Tools for House Hunting

We’re definitely still dealing with the stress of house hunting. I thought I’d share some of the tools that have helped us along the way (in addition to our Realtor and loan officer, who have been awesome).

1. Wells Fargo’s “How Much Can I Borrow” calculator

One of the graphs on the “How Much Can I Borrow” calculator.

This nifty interactive resource calculates your debt-to-income ratio in order to estimate how much you can borrow for your mortgage.

It was really accurate for us – after I realized that cell phone bills and the like do not count as debt.

2. Wells Fargo’s “How Much Will My Mortgage Payments Be” Calculator

It’s one thing to figure out what the bank will loan you, it’s entirely different to figure out what you can afford. That’s why we used this calculator. It factors interest, property tax, home insurance, and mortgage insurance into your monthly payment. Your loan officer can verify these numbers. They’ve been pretty accurate for us!

3. Redfin & Zillow

These housing search engines allow you to browse through listings according to your criteria. They are helpful to get an idea of what you’re looking for in a house and to see what is available in your intended price range.

There are some limitations with these resources. A lot of the listings are old and some are off the market by the time you see them. Also, neither of these sites are a comprehensive list of available houses. Once you begin working with a Realtor, you will have a much more inclusive list of options.

4. Apartment Therapy

Looking at houses makes me anxious to be done with apartment living. Apartment therapy (along with my own 5 Ways to Thrive in an Apartment) helps me stay sane in my rented space. 

Do you have any house-hunting resources?


The Stress of House Hunting

Riel and I are approaching our second year of apartment living. (Check out our first apartment and some ways we make apartment living work for us). We are looking into investing in real estate instead of throwing money at a rental.

Everyone says to expect stress while looking for a home. And we expected it. As it turns out, expecting stress doesn’t prevent it. There are so many decisions to make…

  • Buy now or save up more
  • Big house in bad neighborhood or small house in nice neighborhood
  • Type of financing
  • Can we cope with busy streets?
  • Second vehicle (because Riel will no longer be able to walk to work)
  • Procuring appliances
  • Everything else I’m forgetting

Ack! I can barely keep it all straight. Luckily, we don’t need to move right away. Our apartment only requires a month’s notice, so we can wait if need be.

All this is in addition to our other March madness (read about it here).

Along with our second year of apartment living, we are reaching our second wedding anniversary. It’s been an adventure and I don’t regret a moment! We’re flying to NYC in a few weeks to celebrate. That’s a bit stressful too, but not all stress is bad stress.

Meanwhile, we’re trying to repair some damage Sophie did to our apartment. She ate the drywall. Here Riel is priming the spot to be patched:


We’re excited about how well it’s turning out. It’s almost impossible to tell Godzilla-puppy tore off part of the wall. We can’t wait to have a house with a yard so she can put that energy to good use!

What’s your best house-hunting advice?

Falling for Young House Love

A few weeks ago while on a girls’ weekend, I picked up Young House Love at Powell’s Books. I already discovered Young House Love, the blog, so I was excited to find a compilation of their DIY projects in hard copy. Being able to hold a book and flip through pictures is much more inspirational (and relaxing) than browsing around a blog.

Get the book through some of their affiliate links: here.

Get the book through some of their affiliate links: here.

Young House Love details 243 DIY projects to update your décor. Three major things made me fall for this book:

(1) There are stunning pictures and diagrams to help the reader understand the instructions.

(2) Almost all of the projects are simple and realistic – even for non-expert DIYers like me.

(3) I can tell the book was written by humans, not a panel of editors. It features an entertaining perspective from Sherry & John Petersik who describe their mishaps and adventures throughout the process of improving their décor.

Though the book came out in 2012, the ideas still seem fresh and relevant. Ideas range from simple and quick (re-hanging your shower curtain at ceiling height to make the room feel larger, p. 140) to more advanced (making a rustic-looking wooden headboard, p. 118).  A lot of the ideas can be easily adapted to apartment life – a must-have for us!

For some great DIY ideas, check out their blog: Young House Love.

Where do you get your DIY inspiration?

Easy Recipe Roundup

1. Roasted Balsamic Chicken from Lattes and Leggings

I was attracted to this recipe because I had all of the ingredients on hand. And it’s quite simple. The end result was a bit too tangy for Riel and I. The combination of lemon zest and balsamic vinegar gives it a lot of bite. If you like tangy, you should definitely give this recipe a try.

Balsamic Chicken Result

2. Mexican Paleo Shrimp Scampi from Cooking Caveman

I hadn’t really heard of Mexican shrimp (except for Baja tacos, which are amazing). The ingredients list promised spicy goodness (fresh jalapeno). The odd thing about this recipe is that I couldn’t find the instructions. I just ended up chopping up and adding how ever much of the ingredients I thought would taste good. It ended up being quite delicious! I will be making this one again.

Mexican Shrimp Result

3. 5 Ingredient Broccoli Cheese Soup from Gimme Some Oven

This recipe has become one of my all-time favorites. We didn’t even really like broccoli, but I have made it three times now. It’s a warm, comforting recipe for winter and I suspect I will keep making it into the spring as well. I added potatoes to this recipe to make it a bit heartier for Riel (since it is vegetarian). I can’t believe how easy this one is. Try it. It will change your mind about broccoli.

For more things I’ve tried check out my board on Pinterest: Things I’ve Tried.

Our Own March Madness

This March may be the craziest month of our marriage to date. We’re meeting with a realtor this week to get on track to buy a house. My wonderful husband, Riel, is turning 21. We’ll also be celebrating our second anniversary in New York City!

First, We’re looking into the possibility of getting a house. Apartment living is getting cramped and stale. We won’t likely be in the market to buy any time very soon, but we would like to start in that direction.

Then, Riel’s birthday is in the middle of the month. It’s going to be a pretty laid back event. Mostly because I’m not 21 yet, so we are limited in what we can do. We’ll have pizza at Round Table with friends and family (Riel does love pizza) and then he’ll go out with his friends.

On a side note, it’s really bizarre to be married for nearly two years and not be 21 yet. We can file taxes, pay bills, and do other terribly grown-up things, but we can’t buy wine. Turning 21 will be an extra-important rite of passage for Riel.

I’m debating how far to go with the festivities at Riel’s party. He pretty much hated all my ideas for games, so it looks like we won’t be doing any of those. There isn’t a good way to decorate for a man’s party. I’ll probably just buy candles shaped like the number ‘21’ and stick them on top of an ice cream cake (Riel and I both hate normal cake). And Riel is difficult to buy for. Well, Riel, if you end up with Hot Cheetos and Coke you’ll know I couldn’t think of anything better.

Finally, a week after Riel’s birthday, we’ll be heading to NYC for our anniversary. Neither of us has been to New York, so we’re psyched.  We’ll be seeing Chicago on Broadway (eee!).  Other than that, I’m not sure what we’ll be doing. There’s so much to choose from and we’ll only be there for 4 days.  I really need to look into it more before we leave! I’ll likely be posting more about planning (and going on) the trip.

I hope this crazy month goes smoothly. It’ll be tough to keep up with homework and blog posts with all of this craziness going on.  Wish me luck.

If you have any tips on what to do in NYC please comment or contact me!

Portland Girls’ Weekend Catastrophe

Okay… Maybe catastrophe is too strong. But there were ants in the bed.

Three generations of my family (Grammy, Auntie, Mom, and I) went to Portland to celebrate Grammy’s milestone birthday. I’ll never tell you which birthday it was! (Love you, Grammy). We spent the weekend at Powell’s Books, playing Dutch Blitz, and watching the Olympics.

The Portland traffic was the first terror of the weekend.  Though we only live two hours North of Portland, it felt like a different country. We didn’t recognize the street signs. We couldn’t figure out where the stop lights were. We struggled to find parking. AND on top of all that, Auntie got a red light camera ticket.

Tickets are Portland’s way of saying “Thank you for stimulating our economy.”

I must say, Auntie is my hero. She decided she was not going to let her license plate mug shot ruin girls’ weekend.

After we finally found a place to park (which took an hour) we went to Powell’s. There were books. Lots of them. That pretty much sums it up.

We were staying in a rental unit that was part of someone’s home. The house was up this Dr. Seuss-looking hill. It was steep and winding and frightening. After driving up and down the hill-of-doom several times, we decided we would never live up such a hill.

Girls' Weekend

Mom, Katelynn, Auntie, and Grammy on the deck of our rental unit. One good thing about the Dr. Seuss hill – there was a great view!

Our rental unit was decent. There was some weird modern art that we could have done without. Over all we were pleased – until the ants.

The second night I woke up with ants in my bed. I pulled back the covers and discovered tiny little ants crawling on my legs.  Suffice it to say, I was unsettled.

We figure the ants came in when it started to rain. I am no stranger to tiny ants, but I’ve never had them in my bed! Yuck. Luckily, that was our last day in Portland, so I didn’t have to find another place to sleep.

We returned to the Seattle area by way of Starbucks and without incident. I am thankful for the time with the wonderful women in my family. We had a great weekend regardless of the ticket and the ants-in-the-bed catastrophe.

Portland Lights

The beautiful Portland skyline, as photographed by Mom

Have you had any vacation catastrophes? Share them in the comments!

A Dog’s Favorite Things

Sophie is a happy Miniature Australian Shepherd [more about her here]. When I’m stressed out I count on her happy-go-lucky spirit to improve my mood. Many things make Sophie happy, here are a few:

One of Sophie's hugs. She'll even rest her chin on our shoulders.

One of Sophie’s hugs. She’ll even rest her chin on our shoulders.

  • Crinkly bags that may contain food
  • Mud (and tracking it into the house)
  • Car rides
  • Cereal
  • Sleeping
  • Sampling my mom’s vegetable garden
  • Planting inorganic items in said vegetable garden
  • Tennis balls (catching them, but not returning them)
  • Watching people go to the bathroom
  • Running (and running, and running, and running)
  • Barking
  • Greeting people at the door
  • Eating DVD cases
  • Us coming home
  • Eating ice cubes
  • Giving hugs (yes, hugs!)
  • Someone cooking
  • Meeting other dogs
  • Catching popcorn
  • Stealing people’s spot on the couch right after they get up
  • Putting her head on your shoulder
  • Howling like a Husky
  • The dog park
  • Shoes (just putting her nose in them and taking in the aroma)
  • Frisbee (again; catching but not returning)
  • Snuggling
  • Sleeping with her head on your foot (best slippers ever!)

I’m thankful for Sophie’s enthusiasm – it always brightens my day!

What quirky things make your pet happy?