Monthly Archives: May 2012

30 Days to Becoming an Entrepreneur Series

Coming up next month I’ll be doing a series on entrepreneurship and starting a business. Starting tomorrow, I’ll provide tips, insights, and advice on how to become an entrepreneur each day in June.

This information will be based off my own experiences starting my three businesses: Deckci Decor, The Woof Room, and The Advancement Company. For the most part, it will be focused on starting a service-related business. While many businesses are just individuals doing something – this series will focus more on starting a business with staff (like Deckci Decor and The Woof Room). Although, the information should be useful to all interested in entrepreneurship.

I should also note that I am no expert and I don’t have a MBA. This will be based off my own personal experiences starting my three businesses – all of which are successful and making a profit. I hope you enjoy!

Check out all the posts in this series.

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Operation New Home: We got it!

We got the golf course home!

It was a nerve-wracking 24 hours. The sellers counter-offered, which we just flat out declined because it was out of our budget, and then they came back again with another counter-offer we could afford. After much discussion, we decided to accept. We ended up spending a little more than we wanted – but this was truly a home we could see ourselves in forever. They ended up coming down almost $40k from their asking price. We felt very fortunate that we were able to come to a mutual agreement on the home.

This goes to show you that if there is something you really want go for it! If it doesn’t work out, then at least you tried – but if it does work out you won’t have any regrets! If we had just went with the home in our budget, we would have been settling and would have always wondered “what if”?

Now that we have spent all our money on a new house 🙂 we are going to work on getting furniture thrift-style.

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Operation New Home: Making an offer

After looking at homes, you need to decide do you want to be move quick and make an offer in case others are interested, or should you take your time and look at a few more houses? It’s a tough call. After reviewing the three homes we liked, we decided that we’d go back and do second showings at the two homes that we had liked (one in our budget and one above our budget at $369k). The golf course home that was $382k was ruled out because the high price, so we weren’t going to do a second visit.

When we went back to the house listed for $369k, we decided to scratch it off our list. Although the home was nice overall, the yard was tiny – and the neighbor the back felt very close with little privacy. So, we moved on to the house in our budget. While it wasn’t perfect, it had a large spacious yard and good bones. We’d have to do minor cosmetic fixes – but we decided we’d go for it. We wrote up an offer – and then the realtor got a call.

The realtor for the home we loved, the one WAY over our new budget ($382k) on the golf course, wanted us to come back for a second look. She said the sellers were eager to sell (they had been relocated) and would entertain any offer. We felt pretty set on the home in our budget, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to take a second look. That was the end of us.

We immediately remembered how much we loved the golf course home. It was perfect. It didn’t have anything we’d need to fix right away, and had everything on our must have list (and most of our wants). We were torn. We figured we had nothing to lose, so we also wrote an offer for the golf course home. We figured it was worth a shot and if they declined (which we knew they would since we offered $340k plus almost $10k in closing costs – over $50k less than they wanted, and $60k less than they had originally listed the home for), that we’d just make our offer on the home in our budget.

What happened? Check back tomorrow to see which one we ended up getting.

Photo Credit: Kurt Haubrich

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Operation New Home: Hunting down the new homestead

Ever want something you can’t have? Of course, who hasn’t? When house hunting, you often have to reconcile with yourself about the home you want and the home you can afford. This was particularly difficult for us because we were told we could buy a home $40,000 more than our mortgage broker ended up saying we could be approved for (this was due to my self-employment, when self-employed, brokers use tax returns instead of how much you are currently making from the business). That means we had spent over a month looking at homes in one budget only to discover we couldn’t afford those homes.

I found that out the night before we planned to go out house hunting – it was a huge bummer. Fortunately, we only had 2 homes on the list that were over our new budget (listed at $382k and $369k), so I just emailed our realtor to remove those. I figured no point in going to see something that we might fall in love with only to not get it because the seller wouldn’t come down that much.

Our first day house hunting was grueling. Don’t be like me when you go out house hunting. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it takes, and don’t take on too many homes to look at. When we went out, we ended up only seeing 8 of the 14 homes and it still took us 7 hours. It was a long day. We actually ended up going to the two homes over our budget because our realtor didn’t get our email and she had already driven to the most expensive house, so we figured we might as well see them. We ended the day with three homes on our list of possibles. Of course, we loved the two most expensive homes we saw (one of which was right on the golf course and had everything we wanted) but one home was well within out budget.

Here are a few things I learned:

1. Don’t waste time in homes you don’t like. If you hate the outside, or hate it a few minutes in, just leave. No point in wasting time in a house you aren’t going to get.

2. Plan about 45 minutes for each house you see. Longer if you have drives over 5-10 minutes.

3. Bring a camera and note paper. If you like a home and it’s a possibility, take notes and pictures – after seeing a bunch of homes it will be hard to keep them straight!

4. Ride with your realtor. It was so nice to be able to debrief about each home after viewing it. It made things move faster and we were able to discuss what we had seen with her after each house.

So, what did we do? Check back tomorrow to hear about the tough decision and what happened when we made an offer.

What tips do you have for those looking for a new home?

Photo Credit: Sherwood CC

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Operation New Home: Looking for a new house!

After almost two months of craziness deciding whether to sell, getting our house ready to sell, dealing with the stress of our home being on the market, and battling the pressure to lower our price, we finally sold our home. Which meant we finally could look for new homes!

While it was very exciting to be able to really look, we had a whole new type of pressure. We really wanted this to be our “forever” home. We planned that we wouldn’t move again, and would plan to stay there for the rest of our lives. This meant it was critical that it fit all of our needs and ideally most of our wants.

So, we made a list of all the things we wanted and decided that the house we picked had to have them – no matter what. Our list was:

  • 4 bedrooms
  • 3 bathrooms (we wanted a master bath, kids bath, and guest bath)
  • Within a couple miles of major freeways to avoid lengthy commutes
  • Newer home (we had lived in a 100+ year home, and while I loved the character I didn’t love the structural issues that came along with an older home)
  • Large kitchen
  • Space for a playroom
  • Decent sized yard (around 1/3 acre)
  • 3 car garage

Those were the must have items. We had many other things we wanted (main floor laundry, deck, large master closet, wood floors, full basement, etc) but those were the deal breakers. We also did NOT want a pool. While we love water and enjoy going swimming up at our cabin, we don’t love the upkeep of a pool and I don’t feel comfortable with it having young children.

Now that we had our list, we chose cities. We wanted to move to the East side of the Twin Cities, closer to family but still close to Phil’s work and my businesses. Our first choice was Oakdale by the golf course or Woodbury. We considered Cottage Grove, but our realtor had advised us that property values aren’t as stable there and we didn’t want to deal with losing a lot of value on our home again.

With our must have list and cities whittled down, we were ready to start looking! Check back on Monday for what I learned about the house hunting process.

What’s on your must have list for your next home?

Photo Credit: Slack12

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Does self-employment + parenthood = chaos?

Is self-employment and parenthood compatible? Maybe not for everyone, but for me it certainly is. When most people hear about my businesses they can’t believe I have a baby and toddler at home. I get a lot of “How do you do it?”, “You must never sleep!” and “You must have a live-in nanny!”

Well, I can tell you it’s not easy but it certainly isn’t very hard. I definitely sleep (at least 7 hours, but usually 8 each night). I don’t have a live-in nanny. I don’t have a nanny at all. My children do go to a Spanish immersion preschool two days per week, but the other 5 days they are home. I can honestly say I get way more time with my kids than parents who work “normal” jobs – and I make at least as much as them.

Self-employment isn’t for everyone – but I can honestly say that starting my businesses were the best career-related decisions I’ve ever made. They have enabled me to create countless relationships with amazing nonprofit workers, be home with my children, and fulfill a life-long dream of working for myself.

Deciding to become an entrepreneur is a difficult and life changing decision, but it can help you achieve your goals and dreams – and give you more time with your family than you thought possible. I strongly believe everyone should give it a try if it’s something you are interested in.

In June I’ll be doing a series on starting a business (30 days to Becoming an Entrepreneur) which will highlight my experiences and provide easy to follow steps to starting your own business.

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Operation New Home: We sold our house!

After 4 weeks on the market, 25+ showings, and several second showings, we got an offer. If you remember, we listed it for $210,000 which was much less than we put into it. We got an offer of $200,000 plus they wanted us to pay 3% ($6,000) in closing costs. When the offer was presented to us, our realtor told us that the prospective buyer had a back-up house and would not go any higher – that it was her best offer.

It sucked. We were prepared to pay in and lose money selling our house, but deep down you kind of hope you won’t have to. We were just fortunate that the offer was decent. And wow was I glad we didn’t give in on lowering our price. If we had, that offer would have likely been $190,000 and wouldn’t have come up from there.

So, we discussed it and decided to accept the offer. We were ready to move on and felt fortunate we were finally able to. We accepted her offer and now had 45 days to find a new house and be out of our house. Now for the fun part, looking for a new home!

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Operation New Home: Time to drop the price?

How can you instantly lose thousands of dollars? Lowering the price of your home. Everyone knows it’s pretty rare that you actually get what you listed your house for. So, when you pick a price it’s usually a little above what you actually want to get for your house knowing full well someone is going to offer less.

That means if you lower the price of your home, you are 1) For sure getting less than you wanted and 2) instantly are losing thousands of dollars. Lowering the price of your home is a difficult decision and there are a lot of factors at play. The biggest factor is how long your house has been on the market. The second biggest factor is whether your house is listed at market price.

Our realtor wanted us to lower the price on our house after 2 weeks on the market. While that might work for some people, we were already for sure going to lose money on our home – the question was how much. Because of that, lowering the price was an even bigger decision than normal. We did some research online to see when people “typically” lower the price on their home, but there was not typical. It ranged from 2 weeks to 8 months. We felt like lowering after 2 weeks was just too soon. So, we decided that we’d wait until it had been on the market 1 month and then likely lower it then.

We felt like lowering price, while it would bring in new buyers from lower tiers of home prices, would be counter intuitive because those buyers would offer even less bringing us even less money. For example, if someone was looking for a home under $200,000 and we lowered our price from $210k to $199k then the home would now be in their list – but would still be at the very top of their budget, so they’d likely come in low at $185k. Which was WAY less than we needed and wanted for this house. We just hoped that waiting a few more weeks would pay off. Check back tomorrow to see if it did 🙂

Photo Credit: The Three Sisters

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Operation New Home: A practice in patience, waiting to look

Are you guilty of randomly house shopping online? I am. For years I have pulled up an online real estate website and house shopped, fantasizing about what our “forever” home would look like. When we put our house up for sale, it felt like those fantasies would finally become a reality. We would finally have a house that fit our family.

Phil and I wanted to be practical though, we agreed early on that we would not go out touring homes until our house sold. We could look online – but wouldn’t shop in-person. We didn’t want to fall in love with a home and not be able to get it. We certainly were not going to have two mortgages, that’s for sure.

It was pretty tough. When your house is on the market, it feels like an eternity has passed when it’s only been a few weeks. I feel for those that have had their house on the market for months, or even years. Just remember, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle

Photo Credit: David Yu

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Operation New Home: Juggling 2 kids, 2 dogs, and A LOT of showings

How do you keep a pristine clutter-free house with 2 under 2 and a couple dogs? Magic. Just kidding. You don’t. It’s just not possible. We did the best job we could and didn’t stress about it. I knew that leaving a bottle in the sink wasn’t going to be a deal breaker for people. We did do everything possible though to keep things clean and organized. Every morning the house was prepped for “show” condition. Fortunately, last minute showing requests aren’t common.

We also developed plans for dealing with showings on different days and at different times. Here’s what we did that helped tremendously with dealing with the showings:

  • Our two dogs were brought to dog daycare every day
  • We stayed at my parent’s house the first weekend our house was on the market
  • We had several “plans” for night showings (i.e. bring kids to gym daycare and workout, dinner out to eat, etc)
  • We signed up for BookAShowing’s email and text messaging alert service (BookAShowing was used to book showings for our house by our realtor). So, when an agent requested a showing we were sent a text message and email -before agent event called to see if it was ok. This was super helpful in planning ahead.

Nonetheless, it was stressful. After we had 20+ showings, we would just sit in our truck down the street watching for them to leave so we could get home asap  🙂

Check back Monday for a practice in self control – waiting until your house is sold to look for new homes!

Photo credit: Andres Thor

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