Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Step 4

Finding Your Home

So you've made the decision to purchase a home, you've hired your agent and secured financing, now it's time for the fun part, finding your home! Before you jump in the car you need to sit down with your agent and assess your wants and needs in a home. Viewing homes is a lot of fun, but without an idea of what you're looking for, the home search can go on for weeks or months, not much fun!

Before getting together with your agent, prepare by asking yourself the following questions:

1. What do I want my home near? Do you want a short commute to work? An easy walk to school for your kids? Perhaps you'd like a grocery store or your favorite coffee shop within close vicinity? Or maybe you'd prefer a more secluded home far away from everything? 

2. How much space do I need and why? It isn't unusual to want a large home, but how large do you really need your home to be? Are you planning a large family, or will you live alone? Do you often have overnight guests? Do you fancy cleaning large spaces? Consider seriously how much space you need in order to be happy.

3. Which is more important, location or size? Consider your answers to the previous questions, if you can only have one, which would your prefer? Which is more important? How would your life be affected if you were to get a large house with a long commute, or a smaller house with a short commute?

4. Would I be interested in a fixer upper? A fixer upper home may seem like a cheaper option, but repair costs could be through the roof. Do you enjoy home repairs? Do you have the skills to do them yourself, or will you hire a contractor? A fixer upper home can be a fantastic chance to make your new home your own, but consider funds and time carefully. 

5. How important is home value appreciation? A home is an investment, so appreciation is always important, but how important is it to you really? Will you live in your home for 20 years, allowing it to appreciate gradually? Or are you planning on selling in a few years with high appreciation?

6. Would I be interested in a condo? Some people enjoy the privacy and responsibility of a single family home. Others prefer to pay a fee and have problems taken care of for them. What would you prefer?

7. Would I be interested in new home construction? If you prefer move-in ready homes, this could be a good option for you, however there are older homes which are also move-in ready. Consider the type of architecture and design you find appealing and how much work you are willing to put into your new home to help you with this decision.

8. What features do I want in a home, and which do I really need? There are a lot of features you may want in a home, but they may not be what you need. Make a list of both your wants and needs and consider which are most important. 

Once you have a good idea of the home you're looking for, set up a meeting with your real estate agent and discuss your thoughts with them. Present them with your top 5 needs in a home and explain the importance of each. Your agent will do their best to find you a home that matches your needs, but finding a home with all 5 qualities is rare. Finding a home with 3 or 4 of the items on your list is much more likely, so be sure to rate the importance of each.

Buyers are often concerned their agent will show them homes they aren't interested in, or with qualities they don't like, and they might. This isn't necessarily because your agent wasn't listening to you, they simply feel the aspects of the house you could like will outweigh the aspects of the house you won't like. Most agents want their clients to be aware of all their options. 

If your agent only shows you homes you don't like, or if you feel they don't understand what it is you're looking for, ask to sit down with them and go over your list again. If after a second explanation your agent is still showing you the wrong homes consider finding a new agent to work with. You won't need to repeat any of the previous steps and you can often start working with a new agent the very next day. Of course this is something that doesn't happen often, and most people are very happy with their agents. 

Happy searching!

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Summer is officially here! My husband and I spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer, gardening, hiking, picnicking, and we like food that's easy to grab without a lot of mess. Enter the mini pie! These desserts are easy to pack for trips and they look great set out for guests during backyard barbecues. There's no mess of cutting and serving a full pie, and you can make a variety of fillings to satisfy everyone. 

Today I'm making a simple blueberry filling, but you can make any filling you choose, be creative!


Filling                                                                                    Pie Crust

4 cups blueberries                                                                    2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar                                                                           2/3 cup vegetable shortening
5 Tbsp flour                                                                             1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice                                                                    4 Tbsp cold water

If you choose to salted margarine or butter in place of the shortening like I did, be sure to leave out the 1 tsp of salt from the crust. 


Begin by making the filling. If you're using fresh berries, begin by washing them thoroughly and removing all stems. If you're using frozen make sure to thaw them out and drain excess liquid. Add the lemon juice and stir.

In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, flour. Add to the berries and mix gently until all the berries are coated. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425°

In a large bowl mix together the salt and flour. Add the shortening in chunks like so:

Mix together with your fingers until no large chunks remain and you get a sand-like texture.

Add the water and work into a dough with your hands. You may be tempted to add more water just keep kneading until a dough forms. Adding too much water will making your dough soggy and sticky. 

The original recipe suggests you use individual tart pans, so if you have them use them! If you don't, like me, simply use a muffin tin. Since there's so much shortening in the dough you shouldn't have to grease your pan, but I do it anyway just to be safe.

Roll out your dough on an UN-FLOURED surface to about 1/8" thick. Adding flour to your dough will make it tough and less flaky. Roll your dough gently and quickly, try not to push down too hard with your rolling pin. 

Cut out 12 circles with a 4" cookie cutter. 

Place your circles of dough gently into your muffin pan and fill each with about 1.5 Tbs of the berry filling. 

With your remaining dough you can cover each pie as you'd like. This recipe doesn't give enough dough to completely cover each pie, so I just cut out shapes with my tiniest cookie cutters. Today I've included a Zelda triforce and a Pac Man ghost for my husband who loves retro video games. 

Bake for 25 - 35 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Allow them to cool before removing.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Step 3

Secure Financing

Many first time home buyers find the financing step to be confusing, complex, and a little intimidating. In fact, it's the main reason people back out of home ownership, but it doesn't have to be scary! Here is a simple six-step plan to financing that anyone can follow.

1. Choose a loan officer or mortgage specialist. You may be thinking that is easier said than done, how do you simply choose a loan officer? Don't worry. Simply ask your real estate agent, they will have at least a couple of mortgage specialists they know well. If you don't have an agent you can consult your financial institution as well. Ask the loan officer about programs for first time home buyers, they should be able to explain all your options, including the different types of loans available to you. 

2. Get pre-approved. This is simply a matter of giving your loan officer any information and documents they ask for and filling out some paperwork. The loan officer will determine the amount of the loan you can get based on your income, debts, and assets. 

3. Determine what you want to pay and select a loan option. You don't need to spend the max amount of money you have been approved for. Consult the loan officer about what your monthly payments will be and decide a price range that's right for you. This is also when you'll decide which type of loan you'll be going with, such as FHA, Conventional, VA, etc (your loan officer will explain each of them to you in detail).

4. Submit to the lender an accepted purchase contract. To put it a simpler way, find a house you would like to purchase, your agent will write up a contract between you and the seller, and that contract will be sent to the lender. 

5. Get an appraisal and title commitment. Now that your lender knows what the agreed upon purchase price is, they will apply for you to get a loan in that amount. To do this they will make sure the title of the home is clear of liens (no debts attached to it) and they will send an appraiser to the home to make sure it's worth the amount you've agreed to pay for it. 

6. Obtain funding at closing. At the end of the home buying process your loan funds will be released to the sellers as payment for the home purchase. 

That is your entire financing process from beginning to end. If it still seems sort of complex just keep in mind most of these steps will be handled by your real estate agent and your loan officer. While going through the steps you won't be expected to do anything without an explanation of exactly what is needed from you. Remember, first time home buyers purchase new homes everyday, if they can do it so can you!

Friday, June 12, 2015


Step Two

Now that you have a whole week to conquer your home buying fears you learned about in  Step One, it's time to move on to step two:

Hire an Agent

We all have a wealth of information at our fingertips at all times, any one can go online and search for information on any subject they're interested in, including homes for sale in their area or any area they wish to live. Because of this, many people don't think having an agent is necessary anymore, but agents do a lot more than simply show you homes.

The Seven Main Roles of Your Real Estate Agent

1. Educates you about the market. An agent you choose should be able to explain clearly how the market works, including fluctuations, buyer's markets, seller's markets, and how to negotiate in both.

2. Analyzes your wants and needs. Your agent should ask you a very detailed list of questions regarding what you're looking for in a new home. It is not uncommon for a buyer's wants to change as they begin looking at homes, so be sure to update your agent when you have changes of heart. 

3. Guides you to homes to fit your criteria. Many buyers are often concerned that an agent will try to force properties on them that don't fit their needs. If step two was performed correctly your agent should have a decent idea of what you're looking for, but sometimes there can be a miscommunication. If you don't like the properties you're being shown be sure to tell your agent. If they continue to show you the wrong properties do not be afraid to change agents, and definitely DO NOT settle on a home you don't want. Remember, no agent can force you to buy a home you don't like, it's up to you to make that decision, never feel bad about saying "No" to the wrong home. 

4. Coordinates the work of other needed professionals. There are typically two dozen different people involved in the purchase and sale of a home, and they all must work together harmoniously to bring a sale to close. It's an agent's job to coordinate all these people to ensure the transaction goes smoothly. Your agent should be able to tell you where you are in the process at all times, but keep in mind that with so many people working together it is possible for your agent to be in the dark once in awhile, and it's not always their fault. When one or more individuals involved fail to do their job it can take a little while to figure out what went wrong and get everything back on track. 

5. Negotiates on you behalf. Your agents loyalties are to you and it's their job to ensure you get the best deal possible. Of course, this has to be done honestly. It is illegal for any agent to lie to you or on your behalf. 

6. Checks and double checks paperwork and deadlines. One of the most common reasons for a home purchase to be delayed is incomplete/incorrect paperwork. It's the agent's job to ensure everything is filled in correctly and submitted on time. You, the buyer, also play a role in this step and must work cooperatively as a team with your agent. Your agent should explain to you all the deadlines involved in the transaction. When your agents asks for paperwork from you it is important you get it to them in a timely manner. Waiting until the last minute results in your agent rushing to meet deadlines and can result in mistakes and major delays.  

7. Solve any problems that may arise. When problems arise (and they will) it's your agents job to deal with them calmly and in a timely matter. Once in a while a problem will arise that your agent may not know how to deal with, in which case they should reach out to their broker or other agents for help. 

Now that you know what an agent's core responsibilities are, you need to know how to find one who can handle these responsibilities professionally. Here are 7 questions you should ask your agent during the hiring process. 

1. Why did you become a real estate agent? 

2. Why should I work with you?

3. What do you do better than other real estate agents?

4. What process will you use to help me find the right home for my particular wants and needs?

5. What are some mistakes that you think people make when buying their first home?

6. What are some of the most common things that go wrong in a transaction and how would         you handle them?

7. What other professionals do you suggest we work with and what are their credentials?
These are just some basic questions I believe you should ask, but I always suggest you come up with your own list of questions that are important to you. I also suggest interviewing a couple agents until you find one you're comfortable with, it will make the entire process much more enjoyable.

Monday, June 8, 2015



It was a hot one in Seattle this weekend, and what's the best baked dessert to have on a hot summer day? A shortcake filled with fresh strawberries and cold whipped cream of course! This recipe give you the option of making one big cake, one small cake, or little personal sized cakes, which is what I chose to make.


Large Cake                                                                                       Small Cake

2 cups of sifted flour                                                                             1 - 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 Tbsp sugar                                                                                       1 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder                                                                            1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt                                                                                           1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter or margarine                                                                 3 Tbs butter or margarine
3/4 cup milk                                                                                       1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 quarts strawberries
3/4 cup sugar

The large cake will serve 6 people, the small cake will serve about 3. You can make personal sized cakes from either recipe. I used the small recipe and was able to make five 3" cakes, so if you want more than that definitely use the large cake recipe. 


Preheat the oven to 450°

Hull and halve your strawberries. Crush them slightly with the back of a spoon and mix them with 3/4 cup of sugar. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

While your strawberries are sitting, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. If you have a pastry blender you can use it to cut in the butter or margarine. If not, mix it in by hand until it sort of resembles sand. Mix in the milk (you can also use soy or almond milk if you prefer). 

I have made shortcake many times, but this was the first time I used this retro recipe and I noticed once I added the milk the batter became quite runny, and I wouldn't be able to roll it out or knead it as the recipe stated.

If this happens to you, simply add a little bit of flour at a time until it becomes a more workable dough. I added an extra half cup of flour to the small cake recipe to get a workable dough.

Knead the dough lightly. If you are making a single cake separate the dough in half. For a large cake use a 8" round pan. For a small cake use a 6" round pan. Pat half the dough into the WELL GREASED pan. Dot with butter or margarine and pat the other half of the dough on top. 

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

If you are making personal sized cakes, roll your dough out 1/2" thick. Dot one side of the dough with butter or margarine, then fold the other half over top.

Cut out the cakes with a 3" biscuit cutter, or a drinking glass works just as well. Place a little bit apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes.

They should be a nice golden color when they're done.

Once your cake or cakes have cooled, gently cut them in half. Pile half the strawberries on the bottom half (or halves) of your cake. Replace the tops and pour remaining strawberries on top. Finish them off with a generous helping of whipped cream and serve! 

Personal sized shortcake

Don't worry if you can't eat it all the first night, because it makes for a great breakfast the next morning! 

Friday, June 5, 2015

8 Steps To Buying Your First Home

Step One

Buying your first home can be a daunting task when you're unsure of the process. There is A LOT of information online, some good, some not so good, and it can be really difficult to know where to start. I believe that when it comes to making the biggest purchase of your life, you deserve to have all the information, no strings attached. Over the next 8 weeks I will be giving you the most detailed information I can manage on home buying, from beginning to end. 

As always, I welcome any and all questions and comments. Helping people out is why I got into this business, so please take advantage!

So let's jump right in here with Step One to buying a home:

Decide To Buy A House

This may seem silly, obviously if you're here you've decided to buy a home, right? Not always. More often than not people WANT to buy a house, but they haven't actually made the decision to really go through with it. This can be frustrating and time consuming for everyone involved. 

Conquer Your Fears

Fear is the main reason most people don't make the leap from paying rent to paying a mortgage. There are many, many fears that first time home buyers may have, and while some are quite valid, most are often based on misconceptions or misinformation. 

1. You Can't Afford a Mortgage. 

Odds are if you can afford rent on your own place you can afford a mortgage. There is a big misconception that paying a mortgage will be thousands more a month than your current rent, and it usually stems from people using online mortgage calculators on homes that are way out of their price range. 

Ease The Fear: Find a lender you trust and get pre-qualified. Pre-qualification is quick and simple and can be done over the phone. It involves giving your lender an overview of your financial situation, including your income, debts, and assets. With this information your lender can give you a rough estimate of how much house you can afford. This step does not include a credit check, that will be included in the next step, which is pre-approval. Pre-approval is much more in depth and generally cannot be completed over the phone, but it will give you a more accurate amount you can afford. It is not absolutely necessary to get pre-qualified before you get pre-approved, but a lot of first time buyers feel more comfortable using it as a first step. 

2. It's The Wrong Time To Buy.

"My Neighbor said it's a sellers market." And "There aren't any homes for sale in the winter." Are two sentences I hear way too often from first time home buyers. While there is some truth to these statements, the bottom line is it's never the wrong time to buy the right house.

Ease The Fear: Contact a buyer's agent and find out what's on the market. A seller's market does not necessarily mean every house will be out of your spending bracket, and there won't necessarily be a bidding war, because it all boils down to what you're looking for. Are you looking for a home you can fix up? There may be a cute little house being overlooked by other buyers that is just perfect for you. Need to move in the winter? This could be a huge advantage to you if you happen to find what you're looking for. Although it's true there aren't as many homes on the market in the winter, you only need to find one that suits you, and odds are you won't have too much competition. The point is, there's never harm in looking. Maybe you won't find what you're looking for, or maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised, it's always worth a shot. 

3. You Don't Have a Big Enough Down Payment.

A lot of people still believe they $10,000+ before they can even think about starting a home search. Sometimes, depending on your situation, that may be true. But more often than not this is not the case for first time home buyers.

Ease The Fear: Again, speak to your lender. There are many programs and options available to home buyers, and some specifically for first time home buyers, that will significantly lower the amount of down payment you may need. If you have to, talk to a couple different lenders, shop around, exhaust all your options to ensure you get the best deal out there. 

4. You Don't Have Perfect Credit.

OK, this is a valid fear. A bad credit score can hold you back from a lot of things, but not necessarily from home ownership. Minor glitches on credit reports are common, because hey, life happens right? Don't let it discourage you, there may be a solution.

Ease The Fear: Lender to the rescue once again! During the pre-approval process your lender will go over your credit score and discuss with you whether or not it needs to be improved. Sometimes you only need to gain a point or two, and your lender may offer a few simple ways to do that. If your credit is quite low, speak to a financial adviser about your situation. A financial adviser can help you lower your debt quicker, teach you how to save more effectively, and ultimately raise your credit score. 

5. The Process Of Buying a Home Is Too Complicated.

Buying a home is only complicated if you don't have the correct information. Actually, the home buying process can be a lot of fun and really exciting, if you have the right guidance. 

Ease The Fear: Reading this blog post is a good first step. Put your trust in knowledgeable professionals, they're they to guide you and ease the stress. If at any time you feel more stressed or pressured by a professional you're working with don't be afraid to break off that relationship and find someone new. 

Next week I'll tell you exactly how to find an choose an agent, which questions you should be asking them, and what that agents main roles will be in your home buying  process.

Monday, June 1, 2015


Summer is almost upon us, and that means longer days, warmer nights, garden parties, and a bounty of fresh fruits. As much as I love summer, my pale complexion does not, so I prefer to spend those extra hot days indoors baking up some delicious retro treats! 

I know we've all seen those posts on the less-than-appetizing recipes of the 50s and 60s, you know the ones I mean. As much as a turn-off as molded fish paste salad and mayonnaise jello can be, I'm here to tell you there are an abundance of very tasty retro recipes and I plan on showcasing a few of them here.  

My husband is a huge fan of lemon desserts, I personally don't care for them. So when he wants something lemon-y I make a batch of Coconut Lemon Bars from a recipe I found in my 1950s Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book. These bars are simple to make and don't have an over-powering lemon flavor, but they do have a nice tang to them.


Bottom layer:

1/2 cup butter or margarine 
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sifted flour

Top layer:

2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup cut up walnuts


Preheat the oven to 350° 

Line a 13x9" baking pan with tinfoil. Mix together 1/2 cup of butter or margarine, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 cup of sifted flour in a bowl until well combined and crumbly (I find mixing it with your fingers works best).

Pour the mixture into the pan. Press and flatten with your hand to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool while you prepare the top layer.

Beat well 2 eggs. Stir in 1 cup brown sugar, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon rind, and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix in 1 cup coconut and 1 cup walnuts.

Spread the mixture evenly over the cooled bottom layer and return to the oven for 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Allow to cool then cut into bars. These are quite sweet, they taste quite a bit like pecan pie, and they go great with tea or lemonade.