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Well, we’ve been in the new house for 3 months and we’ve successfully sold the old one. Most of the new home furnishings are in place and we feel like we’ve completed a big chapter. We’ve purposefully refrained from blogging about the experience. There was sort of a feeling throughout the process that we were fighting an uphill battle to make this transition.

That feeling caused us to think twice about blogging how we were feeling and thinking about the events that occurred along the way. We really prayed a lot about finding the right buyer for the other house and we were grateful that one came along within 10 days of the house going on the market. We’ve gone through this process 3 times in the first 3 years of our marriage. First selling Lisa’s townhouse after we got married. Then buying our new house and finally selling the house we lived in after getting married.

As I reflect on the latest house adventure, there are a couple of things that stand out that might be useful to you if you’re planning to sell. The first thing

We were psyched and ready to celebrate with our broker at closing!

is staging the home you’re planning to sell. We rolled the dice and bought our new house before selling the old one, so we weren’t living in the house but we were carrying two mortgages for awhile. We planned for that, but it does hold some risk if you can’t sell quickly. However, since we weren’t living there, it made it easier to stage the home. You really need to de-clutter and get rid of personal items. Then consider some inexpensive tasks like adding some fresh paint, fixing squeaky doors, changing the furnace filter, cleaning the carpets, making feature cards to hang up in the house and hiring a professional photographer are prime examples of simple things that you can easily do. Let’s face it, when you’re selling you’re facing a war with two fronts – a pricing war and a beauty contest. You want to stay competitive on the price and win the beauty contest. All these things that I listed are examples that address the beauty contest. Take time to schedule walk through’s of your competition with your broker. This is called scouting your competition.

You’ll be surprised at how your competition looks really good on-line, but when you visit their place you’ll find out the imperfections that your neighbors are strategically hiding. Use that information and make sure that if you have a closet door that needs a new handle because it looks worn out just like your neighbor’s does, then it’s worth a few bucks to replace it with a new one. The people walking through your place will notice it.

In this market, your neighbors will affect your price. Bank-owned properties drive prices down – they’re not supposed to be used as comp’s for an appraisal, but home prices are not immune to their existence. And your competition affects your price too. If your neighbors haven’t taken good care of their property then it could negatively affect your price. Your property may look stellar, but if the other comparable properties for sale by an owner are dumpy, then that will drive your price down. In this market don’t expect that just because you took great care of your house you can sell it for a lot more than your neighbors who haven’t done the same. It simply doesn’t work out that way, unfortunately. Be real with your price, don’t start out high and think you’ll bargain down. Buyers don’t want to bargain down from a high price, even if your house looks better. People will save the money, avoid talking to you and buy the cheaper house and use the savings for improvements on the other houses for sale. We think this is especially true in Minnesota. “Minnesota nice” will prevail and people will simply ignore you and your high price. You might get traffic, but you won’t get an offer.

Plan ahead and save a bunch of money, more than you think. It’s going to cost you to sell your house in this market. Plan for the offer scenario where you”ll likely need to cover closing costs, broker’s fees, title fees, taxes and a host of other things. Buyers have the advantage to ask you to cover a lot of costs in this market because many people are desperate to sell. The market will vary, but even when the amount of available homes for sale is down, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher price for the seller. The law of supply and demand are affected by many other variables that prevent a low supply of homes to equate to higher prices.

Work with your broker ahead of time and discuss the types of costs you’d be willing to take on. This will help you to not feel so bad when the costs are estimated. Save now and plan for this. Then if it happens, you won’t feel so shocked about writing that check or taking home less than you thought if you don’t have a mortgage to pay off or you didn’t have a lot left to pay off. Assume the worst case scenario, then if you get something better than that, you’ll feel better when that offer comes in.

Finally, your closing experience as a seller will be affected by how good your buyer’s mortgage lender and title company are. This is often out of your control, however if your broker tells you that the offer is coming from a legitimate buyer but that the buyer’s mortgage company has a bad reputation, then you can try to suggest the buyer work with someone else. Once the buyer is pre-approved and has paid for an appraisal, it’s tough for them to walk away from that lender.

Let’s face it, this market is tough no matter what you do. If you have other ideas that helped sell your home, then please share in the comments as we’d love to hear what you have to say!

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Lisa and I are about half way through a 16 week course on discipleship at church. It’s been a really great class. There have been several instances of God speaking to us through the course homework.  Several times we have been challenged to think about when significant things occurred because someone else had the courage to follow through on challenging our behavior, thinking, words or beliefs.

The point was simply that someone cared about us or loved us enough to do what seems hard to do, but when they did it, it had eternal repercussions.

I know I haven’t always thought of the eternal consequences of my relationships with others as a motivation for what to say or how to say it when I’m with them. When it comes to discipleship and sharing the Gospel, the learning for me is that our relationships need to be intentional, our words, actions and behavior toward the other person should be motivated out of a brotherly love for the eternal well-being of the other.

As a result of knowing this, I’m beginning to understand the importance of my conversational intimacy with Yeshua. The sound of that intimacy is amplified when I shut my own mouth, quit talking and listen to Him and then, of course, do what He says.

That conversational intimacy allowed God to use me (a misfit from the island of misfit toys if there ever was one) as a blessing to my uncle and in-turn that became an encouragement that God is all over the details of our lives. He is. He really is. To God be the glory for that. For confirmation of this story: click here.

I leave you tonight to consider these words from Yeshua Messiah: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [Helper] to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.”

If you need prayer and encouragement because you desire to know the Gospel of Yeshua Messiah and want conversational intimacy with Him, leave us a comment on the blog. We’ll commit to praying specifically on your behalf. We also will direct you to on-line resources that provide more information about a relationship that promises conversational intimacy with your creator.

We’re by no means vegetarians, but we have tried to cut down considerably on our meat consumption over the past few years. Doing so has meant researching creative vegetable dishes to add to our repertoire. Brent discovered this one in our “Vegetarian-Tasty Recipes for Every Day” cookbook. It definitely lives up to the “tasty” title. We both went back for seconds!

We also learned a new word. Bocconcini are small mozzarella cheese balls. They are semi-soft, white and rindless unripened mild cheeses which originated in Napoli. They were once made only of buffalo milk, but today are often combined with cow’s milk. The Italian word, bocconcini, means “small mouthfuls.”

One of our long-range goals is to one day learn Italian. Looks like we’re one word closer.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Total cooking time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Serves 6-8

3 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or pressed
2 1/2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 lbs eggplant, sliced thinly
8 oz. bocconcini, sliced
6 oz. cheddar cheese, finely grated (I used 1/2 this amount.)
1 C basil leaves, torn
1/2 C grated parmesan

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Preheat the oven to moderately hot 200 degrees. (I also added Italian seasonings at this point.)

2. Slice the eggplant very thinly and shallow fry in oil in batches for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

3. Place one third of the eggplant in a 7-cup ovenproof dish. Top with half the bocconcini and cheddar. Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of eggplant.

4. Pour the tomato mixture over the eggplant. Scatter with torn basil leaves, then parmesan. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy. 

Buon appetito!

Every list of blogging tips says you’ve got to be consistent. Some suggest you need to post at least once a week. Let’s see, when did we last post? FAIL. It’s called buy-a-house, move, and sell-a-house, all in a matter of two months. I know, that’s no excuse in the blogger world, but we’re just glad to have Internet service and some semblance of order in our lives at this point.

Brent and I aren’t the only ones adjusting to the move. All along we were concerned how the cat might react. She’s not big on change, except when she occasionally decides to get finicky about her Turkey Giblet cuisine. But she’s done remarkably well with just a few hiccups along the way.

First off, she decided that jumping upon and dancing around on a narrow ledge with a 12-foot drop was a fun idea in the new house. Argh! She’s not the youngest kitty anymore and a fall would surely lead to her demise. Our solution? Jommi is the proud owner of a luxurious new kitty condo, the first piece of furniture we’ve purchased together! Our hope has been that it would satisfy her need for heights. That’s yet to be seen.

Along with the move, Miss Jommi also decided she no longer was interested in our method of delivering her daily pills. Not cool since her health depends on these pills. But our veterinarian is a genius. We were skeptical, but his suggestion worked like a charm and we’d have never guessed this one.

Twice a day, we roll her little pills up in a small chunk of Gjetost. If you’re not familiar with this (as we were not), it’s Norwegian cheese. Yes, our cat is getting imported cheese on a daily basis. And let me tell you, “She LOVES the stuff.” She knows precisely when it’s Gjetost time and the meowing is non-stop until she gobbles down the scrumptious little cheese balls. Do you suppose she may be Norwegian? Oh, and yes, we tested it out ourselves. It’s a creamy cheese that has a lovely little hint of caramel flavor to it. I’m sure it would go beautifully with a nice Chianti.

If you have a pet, can you relate or do kitty condos and imported cheese put us in that crazy pet owner’s category?

P.S. If you are into cat humor, Brent found this video today that absolutely cracked me up!

Well, we did it! We’re moved. And what an exciting ride so far. We apologize for the lack of posts for the last month. There certainly was enough fodder for good laughs and learnings, but for the last 3 1/2 weeks we were in the “packing, moving and staging zone.”

Lisa created a plan to pack and label boxes by room with a color coded sticker. On the back end of moving, that has really helped us organize the unpacking effort. But in the end, there were so many boxes that keeping track of where stuff was became impossible. I don’t know if it’s even possible to ever keep track of everything. But all things are possible with God. The really important stuff was moved last. Meaning, the stuff we rely on and use everyday: computers, TV, modems, wi-fi, prescriptions, keys, etc. And of course the cat was the last to get captured and put in the kitty carrier. Those are an eclectic mix of items, so we had to specially mark those boxes so we could find them easily when we arrived at the new house. The cat has been “freaked out” since the first box of stuff was sealed with tape. I think she was afraid she would be left behind as she witnessed all the items disappear into the garage before the move.

But the one critical element to this process has been God. We’ve been praying for 3 years about where we should live. We’ve been separated from our church by 40 miles since getting married which made it difficult to be actively involved there. Our prayer was that we’d be closer to church and manage a shorter commute to work at the same time. He accomplished both!

One of the reasons we signed the purchase agreement on our anniversary was due to hearing from God through the neighbor. While we were walking through the house for the second time, the neighbor walked past the window a couple times as he was cleaning up some items from the deck in the back. We’d begun that day like all others, by praying in the car as we set off on the commute together. We knew we were going to go back and look at the house for the second time after work, but we asked for confirmation that the house was the right place to be. We asked God to be part of the decision making process and asked for a clear message from him that it was the right decision to put money down.

When I noticed the neighbor, I went outside and began talking to him. Within minutes he was asking where I and Lisa worked. When he found out that Lisa worked for our church he inquired which church. Then he smiled and asked if we knew specific people and the names he mentioned were people we know (there are over 2,500 in the congregation, so it isn’t a given that we know them all.) He mentioned that he and his wife had attended the Christmas service at our church in December!

Then he looked at me and said, “My wife and I have been praying that fellow believers would move in next door.” And he talked about how exciting it would be for them if we were to consider moving next door. I couldn’t believe that he said that. I’d only just met the man. I didn’t tell him about our prayers, he had no idea what we’d been praying for. I asked him to repeat what he said to make sure I heard him correctly. Then he invited us to come over so we could see how he and his wife had decorated their place and give us a tour. No kidding!

So we went over and got the tour and met his wife. I must’ve had a strange look on my face when I came back inside after first meeting him. Lisa and our realtor asked me what happened. I was just staring into space and said they wouldn’t believe me. I told them the story and Lisa looked at me knowingly and smiled. They sent us encouraging text messages over the last month, sharing their prayers with us and reminding us how excited they were that we were going to move in.

It was so cool how God is involved in the intimate details of our move. There are more stories about how He showed up. I’ll save them for another post!

 

It feels like we’ve been going non-stop for about a week straight. Maybe because we have. It’s one of those beyond-busy-seasons of life for us right now. And it’s exactly those times that it’s often easy to rationalize grabbing some fast food and falling off the healthy eating train. Our track record isn’t perfect, but we’re trying to cook more than a couple healthy meals each week.

I find the key is to pick a few relatively easy recipes that don’t call for a lot of ingredients. And if you don’t mind being repetitive, go ahead and make them every week for a while to get you through the crazy times. Repetition means you don’t have to think so much. When there’s so many other details to keep straight, that’s huge.

Over the past three or more weeks, this is one of those recipes for us. It’s easy and we love it. A good friend got the recipe from her doctor and shared it with us. We’re not sick of it yet.

Sausage with Wilted Spinach  & Fennel
Ingredients

1 lbs. ground sausage
2 T almond oil
1 bulb fresh fennel, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 chicken broth
1 bag baby spinach

Directions
1. Put the sausage on a lipped baking sheet (in small chunks).
2. Place the baking sheet into oven, set to broil.
3. In a large frying/sauté pan heat oil on medium high.
4. Add garlic and fennel. Cook for 4 minutes.
5. Turn sausage to finish cooking in the broiler.
6. Add broth and spinach to pan. Stir until spinach wilts.
7. Spoon spinach mixture onto plate and top with spinach.

The recipe didn’t call for it, but we’ve also served it on quinoa.

We interrupt this blog for an important announcement: Lisa and I are moving. We’ve been on a whirlwind adventure since our last post in mid January. Several

We signed a purchase agreement on our anniversary!

times I’ve wanted to sit down and just jot a few lines here. I find it difficult to throw a few lines together and post them because I feel like the post should be more than just an online diary. In other words, I like to try to bring you my thoughts after I’ve had a chance to think about it and offer you, dear reader, something more valuable than “what’s happening now.” In the comments let me know if you disagree. Especially valued are the thoughts from fellow bloggers who have thought about this before. I’d love to know how you keep fresh, relevant and new insights going in the midst of limited time to really think about it. If I get enough responses I can try and post shorter, more frequent updates about what’s going on.

Lisa and I have been preparing for a move for over a year. We’ve been praying and waiting on the Lord to let us know where that should be. Recently my employer announced they would be moving a huge number of workers to a second headquarters location that is not in downtown Minneapolis. I am included in that move. The good news is that they are letting us know about this move 2 years in advance. That’s pretty fair in today’s world. Why does it matter?

It matters because it helped us narrow down where within the Twin Cities we wanted to focus on for a move. We were open to moving to either side of the river (which is another topic for a future post.) With the announcement it helped us focus on the north and western suburbs of Minneapolis. We spent a couple

Bike paths with key locations important to us marked in orange

weeks with a map of bike paths in Minneapolis and all associated suburbs. We marked the items we thought were important to us for shopping: SuperTarget, WholeFoods, a Co-op and Costco. We wanted to find a place that supported our enjoyment of cooking (hence all the supermarkets) with easy access to the fabulous system of bike paths. Our current location is great for both. And we felt the new location needed to continue to serve those those requirements.

The bottom line is we had only looked at 2 or 3 locations when we found a spot last Sunday that really spoke to us. Some might say it was an accident, but we think it was divinely directed (more on that story next time.) We were offered incentives to close before the end of February. We went home to think about it and on Tuesday we went back with our realtor to look at it again. That’s when God made it clear we were in the right place at the right time. I’ll leave that as a teaser for the next post. Suffice it to say we found ourselves signing a purchase agreement on Tuesday night – which just happened to be our anniversary. So it made for an exciting evening.

More to come….

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