing to pay for
I only have one example of what this meant for us. That is, we weren't willing to pay any HOA fee. HOA stands for Home Owners Association and is usually an added fee in communities of houses with a park, pool, yard upkeep, etc. This fee just pays for the upkeep of public areas in the community. It would be great to have someone taking care of our yard, but we decided we could do it ourselves for a lot less than the fee. It's also cheaper for us to buy passes to our city rec center for the pool, gym and tennis courts than paying this. Our neighborhood also has a park that is up-kept by the church rather than the home owners. You might be able to find some neighborhoods like this.

Some HOA fees pay to have your community gated, or for security. This may be worth it for some of you, but really it's completely up to your discretion.  In the future I don't think we would mind having a pool in walking distance and whatnot. But when we were shopping we preferred to spend that $100-200 dollars a month on our home rather than the neighborhood amenities.
  • Don't be afraid to make a big purchase!
If done right, a home is equity that you will always have. You are making a huge investment, but also gaining lots of equity and property that you own in the mean time.

  • Don't Skip the Home Inspection
Just from the horror stories we've heard, don't try to rush the process by skipping the inspection. You'll feel a lot more secure with your purchase and have some peace of mind. It can also save you a great deal of stress and money.
  • Be patient
Be patient in the fact that, you're probably going to have to look at TONS of homes. I kid you not, we looked at over 100 easy. You are looking for YOUR home. Don't take that lightly, and shop around.

You will also have to be patient in the fact that, some of the most incredible, you can't pass that up, deals come in the form of a short sale. Despite it's name, short sales can take sometimes years to close on. The deals are so great though and sometimes that time is so worth it.


So how did this all work out for us? I will be the first to admit that Jake and I got EXTREMELY lucky. Our house was a HUD home in the Salt Lake Valley that we purchased for $100,000. Yes. $100,000. Our monthly payment looks something like this.

      • $470- principle and interest
      • $110- property tax
      • $110- mortgage insurance premium
      • $50- home insurance
      • -----------Grand TOTAL of $740 a month
Yes, this is cheaper than what we could find most 1 bedroom apartments to rent. When we bought the home there was SO much work to be done, but suddenly, we could put as much into the house as we wanted because we had the budget for it. $740 is a lot cheaper than what we had planned on paying monthly when we started shopping. But again, our patience paid off when we saw our home. We also had a general idea of how much it was worth because we had seen so many homes before the one.

We purchased the house and ended up remodeling the entire thing (like I said earlier). We put in about $20,000 and we now have over $90,000 of equity in our house. Meaning, if we sold right now, we could pocket an extra $90,000 of cash after we paid off the loan. We love owning a home and the benefits have been so amazing.