Thursday, October 24, 2013

House shopping and home buying

When the Mister and I, in a whirlwind of house shopping, purchased our first home together three and a half years ago we couldn't have truly foreseen what it would be today. Sure, we had plans, hopes, and aspirations for what this new step meant for our future family and of course, our future projects, but really we could never have known. Today, we rush home from work to be with our little guy while he wanders around the living room straying a stream of toys behind him as he does, all day we look forward to sitting down in our dining room with our little family even if it means our over tired little boy will be whiny the whole time, we approach bath time with the excited anticipation shared only by that same little guy who is about to get to play with all his favourite bath toys, and then play time before bed is all of our favourite time of all because we read and play together as a family in the best room in the house - the Mini-Mister's nursery. Yes, our new house became a home with such fervour that we didn't know what hit us, until it had. It's been great; every messy, primary-coloured second of it. Then, with only slightly less excitement, the Mister and I look forward to the Mini-Mister's bedtime when we can then retire to our basement family room with the pugs, to curl up in front of the fire and TV to unwind. Life these days is almost as, if not more, whirlwind than our house shopping was but I don't think we'd trade it for anything. It's been amazing. Our home has been amazing.

We are living on a relatively modest footprint, given that our town home is only approximately 1800 square feet, but it's been more than perfect for us thus far. While we don't foresee that changing in the short-term, we do suspect that one day, we'll be looking to add a little more personal space to our personal space. Surprisingly though, I don't look forward to that day right now because I'm only becoming more and more attached to this home with every room that we 'do' together. We loved that this house was about as plain and builder standard as they come when we moved in, because it has really pushed and permitted us to create our own spaces with our own signatures. I hope that, short of finding the perfect home for the perfect price, when we start shopping again, we're able to nail down another blank slate. It really was the best fit for us.

On the topic of blank slates, I was looking at a house today that reminded me a lot of ours when we first moved in. You see, my parents are now on the market for a new house and they're hoping to find something in fairly close proximity to us, so they've been shopping in our neighbourhood. This house, that is currently at the top of their list, is large and well-situated which is nice, but even nicer (in my opinion anyway) is that it's a blank slate. What's important to me and what we were lucky enough to get in this house (and my parents would as well should they choose the house in question), is that the blank slate be extremely clean and 'liveable'. I'm not (and I don't think they are either) at a point in my life where I find myself with the time and energy to tackle a 'fixer-upper' but renovating/decorating rooms on my schedule because they are (the theoretical) fine the way they are, makes all the difference. I've been watching their shopping process unfold and I've certainly caught myself reminiscing from time to time because of it.

When we were shopping we experienced two different aspects of the housing sales industry. We 'hired' a real estate agent who helped us in our search by sending us many MLS listings and narrowing down important criteria, facilitated house tours, and guided us through the purchase of our ultimate choice. That choice however, was not listed on MLS but rather Grapevine, which is a 'for sale by owner'-type real estate site. When we found the house, we contacted our agent who contacted the seller as we wanted to make sure that they were willing to 'work with' (read: pay) an agent so that we would be able to continue to benefit from his experience and services that we'd grown accustomed to (not to mention, not leave him high and dry!). Luckily, the home-owner agreed and before long, we were on our way to home ownership. My only 'stressors' relating to the whole process were; the first house that we bid on and lost (thank goodness, we now know that it was not for us at all), and the butterflies when we bid on this one because it was perfect and we had to have it. Otherwise, the process was quite smooth and pleasant. It was a seller's market at the time, and who was going to walk away with the ownership was usually anyone's guess!

Driving around my neighbourhood the other day though, I saw a sign that I'd never seen:

 Not the actual sign - (Credit: Comfree)

I'd recently heard about Comfree but this prompted me to look into it more. I was fairly certain that this model of housing sales company was not around when we were looking in early 2010. As far as I can tell, via a quick search, the rules regarding flat-fee MLS listings changed in March of 2010, just shortly after we bought. The Comfree site tells me that they've been around since 2007 though, so perhaps my research skills need a little oil. Either way, as a buyer I would have certainly done some searching on their (and affiliated) site had I known about it. Anyhow, I poked around their site now and there were a couple properties around our area that I happily browsed (I can't be the only one that does that?). Overall, I'm pleased to learn of another place for me to dream wistfully about our next house even though I'm nowhere near ready for it yet. I do look forward to finishing everything we want to do in our current home, enjoy it for whatever period of time we see fit, and then start it all over again in a new home! Sounds fun, right? :)

So this whole house shopping and real estate business has me wondering what most others have done to buy and/or sell? Do you do it on your own? With some help via a flat-fee service site like Comfree, do you go 'all agent, all the time'? What about your experiences with any of all of these services? Great? Poor?

I'd also love to know what you look for in a house? Are you searching out that blank slate like we did? Or would you prefer that everything be done for you? I don't think that turn-key necessarily means that it has to be done for you, it just has to be clean and livable so that you can make it your own. Maybe all of that is why I shouldn't be allowed to watch HGTV real estate shows anymore? I'm always blown away by the buyers... ALWAYS!

 As usual, please feel free to drop me a line with your thoughts - I'd love to hear them!

Happy shopping, house shoppers!
Here's to buying the perfect home for you!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Beauti-Tone Paint - The First Test! {+ A Powder Room Sneak Peek!}

Do you know why I'm the right person to test paint? Because I am the world's worst painter, that's why.

Who better to tell you what the job is going to be like for you other than someone who does everything wrong? Repeatedly.

At that point, your experience can only be better, right? You would not do everything wrong, and I am only 'testing it out'... yup, that's my story. I love Sarah Richardson et al, as much as the next gal interested in home decor and design, but I don't hold a candle to her and her team of experts. Do I love our completed rooms? Damn straight! Are they easy, by any stretch of the imagination? God, not even close.

So all this to say, the powder room is painted. Is it perfect? Ha! No. There are touch-ups needed everywhere. There are imperfections in about as many places too. It's nice though, and my vision is coming along nicely, hiccups notwithstanding.

I think my biggest problem is that I don't follow advice well. In the past, every time I've purchased paint, some lovely newly retired house painter of 20 years, gives me a new piece of advice and I may or may not try it. When I do, it rarely makes my job easier and generally makes it take longer (you know, take your time and do it right and all) so I've yet to be blown away. This is not limited to nice retired men either. I googled all sorts of reading material on painting stripes when I painted the Mini-Mister's nursery, guess when I decided to take that advice? Oh yeah, totally when the job was half-done and I was on the verge of a pregnant, hormonal, nervous breakdown. Know what wasn't different about this experience? Everything. I was up to my old tricks again. I am literally the laziest person ever, at the very least when it comes to painting, though the jury is still out on the rest. I hate prep work, I get tired mid-way through the job, and it usually takes me longer to fix my short cuts than it would have had I done it right in the first place. I'm going to make an excellent example for my kids. I'm that apartment painter that paints dust and hair into the walls... I'm at peace with it mostly. Really.

Now that I've aired my dirty laundry for you, I'll share my first Beauti-Tone experience.

The project: Main floor powder room.
The paint: Beauti-Tone Natura series
The colours & finishes: Starry Night (dark navy blue) in eggshell and Puff Ball (white) in pearl.

First and foremost let me say - if anyone ever hears me breathe that I want to go dark again... Slap me. Seriously, I'll need the wake-up call. Maybe next time, I'll do it right the first time and all will be right with the world, but probably not. It's just best to steer clear.That aside, you want to hear about paint, not my life choices.

I met a very nice woman, Kate, when I went to pick up my cans of paint for this project. She was very knowledgeable and explained that both the 'Designer's Series' and the 'Natura' brands were basically comparable, save only for the fact that Natura had no VOCs. Since we've a wee boy at home and our family is in the process of growing (why do I do projects when I'm pregnant... why?), I figured that the fewer VOCs, the better. Natura it was; Kate mixed up my cans and sent me on my merry way to paint my heart out!

Beauti-Tone Natura caught me off guard when I first popped open the can. I want to describe it by saying it was 35% cream, to everybody else's 10% (mayyybe 18). This should have been my first indication that I was out of my league and to follow the advice I had been given by the lovely man (Alan) and owner (Peter), at my local Home Hardware store, but I don't do that kind of thing... Too easy. So here I go schlepping this gorgeous colour of (near) paste on the wall all willy-nilly. Did Alan and Peter warn me that with a colour this dark I should make sure that I have enough on my roller? Yup. Did they tell me that if my walls were stark white and I was electing not to independently prime (there is some mixed in), that I should anticipate the potential for a third coat? Oh yes. Also, did they tell me that I should ensure to only roll in one direction, so as not to pull the paint back off the wall? You bet they did. Did I listen? Pfft, no. What I should actually say is that I didn't listen, at first. By wall #4, I changed my insubordinate ways and admitted that I didn't know what I was doing. I started following their advice and wouldn't you know... it was the best wall of the bunch! You're surprised, I know. So rinse and repeat, I went to do my second coat (some time later as I was tired; remember when I said I was pregnant?) and stupidly thought that it would be fine if I just fixed the spots where the white was showing through. Ugh. Cue blotchy walls. I. Will. Never. Learn. Told you.

Fast forward to a few days later when I decide that the only way to fix this is by doing a proper coat all around the room (and a little praying wouldn't hurt either). I noticed that I had nearly depleted my gallon of paint through all my earlier nonsense and realized that I would likely have to get a second for my tiny powder room... *sadness*. Off I went last Friday and stopped in at Home Hardware on my way home from work. Ran into Alan again who confirmed that a good coat should fix my mess and with that, he mixed me up a new can of Starry Night, and sent me on my way...

This is the part you should all pay attention to -

Don't do what I do. Get a grip on how much paint it takes to do something and you'll be a lot happier in the end. I DIDN'T NEED THE CAN, PEOPLE!! Lo and behold, while 'finishing up the existing can first', I didn't finish it. Silly girl. Needless to say, I now have a basically full can of dark blue paint that I don't know what to do with! Oops. I'm sure I'll find a use for it eventually.

Three (well, two and half) coats later, and my walls look pretty spiffy! My complaints about the process lie pretty much only with me, and even if there were little things with the paint that gave me trouble (even though it was still probably my fault), the room looking the way it does and the beautiful dark walls have washed it all away. I should also mention that the Natura line had next to no odour at all. This was perfect for our current situation coupled with the fact that I was painting a small box of a room. Kate was right, and I was pleased with the choice.

Here's a sneak peek so you can see the paint/walls -

Soon, I'll be able to reveal the finished room to you so that you'll actually be able to see the light and how it all came together. For now, note the gorgeous jewel-tone walls (walls seem purple in this picture, but colour is in fact a deep, dark blue), the new tiles, the new fixture (ahem, the loo), and a real sneak peek of the light. As it turns out, I think the thickness of the initial paint is what led to the lovely finish. Despite my best efforts, I wasn't able to screw it up in the end... it actually looks nice!

Stay tuned for the real reveal, and shortly thereafter, some new painting adventures!

Thanks for the experience Beauti-Tone!

**Editor's note: I was provided with the paint for review, however all opinions are my own.**

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