There's something really rewarding about buying your first home.
You can finally throw the deuces to those pesky landlords and leasing agents that are telling you what you can and can't do in your own home, who you can invite over, and at what time of night. Not to mention that you're so tired of things breaking in your apartment or rental and having to wait for someone to realize that having a working toilet is kind of important, especially when you're
throwing away paying your hard-earned money every month for a place that you barely even like instead of building your own equity.
But the truth is that as much as the American dream of being a homeowner has been sold to us, many millennials have no idea what it takes to actually buy a home for the first time. Sure, it can be a wonderful and exciting experience. The feeling of independence and stability is something that many look forward to as they begin to build a family. But it can also weigh heavy on the pockets with all of the costs that people forget to factor in, which is why it's important to do your research before signing on the dotted line.
Enter real estate guru Christian Ross, who has been helping young adults navigate the real estate market since her humble beginnings at a boutique real estate firm. Stressing the importance of first educating her clients on aspects of the real estate market such as looking as researching neighborhoods, looking at neighboring property values, and development history, Christian has become a tour de force in the industry. Her skills have even landed her a gig on television as a realtor for HGTV's House Hunters, where she helps combines her background in public relations with her real estate expertise to help buyers make get the best home at the best deal!
We teamed up with the real estate expert to get some tips and tricks on what to keep in mind when buying your first home (or buying again in this ever-changing market).
“First timers need to understand that they're going to be spending a lot during the home buying process," says Christian. “From hiring an agent, to paying for the home inspection, it costs a lot of coins up front to shop for a home. There's no window shopping in real estate."
Upfront costs are just one of the many things you should consider when buying a home! Check out more of the real estate gems we gathered from Christian.
Search the history of the neighborhood.
Read the local newspaper in the area to see what kinds of headlines are talked about- is there a new homicide per day, or are there softer pieces about the local community center's bake sale? Seeing what kinds of topics affect the community can tell you a bit about the activity you can expect.
Christian adds: "It's imperative to research the neighborhood. Know whether the community has historic buildings, or maybe the community is historic in itself- if it is you'll know that it may be a touristy area. Research the demographics, especially if you prefer diverse communities- that way you can know if you have a predominant race or class, or if it that area is a melting pot. Looking up census' past will give you insight into that kind of information."
Look into local politics.
You'll want to see how actively the local politicians are involved with the community- either with the schools or attending community events. This will let you know whether these politicians are in office to make effective change in the neighborhood, or whether they have larger political aspirations. If it's important to you to have local politicians deeply rooted in the community, you'll want to see their voting history, political campaigns, and the programs they implement at the grassroots level.
Christian adds: "Be sure to research gentrification in that area. Especially in neighborhoods that were previously known for being the “bad side of town", check out what gentrification may have done to the area. See where it may have pushed the homeless population, sex offenders, and things like that so you know how close those populations may be. Also, see if the area is being taken over by large corporations or hipster shops and businesses."
Research the nearby school system.
If you have children who will be attending the school(s) in the community, checking into the quality of the schools is something you'll want to invest time into. Even if you don't have children, the nearby school district still has an effect on you. A good school district increases a home's value, while a poor district may affect the value of the home. It also plays into property taxes, and whether you can expect levies to be on the local ballots, which also affect your taxes.
Christian adds: "Schooldigger.com is a great tool that gives you an in-depth analysis about the PTA, teachers, and community involvement in the school district. It's great to know about the district so you know what kind of education your child will be getting, and how well the relationship is between the school and the community. If you don't have kids, it's still good information to know so you can know what to expect as far as what issues may be on ballots (as far as levies go), and also what to expect as far as taxes in the area because of the district."
Look at local attractions.
Researching the things that are in your surrounding can give you a good idea of how conveniently things are located near you. A local tourist attraction will provide diversity in the area. It will also affect the prices if the options are slim. Pick an area where you have varying options in shopping and things to do, in an effort to save money and traveling time.
Christian adds: "You'll definitely want to look at the cost of living in the area. Your community may have a pretty high standard of living if there's a tourist attraction nearby. It also helps to look at things like that so you can see how much direct access you have to resources (or maybe not have). See how far the stores you frequent are from your home, or if your community has specialty shops. If you religiously shop at Whole Foods and the nearest one is an hour away, you may not want to choose that community."
Research local neighborhood organizations.
Seeing what organizations, whether nationally or locally, are active in the community can give you a sense of what kinds of issues are important to that particular area. For example, if the Boys & Girls Club of America has an active chapter in your area, you can tell that the care of children is something that the community actively supports. These things can indicate the kind of community you're entering, and you'll be able to determine whether your personal values align with the core values of the community.
Christian adds: "Check out the neighborhood meetings, town halls, request the minutes of homeowners association meeting to see what the local politics are like and how involved the community members are in decision making. If social collaboration and activism is important to you, you'll definitely want to see what that relationship is like between citizens and the local government."
Visit at various times of the day.
Checking out the neighborhood at different points throughout the day can let you know various details that are time-sensitive, specifically traffic. Pick a Monday, Friday, and weekend to stop by the area to see the changes in these patterns.
Christian adds:"Go by at night to see how safe a community may feel. Drive through on the weekend to see what the activity is like on a non-workday. Real estate agents don't know about those kinds of things because they don't live in the neighborhood themselves. Visit the area at different times to get a well-rounded idea of what the neighborhood may be like. Is it quiet during the day but rowdy at night? Are the weekdays pretty low-key, but the weekend brings the noise from neighbors who like to party? Is the neighborhood big into yard sales and letting kids host lemonade stands? Visit at different times to see how active it may be at any given moment."
Get a home inspection.
Upon making a serious offer, you should schedule a home inspection in order to judge the quality of the home and to expose any hidden issues. A home inspection will give you insight into the home you wouldn't be able to see with your eye, and can reveal things you wouldn't have thought of inspecting but are crucial to the buying of the home. Standard home inspections include reviewing the heating system, central air system, interior plumbing, electrical systems, insulation of various parts of the home, and tests the home's foundation and other structural components.
Checking these various elements are crucial to preventing unexpected surprises and buying a home that had pre-existing conditions that, once you sign, are up to you to fix. By identifying the major repairs that need to be made beforehand, you can demand that these repairs be made by the seller, or that they reduce the price of the home.
Christian adds: "The most important thing you can do is get a home inspection because it allows you to really see what you're going to get. You'd rather spend $400 for the inspection and find out there's a $10,000 problem than to buy the home, then find out all of the money you'll have to come out of pocket for on top of what you just spent to buy. An inspection is a snapshot of the home and can be a negotiating tactic as far as getting things fixed before you close, or maybe even lowering the price. If you have to put $10,000 into renovations, maybe ask them to either lower the selling price or make the renovations themselves."
Have a sit-down with the sellers.
Even though you talk to the sellers on a regular basis, having a sit-down conversation over coffee may give you specific insight into their experience in the home and community that will help you determine whether or not you truly want to live in that neighborhood. Discussing the seller's experience can help you determine if you want the same experience.
Christian adds: "If they're willing to do it, go for it (though their agent may be hesitant). Maybe it'd be a better idea to have this talk closer to closing, but definitely consider having a conversation with the sellers about their experience in the neighborhood. You'll get a better picture of the neighborhood, and see if their experience is one you're wanting to have in the home and in the area."
Is it worth the money?
Asking the sellers the kinds of taxes, insurance, upkeep costs (like landscaping and painting) and homeowners association dues they had to pay can let you know if there are any extra expenses added in when buying the home. Knowing these kinds of additional expenses can let you know if it's worth the investment.
Christian adds: "Make sure to find out what other expenses come with the home. Make sure you're getting out of it what you're putting into it. Another key here is make sure the taxes are up to date on the property and there are no hidden fees that will pop up once you sign. Get a clean bill of financial health on the home, and make sure it's worth your money before you close."
What's the market like in the area and surrounding neighborhoods?
Asking if there are foreclosed homes nearby is something that sellers don't particularly like to be asked, but it's crucial to the value of your home. Foreclosed home are usually low in property and buying value, and many foreclosed spaces turn into low-rent homes, meaning that you may constantly have new neighbors and the property value will remain low. If the property value of other homes in the area is low, you may be able to negotiate the price of your own home and offer a significantly reduced figure.
Christian adds: "Ask, or do your own research, on what other homes are going for in the area. This is another situation in which you want to make sure that the money you're about to put into the home in actually worth it. Some sellers try to make back their mortgage plus some on a home, so make sure you're not getting gypped."
Christian's Final Tip:
"Meet with a loan consultant before you even begin searching for a home and see what you truly qualify for (in terms of financing a home) and what's really in your budget. Also, make sure you have a solid understanding of how your loans and mortgage break down. It's always good to get approved for certain loans before you even consider buying a home that you can't pay for otherwise."
Pro Tip: You can use your 401K towards your down payment! Make sure that's one of the many options you explore with your loan consultant and your real estate agent.
Did we miss something? Share your home-buying tips below!
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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