Episode #83: Advice For First-Time Homeowners

Hello! This week, we’re sharing advice for first-time homeowners. We get requests for this quite often, as many of you are shopping for or have recently purchased your first home. This is a subject we are very passionate about and excited to share our wins and mistakes with you today!

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

Thanks so much to this week’s sponsors! We get to work with some incredible brands and love sharing their offers with you. You can learn more about this week’s sponsors here: Happy Dance, Bev, Coastal Eyewear and BetterHelp. If you’re ever looking for a sponsor code, you can find them on this page.

Show notes: 
-We share about our Zillow obsession and the searches we do just for fun. We also share the things that attract us to real estate listings and the things that turn us off.

-We mention @ZillowGoneWild.

-We talk about swapping light fixtures. Here’s our light fixtures shopping guide ($250 or less!) and our favorites lights on Amazon.

-Here’s our tutorial for swapping your own light fixture.

-Don’t forget you can donate your old light fixtures to Habitat For Humanity ReStore.

-Here are some faux wallpaper, statement wall ideas, and mural DIYs.

-Here’s a resource list of wallpaper we love. We also love Spoonflower, Emma shared her nursery wallpaper from there recently.

-Emma recommends a power drill as your first tool purchase. You can do so many projects with just this one tool!

-Here’s a link to my DIY dining room table that I ended up using for seven wonderful years.

Here’s the yellow paint Elsie used to paint thrifted dining room chairs.

-Here’s a link to our favorite velvet blackout curtains.


-Here’s a link to Emma’s pregnancy belly oil and cream.

-The star dress in the photo above (yes, it’s a maternity dress).

-The star headband from Etsy.

-Emma’s white fluffy sandals.

Thanks so much for listening! We appreciate you! If you have topic or guest requests for our summer episodes, we’re planning those now. You can leave them here in the comments or email us at podcast AT ABeautifulMess DOT com.

Have a great week!

Episode 83 Transcript

 

Emma: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast. We’re devoting today’s episode to a topic we get a lot of requests for: advice for first time home owners. Buying your first home is very intimidating. So we’ll give you advice based on the mistakes we made and how to avoid them. We’ll also give you a little pep talk if you’re feeling overwhelmed, because we are here for you. And at the end of the episode, I’m going to give you a mini pregnancy update.

Elsie: Wooo! Awesome. I’m so excited to be back.

Emma: A lot of people have been buying their first homes. I feel like I’m seeing this a lot. People like “I’m buying my first home”, like I feel like maybe covid has inspired a lot of people or I don’t know? It’s just the age that are audience is. I’m not really sure. But I feel like I’m seeing this more and more.

Elsie: I feel it, too. And it’s a topic that we love talking about because in as you know, when you live in Missouri, most people buy homes younger…

Emma: Because they’re cheap. Compared to some other places.

Elsie: Yeah. And it’s just, it’s just more accessible there. So we bought our first homes pretty young and we have lots of advice on the subject. And we also love talking about our mistakes. (laughs) So this will be a good episode.

Emma: Yes.

Elsie: So before we get started, I thought it would be fun to talk about our Zillow addictions because we each have a pretty significant Zillow addiction. I was doing it last night, like we were just like hanging out, playing with the kids. And I was like, “I’m searching two to three million dollar houses in Nashville”. (laughs)

Emma: She was. And she kept showing them to me. She was like about look at this one. It’s just funny because I do the same thing. I am not at all looking to buy a home right now. Not in a position to do that, not doing it. But I still look at Zillow almost every day. I, I just like looking at the houses. I’m just addicted. It’s just…

Elsie: Yeah.

Emma: …what I gravitate towards if I’m like I have, I have five minutes I think I’ll go see what’s on Zillow today.

Elsie: Yeah, no. At one point my husband Jeremy asked if I would stop looking all the time because I think he was like getting nervous and he had a dream that I like found another house and I wanted to move again. And I was like, OK, first of all, dreams aren’t real. And second of all, no, I’m not going to stop checking, Zillow. (laughs) So we made a compromise. So I have rules now. And the rules are that I can look in our area because it’s our area and like I’m already into it. We live here. We own a house here. So it’s like relevant, like our investment kind of. And I like to like, know what’s around. Also I have friends who are house shopping, so he just knows, like, it’s not realistic that I’m not going to check our area. So I get to check that. The other one that’s on the table still is that I can still look at Palm Springs whenever I want because I was like, “you can’t take this for me”. It just like makes me happy and I don’t look at it that much. But when I do, it’s like I really do. And so, yeah, I don’t like search all the time constantly like I used to, but I still…I’m never going to be able to give it up completely.

Emma: I still look basically every day just in my city, Springfield, Missouri, and I have for about two years.

Elsie: Do you ever look in other cities like fantasy cities?

Emma: I actually don’t. I don’t know why. That just doesn’t interest me as much. I feel like it is part of the what you were just saying. The first part? I…it’s not like I am planning to be a realtor or a house flipper.

Elsie: You just want to know your market.

Emma: I just kind of like knowing the market. Yeah. And I feel like I often, you know, end up talking to a friend who’s like maybe thinking about buying or selling. And I feel like I just…not that I have helpful advice, but I just have some perspective on what else is for sale in their area or whatever. Just because I look a lot and it’s fun!

Elsie: Right, for sure.

Emma: I like knowing about the market it’s fun.

Elsie: No, I think it’s just a thing to keep up with. So anyway, so I thought we could share our like thing that draws us in and makes us so happy. And then our thing that makes us so sad in real estate listings because we’re always sharing funny real estate listings that we see and some of them are very funny. So Emma was mentioning she follows this Instagram called @zillowgonewild. And they just show like the craziest listings. It’s very fun. Lots of mansions and lots of, like, very bizarre properties. (laughs)

Emma: Yes. My friend Whitney turned me on to it and I was just like, this is — I love it immediately. (laughs)

Elsie: So what’s your thing that draws you in, like for yourself as a shopper? What’s the thing that, like, gets you?

Emma: Yes. So I think this is probably what a lot of people feel. So a lot of times the first images you’re seeing is the exterior of the house. Right. At least if they if they know the exterior looks decent. But even if it doesn’t, I feel like you kind of see right away the exterior of a house. And so I do love when I can see that they’ve put some thought into that. Maybe it doesn’t have to be the nicest ever. But if you feel like they’ve put some thought and effort into the exterior, maybe they repainted, maybe there’s a little bit of landscaping or maybe it’s really redone, then that usually kind of signals what the inside is going to look like usually. So it kind of gives you right away, is this just a flip? Or like it’s totally not redone, like it’s totally kind of, you know, cheapy.

Elsie: Yeah.

Emma: Or is this like someone has taken the time and money to redo it and that’s what I’m going to see. And sometimes you can kind of tell, I think from the outside, oh, somebody lived here like 20 years and they’ve been…this landscaping was their hobby for the last decade, you know.

Elsie: Awww yes.

Emma: And so then you kind of catch a vibe for what the inside is probably going to be like in that case, too. So, yeah, exteriors always catch my eye. And then the thing that turns me off or really makes me sad and I think you feel this way too, is a sad flip. And for me, we actually touched on this in the last episode. People kind of…so some people do a great job flipping houses. Whenever I see a good flip in Springfield, I’m like emailing it to everyone. Yeah. Even friends who I know aren’t really shopping. I’m just like, look at this flip, they did such a nice job. They made nice choices. And for me what that means is they had enough of a point of view that they didn’t just pick the ugliest, cheapest stuff because there’s nothing that makes me more sad than when I can tell there’s brand new all tile in a house or something. And it’s just the ugliest, like no point of view. You’re like, oh, this is just plain.

Elsie: Brown tile, beige carpet, black contrasty granite countertops and some shiny silver hardware for everything.

Emma: Just out-of-the-box contractor grade stuff. That’s no, no, nothing interesting. Doesn’t hardly go together.

Elsie: They always pick a weird light fixture too…(laughs) they always pick something wrong. (laughs)

Emma: Yeah, and it’s it’s fine if it if it’s like one of those things. OK. But if it’s all of those things, it’s so sad to me. Cause you’re just like, oh, they just spent a whole bunch of money and like I personally wouldn’t keep any of this. Maybe somebody would but mmm, it’s sad.

Elsie: Yep, yep, yep.

Emma: So what about you. What draws you in, what turns you off?

Elsie: Ok, so it’s not that it’s my first, most important priority, but the thing that draws me in is always the outdoor spaces in the sun rooms like the backyards. And so I love a sun room. I love like a pool and a hot tub, as you know.

Emma: Oh yeah.

Elsie: An indoor outdoor space. Like when we first looked at our home where we’re currently living, the thing that really got me that I just hadn’t seen is that it had an outdoor kitchen right beside the indoor kitchen. Like, you could just like walk right out to it from your kitchen and it was covered. So I feel like you could be like grilling, like while you’re making the rest of your dinner. And I just love, like, little things like that. And also there was like a balcony from our bedroom, which to me is kind of like the ultimate like…I love it so much. So yeah. But yeah, sun rooms I would say I have a weakness for sun rooms for sure, because even if the house…actually like sometimes I would send Jeremy houses and he would immediately be like does this house have a pool because it was like not a good house. And he just like he wasn’t interested in anything, but he just knew it had a pool because that’s like, why I sent it. (laughs) Anyway, I love poools and sun rooms and like quirky little original features, like one time we looked at this house and it had like a wicker looking Golden Girls bar, and that is really my shit, yeah I love it.

Emma: That’s pretty cute. +

Elsie: And yeah, what breaks my heart is the same as you like we — when we moved here we ripped out an entire floor of brand new beige carpet and I feel kind of bad about it. So any time there’s like brand new stuff, especially if you feel like the price is a little higher than it should be, then you feel like you’re paying for the brand new stuff that you don’t want. And that can be a deal-breaker. In this house it wasn’t, in a lot of houses it is. So just depends. But yeah, the other thing that I think is sad when I see it is like, when people don’t like clean or stage their house like at all, because I just think it’s like, what made you think like…did you just not care or did you just like not think you needed to? Or like I’m just like curious because when we sold our house or when we do sell our houses like I feel like we put in too much work, almost? Like it’s like we’re like repainting every baseboard and stuff, you know what I mean, it’s like magic eraser every service. So yeah. Or when they’re like pool is covered and it’s like, did you not know you were going to sell your house when it was still summertime where like you couldn’t have taken one picture of like what the pool looks like?! (laughs)\

Emma: One time we looked at a house that was like at the top of our budget and the pool was like very green.

Elsie: Oh, no.

Emma: And it was just like. Why? What’s the deal here, like what you know, yeah, I don’t know, it was just weird.

Elsie: And at the end of the day, that’s not even that big of a deal. But I just gave you a bad feeling about the property, huh?

Emma: It gives you a feeling that they’re not going to upkeep other things that I can’t see.

Elsie: That’s a real thing. Like, you just you just feel like they didn’t care about anything because they didn’t care about a small detail that was easy to fix. So anyway, that’s our ups and downs. We’d love to hear about your Zillow addictions as well, especially, yeah. If you’re someone who’s on there every day, it’s just fun. It’s a hobby. I think it’s a fun hobby.

Emma: It is. I’ll text my friends random listings that none of us are going to buy and we just like to talk about houses. It’s fun not really to judgey way, just more like, you know, I don’t know, just like dreaming…daydreaming.

Elsie: I do that too.

Emma: It’s just fun.

Elsie: When a really special home comes up in the suburbs where we live, it doesn’t happen that much because there’s a lot of like newer homes or like homes from the nineties, eighties, two-thousands, you know, like a lot of stuff is the same over and over. So when something comes up with, like brick arches or like, you know…

Emma: Yeah. Something special.

Elsie: Then yeah. We’re all sending it around. You have to do. All right. Let’s just take a quick sponsor break.

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Elsie: Ok, so we are talking about first time home owner decorating mistakes and how to avoid them. So I thought would be fun to kind of divide this up into two categories. The first category is for someone who has a budget to like, decorate and design their home and they’re like they’re going in hot. They’re like, this is my first home. I need to buy some furniture. I need to buy some curtains. I want like I have money to do a lot of things at once and I want to do it right. And then the second category is for — and I’ve been in this category many times — were you like move into the house and you’re already a little bit broke because you just like, spent most of your savings just like on your down payment or whatever, and you’re like not wanting to spend more. So you’re like, I’ll do it over time. I’m just going to paint. I’m just going to use what I already have. And so we’ll give advice for how to make the most of that situation as well.

Emma: Yes.

Elsie: OK, so let’s start with people who have some cash to spend on their first home. So the first one for sure, number one thing I think that anyone can do if you’re only going to renovate, one thing is to update your kitchen.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: It’s just the best thing to do. Most kitchens are outdated, you know, if yours isn’t. But most of them are. And you — it doesn’t have to be super expensive like a lot of kitchens we’ve done. We just painted the cabinet boxes, kept what was there, swapped the hardware, changed the tile and changed the counters and the lighting fixtures. And that can do a lot. Like it’s still a makeover, but it’s a budget friendly makeover and still costs money. But it’s not anything like ripping out and gutting it and starting from scratch.

Emma: Right, yeah. If you’re not ripping out cabinets and putting in new ones, then it’s typically that’s more of a budget or budget-friendly.

Elsie: Yeah.

Emma: And maybe you have budget to rip out everything and and do your dream kitchen. But I…so Elsie and I both like cooking, I really like cooking and baking. But even if you don’t, I think we can all kind of agree that kitchens and then whatever your main bathroom is, those are kind of areas that you just end up spending a lot of time in, in your home, even if you’re like, I don’t cook that often, but you still are home? Like you just warm up food. You’re one of those, you know…

Elsie: You don’t want to feel gross or like dirty or anything like that. You want to feel nice and clean and new and that’s not too hard to achieve I don’t think.

Emma: Yeah. And a kitchen is definitely a space where and every house is different. But for the most part a kitchen is where people tend to congregate whether that’s just your family or if you have friends over, or get to entertain much. A kitchen is oftentimes where, you know, conversations happen. So it’s nice if it feels at least comfortable. And I think it’s nice if it feels like a style that feels like you, whatever that means for you, you know.

Elsie: Completely agree. Ok, the next piece of advice is to swap out all of your outdated light fixtures. So this can make a huge difference. It is expensive, but it’s not — it’s not one of the two expensive things you can d.

Emma: It can be budget friendly too, though.

Elsie: Yeah. Emma and I will put some links in our show notes. We have an Amazon list with budget friendly light fixtures and we have some shopping guides that we’ve made through the years and we’ll put all of that in there and just some of our best sources. But finding really cute, beautiful lights that fit your style, that fit the era that you’re going for, all of that for a good price is not impossible. And getting them all switched, especially if you do a lot of it at once, it’s not too expensive, even if you get it done professionally. We do have a tutorial for doing it yourself as well, and it’s not too difficult, but some people find it scary. So just do what you feel comfortable with.

Emma: Yeah if you’re not comfortable doing a light fixture. That’s fine. You can usually…

Elsie: It’s not real expensive to have like a contractor come and swap a fan for a cute chandelier, so…

Emma: Right. And you may be a person you want to get maybe you don’t have dimmers and you’d like to get dimmers installed. I do think, like, this is an opportunity.

Elsie: I love a dimmer.

Emma: Yeah. Not only to update your light fixtures, but it’s really you’re updating the lighting in your space, which can make a huge difference, especially if you live anywhere where it gets dark certain times of year, which is basically all of us. So…(laughs)

Elsie: Yeah, you do have to make sure you get bulbs that are right for dimmers.

Emma: Exactly. Yeah. And light fixtures that are right. Some don’t work well for that. So yeah.

Elsie: I love — I think switching out the light fixtures, I’ve never bought a house where I didn’t want to switch all my light fixtures like it’s a very common thing.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: Even if you like what they have it might still like if you’re like I, I like express my personality through my light fixtures. Right? So it’s like it needs to be a certain way. (laughs)

Emma: And you can buy light fixtures sometimes at thrifts or places like Habitat for Humanity restore. And that is where I always donate my old light fixtures ones that might not be my style or just kind of outdated to me. I always donate them, have my contractor if it doesn’t fit in my Subaru, I have them take it to the Habitat for Humanity, restore thrift because it can be resold and reused in some or maybe someone’s flipping house and they might want to buy it.

Elsie: Love it. Yeah, that’s a great tip. The next tip we have for those who have some budget and you want to spend it wisely is to make sure any bathroom, any bathrooms in your house that have just a tub or upgraded to a tub and shower. That is seen as a negative. When people are house shopping, it’s very easy to fix. Well, I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s very reasonable to fix. It’s worth it.

Emma: Reasonable. With budget. This is on the if you have budget list.

Elsie: Right. If you have a room that just has a bathtub, that’s going to be seen as not as good of a bathroom and not as useful to a lot of people. A lot of people just aren’t willing to like — I love baths, so I don’t relate with it, but a lot of people have like a weird thing with baths and just prefer showers. And it’s good to have options.

Emma: Honestly I’m one of those people.

Elsie: Really?

Emma: Yeah, I don’t I don’t really like baths that much.

Elsie: You don’t like baths?!

Emma: Not really. I take them once in a while, but not really. I definitely much prefer a shower. Like a bath to me is only for fun. It’s not really to get clean. So the only time I think of bathtubs like super functional is like for children, you know, who aren’t taking showers yet.

Elsie: It’s true. That’s the other thing I would add from the inverse, but not as easy to change. But if you only have showers like you need to have a bathtub in every house, if you want it to be sold to someone with kids like you have to have bathtubs. Yeah. That’s not as common of a problem, though. I feel like more often I see a tub with no shower than a shower with no tub I guess. Or at least there’s like tubs in other rooms. Anyway, I love both. If you can have both.

Emma: Both is good.

Elsie: I say go for it.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: You know, combo is good. Yeah. Our older daughter’s bedroom currently has a shower only bathroom and I think we’ll change it to a bath and shower combo when we remodel it. Pretty much for sure.

Emma: Makes sense.

Elsie: Yeah.

Emma: The time machine. (laughs).

Elsie: Yeah. And just, it’s just I don’t know, I loved baths as a teenager so I’m just going to assume. Like, baths are fun, and…

Emma: I think at a certain age, it’s a rite of passage for a kid…

Elsie: That’s true…

Emma: Where they’re like now I’m big enough to take a shower, you know. (laughs).

Elsie: That’s true. The next one is if you have wood floors in your home already, especially if they’re covered with carpet, it’s not as expensive as you think. There’s a couple of home things that are not as expensive as people think. And one of them is getting your wood floors refinished and you can usually get them refinished to any color you want. The darker colors are easier if you’re like…

Emma: They have stains…

Elsie: Yeah, if it’s in bad condition, then your contractor will try to talk you into a darker color, but…

Emma: And you should maybe listen, depending how damaged the floors are. (laughs)

Elsie: Yeah, but in our last home I had some like spots showing and it was worth it to me because I just like love light-colored wood. So I just like strategically covered them with rugs and called it a day.

Emma: Yeah. I was going to say if you kind of know for sure your couch is going to go there, maybe doesn’t matter.

Elsie: Yes. So yeah, I would definitely refinish your floors if you can. I think that’s very worth it. That was my biggest regret in the first home that Jeremy and I bought together is that we didn’t refinish our floors. And I don’t…I think it’s really just because we didn’t know how affordable it could be. And I think it would have looked so much better if we would have just done that step.

Emma: I will say that’s really a big tip for first time homeowners is just get quotes, never be afraid to get a quote because it might be cheaper than you think, or it might be three times what you thought. But it usually doesn’t even cost money to get a quote.

Elsie: But then you know.

Emma: Sometimes it’ll cost a little bit if they need to do some kind of ground work in order to give you the quote. But for the most part, it’s really you just need to find someone and get a couple of quotes and then you’ll have a better idea of like, can I do this now? I still want to do it, but maybe it’s something I do a year from now or two years from now when I save up or, you know, whatever. So just get a quote!

Elsie: Right. And the other thing that we would recommend is that new windows are often less expensive than you think they’re going to be. That’s a thing that so many people have said to me. And if you buy an older home, you might benefit from them on your utility bills and stuff like that. And just like how cold and drafty your house is during the winter. So at least get a quote. This is like kind of funny because I just did my window quote like five minutes ago before we started recording this. Weird timing.

Emma: Yeah. But also safety wise, like as far as feeling secure, you know, your windows being able to shut well and being able to lock and things like that or…

Elsie: Or being able to open!

Emma: If you want to, if you were nervous about a home fire or something of that nature, being able to open a window is, you know, something that you might want. So and it can really change the look both inside and outside of your house.

Elsie: Yes. The next part is for people who moved in, already spent all their money just getting the house…

Emma: Broke.

Elsie: A little broke.

Emma: We feel like ya. This is pretty much the story of us buying our first house.

Elsie: Right. And it’s very normal because for a lot of people, like your first home is a stretch and you make sacrifices to get it. And you should take a little bit of a spending break before you start diving into big things. So our advice is more than anything, don’t put a bunch of stuff on your credit card.

Emma: No, you don’t have to do that.

Elsie: We’re going to teach you how to do it without that. And you’ll be so happy later because it’s like paying off credit cards is not fun. And we don’t want that for you

Emma: No.

Elsie: OK. And it’s stressful. Very stressful. Right. So our first tip is you can do so much with paint. It’s amazing how beautiful. If you want something that feels trendy, if you want something that feels moody, fresh, if you want something that’s like just really photogenic so you can take an Instagram, I’m always like that. You know, you can do all of that with paint and it’s not expensive. You know, this is like we’re talking under one hundred dollars. Pretty often people ask me, what do I do if I love wallpaper, I want wallpaper, but I can’t afford it. And my suggestion is to paint a mural. You can stamp it, you can stencil it. There’s so many different things like you can buy supplies on Etsy, like little stencils, little stamps, you can make them. We have a whole bunch of DIYs in our archives, just type in statement wall into our search bar and you’ll see them or faux wallpaper. There’s so many ways you can do it. But yeah, don’t be afraid to try your own homemade DIY wallpaper because, yes, it takes a lot of time. But that’s what podcast listening is for, right?

Emma: Yeah. I listen to an audio book or whatever you’re into.

Elsie: Yeah. Probably in one audio book you could get done like a fun statement wall that you can enjoy for years.

Emma: Yes. And the thing I’ll say about painting is even if you’re like I’m not really a DIY person, I get nervous around power tools. I’m scared of saws.

Elsie: That’s true.

Emma: Anyone can paint, if you have a good attitude, you can paint. So that is how it is. And you may need to. You know, educate yourself a little bit, learn a little bit, because you don’t just want to you want to know how to tape things off properly and if you need to prime and what type of paint you might want to use in certain areas or if you’re painting a piece of furniture versus a wall or things like that. But anybody can paint. So you don’t have to be an experienced DIYer or you don’t have to feel like your partner is going to help you. You can do it yourself. This is truly something you can be empowered to do and it costs very little. And if you do a bad job like you don’t like the color, it won’t cost that much to change it. It’s just going to cost your time.

Elsie: Yeah. Totally agree. OK, my next tip is DIY is your friend. So on ABM, we have thousands of ideas for things. You can DIY everything from painting furniture, you know, like building little things like Emma’s built like lots of coffee tables in her houses and built lots of bookshelves, like there’s lots of tutorials for all different things you can do. And yeah, DIY is your friend. You can do it. And I would say my biggest tip is use an expensive brand catalog or website as your inspiration for your DIY. So basically like do a ‘get the look’ type of thing. So I would pick like Serena and Lily or Jonathan Adler and just try to like copy those types of looks with, you know, stuff that you can buy from the restore or stuff that you know, you can repurpose something you already have or whatever. You can do it. You can get the look.

Emma: Yeah. And I think a lot of people will kind of shut themselves down to certain DIYs or using certain tools before they even get into it. So like, first of all, if you’re like, I’ve never made anything like that before, I’m really scared. It’s like just buy yourself a power drill first thing. That’s — just the drill. And you’d be surprised how many projects you can make with just that. And then if you’re like, maybe I’ll try to solve some kind of jigsaw circular saw, chopsaw or whatever you can rent tools a lot of times from the big box stores. So you can just try something out. But I think a lot of people kind of shut down to it because they think, oh, I’m not I can’t do that. And it’s like, well, maybe try try something, get your feet wet, see what you think. And if you’re doing a project where you’re feeling intimidated, the thing that helps me is I break it down into little, little, little steps and I say today I’m just going to cut all the pieces. It’s all I’m going to do is cut the pieces. And then if I, I get to the end of cutting the pieces, then I’m like, maybe I’ll go ahead and put a couple of them together or whatever it is, you know, like whatever kind of project you’re working on. But just break it down into little digestible pieces. Don’t be scared to try something new and it’s OK if something doesn’t work out, that’s OK too. It may be that something is a little beyond your reach skill-wise and you can look into options at that point, like getting someone to finish something for you. You do it halfway and they finish it.

Elsie: I would always call my dad.

Emma: Yeah. Call your call your dad or call a friend who’s handy. Buy them a gift card. If you see that you’ve got yourself in too deep on something, you know, there’s a lot of options that you can explore for things. So you definitely — I definitely wouldn’t just shut down to the idea of DIY because I see a lot of people do that. And I think it’s kind of a bummer.

Elsie: It’s true. Like think of it this way. If you know that there’s like a strong possibility that for the next, like five years of your life, you’re not going to have extra money. You just have like other priorities. You’re building off your paying stuff off. You’re saving for this or that. You’re just not going to have extra money for a while. You’re going to spend all that time living with, like, the boring-est IKEA, boring, boring. And you could spend it you could spend like two weeks DIYing a couple of rooms you love and have a house that you’re happy with for all those years. So I think there’s a huge payoff. If you just think about like this is like a couple weekends of my time to make this, like, insane statement wall and then you get to enjoy it for so long. So I think they’re very worth it.

Emma: And we’re going to take a quick break and hear a word from our sponsor.

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Elsie: Next tip is to thrift furniture. I feel like we talk about this all the time, but the prices are amazing. It’s unbeatable. You don’t have to live without a sofa for a year or a dining room table, as I once did. You know, just find something that’s the best you can find for now and then paint it a fun color and be happy with it. In my very first home, we did a DIY dining room table, which we ended up keeping it for, I think like seven years. It was like a very well-loved DIY and we did thrifted chairs. So I think it had like eight seats or something like that. And, you know, they were all like mismatched. And then I painted them all yellow with, like, the high gloss Rustoleum oil based paint. And it felt so cute and pretty and unique. I loved it so much. I was very proud of it. And that’s a weekend DIY.

Emma: Yep.

Elsie: Another great piece of advice is when you first move into a home and all the rooms are empty and, you know, you put the things you have out and it’s like, oh, this…

Emma: Still feels empty!

Elsie: Yeah, it’s very easy to feel like I need a lot of money right now to fill up my house, but filling it up doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be happy with it either. So our advice is to go room by room, one at a time, pick your room, pick your next room, pick the one after that like, plan it out and just furnish and decorate one room at a time. So try to thrift some and then you can, you know, search for affordable finds places and do a couple of DIYs and make the room come together like that. You can do it on a low budget. We promise you we’ve done it a million times. It’s very — it’s fun. I actually, like, love doing a low budget makeover. Those are definitely my favorite HGTV shows too.

Emma: Yeah. And I definitely think — I understand the mindset of I just want to move in and get everything set up and then I don’t have to live in a mess or I don’t have to live in like a half-finished thing. I just want it done. I understand that. And I I’ve had that mindset before. And I also think a lot of times people like your partner might have that mindset. But I think if you can kind of change that to “our bedroom’s going to be completely set up. But the living room is just going to be functional, but not finished for the next few months until we have enough budget to buy that rug I want or that sofa I want” or whatever, you know, like I think if you can kind of change your mindset to I’m going to go enjoy the space that’s finished and I know that this other space is not going to be finished. But I have kind of a plan and a timeline then I think that can help kind of shift that gear, because we all want the moment where…

Elsie: Honestly, you have to do that even when you’re rich, like it’s just a good mindset to have in general when you’re doing a house, because if you rush, it will look rushed and it will feel rushed. You won’t be as happy with it over the long term as you will if you go room by room and like, do it slowly and give it, you know, give it your all give it your everything.

Emma: You’ll probably buy something that you ended up not really loving. And it’s kind of a waste. And, you know, you end up getting rid of it.

Elsie: I hate that so much. Yeah, definitely. Try to avoid the filler pieces. Well, I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting a filler piece if it’s like thrift price.

Emma: Right.

Elsie: Or Facebook marketplace. But if it’s from Wayfair and it’s a filler piece and it’s like medium price. That makes me kind of sad, you know, when I end up like donating it or giving it to a friend like a year later.

Emma: Yeah, it’s just kind of like feels like a waste.

Elsie: Yeah. Sometimes, you know, it happens. But our last little tip is to get excited about functional decor.

Emma: Yes.

Elsie: So think about this. Think about the things you need to live like surfaces, you know, to sit on, eat on, sleep on, work on things like that. And you can enjoy things like art and rugs and wallpaper later. Like, those are not the things to do first if you’re on a tight budget and you’re like kind of like strategically doing one thing at a time.

Emma: Yeah, like one area that I definitely think you should think on when you first move in and especially if you have a tight budget: curtains or just window treatments generally. Especially in any room where you’re going to sleep like a bedroom or a guest bedroom, if you have someone who’s going to be in there often or whatever.

Elsie: I actually think they make such a big difference. When we moved into our current home, my husband was like the like just because of like the way that the house is like built around a pool, lots of tile, lots of windows. Like he didn’t think curtains were necessary. And as soon as we put them up it made such a big difference, like it just felt like 10 times better. And the curtains that we used were not expensive. They’re very like in the affordable category. So yeah, we’ll link everything for you in the show notes. It’s definitely worth it to prioritize those up top.

Emma: They can actually make a little bit of difference on the temperature of your room, too. So…

Elsie: That’s true. I actually have like a strong passion that you shouldn’t just go to the store locally and buy your curtains because they almost never have the right size. Especially if you have tall ceilings at all, like even a little bit tall. You know, the curtains that they sell at Target are very short. Hardly anyone has a room that’s really right for those curtains that they sell. I’m not sure why they don’t sell longer ones, but it just, you know, makes houses have curtains that are too short and that doesn’t look good. And they’re not necessarily any cheaper than what you could have, you know, ordered online. So we’ll link to everything. And I’m very passionate order your curtains online. Get the perfect size. (laughs)

Emma: Yeah, get the perfect size. Maybe they know a lot of people hang their curtains kind of low.

Elsie: Desperately.

Emma: Which I consider wrong, but not always. But sometimes.

Elsie: Yeah, I think people want the curtain that day because they want to hang it that day.

Emma: Well they want to sleep, or whatever.

Elsie: And I do think a lot of people…we should have said that when we were talking about our Zillow pet peeves…but a lot of people hang their curtains wrong and it makes their room look way worse than it really needs to look. Like it makes your windows look smaller and it makes your ceilings look lower. It’s just like really amazing how hanging your curtains wide and high can make your room and your ceilings and like everything look bigger and nicer.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: All right. Well, you know what time it is. So before we go, we promised an update on Emma’s pregnancy. It’s been a while. We haven’t talked about this since January.

Emma: Yeah, I was trying to think what all to tell you, really. So as you’re listening to this, I’m around thirty, thirty one weeks pregnant. So I’m getting towards the end, sort of. I mean, I still have a ways to go, but I’m getting there. Belly’s feeling very stretched and I’ve been pregnant in the winter so very itchy, lot of belly oil and lotions and things. (laughs)

Elsie: You should link to those.

Emma: I never know how much people want to hear about like maternity or pregnancy-specific products because, it’s just such a specific time in your life, so if you’re not in it, I’m like, oh, I mean, people are, you know, friendly and want to hear about your life. But, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know. I just never know how much people because I’m like, this is pretty specific time in life. So, yeah. Anyway, but yeah, I had some friends give me a whole bunch of…my friend Jen, which that was like a group of friends, the collection of clothes and my friend Whitney gave me a bunch of maternity clothes. So I kind of like a whole second wardrobe and that’s all I’ve been wearing lately.

Elsie: That’s amazing.

Emma: And I love it and it’s all really cute stuff. So it was so sweet of them. And I’m going to pay it forward to other pregnant friends after this, trying to not stain anything and keep it in good condition. (laughs) So. Yeah, but yeah, I’m doing really good. I think the hardest part was the first trimester for me and we’ll see how childbirth goes. (laughs) But yeah, I think that was the hardest part for me. I have had, I will say a little bit of probably prenatal depression, but I also think it’s winter and it’s been a tough season in life generally. I mean, it’s still covid and lots of things, lots and lots of things. So that’s been hard. But I have so many good friends and family members, like I have a really great support system in my life that I have both been very lucky and I have also worked to cultivate and I’ve been leaning on them really heavy as well as as well as my therapist. So life’s been overall really good and I’m really grateful and I cannot wait to meet my son this summer.

Elsie: Oh, I can’t wait too.

Emma: It will be kind of sad not to have him like in my belly all the time. I don’t know. I just feel a little bit of attachment, like a little buddy who’s with me all day. He’ll still be with me, but I just I don’t know. That’s like the first separation I guess is he will exit my body. But yeah, that’s that’s probably all of parenting is a series of them…

Elsie: Letting go…

Emma: …becoming more and more independent.

Elsie: Letting go is definitely a theme and it is painful. But it’s also like every phase if you have someone ahead of you, like Sherri just gave me a pump up about having an older daughter, since our daughter’s almost, you know, one you’re late for kindergarten because of covid (laughs) and she’s you know, she’s turning six this year and she’s just she’s a big kid now.

Emma: Yeah.

Elsie: And that was like hard for me for a little while. So anyway, any time you want a pep talk about the next stage, I will always be here for you to give you that.

Emma: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. And I think it’s good if you miss the last phase. That’s a good sign.

Elsie: It’s actually. Yeah. Like what you’re feeling right now….

Emma: It’s bittersweet.

Elsie: …Is like helping you enjoy the moment, you know, because even when it’s like the worst times, I still feel like I never want this to be over. And I think that’s a great way to feel as a parent.

Emma: That’s definitely a perspective I want to have on parenting, but also in life. It’s just like really trying to enjoy the moment right now because it doesn’t last forever.

Elsie: Yeah, but it does get annoying how many people tell you that every day. (laughs)

Emma: That’s true. But that’s all right. They’re right! So at least it’s good advice.

Elsie: It’s true. Aw, well thanks for sharing that. And we’ll be sure to share updates as we go along and as our little special man enters our family this summer.

Emma: Yeah, my little buddy. He’ll be out soon.

Elsie: All right. Thank you so much for listening. We’re super grateful for real. So grateful for you. If you have any questions or topic requests, I’m starting to prep for Emma’s maternity leave, actually, now that you mention it. So if you want to send a request of — I’m going to do a guest episode series this summer, so send me who you think would be the most interesting guest. Don’t say Oprah, but you can say, like, you know, pretty famous people and you can send those to a [email protected] We’ll try to get Oprah too, have a good week.

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    • Thank you! I am happy. I feel grateful every day, even when I’m out of breathe (always) or can’t sleep because he kicks all night (every night). I feel very, very lucky. 🙂

  • I really enjoyed this week’s podcast! So much useful advice. We bought our first home this time last year…. the pandemic and lockdowns (I’m in the UK) meant we *had* to take things slow, but I totally agree with what you said in the podcast that the things you do fast/quick “filler” purchases are so often the things you regret and want to get rid of! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas and inspiring us to make our spaces work for us! x

  • Great advice ladies! I really love that you encourage people to embrace DIY and power tools. In general, they’re easier to use than you think and it it is SO empowering to be able to make and fix things yourself.

  • If you do a follow up to this topic, I would love to hear about how to choose a contractor. We haven’t done a big remodel but we’ve had several different builders/tradespeople in to do little bits and pieces, and I’ve almost always been unhappy with them in some way or other. I’ve now decided against using people that I know personally because I felt like I couldn’t say anything when they were super late or did something to a poor standard. Even if you make choices you love for different elements, they’ll only look good if the person installing does a great job – how do you deal with this?

  • AHHHHH I wrote in requesting this episode!!!! I guess I wasn’t alone in wanting to hear from you guys on this topic!!!! Thank you SO much for the tips and help provide prospective on what certain things can cost (yay for fixes that are less expensive than you think!). Also your Amazon lists are GOLD! Literally! All the gold/brass hardware and plumbing pieces are serious gems! Can’t wait to move through small new home updates with your help! Much love, ladies!!! -Marisa

  • Elsie, you asked for who we would like to see as guests, I would love to have an episode with Laura and also the rest of you ABM team!! Please!

  • I love your podcast and look forward to it each week 🙂

    I know nothing about the technical side of it, but I do wonder if “equalizing” your voices is possible? I’m always struggling to hear Emma’s voice, which I gather is naturally quieter than Elsie’s.

    And I’d like to second hearing more about your team. I found you via your podcast, so I feel like I don’t “know” your team very well!

  • Loved this episode, but now I am VERY anxious that I’m doing curtains wrong haha I would love an entire episode or blog post on curtains!

  • Hey! Enjoyed this episode, but I would REALLY love to encourage first time home owners to consider REPAIRING their old windows (wood, steel – basically anything not vinyl) vs replacing. The studies have actually shown that these older windows are better in most instances for energy efficiency than the new vinyl windows. The average vinyl window lifespan is 20-years. Aka your replacements will likely need replaced. Check out the Window Preservation Alliance’s website for a directory of people who can repair/improve the functionality of your old windows. Keep those old windows out of a landfill and they will last another hundred years in your home. You can also look into interior and/or exterior storm windows if you want to make them even more efficient. Indow Windows is a GREAT custom interior storm window company that helps keep out noise, weather, and dust!

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