It's Our One Year Home-A-Versary! The Before And Afters Will Blow Your Mind... #CapitalOneHome

Today is a monumental day for my family... One year ago today, we moved into our dream home! Our one-hundred-year-old, super fixer-upper, dream home... 

I LOVED our new house. I loved the promises it held inside its walls for my family. I loved how even though it needed a ton of updates, renovations and four million layers of wallpaper removed (That dated back to the dinosaur era!), with a little lots of TLC, the house was going to be fabulousness. 

In a way, it already was... even with its ancient wallpaper, filthy green walls, and questionable plumbing and electric, the house's beautiful bones were all I could see. Thankfully, FTD agreed. We were first-time home buyers, on a mission to find a fixer-upper we could make our own.

The house met our wish list of number bedrooms, bathrooms, garden, and garage, so what if we were going to have to spend the rest of our lives renovating it, it was officially our home, and we couldn't wait to get started! 

As my long-time readers know, the renovations were put into action IMMEDIATELY! 

Fixing the wall in our dining room, and painting was our first order of business. FYI:  This project delivered my biggest home renovation lesson to date, It's a process. And a huge labor of love... but so worth it. 

Believe it or not, FTD and I spent two years looking for our family home. We started right after I found out I was pregnant. Location was EVERYTHING to us. We lived in a super artsy, eclectic area of town, and no way were we leaving! A large number of homes and shops are on the historic registry. People come from all around to walk the historic street, eat the amazing food and experience the fabulous art and culture our historic neighborhood has to offer. We are super artsy and eccentric eclectic, we belong here! Besides, the suburbs would throw us out. 

Being that I had spent the last ten years renting, the unknowns of home ownership were scary, but the promise of FINALLY paying back into my pocket was amazing! I always looked at renting as throwing money out the window, but having a mortgage was a true investment. That being said, since FTD and I were first-time homebuyers, we had a lot to learn about the home loan process, and most of all, creating a budget and sticking to it! 

Having a clear understanding of our income and expenses was our first step. We needed to know exactly how much we could afford a month for mortgage, living expenses and still manage to put 5% aside for rainy days. While we were working on our budget, I started to really grasp the commitment of homeownership and compromises it would take to afford a house in my dream location. 

After a solid year of homeownership, filled with many ups and downs, I can honestly say it's even better than I imagined! Sure, at first I was worried about how we would afford everything, including the renovations, but we took each hurdle as it came, and pushed through it. 

We bought paint when we could afford it, and ate pasta and PB&J when we lost our minds at the hardware store. But above all, we spent the last year fixing up our dream home, while becoming a stronger family and making memories that will last a lifetime.

Oh, and if you're wondering what our next big renovation is? The kitchen of course!  I want to knock out walls, and gut the entire thing, and to top it all off, turn a window into a door so I can have backyard access from my kitchen!  

You know me, dream big or don't bother...

Seriously. Who puts an oven in front of an air vent? WHO? 

If you are thinking of embarking on home ownership, I cannot recommend it enough! Sure, it's scary at first, but with some preparation and a fabulous home mortgage lender, you can do it! Promise.

Here are a few of my top tips for first time home buyers: (Read: lessons learned)
  • Figure out how much home you can afford. A rule of thumb is to look at houses that are 2.5 times your annual salary.
    • Ideally, your monthly housing payment shouldn’t be more than 28 percent of your gross household monthly income.
    • Use an online mortgage calculator to help figure out what you can afford.
  • While 20% is the recommended amount to put down, you don't have to! We sure didn't.  There are many loan options available, so don't be discouraged if 20% down seems impossible. 
  • Understand that it may take time and a thousand open houses to find your dream home, but I can assure you the wait is so worth it! 
  • While you are looking for your new home, budget like you already live there. For example, even though our rent payment was half of our expected mortgage, I mailed the rent check, and then put the other half of what would be our mortgage in savings. It really helped to give us a clear picture of what our budget and lifestyle would be like once we bought a house. 
  • KNOW THE FACTS! There really is so much to know about being a first time homebuyer. From understanding your budget to gathering your financial history, to figuring out which home loan is right for you. 
Capital One Home Loans Online Neighborhood is an AMAZING resource for first time home buyers.The 'online neighborhood' is packed with tips, articles, videos and information first-time homebuyers need to know– from deciding whether now is even the right time to buy and how much home you can afford, to the documents you need to apply for a mortgage! It's an absolute must read, see and study for first time home buyers. To check out Capital One Home Loans Online Neighborhood click here.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit