Cleaning Out Old Memories

My apologies for going radio silent, but last week my wife and I were vacationing with her family in Florida and I tried my best to stay away from any form of electronics. The best thing, aside from the R&R, was we closed on our latest rental property! Woo!

What struck me the most during the latest walk-through was the volume of personal belongings left in the house – clothing, shoes, a used toothbrush, partially filled coffee cup, paperwork, unused spices in the kitchen and even an old pair of pantyhose that were drying in the shower. The home smelled of moth balls and vermouth. What should be clear by now is that we purchased this home from an estate. These were all things I overlooked when we first walked through the property – I was too focused on the foundation, electrical panel, leaky basement walls and nearly collapsed garage.

As I was cleaning out all of the personal belongings, I began wondering what the previous owner was like. There wasn’t much to go by, but here is what I could deduce:

An old Italian woman, Mary, lived in the home since 1973. She was the president of the local chapter of the Order of Italian Sons & Daughters. From what I could gather from all Mary’s belongings, she organized fundraisers for the local chapter, was an avid cooker and a presumably a heavy smoker considering all of the ash trays (15+) I found. Her husband passed away many years ago, but she kept pictures throughout the house.

As I was cleaning out all of the belongs (it was mildly depressing), I couldn’t help but look through some of her paperwork. In her desk drawer I found 38 beautiful prayer cards – probably from the funerals of all her friends that passed over the years. 38! Some were young, but most were old like Mary. I wonder if she was the last of her friends to go? It puts all of those part arguments you may have had with friends into perspective.

Anyways, that was my 15 minutes of emotion. The house is now clear of clutter and ready for rehab. Let the fun begin!

photo (4)

Rehab #1 – Kitchen Design Options

We should formally close on our latest investment property within the next week. We’re trying to move as quickly as possible, but as we’ve come to realize over the last several months the process doesn’t always go smoothly.  There are a few liens on the property that need to be sorted out, but we’re hopeful they will be squared away.

In the interest of being ready to begin rehab on Day 1, we’re meeting with our contractor this weekend to discuss what work needs to be done.   Aside from paint, a new garage, waterproofing and other mundane items, the house is in need of an updated kitchen.

Could I keep the existing cabinets and rent the property as is? Yeah, most likely.  However, my mentor has showed me a fully renovated kitchen can drive a 10-15% increase in rents — at that rate, the cabinets will pay for themselves in less than a year.  Aside from the monetary benefits, such renovations attract a more quality tenant, support higher appraised values and, in general, are a positive for the community.

We’ll likely tinker around with the layout to better accommodate appliances, but for now we’re trying to decide on which style to use.  Our options are below – what are your thoughts?  I’m leaning towards the first option, but with a different flooring / backsplash combination.

Cambridge Cabinets

Cambridge Cabinets

Soho Cabinets

Soho Cabinets

Sonoma Cabinets

Sonoma Cabinets

 

We Have a Deal!

Last week I wrote about how I adjusted my strategy to better compete with professional investors.  Well, it seems as though it’s worked!  My very patient Realtor send me a one line email this morning that read, Congratulations we have a deal! I will have a signed contract back to you today!”  

My response? “Well, I guess we should go check out the property to see what I’ve gotten myself into!” 

The property in question is located in a working class suburb with a decent school system.  I know the area well as I lived just a few blocks away until I was six.  It’s not the most ideal neighborhood to flip as property values have not recovered materially since the real estate crash, so we intend to rent this one out.

Since I haven’t walked through the property, fingers crossed the rehab is only cosmetic.

Photos after the jump.  You say dingy, I say opportunity 🙂

Ohio Cash Flow Properties

Seller recently updated the siding. Cute!

1

Cabinets were recently updated, but I’m not a fan of the color. Replace or stain? 

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Cute built ins! Carpet has to go!

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Ugly now, but looks promising!

 

Sneak Peak: 3rd Floor Bath Remodel

It only took four weeks of on-and-off work and innumerable trips to Home Depot and Sherwin Williams, but my wife finally has the third floor bath she’s always wanted.  The rehab included: new tile flooring, wainscoting, a new vanity, restoration of our clawfoot tub, a new chrome “telephone” tub faucet and paint.  Lots of paint.

I’ll hold off the full reveal until we install the vanity and decorate the space, but for now here is a quick sneak peak:

House Flipping Couple

Before

After!

After!

The Definition of Insanity

For the last several months, my process has been such that I would look for properties on Zillow or the local MLS Mon-Fri and have my Realtor schedule showings on Saturday or Sunday.  Of the 5-7 properties we’d see most weekends, 2-3 would fit my acquisition / rehab criteria. From that short-list, I’d submit a bid on the best candidate – all cash, 5 day contingency – and then wait to hear back.  More often then not, I’d get the following response from the selling Realtor: We received your offer and Seller has it.  There is another offer on the table from another Realtor.”  Well damn.  I’m now the backup offer. And since the other investor ahead of me is likely a Pro, it’s unlikely that the deal will fall through.  From there, I’d place a bid on the #2 property on my list.  Same thing…too slow.  Then #3 on the list.  Same thing…too slow.  See a pattern?

Rita Mae Brown noted in her novel Sudden Death that, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.  Too true – this whole process has driven me insane over the last several weeks. So, new strategy!  Bid first, ask questions later.  

I’ve seen enough properties over the last several months to know what a property at a certain price point should look like.  Not only that, but most Cleveland suburbs require pre-sale inspections which list any major updates / fixes that need to be made within six months of title transfer.    Between the two, I have a good sense of what I’m getting into.

So, in the interest of not perpetuating my insanity, I just sent my Realtor bids on two properties.  If the talks go well, I’ll go see the properties.  If not, I’ll submit more bids.  All told, I currently have three bids outstanding.  Here they are:

Ohio Cash Flow Properties

Ohio Cash Flow Properties Ohio Cash Flow Properties

 

How I Spend My Weekends

As I guy renovating and our 91 year old home in the evenings and on the weekends, I don’t always utilize my time wisely.

Case in point, our current bathroom renovation.  Half way through laying tile, my tile saw decided to die on me.  Well, there goes 2 hours of my day as I (or really, my dad) has to make the 30 minute round trip to Home Depot to buy a new saw, spend 30 minutes setting it up and then another 15 talking about how much better it is.  It really is awesome, actually.  I could have talked about it for like an hour with him.  To me, a new tool is like a new pair of shoes for my wife.

Painting isn’t much better.  Pick a color and paint, right? Nope.  I’ll be on my fourth trip of the week to Sherwin Williams tomorrow.  And we’ve yet to pick a color! In the course of a few days I forgot to buy brushes, mixing sticks, drop cloths, blue tape; oh damn I forgot the rollers!  So while painting two coats shouldn’t take me more than 45 minutes, it’s going to end up taking me 4-5 days.  On the bright side, painting the walls and ceilings is the last step of the renovation, so my wife will soon have that bath she’s always wanted (and deserved)!

In deciding if you want to do undertake a large project yourself or pay somebody you need to ask yourself, “Do I want this done in three days, or three weeks?”  I’m on a week three, but I couldn’t be happier.

Here’s how I typically spend my time:

 

Reno

Giving My Wife a Bath: Demo Day!

For the last month we’ve been negotiating the purchase of a short-sale in Shaker Heights and have largely suspended our marathon showing sessions as we do expect  our bid to be accepted at some point.  With the resulting free time, my father and I have been hard at work renovating our third floor bathroom so my wife can finally enjoy a nice bath! You can check out my inspiration here.  We’re actually almost done with the rehab, but I’ve been a bit lazy with the blog.  So, lets get caught up 🙂

The first step is always my favorite…demo!  To get the room prepped for new wainscoting and flooring, I first needed to remove the top-cap from the existing baseboards so that the vertical stiles would fit neatly into place.  Easy enough…nothing a crowbar can’t handle:

 

How to Remove Baseboards

 

Removing the existing flooring was just as easy, albeit slightly more messy.  Why the previous owners decided to lay such a cheap and ugly product over the original hardwood floors is beyond me; but, to each his own. Anyways, a little prying with the crowbar and some muscle was all that was needed.  If a floor covering comes off that easily, it should have never been installed! Oh, and it was a sticky job…lots of glue under there!  I felt like I was walking through a mousetrap!

IMG_3902

The next step was to disconnect the massive cast iron tub, which probably weighs a little over 150 pounds and is effectively the centerpiece of the renovation.  Not knowing how such tubs are made, I was a little nervous as to how we’d get it out of the room, but my father quickly realized that the feet of the tub could easily be removed so that the unit can fit through the door.  Loosen the screw and they slide right off!

Clawfoot Tub Feel

Once we got the tub out of the bathroom, we inspected it for cracks and quickly noticed the manufacturer’s imprint on the bottom.  As it turns out, the tub was manufactured in 1931 by the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company based out of Pittsburgh, PA.  Pretty cool! Many times, I prefer old things to new. I appreciate the character, the history and the vintage aesthetic.  This made my decision to keep the tub (and buy a house build in 1932) much easier. That said, I am a little creeped out by the fact that we’ll be taking baths in a tub that has been used by countless other couples over the last  83 years!

 

Clawfoot Tub Restoration

Anyways…the wainscosting is the next step.  Until then, be sure to check us out on Pinterest and Instagram!

 

 

 

Why We Invest in Cleveland. #ThisIsCle

 

You may have read the stories, heard the jokes. But this isn’t the place for people who follow the herd. The city where rock was born knows a thing or two about passion. freedom. and doing it your way. No matter what. Because what they never understood, is that while they were talking about us, we weren’t listening. Under the right conditions, pressure can create diamonds. World-class experiences without the world-class ego. It’s what happens when you’re not trying to be something you’re not. We’ve never been flashy. trendy. perfect. And for that, you’re welcome. Never mainstream. Never meant to be. Always Cleveland

Affordable Frames for a Picture Wall

Our house looks like its straight out of a catalog.  Unfortunately, it’s for all of the wrong reasons!  Like some of our favorite catalogs, we have plenty of wall art, but none of it is personal.     That is, we barely have any photos of our family.  And by barely, I think the exact count is eight.  Yes, EIGHT photos of our family.  Our parents must be miffed when they come over.  I certainly would be.

The quickest way to go from a grand total of eight photos to twenty or more is through the use of a photo wall, like those pictured above.  While I love the gallery feel of more uniform layouts, the two spaces we’ve dedicated as our photo walls – the stairwell and den – are better suited for a more collaged look.

While the final product is beautiful and can do wonders to liven up a room, many people write off the idea of a photo wall because of the wide variety of frames and, in many instances, their prohibitive cost.  While you can certainly splurge for gallery-quality frames, you don’t have the break the bank for ones that are right for you. If you’re looking for a more random look and don’t care too much about uniformity in size or style, your local estate sale, flea market or re-purposed furniture store is the best place to start.  In that these may be worn, be sure to look for ones that are sturdily built and can be freshened up with a coat of paint.

Should you be more interested in a uniform look, we’ve put together a list of some quality frames at affordable prices.

  1. Multipack Templates for Hanging Frames – If you don’t feel like measuring, this is a perfect product at just $9.99.  It allows you to quickly lay out a template, which can be adjusted, before drilling any holes in your wall.  I bought two.
  2. FJÄLLSTA or RIBBA Frame, like the rest of Ikea’s offerings, are cheap and sturdy.   While we love that each comes in various sizes, they’re made of cheap-looking plastic rather than glass.
  3. Feeling a little lazy? Try the Pinnacle Create a Gallery Set from Walmart.  It comes with seven frames of varying sizes which, like the multipack templates above, can be hung in various formations.  The quality is surprisingly good – real wood and glass – and the frames are sturdy.
  4. Urban Outfitters isn’t just for graphic T’s and summer concert gear. They offer a set of 10 frames, which come in varying sizes, for just $39.  The primary downfall with these is the lack of sizes in the 10-pack, so these frames may be more suitable for a kids rooms or smaller wall.
  5. If you don’t mind spending $100 for three frames, the offering from CB2 is tremendous.  The frames are clean, well built and really do give off the professional gallery vibe.  Mix and match with some frames from Crate & Barrel to complete the look.

Of course, you can never go wrong with Michaels.  Just time your purchase with their regular 40% off sales.

 

The Search Continues…

Oh no!  After being under contract to purchase our first flip, we had to back out of the deal after the general inspection brought to light some serious issues!

I mentioned in a previous blog post that trying to buy a home in the winter is miserable.  With foreclosures, typically the heat and power are switched off, the driveway is covered with a foot of snow  and the overall condition of the home is questionable.  Aside from those physical unpleasantries, the snow in particular makes inspecting the exterior of a home problematic.  If I can’t see the driveway, roof or enter the garage, how will I know if they’re in need of repair?    I do rely on Google Maps satellite view to a certain extent, but even that is only somewhat helpful given that the photos may be a few years old.

To ease our minds, we hired a general inspector (as any homebuyer should) to get their take on any major issues with the home.  And wouldn’t you know, there were quite a few big ticket items!   The biggest of which was the $14,000 needed to build a brand new garage – something we didn’t get to inspect ourselves due to a large mound of snow blocking entry into the structure.  A slight oversight on our part, but alas that’s what inspectors are for.

Regardless of these issues, the home was still a great opportunity – but not at our initial offering price.  So, we went back with a meaningfully reduced offer, which they didn’t even consider.  The search continues!

We put in our sixth offer in the last three months on a beautiful two-family property earlier this week.  It’s a short sale, so it may take some time to close, but negotiations have been going well thus far.  It needs quite a bit of work, but we’re excited by the opportunity to restore the home to its former glory.