It was time to up our nerd game and move to a Pokémon themed Christmas Tree. Over the years we have featured all types of theme trees, but since the entire household plays Pokémon it was like serendipity for this year’s theme. Of course we had to add DIY elements to our Pokémon Christmas theme, but did mix in a few purchased elements. Doing an entire theme tree from scratch can get pricey so this is how we created our budget friendly Pokémon theme Christmas Tree.
We will start with the DIY Pokémon elements, and give you not one, not two, but really just two tutorials, with a third honorable mention. If you want to skip around we will look at the following in this order:
How to make a Pokémon energy garland
How to make flat Pokéball glitter ornaments
How to make pokeball pom pom ornaments. (Or die trying)
Pictures and inspiration of the DIY Pokemon Christmas Tree
Finally, How to remove glitter from your pets and nether regions (Oh wait, no. We don’t know how to do that)
Pokémon Energy Garland
If you play or collect Pokémon trading cards you are going to end up with loads of energy cards. If you don’t they are suuuuupppper cheap (affiliate links ahead). This tutorial is so easy I didn’t even take pictures. You need the following:
I laid out all of my energy types and decided I just wanted to repeat the same pattern. I unrolled a length of ribbon, fired up the hot glue gun, and then just hot glued a card to the ribbon. Then I skipped the space of two cards on the ribbon and glued down the next. After burning my finger tips and cursing the size of my tree I was done! No wait I wasn’t…
For some reason I thought blingy glitter was a good idea. So, proceeded to had touches of elmer’s glue wherever I wanted garland, then sprinkle glitter in the color that matched the card, and then proceeded to lose my mind as I repeated the process, over and over. Good news the garland is on year two and is just fine. Bad news the dog, cat, and I are covered in glitter from this year and last.
DIY Pokeball Ornaments
Alright, now for a more advanced DIY Pokémon Christmas Tree ornament. For these are are going to need the following:
I found it easiest way to create these pokeballs are to make two ornaments at a time. First roll out your white clay to a little more than 1/4 inch thick and cut a large circle.
Second, roll out your red and do the same as above.
Finally, cut a small strip of black the length of the diameter of the circles. It is very important to start from lightest clay to darkest. It is super easy to get dots of red or black into your white, unless you meticulously clean your cutters. So either go in order (or cover your mistakes with a heap of glitter like me).
Cut both circles in half and lay the out red, black strip, white and lightly mush them together. Then take your rolling pin and roll over the clay to firmly stick them together. This will make your final clay about 1/4 inch thick. Obviously, your circle is now gonna be a little wonky. Use your large cutter to bring it back into shape.
Once you are happy with your striped pokeballs you can use the small cutter (and the lid to your exacto knife) to cut out smaller circles. I rough up the center of the clay and the new circles to make sure it sticks to the flat piece.
When you are done assembling the pokeball Christmas ornament, cut a small slit and insert your metal ring or piece of wire. Close the clay around it, and when you bake the ornament it will become part of it for easy hanging.
Follow your clay baking instructions. I suggest covering your baking dish in tin foil. It keeps the white from turning tan.
Once the clay is cool then you can use glue to glitter. Unless you have sense. If you have sense and don’t want to be covered in glitter for years, you can skip this step. But if in your heart of hearts you want a Pokémon ornament so blinging it brings a tear to a shiny Charizard’s eye? Well then glitter away.
Pom Pom Pokeball
Nope, just no. I thought this was going to be an easy craft, but it wasn’t. If you want to follow my tutorial then it goes like this:
Watch a Pom Pom making tutorial on YouTube using a cardboard ring. Fail
Go buy a cheap Pom Pom maker and try again. Fail
Go buy a more expensive Pom Pom maker and get a decent Pom Pom
Use the expensive Pom Pom maker and try to incorporate red, white, and black into a ball. Make something that looked like poke dots. Fail
Try again. Now the red and white are on one side of the black. Fail
Finally figure out how to wrap one so it comes out like a pokeball.
Manage to repeat this process a couple more times.
Stop for the day and forget how to do it
Make lots of pretty single color pompoms
Other Pokémon Christmas Decorations
Since this is year two of the Pokémon theme tree we did buy a few ornaments and a tree topper of Pokémon center (not an affiliate link). We added the led lights with glue to make it more festive. I also used part of my fancy card collection to make ‘ornaments’. I used hard card cases and glued on hooks. The cards are perfectly safe.
All in all we are very happy with out nerd tree. I miss our old Star Wars theme, but it felt good to give a new fresh look too! Hope you enjoy and can make your own Pokémon theme tree.
Ordering seeds for your garden is one of the most exciting ways to find new varieties of plants you wouldn’t be able to simply get as starts nearby. But ordering seeds, especially heirloom seeds, can be overwhelming. Below we will go over the differences in heirloom, organic, open pollinated, and other seed types. As well as what factors you should consider when picking a seed company to place orders with. We have marked our top eight companies for ordering heirloom seeds so you can figure out the best place to order seeds for you and tips for making those seeds last. Finally, we have a comprehensive list of the best places throughout the United States to order heirloom, organic, and open pollinated seed. Spoiler: We are NOT affiliated with any of these companies except one. We have just spent years ordering and trialing seeds.
What Is The Difference Between Heirloom, Organic, and other seed types?
When you begin looking through seed catalogs and ordering seeds you may see a lot of different terms. It is going to be hard to select your particular best place to order seeds unless you know what type of seed you want to order. Let’s go over a few of these and explain that when ordering heirloom seeds not all definitions are the same.
Open Pollinated Seed: Open pollinated seeds are sees that when you grow a plant you can then save the same seeds off that plant and have it come out like its mother plant. For example, if you grow an “Amish Paste” variety of tomato and save seed from those tomatoes than you should come out with an “Amish Paste” tomato the next year. Please Note: There is a lot more that has to occur to save true seed, but being open pollinated versus hybrid seed is the start.
Heirloom Seed: All heirloom seeds are open pollinated and non-GMO by their very nature. There is no exact definition of what makes something an heirloom, but generally it means the seed is open pollinated, and saved seed varieties that originated BEFORE World War II. However, I will often see heirloom added to any open pollinated seed regardless of how long the variety has been in existence.
Non-GMO Seed: Labelling a seed non-gmo means that it has not been genetically modified in a lab. Most varieties of seed have been genetically modified by careful selection in a garden over many years, so non-GMO speaks specifically to not have genes altered or added directly through gene modification techniques. FUN FACT you should NOT be able to order GMO seed for non-commercial operations. That being said, there is a real problem with GMO drift. Corn is one of the worst culprits for accidently having GMO genes passed on. If this is an important issue to you as a garden you will want to buy seed that is non-GMO Certified. They will have tested a certain sample of the seed to make sure it didn’t accidently end up with GMO traits.
Hybrid Seed: Hybrid seeds sometimes get bad rap because they aren’t “pure”. Hybrid seeds come from crossing two very specific and different parent varieties to create a plant that has different characteristics than the parent plants. The drawbacks are if you save seed from hybrid plants you probably won’t get the same plant you started with. But I don’t hate on hybrids. Hybrids can offer a lot of cool properties like disease resistance or high yield that you might not be able to get out of an open pollinated type. Also, many folks aren’t equipped to both grow in a small garden and meet the necessary rules for pure seed saving (like distance). So if you aren’t set on saving a particular seed, then give hybrids a look. They can be particularly good for new gardeners as many hybrids are grown to be a bit tougher than their open pollinated cousins.
Organic Seed: Organic seeds can be hybrid or open pollinated seed types BUT heirloom and open pollinated seeds do NOT have to be organic. The organic label means the parent plants of the seeds had to be grown in organic certified conditions. I’ll save my rather negative opinion of the organic certification process for another post :). It is ONE method to insure you start with seed that hasn’t been around non-organic pesticide. But I personally think finding a reputable seed supplier who follows your ethics is probably a better indication.
Pelleted Seed: This is seed that has been coated in… something. The purpose is to make smaller seed larger and more uniform in size for easier sowing (via hand or seeder). Depending on the seed type they may use clay or some other ‘seed safe’ coating. Pelleted seed is great for carrots but it is often hard to find for heirloom varieties.
What To Look For When Ordering Heirloom Seeds?
Spoiler: There isn’t going to one BEST place to order heirloom and organic seeds. But there is going to be one or two best places for you specifically to order seeds. To figure that out you need to understand what seed type you want to order (above) and some other factors.
Cost: Unless you are Richey McRichison cost is going to be a factor. Specialty seeds aren’t cheap. Organic designation can add to the cost. Some companies like to work with farmers or resellers and give good discounts to bulk orders. Which leads to our next consideration–>
Scale: Are you going to be a small hobby gardener or scale to market? Maybe even full time agriculture. Seed sellers generally cater to large or small scale. However, there are a few vendors that sell to both.
Location, Location, Location: One of the joys of buying heirloom seed is that it has been saved over many years. Which means varieties can often acclimate to a particular region. Finding a seed source near your area can often mean less work as a gardener. The varieties will be used to your weather and pests with natural defenses for both.
Variety: One of the joys of buying heirloom seed is getting something not found in every store! I like to find seed sellers with enough variety of choice to satisfy my “oooh and awwwweee” factor. But buyer beware, sometimes a more targeted seed seller is going to fully understand the exact varieties they are selling. Their advice and commitment to those varieties can get your garden really going. They have picked things they know are reliable and tasty.
Seed Health: Let us say it again: GERMINATION RATE. All those fancy peppers I was trialing last year…. 1 whole packet never even germinated. Also open pollinated seeds have to be kept in special conditions in order to make sure the seed you get will grow up like the parent plant. One year all my tomatoes were not what was on the packet. :(. The company refunded all my money when I sent them pictures, but what a waste of a growing season when you end up with some tasteless paste tomato when you really wanted a rich slicing variety
Mission and Values: A number of heirloom varieties disappeared over the years when hybrid and “easier” vegetables came on the market. There are companies DEVOTED to preserving these varieties. Other companies work with local communities or other charitable activities. I always think it is nice to work with a company doing good things when I can.
Shipping: Based on exact cost of weight and zip. via USPS.
Often free order +$49
Free in-store pickup
Unknown: International Shipping
Why we love them: There are sooooo many reasons to love Sow True Seed. My top reason is that they trial the seeds they sell. You know you are going to buy seeds that work well in the Southeastern United States. I have, personally, great germination rates that result in tasty vegetables. They are small, give tons of seeds away for school and community gardens, and are just generally nice people. Over the years their website has evolved to make it easy to order heirloom seeds as well as open pollinated varieties. They also have signed the safe seed pledge so you know they do their utmost to keep clean, non-gmo seed.
Things to consider: They ship all over the US but their physical location in Asheville, NC is where their focus is involved.
Why we love them: Do you need a cucumber that looks like a dragon egg? What about a bean that grows over 4ft long? Cause they will have it. If you want to find unusual varieties from around the world this is the place to go. Added bonus, the yearly catalog might as well be plant porn.
Things to consider: The seed packets can be really small. Like barely have enough pepper seeds to double plant a small tray (12 peppers?!). The germination can be dubious at best. They do try to mark seed packets with low germination and add more seeds, but that is only after you receive your order. Finally, they are getting varieties from all over the world. It makes them really, really cool but it also means I’ll be trying to grow a blue butterfly pea plant for the 3rd year in a row (Yeah, I don’t give up easily) because it just doesn’t like something about Western North Carolina. Honestly, I would hesitate to base my entire garden on their seeds but I use them as an add-on every single year.
Shipping: Just depends. We order Prime if we can for free and many Etsy sellers offer free shipping.
Why we love them: We combined these two as the same because of the key reason we like them. FYI, We are Amazon Affiliates (link above is an affiliate link), but that isn’t the reason we suggest Amazon. Amazon\Etsy can have things you just can’t find anywhere else. Both locations can connect with you with small independent sellers who carry items that you just cannot find other places. I have found that costs can be higher than expected as items get padded in shipping costs
Things to consider: Amazon and to a lesser extent Etsy are large corporations that are platforms for other sellers. This can be great in giving a small seller a larger online presence, but it can also mean they take a lot of money out of the small seller’s profit. Call it a love-hate relationship with this type of big corporation. Additionally, you rarely know what type of seed you are getting. These aren’t the common seed markets so reviews are limited in some cases, and you are just taking a chance at the quality. I will say though, I have an awesome banana tree I ordered as a teeny tiny plant from Amazon. I also had to throw out a bag of Jerusalem artichokes when I was trying to source bulbs a few years back because they were rotten (Sow True carries these now). I have had some success with seeds, but also have gotten packets of dubious nature when ordering heirloom seeds. Its a buyer beware area.
5 Other Really Awesome Places to Order Heirloom Seeds
Johnny’s Selected Seed: Especially great if you are looking at bulk orders for farming. Their focus is more commercial in nature but they are open for home gardeners ordering heirloom and organic seeds.
Botanical Interests: We picked up a few packs from them on sale at Ace hardware a few years ago and they did wonderfully. Their packets are meant to help new gardeners and are beautiful and informative. Their website has specific areas for organic and heirloom types seeds.
Seed Savers Exchange: I have NOT personally used their seed, but I am familiar with their mission. They are one of the big groups to help preserve heirloom seeds for future use. They also help facilitate seed exchange among seed savers. They are on m to-try list if I ever get past the first five I have listed.
High Mowing Seeds: They are another company I am familiar with but don’t use regularly. The nice thing is being out of Vermont they offer a lot of good varieties for the East Coast of the US. They have also been in the organic seed business a LOOOONNNGGGG time. You know you will be getting real organic seed when you order from them.
Burpee: You may be appalled by our last choice since Burpee is more synonymous with big box gardening than organic and heirlooms, but I stand by them. I like to meet gardeners where they are and not everyone is ready to go hunt down esoteric packs of strange and delightful white tomatoes. (Trust me, you will get there if you get hooked in gardening). Burpee has entire lines of organic and heirloom seeds. Often you can find some of these lines at Lowes, Home Depot, and other big box stores. They focus on lines of seeds that give good consistent results and provide seed that is accessible to a lot more folks. I will often fill my vegetable needs from Burpee seeds and they grow great plants.
Need Even More Options?! See the list at the bottom of the post for even more specialty locations to order heirloom seeds, as well as organic and open pollinated seeds. Please add your favorite seed places in the comments and I will update the list.
How to Keep Your Seeds Organized
Now that you have figured out how to locate the best places to order heirloom seeds don’t forget to keep them organized and safe! People often do not realize you do not need to order $100’s of seeds each year. For a small family a single packet of tomato seeds can generate enough plants for 3-4 growing seasons. There are really three things to keep in mind:
Keep up with what you order
Keep them dry, cool, and safe
Keep up with what you order (It is worth saying twice)
I always THINK I am going to remember what I ordered, what I liked the previous year, etc. I don’t unless I literally MAKE myself. Now, I keep a nice online inventory. I make notes at the end of the year and before I allow myself to order anything new. Added bonus, it is easy to simply hit “share” and let my gardening friends see what extras I have on hand. Here is a handy link to our seed inventory and printable seed saving guide. This can help you keep your heirloom seeds organized and determine when seeds are going out of date so you can plant them accordingly.
Finally, remember to just have fun and enjoy ordering/planting these unusual heirloom seeds. You may not get every seed to become a beautiful plan but it is one of the best ways you can help preserve and taste history!
THE List of Places to Order Heirloom, Organic, and Open Pollinated Seeds
We are excited to announce that we plan to take Craft Thyme and the Reaganskopp Homestead from a hobby to a money making side business over the next year. In theory, we are starting what I have dubbed: the Urban Homestead Side Hustle. I expect to be throwing a lot of stuff against the wall to see what sticks over the next year and might actually make money. Though it is my expectation that none of the trials will be ‘profitable’ over the first year. This is the perfect time to start a homestead side hustle, while we are employed full time and have income to use on capital expenditures.
If you want to skip the plan and scroll down I have compiled a HUUUUUGGGEEE list of ways a small homestead might make some side money. Otherwise read on to our plans.
Plans to Make Money on Our Urban Homestead
Right now we are bouncing ideas on how to make money on our urban homestead:
Chicken Egg sales
Quail (Meat & eggs)
Herb starts and potted herbs
Chicken coop dried herbs
Honor system vegetable sales
Online classes, guides, and utilities for purchase
In person or online permaculture & gardening consultations
Affiliate and advertising revenue on the website and YouTube (We will always be transparent about income made from this source. Right now we do NOT do sponsored posts, so, any reviews of products are just because we like them. Speaking of! Some of the below links may be affiliate links)
Why We Won’t Make Money
Why would start a venture that we don’t think will make money? For one major reason: Capital Expenditures. While I can probably start herbs and make a profit after seed, dirt, and pots are accounted for, it will take me forever to make back the investment we are considering for a small greenhouse. And that is okay by me. We work full time outside of the home so that we can afford some of the luxuries it might take other, more full time homesteaders awhile to afford. There isn’t one right way to start a business! This is just how we plan to do it. Slow and steady is fine too.
Why are You Posting About Money?
I grew up in the South and talking about money sure is tacky, but here is the deal. I see a lot of guides about how to make money for homesteaders, multilevel marketing, and other home business. It breaks my heart because most of it just does NOT give you the truth about what it takes to be successful. I used to teach business plan classes at the local community college. I have seen what it takes to both plan and grow small businesses. There are just so many expenses and other items (licenses, insurance, etc) that people do not plan on. These eat into your bottom dollar and often people find themselves losing way more money on their side hustle than they are making. Statistically if your business is making a profit by year 2 or 3 you are doing really good! A break even by year 4 or 5 is much more likely. You have to be READY to not make money, in order to make money.
We are hoping that our transparency in costs can help save our readers a lot of monetary grief in the future. Plus, it may keep us a little more accountable… Ask us how much we are in on an incubator and how none of our eggs have hatched *le sigh*.
Okay, okay, now that we have scared you here is what you came for:
50+ Ways to Make Money on Your Small Homestead aka Urban Homestead Side Hustle
I lied, one more note. These are geared to small homesteads, especially urban ones with access to lots of free yard sales and markets. I am sure some of these would work for larger farms and rural areas, but frankly, I wanted to find things that might work for me as well as my readers ;). That’s why we are focusing on the urban homestead side hustle. Enjoy!
Topiary: Pretty round boxwoods in vintage pots are always desirable
Mushrooms: Especially good for shady or north facing lots
Mushroom logs: For others to grow their own mushrooms
Fresh cut flowers: Dahlias grow back year after year (in some places you may have to lift the tubers) and make great cut flowers. They can be grown in a small space and staked.
Hoop or hot house vegetables: Offering local greens and veggies when not in season can be a specialty if you live in a slow food market.
I am focusing on crafts that take a little bit of learning and equipment. If you have specialized knowledge such as fine woodworking or welding skills then focus on those first! These can be very lucrative ways to make money on a small urban homestead. Especially if you have a lot of craft fairs and craft oriented events in your area.
Sew Clothing: Especially upcycled & refab clothing
Alterations: My mom did this when I was a kid. Not her favorite activity, but it was side money.
Silk screening: This one takes a bit more investment. I have a degree in art with a concentration print making and sculpture (don’t ask, I don’t use it). Once you learn it you can churn out prints, clothes, etc.
Crochet or Knitting: Bless you if you have the patience for this
Cross stitch or embroidery: Double bless you for having patience with this. Look at alternative embroidery with funny sayings or different materials such as ribbon embroidery (the only one I have patience for)
Handmade soaps, lotions, and other cosmetics: Even better if you have your own beeswax
Check your local laws, people! Technically, you aren’t supposed to do provide a lot of food products in the State of North Carolina without a commercial kitchen. Even something as simple as having a pet in the home can disqualify you. I know plenty of people who do not follow that law, but you open yourself up to liability if you don’t. That being said, there are commercial kitchen times for rent at local community colleges and start up incubators in Western North Carolina. Your state may have different laws, but be compliant. It may take more time but probably less heartache and money in the long run. Plus you want your urban homestead side hustle to be compliant and safe! Right?!
Jams & Jellies
Breads: Think outside the box; crackers, pretzels, buns
Fermented or pickled veggies: Pickled ones marketed for cocktails are always fun.
Other Canned Goods: Please, please make sure you know when to water bath and when to pressure can. Killing people or making them explosively puke is not an ideal way to start a business.
Dried Herbs: Teas, coop & home herbs for cleaning and scent, cooking
Dried Spices or spice mixes: Now you have a use for the 1,000 hot peppers you dried.
Small fruits: Berries, grapes, and small orchard fruits from heirloom varieties sell well in markets where these products can’t ship well to groceries
Sell fresh vegetables & herbs
Sell compost: This one is tricky to get enough green matter but local markets and coffee shops may provide items for free
Sell vintage or fixed up finds: Homesteaders are great at recycling, fixing, and finding deals.
Repair items: If you have the knack I know a man who repairs lawn mowers. Just lawnmowers. In his shed in Canton, NC. He is busy all summer long.
Teach classes: Planting, foraging, animal husbandry, crafts, canning. Community colleges are often looking for continuing ED teachers and local nurseries and homestead stores often will allow you to offer classes or hire teachers.
Teach online courses: Free platforms and plugins are available
Website: Advertising is hard to make money from unless you have a lot of views, but you can make some tidy pocket money with affiliate sales
Homestead Tours/Workshops: On site classes in butchering, canning, and other homestead skills are popular. Our local organic growers school teaches everything from on-farm poultry classes to life skills such as starting a fire from scratch
Build custom chicken coops or plans: This takes a bit more skill but we often have people ask for plans for our custom coops. We also saw an old chicken coop we built fetch $400 on the local market when sold by the people who purchased our old home.
Consulting or Design Services: I recently completed my permaculture design certification, and this does require an investment in time and money, but if you have a built reputation you may not need to be certified. I am just starting to offer these types of services and wanted to go the extra mile.
Air BNB: Or other stay location service. People are interested in agrotourism and will look for camping sites and rooms on farms. Especially if you live in a tourist destination city. Be careful, our city has strict laws about who can and cannot rent out space on their property.
What other things can we add to this list?! Help us add more ideas to our urban homestead side hustle. Please place them in the comments below and we will get them added so everyone can make money with their small homestead.
Most of Craft Thyme’s exploits revolve around the little Reganskopp homestead, but occasionally we do projects in other’s homes. When our friends, Trevor & Justine, decided this would be the year to get married and buy a house we wanted to cheer them on. We also gave them LOTS of advice (solicited & unsolicited) as first time home buyers. They, at least, seemed appreciative (thanks for pretending guys) of our first time home buyer boot camp. While most real estate agents should help a first time home buyer, we thought we would distill our experience into a quick first time home buyer guide in case you don’t have the helpful sort.
First, let’s set the stage: Western North Carolina real estate is an odd market. Houses around Asheville, range from pricey to ridiculous. They are a mix of old (40’s-60’s), really old (1900’s-30’s), and brand spanking new (which are the ridiculous prices). It makes it very hard to find a first time home that can be afforded and also isn’t a dump. Which is where we come in! We offered to help look at houses and then do some basic cosmetic transformations when they finally found ‘the house’… Guess what? They found ‘the house’! Of course, the house came with some awesome items like cracked ceilings, faded eggplant paint, stale cigarette smell, but also large open living/dining area, and spacious yard. We looked it over with them and saw lots of the potential they also saw. Offer was made but that is just the beginning!
First Time Home Buyer Boot-camp
Please note we are NOT licensed real estate professionals, but we have bought, sold, refinanced, and fixed up a number of houses in Western North Carolina. Between Adam and I, we have purchased 5 houses. Three of them built before 1935! Talk about a lot of repairs, mortgages, and learning experience shooo, but always double check our advice with the paid professionals.
Before you begin any search make a list of the things you must have and want to have. If you are shopping with a spouse you might find that your ‘need to have’ list isn’t exactly the same.
When comparing lists our friends found that they had to pay attention to find both a large yard and a location that was not so far away from the city/civilization. The need list and your price range will inform your buyers agent and your search. Your ‘want list’ will help you make the final decision and allow you flexibility in your budget. Once you have a budget and your lists remember the following.
Be prepared to look at a lot of properties. Most first time home buyers will not have a good idea of what items are in their price range. Hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised! However, in a lot of cases you may find you need to reign in your expectations to meet your budget. Or you can be like us and buy the first house you saw (Brianna) or decide you will buy a house when you walk in the door (Adam). Don’t be like us!
Once you have seen a few properties start doing your own web searches. Many property websites will set up alerts to your email when something new comes in the market in your search criteria. Being the first to put an offer in on a property can make a huge difference in a hot market. You will also get lots of spam. Trust me I am still getting email about houses in and area I lived in 5 years ago… Which leads to #3
Be prepared to make decisions quickly. One of the reasons I tell you #1 (Look at a lot of properties) is so that when you find a good home you can jump on an offer and not be stuck in indecisive mode. We have lucked out on a number of properties because we came in quickly with a fair offer. Our friends did too! Pro Tip: Have that pre-approved mortgage letter. It makes your offer much more attractive, plus it is a lot less worrisome if you know you can afford the offer you are placing.
If you have a buyers, agent look at properties they suggest too. We found our previous house at the suggestion of our buyers agent. We actually would not have looked at the house. We had seen it online and made the assumption that the seller was going to place another house next to it and subdivide the lot. Our buyers agent knew they had plans to sell the house with the larger lot instead of developing it further. We would have passed on our perfect house!
Bidding wars are just not worth it. It is tempting to pony up some more cash when you have been on a lengthy search, already fallen in love with your house, and then someone is out-bidding you by a few 1000 dollars. Don’t, just don’t. There is always another house. Being house poor and paying at the very top of your market value is never a good way to start off your first home. Leave the bidding war to more experienced home buyers. Even then… I still give it a “don’t” no matter how experienced a buyer you may be.
If you aren’t using a buyers agent make sure to have a reputable real estate lawyer. Actually make sure to have one of those no matter what. We had the worst time closing on our current house because the previous owner’s lawyer had been barred from practicing real estate law and there were title questions. Anyway, a good lawyer can help you put in a formal offer (Buyer’s agents can do this part in many states) and close on your home (Buyers agents can not do this part in many states). This process is not one you want to scrimp on as a first time home buyer. A house is probably the largest investment you are going to make, you are going to want to protect yourself throughout the process.
When Buying an Older Home or Any Home!
Great, now you have put in an offer and it has been accepted! Let the panic begin! Just kidding, don’t panic but do move fast. Hopefully, you have set a certain due diligence period to check out the house and back out of the offer if you found something cray, cray. If you haven’t, well then, you probably didn’t pay attention to #6 from above. Tsk, Tsk.
If you are a first time home buyer we must stress the importance of spending a little extra cash and getting an excellent home inspector. We have a great home inspector that we recommend. When he is done you basically end up with a 100 page manual and a 2 hour walk through that explains everything about your house. Not all home inspectors are the same! Ask around for recommendations and do not just use the first person on your real estate agent’s list. But Do book this person ASAP. Your due diligence period is likely small and home inspectors, contractors, surveyors, etc can often be booked up.
Once you have your home inspection use that to negotiate repairs. Sometimes this works and sometimes it does not.
Our friends were able to get plumbing fixed and some money at closing. I have been able to negotiate money back for new electric. Sometimes, in the case of our current house, you are getting a cheap price so as NOT to negotiate repairs. It never hurts to ask, but you may not get anything. At that point you can make the informed decision if the work/DIY is something you are interested and capable of completing or if you need to accept the loss of a little money and move onto another property.
ALWAYS remember that cutting a loss of a few hundred dollars is better than being saddled with a house you are unhappy with and/or is so costly to repair you end up being house poor just to keep the lights and water on. That being said make sure to do the following as soon as you have an accepted offer.
Notify your mortgage company: The time it takes to close a mortgage is really quite insane. Do yourself a favor and get the process moving as quickly as possible.
Once you notify your mortgage company they will set up an appraisal. If for any reason, you think you might be backing out of the property have them hold the appraisal to you have the home inspection. BUT NOTE: holding the appraisal can hold up closing. Again, this seems like it shouldn’t be a big thing, but the bank ordering the appraisal to the actual time of completion can be pretty lengthy. You are not going to be able to close that mortgage till the bank makes sure you have enough equity to cover the purchase price.
Home Inspection: Book one ASAP. If you really aren’t going to hire a professional at least get your home-knowledgeable friends to do a walk through and make a list of everything you want to repair upfront plus everything that may need fixing in the first few years (so you can start saving).
Survey: Any time there might be property line questions it is worth it to get a fresh survey. You may need to ask for them to mark the line if you are trying to notify the neighbors that the line is not exactly where they thought it might be.
After your due diligence: Go ahead and call cable/internet, power, water, and electric companies. I made this rookie mistake and forgot to book the internet provider till almost at closing. They were not able to come for 2 weeks! Talk about eating through data on our phones.
Keep in contact with all parties. While in a perfect world the various home inspectors, real estate agents, lawyers, mortgage companies etc would be doing their job it never hurts to check in. You don’t have to be obnoxious, but a simple email or call to ask if they need anything else is a good reminder for them to pick up your file.
Great You Made It!
Great you made it…Almost! You haven’t closed yet. If you have gotten through all the hurdles it is time to start pestering your laywer for the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. Depending on your state, they have to produce this a certain number of days prior to closing. I know, I know, there are lots of numbers and columns.
Look Over your HUD-1 ASAP!
I am pretty sure I have never had a pre-closing HUD where it was correct. You need to diligently contact the laywer, mortgage company, real estate agent, or any one else to correct any mistakes. The HUD is the be all and end all of closing and if it isn’t right you may delay closing and/or spend an entire flipping day in a lawyer’s office (true story I even left for a lunch break).
Once your HUD is settled the only thing left to do is go get a cashiers check for closing from the bank, and bring your ID to closing. You will be asked to sign or initial about 1000 documents. It is impossible to read every piece of it (which is why we suggest the reputable lawyer), but make certain to pay attention to the high points. You want to verify the title information, mortgage, etc matches what you have been discussing the whole time. Once you close you should get some keys and be good to go! We had a few closings that ran late and were registered at the court house till the next day. You will want to consult that lawyer on whether you should move in or remain out of the house at that time.
But anyway once you have closed you are now a HOME OWNER! Enjoy!
And if you want to grow some insta-equity we will be going over tips shortly on quick fixes that add a lot of equity to your home for little upfront cost!
The following is a real account of how our visit to see Holi in India went. It is a story format and makes a pretty fantastic tale. If you want tips and travel advice about seeing Holi or traveling to India let me know in the comments and I will get back to you or write up the information.
One year ago we visited India. I never wrote about our trip to India to see Holi because I wasn’t really writing anything personal about my life at the time and that is the kind of trip you need to digest over time. I’ve always wanted to go to the Holi Festival. Holi is basically the original color run. I mentioned my desire to go and how cool Holi was one lazy evening to my partner in crime. Plane tickets were bought, hotels in New Delhi, Vrindivan, and Jaipur were booked and away we went on a crazy adventure. You’ll note there was a lack of transport between locations… More on that in a bit.
Do I suggest making a trip to a foreign country of completely different values to see a festival of dubious nature? I most certainly do, IF you have the right temperament. We went on our own, without a tour, and without a super set plan. The culture shock alone keeps any trip like this from being a relaxing vacation. You are signing up for adventure. Adventure, as often left out of the books, involves a whole lot of fear, uncertainty, boundary pushing, and I imagine haggling for transport on your quest. Going to see Holi was all of the above, but completely worth it.
If you are thinking about visiting India, especially to see Holi, then do your research. We may not have planned every aspect but it still involved a whole lot of immunizations, visa purchases, and study of customs. Remember, Holi is a religious festival first and foremost. I was not about to go trounce upon another countries customs. At best it makes you seem like a turd of a tourist at worst it can get you arrested or killed in other countries.
So It Begins
You are looking at a 14-16 hour flight from the East Coast of the USA. Nothing like waking up from poor airline sleep to see your plane directly above Kabul, Afghanistan. But in reality it is after you leave the airplane that you realize there is no going back. Especially if you land in New Delhi. Customs is confusing, their hand print scanners are the things of nightmares, and the moment you walk out of the airport you are assaulted by the smell of wet, burnt firecrackers (pollution), people trying to hawk taxis and other items. Research pre-paid fares and make sure to find a stand that guarantees the amount to your destination and gives you a receipt. Otherwise you can get taken for a lot more money when you reach your destination. Basically always set a firm price before getting on any transportation. Oh and if you are like us make sure to do all of this at midnight India time. Cause there is nothing more exciting than being in an unfamiliar location in the dark.
If you are like us you will get in a car accident within you first hour, finally make it to an unbelievably posh hotel, and then have to face the fact you can’t open your mouth in the shower. Get 3-4 hours of sleep and then figure out how the hell you are going to get to Agra on your way to Vrindivan.
Oh holy hell, I don’t even think I can describe the metro in morning rush hour in New Delhi. You would need to be there to experience it and that would be one suggestion I say skip if possible. My husband is a big guy. A Big. Red Bearded. Intimidating guy. That afforded us an additional 3 inches of room. If you do manage to brave that insanity then pick a place to meet if you get separated. We foolishly did not and I got ripped away from him by the physical push of the crowd. Panic ensued but some kind Indians physically pulled me from the train and threw me into his arms. Oh yeah, that actually happened and it is an experience i could have done without.
There is a huge long portion of the story where we meet one of the only other tourists we find on the trip. I nice Swede who had been there for a few weeks, taught us to haggle, and got us to a bus to Agra. Not a state bus just a bus. The kind you see in pictures with everyone and livestock piled inside, random stops in the middle of the highway, and no idea of where you are actually headed. It is hence forth the period where we were think “Well, shit, we have made a major mistake”. Luckily for both of us we are of the never give up temperament. Plus once you are stuck in a bus moving further and further away from the only airport that can get you home you kind of have to continue.
But in general people around the world are still people. We found some that were nice, pointed out where to get off, where to get tuk tuks (Also known as three wheeled mopeds of death), and how to navigate the city. Just remember that nice comes at a price in India. The whole economy works on kickbacks and friends Recommendations are based on this process so you can ask for a recommendation of taxi and a person will give you one, but it is likely their cousin or friend’s taxi service, not necessarily the best/cheapest one around.
We saw the Taj Mahal from a distance. Don’t ever go with luggage as there is no good place to store it and they won’t let you take it in. Plus you have to fight a gauntlet of vendors and slums to get to any of the gates. The Red Fort was amazing but on the whole Agra was one of the poorest and dirtiest locations we saw. We managed to snag a taxi to Vrindivan find our surprisingly wonderful hotel and basically collapse. Holi was the next day, we had barely slept, and frankly the all day adrenaline charge we had had was more than enough to have us pass out.
See Holi, It Really Is That Wonderful
We made it. It was the start of Holi, we were in Krishna’s birth village, and it was the start of the festival. Despite our general misgivings we decided to walk the 1 mile to the village. We both wore outfits that we didn’t mind getting stained various colors. I also made sure to have a 3/4 sleeve loose blouse and full length skirt on. We planned on making our way to the main temple and I wanted to make sure to follow the general dress and customs.
Walking was the BEST PLAN Ever! As we got closer to the town a tuk tuk comes veering off the road. Apprehensively we stood our ground, but to our surprise and delight a number of men jumped out, give us gigantic bear hugs, wiped colored powder all over our foreheads, and jovially yelled “HAPPY HOLI” the whole time. This was the process that was to continue for the next two hours of our lives, EXCEPT it also included thousands of pictures. We had managed to find the authentic Holi experience, which meant we were some of the only tourists there. My husband’s height and beard made us of immediate interest from a distance, my blonde hair just drew everyone. For the first time ever I finally understood why celebrities lose it. There is something exhausting about only being able to make it three feet before someone grabs you and takes a picture. But we kept smiling because everyone seemed so delighted to wish us a happy Holi.
At one point I had, had a little more than I could take so we started cutting down some of the side streets. The crowds were less thick and we could watch the main happenings on the main street from a less involved distance. It was an amazing site to behold. Shouts of laughter as kids and adults chase each other around with colors while streams of brightly colored powder and liquid dye filled the air. Processions of orange robed Hindu Monks cut through all the chaos, reminding everyone that while this was a celebration it was also a religious festival.
As we stood watching we noticed a bit of chaos behind us at a gate. Seeing as we hadn’t died yet we, as in Adam, decided we should go check that out. As headed down the alley Adam screams simply “MONKEY!”. Yep a large, over waist high, temple monkey decides to jump down next to Adam. Because, you know, we hadn’t already seen pigs, cows, dogs, camels, and horses. Of course all I can think is that we weren’t in time to take the recommended rabies vaccine before our trip and their direction was to stay away from local animals… Yeah, that can’t happen in India. The animals are as thick as the people and you will be up close to all types of livestock and apparently monkeys. Since no one was bit by the monkey we continued to the chaos which was a number of people attempting to enter a temple. At that very moment they open the gate to let a number of people in and out. So what do we do? Well of course we just push ahead and enter the temple.
It was an oasis in the middle of chaos. Everyone is hushed, you can hear chants and music across the courtyard. We had to remove our shoes (much to Adam’s worry as his have gotten stolen in the most unusual circumstances), but the cool marble of the temple walkways felt amazing in the warm sun. Light filtered through colorful nets and garlands containing thousands of marigolds and bells. A cool breeze blew as we entered the temple proper. The hush, sprinkled with the beautiful marble carvings, and spring decorations everywhere gave it the most surreal feel. The temple security made everyone back away from us so that we have a few moments of peace from the picture taking bonanza. We actually met one of the only other American’s on our trip. He was Krishna monk who helped us sneak out the back of the temple. As he showed us around he explained his life’s goal was to serve and help. That he could reach a state of grace through such acts. Hearing such conviction in such a setting will always stay with me and remind me that for every awful thing we see there are good things as well.
The Holi experience as a whole was amazing, we slipped around the back of the village making our way back to the hotel. We had only one rough experience where some young mean got a bit rough and handsy with me. Let’s just say I threw some elbows and my husband picked me up and carried me from the crowd. They actually ended up apologizing, but I would be wary to travel Holi as a single woman, alone. We never did make it to the main city temple, but I think that was good. Our trip led us to the back streets where we got to meet some of the residents. When we finally made it back to the hotel we had to spend close to 45 minutes removing as much color as we could. It still left my skin splotched and my hair a lovely shade of purple and hot pink. We snagged an evening massage and passed out with the knowledge we would have to figure out how to get halfway across the country to Jaipur in the morning.