We Moved to Westminster, Colorado.

Guest bedroom | Rose Colored Water

Today is the first I have had to actually sit down and write a post IN THE MOMENT. I am here. I am typing this just moments before I will hit publish.

Ahem. I have an announcement.

I am thrilled to tell you that we have moved to a better town in Colorado. It’s still a suburb, but it feels newer and cleaner than Aurora. We were able to get an apartment with the same amenities + a garage for just $20 more a month than what we paid before. How’s that for moving up in the world?

Yesterday, I finished cleaning our old apartment and getting all the leftovers out of it. We finally have a halfway functional kitchen and below, I’ve added photos of the guest bedroom and bathroom. I gotta hand it to myself; this is a much better guest room than the one in our old apartment. That’s because we actually have a place to store all our junk! Thank you garage!

Anywho, we are here and this new space is growing on us.

Guest bedroom | Rose Colored Water

Here are the pros of our new living quarters:

  • The apartment is 100 sq. ft. bigger than our old one.
  • It has a gas fireplace. YEEE!
  • It has a garage to store one of our vehicles during a blizzard, as well as various items of junk.
  • The community is situated right next to a large city park, as well as a golf course, and is only 6 miles from three different dog parks. There are plenty of places for Motley and I to romp around and play.
  • It cuts Mike’s commute time in half. Actually, less than half. This is going to be HUGE (said like Donald Trump).
  • The community is within walking distance to awesome shops like Barnes & Noble, as well as a stone’s throw away from our favorite restaurants.
  • It has a lower crime and car accident rate, so our renter’s and car insurance premiums decreased.
  • The apartment is on the first floor – a must for Motley’s aging hips.

Guest bathroom | Rose Colored Water

However, like any apartment, it does have cons…

  • Our apartment faces the street. We have never had to live with street noise or people walking on the sidewalk right next to our home, so this is weird and we do not like it. Even though we live in a great neighborhood, this is not a gated community and anyone could decide they wanted to bust into our apartment. I don’t know why this has been such a challenge for me to accept when people with houses have been living like this for years. Kinda weird.
  • We are on the first floor – meaning we hear everything from above. EVERYTHING. So far, it hasn’t been as bad as our last place, but it could be worse if there were children above us.
  • The property employees aren’t so great. They weren’t hateful to us, but every time I talk with them, they give off this vibe that I am a nuisance and am wasting their time. Our last place had some really nice girls working there, so I’m not used to being treated like I’m a nuisance – especially when they were the ones who didn’t have their stuff together.
  • This place doesn’t feel AS homey as the last. Mike says the whole environment feels more “young professional and hip,” which we are not. We are old fogies. Plus, even though there is more room, the furniture doesn’t fit together quite right and items we bought to fit our last place do not fit here. That’s the problem with buying furniture for an apartment. Every apartment is different and your furniture needs change.
  • Parking is atrocious. If we didn’t have a garage, we would never have a place to park. It sucks.
  • No built-in desk. I didn’t realize how much I needed a desk until I didn’t have one. I’ve been using dual screens for a while now, so not having a desk makes that idea impossible. I can’t set up shop on the dining room table. Therefore, I must buy a desk. I’m going to buy a cheap Target desk that gets the job done, but I still hate buying more stuff for an apartment. When we PCS, we’ll probably be trashing/selling most of this stuff anyways.

So there’s good and bad. We’re getting used to it and it is growing on us. Overall, Westminster is way better than Aurora. I am still not a fan of Colorado, but this will do for now. It’s going to be nice having a separate office type area to work when I don’t want to hear the tv, and the garage allows us to have more space in our spare bedroom for an office. I can’t complain. We must always try to find the good.

What is your least favorite thing about living in an apartment?

We got Burned by the Denver Housing Market

Burned by the #Denver #housing #realestate market. | Rose Colored Water #colorado #firsttimehomebuying

I made no secret here that Mike and I were trying to buy a house using the VA loan. I think I first mentioned it back in September of 2016. In late December, we officially started the process, as our apartment lease would be ending at the beginning of March. We applied for the VA home loan and I was so happy that I already had all the documents we needed. Everything went really smoothly.

Burned by the #Denver #housing #realestate market. | Rose Colored Water #colorado #firsttimehomebuying

The Hunt for a Home

When we finally went on the hunt, we were discouraged by our options, even with a budget of $325,000. That’s a lot of money for a first home, and in Colorado, even old, shabby homes are priced between $270k-$300k. Those homes often go through bidding wars.

Needless to say, the first home we put an offer on was rejected, as numerous offers came in, beating our measly $5,000 above asking price bid. I was actually happy that we lost that home because I wasn’t in love with it and I felt we had made the decision hastily – due to us being on a very strict timeline.

The next day, we searched far and wide for homes, trying to be flexible on the things we wanted and felt like we needed. We really only had a couple of major wants. The home had to have at least 2 bathrooms, a fenced yard, and preferably a garage. However, the yard and bathrooms would beat out the garage if it came down to brass tax.

At the end of the Day 2, we found a quirky ranch home that had been remodeled. It had everything we wanted and more, despite some of its odd features and design points. It was set at $300,000 – down from $320,000 prior. We bid generously above the asking price at $315,000. The seller knew we were using a VA loan and asked our realtor if we would be willing to bring any cash to the table if the home didn’t appraise for $315,000. He had multiple offers, but for some reason, he went with us. Our realtor told him we had no money because we were first time home-buyers. All we had to our name was the $3000 in earnest money we had given them, which we had planned to use for closing costs.

The final deal we agreed upon was that if the home didn’t appraise for our offered amount, we would give the seller our earnest money to sweeten the deal. 

Fast forward 3 weeks.

We had made it through the inspection and everything seemed to be going as planned. I felt confident everything would work out. We were less than 3 weeks from our closing date and were waiting only on the appraisal to come through. We shared the news with our friends on Facebook and began prepping for the big move.

Last week, I get the call from our mortgage broker telling us that the appraisal had come in extremely low at $275,000. I won’t go into why it appraised so low, but it was fair and valued appropriately. Our realtor called and said things were not looking good and the seller wasn’t prepared for the appraisal to be that low. Even after much discussion, the seller said he would not take less than $300,000 for the property. Could we come up with the difference?

UM… NO. 

Before I go on… let me tell you a little bit about the Colorado housing market. Everyone thinks their piece of crap shack is worth $25k-$50k more than it is. It could be completely outdated and seller’s will still ask for your first born child to make the deal. There are also a lot of flippers going around right now and fixing up older homes. Unfortunately, those flippers, (like the seller we worked with) pay too much for the property and then try to sell it for more than the going market value of that neighborhood. This is fine if you have cash buyers willing to go underwater on a home, but it doesn’t work for people trying to use loans such as VA or FHA. They have no bargaining power. Do I sound bitter?

The best way I can think to describe it is… If you put a mansion in the middle of the ghetto, that mansion isn’t going to be worth as much as it would be if you put it in a neighborhood with other mansions.

So what happened? We lost the house.

In the end, we had to pull out of the deal because we obviously didn’t have the money to make up the difference that he wanted, and we wouldn’t have done it anyway because we didn’t want to be $25,000 underwater on a home. I mean, we’re ignorant as first-time homebuyers, but we’re not that dumb.

We are devastated, to say the least. We allowed ourselves to fall in love with the home and we lost it. There was literally nothing we could do. And because we were so far in the process, we are now out of time in searching for another home because our lease is up in less than a month. We already put in our notice, and if we decided to try for another home, we would have to find a place to store our stuff and find a place to stay in the meantime.

The truth is… in a market like this one, you simply cannot compete without cash. I also think you’d be a fool to place financial awareness on the back burner just because you love a home. Going underwater on a home is never a good idea. Think 2008.

well

The Risk of Doing Business

They call it the risk of doing business, but because we lost that house and decided to stop the loan process, etc., we also lost a lot of money. We weren’t willing to take that chance again on another home. A lot of first-time homebuyers don’t know this, but if your deal on a house falls through, you’re out the price of an inspection (anywhere from $300-$600) and the seller now knows everything that’s wrong with their house. You will also be out the price of an appraisal. A VA loan appraisal runs about $750 now. Sometimes your lender will eat the cost of the appraisal if you go for another home. We are not that case, as we are stopping our home-buying process and saying… NO MORE. Overall, we lost about $1500 on this little house-buying adventure. Still, we decided it was smarter to cut our losses and move on with our lives than worry about what we lost.

Where are we going to live?

Considering our dreams have been shredded and my hate for the great state of Colorado continues to grow, Mike and I will continue renting. We are not going to stay in our current apartment, as they’re still raising the rent $150/month and 55 miles from Mike’s job.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking for a condo/townhome/apartment to rent that is near a park for Mots. Maybe we can even find one with a garage. Overall, we would like to find something similarly priced and sized as our current place. We definitely need a second bedroom, and while one bathroom would work, we’d rather not compromise on that. Too many of our friends and family like visit to go without a second one.

I have no worries about finding a place to live. It just sucks that we have to lose out on all that deposit/fee money for another rental. That’s the bad thing about renting and moving around so much. It costs a lot of money, though I keep telling myself that it doesn’t cost $315,000.

Haha! So there you have it.

We’re done with home-buying for a while. I never liked Colorado all that much anyway. (That’s #truth) Has anything like this ever happened to you or someone you know? Are the feelings mutual? We’re completely jaded.

A Trip to Mount Evans | Near Idaho Springs, Colorado

A Trip to Mount Evans near Idaho Springs, Colorado

When people think about Colorado, they think mountains and Pike’s Peak. Unfortunately, that is a grossly limited view of what Colorado has to offer, and it’s even more sad to think that people believe Pike’s Peak is the biggest and best mountain in the area. I am here to tell you that it is NOT the best mountain in Colorado, and it really doesn’t even take second place.

A Trip to Mount Evans near Idaho Springs, Colorado
Anywho, if you’re in the business of mountains, might I recommend a day trip to Mount Evans, just off of I-70 at Idaho Springs. Idaho Springs is a great little town, so you can grab breakfast and lunch there while exploring the area. Mount Evans stands at a towering elevation of more than 14,000 feet (just like Pike’s Peak) and offers an array of hiking trails near it’s base. You can drive nearly all the way to the summit and the views are gorgeous.

On the drive, you’re sure to see plenty of mountain goats and marmots (my favorite). They are plentiful and they’re not afraid of tourists. Mount Evans is the also the mountain in which the Chicago Lakes trail is on (one that Mike and I have been wanting to hike – it’s on our Denver to-do list). We stopped at one of the lakes on the way up. It’s called Summit Lake, and it is breathtaking.

As you venture up the mountain, be sure you have plenty of water, sunglasses, sunblock, and some snacks – even if you’re just driving. The air is thin and the altitude will do a number on you if you don’t take precautions. You do have to pay to drive up, but it’s not ridiculous (like the cost to drive up Pike’s Peak), and it’s free for military!

Anyways, enough chatter. Here’s the photos I have of the day!

5 Reasons to Visit the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado

5 Reasons to Visit the Great Sand Dunes #Colorado #vacation #travel #cheap | Rose Colored Water

This past May, Mike and I celebrated one year of marriage. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money since we’re still laser-focused on paying down our debt, so we decided to venture to an area that was close to home. If you haven’t heard of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, you have been missing out. I can only describe it as a mini-Sahara hidden within the beauty of majestic mountains.

There is something for everyone in this area. There are hiking trails, swimming holes, and plenty of sand to build castles.

5 Reasons to Visit the Great Sand Dunes #Colorado #vacation #travel #cheap | Rose Colored Water
Great Sand Dunes National Park is about 4 hours away from Denver, and just 3 from the Colorado Springs area. It’s a fairly easy drive heading south on Interstate 25. Then you turn onto Hwy 160. Once you are near the park, you’ll see signs guiding you in its direction. The area is barren, as there isn’t much around. However, there is a vibrant small town called Alamosa about 30 minutes away that offers all your favorite lodging and food joints. I recommend staying there if you’re not a fan of camping.

If you do love camping, you can backpack into the sand dunes and spend the night, or you can stay at the campground near the base of the dunes. Ultimately, it is up to you. If you do camp near the dunes, take plenty of food and water, as the nearest town (Alamosa) is 30 miles down the road.

If you’re not sold on the national park yet, let me give you five reasons to add this location to your bucket list.

1. The Great Sand Dunes are pet-friendly.

We have loved taking Motley with us on our adventures. That’s one of the great perks of Colorado. It’s a dog-friendly state. The sand dunes are no different. The creek that flows through is a great place for your pups to romp around. Note: If you’re planning on hiking in the dunes, make sure your dog has booties or you go in the early morning/late evening. The sun can heat the sand to more than 100 degrees before noon.

2. There is an easy hike nearby to Zapata Falls.

Everyone loves waterfalls, and this one is easy to get to. You’ll see Zapata Falls as a point of interest when driving to the sand dunes park. Be prepared, as you must drive three miles up a rocky, dusty gravel road. This is not a place for your BMW or low-ride car, though you can make it in a standard coupe or sedan. I recommend going early in the morning because this area can get busy quickly. Once you’ve reached the parking area, it’s only .5 miles to the falls.

3. It’s a low-cost vacation.

If you’re a veteran or part of the military, you get in free to every national park. Still, even if you have to pay, I think a day pass is $15. That’s pretty good considering everything you have access to. If you camp and bring your own food, this can be a cheap getaway. If you do choose to stay in a hotel, there are several low-priced options in Alamosa. Mike and I paid $90 to stay in a little mom-and-pop joint. It was clean and easy to find.

4. It’s easy to travel to.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is so easy to get to, and the drive is spectacular. It’s not an overwhelming mountain drive (if you’re fearful of that kind of thing) and it’s easily accessible. If you don’t like road-tripping, you might not like this trip much, as you do have to drive at least 3-4 hours from the nearest city. Still, it’s easy to do and so worth it.

5. It is one of the most unique parks in America.

Maybe that’s just my opinion, but you won’t find sand dunes of this size anywhere else in the United States. Yes, there are other dunes. Yes, they are also cost-effective to visit. However, Great Sand Dunes National Park is a national park for a reason. The largest dunes stand at 700 feet tall. Other dunes don’t have creeks flowing through them from snowmelt. Other dunes aren’t surrounded by mountains. Trust me, it is a sight to see, and well worth the trip.

Just take a look at the photos and do some other research. You will find this park is one you don’t want to skip out on.

Why I Love Trains – a.k.a. the Denver Light Rail

The H Line: Denver Light Rail - Public Transit | Rose Colored Water

The H Line: Denver Light Rail - Public Transit | Rose Colored Water

Everyone. I heart public transit. I do. It’s inevitable now. I’m a believer. For a small-town girl like myself, this has revolutionized my thinking. The Denver Light Rail is one of the most legit things ever. I admit – I feel for the people who ride the train to work downtown every single day. I would not want that life. But, as far as using public transit as a way to get downtown – FOR FREE – is my new jam.

Here is how it happened. 

We hopped on the H Line. The closest station to our location is Nine Mile Station. It’s where the H Line begins. The H line will take you all the way down into the heart of Denver. Typically, this would be a $4-6 trip if you paid fare, but Mike and I are military.

Military ride free on Denver public transit!

I cannot stress that enough. Your government id card is your ticket. It’s so fantastic. Anyways, Mike and I hopped on the H Line around noonish to head to a Denver Rockies game – because the Air Force is awesome and lets you do cool stuff like that during work hours. According to Mike, the Denver transit system is nice and well-kept compared to the Chicago lines. Hmm…

We find a seat and begin the ride downtown. Of course, we make many stops on the way and watch passengers come and go. We’re riding this baby to the end of the line, so we know it’s going to be a while. I must note – I didn’t feel scared at all. I had Mike with me, but even if he hadn’t been there, I would have felt safe. I felt that I could confidently read a book or blog on my iPad without being bothered. I know this is probably a false sense of security because I had a man by my side, and no one seems to take a second glance at a woman when she’s in those circumstances. However, I think I could have managed the situation alone.

An excellent ride on the Denver Light Rail H Line.

The ride was smooth and easy.

I felt comfortable and relaxed. It wasn’t loud or busy. We went during non-peak hours, but still – a solid choice when wanting to save money and the hassle of parking downtown. Unfortunately, the Rockies game was canceled and I had to report back to work, so we never made it to the end of the line. We had to hop off and take the next train back to Nine Mile Station.

Despite making an early return, I have officially completed one of the goals on my Denver list and it was everything I wanted it to be. Mike and I will be taking the train downtown from now on. It’s too good to pass up. What are your feelings on public transit? Have you ever ridden the train to bypass a hectic drive and parking?