The Century Home

Hi there! It’s been awhile.

It’s been a pretty hectic time on our end! My better half will probably be giving birth in the next week to a beautiful baby girl and over the last few weeks we’ve been focused on getting her nursery finished. We’ll share those pictures with you soon!

As if that weren’t enough work, we’ve spent the last few weeks interviewing contractors for our latest rehab. Typically it shouldn’t take this long to get a scope of work and bid in place, but alas this house is MASSIVE. Like, you can fit all of our other properties inside of it big.

All told, the house is about 4,000 square feet spread across three stories (not including the basement) and is in need of some love in pretty much every room.

Nestled near Coventry Village in historic Cleveland Heights, it’s a center hall colonial style home that has been occupied by the same family since it was built in 1914. The previous owners did some work here and there, but it’s very much been untouched since it was built. It looks pretty shabby today, but I imagine that it was wonderful place to call home 100 years ago.

We’re hopeful that we’ll have a contractor selected in the next week and have construction begin shortly thereafter. We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.

Until there, here are some exterior shots:

Grandma’s House: Before & After

I promised before & after pictures of our latest rehab property and here they (finally) are. The rehab was completed a few weeks ago and our new tenants, three college students from my Alma Mater, moved in just a few days ago.

The house was purchased from an estate, with the previous owner occupying the property since 1973. Challenges includes a structurally deficient garage, water intrusion in the basement, as well as carpet and wallpaper throughout that were stained by years of cigarette smoking. In addition, kitchen and bathroom were in need of updating.

The most time consuming aspect of the renovation was the removal of the yellow-tinted wallpaper in every room in the house. Even on the ceilings! After the wallpaper was removed, the drywall was full of gashes and pot-marks that needed to be filled and sanded. This alone took more than a week to do. What’s more, all of the beautiful trim in the house was stained yellow from 30+ years of cigarette smoking. Nothing an industrial paint sprayer can’t handle, though!

Dining Room & Living Room: After the wallpaper was removed, the walls were coated in Kilz Primer (to seal the smell of smoke) and then painted using “Pip” by Martha Stewart. Trim was painted, chandelier replaced and hardwood refinished. We also updated the hardware on the beautiful built-in cabinets.





Kitchen: The cabinets were recently updated and in fantastic shape, so we decided to keep them. I’m not thrilled with the finish, but the new granite, backsplash and hardware does certainly ease the pain. We also installed luxury vinyl tile throughout the kitchen, which is a breeze to install (peel & stick!) and can truly pass off as more expensive tile as the seams are grouted.



Kitchen 2
kitchen

Bathroom: We replaced the vanity and toilet, painted the walls after removing the wallpaper and installed the same LVT as we had in the kitchen.

Bathroom

Basement: This was quite the headache. There was a tremendous amount of water intrusion in the basement, so we opted for an interior waterproofing system (B-Dry). Once that was completed, we framed out half of the basement to create a finished play area.

 

Bedrooms: Most of the bedrooms were straight forward; remove wallpaper and paint.  One of the smaller bedrooms has an unsightly closet that made the room feel even more cramped than it already was.  Looks much better without it!

 

Bed

 

So, with that, on to the next one! We have a few in the works right now, including a 3,300 sq. ft. home built in 1914 (!!!) and a gorgeous duplex in a historic part of town.

 

 

 

Kitchen Update – Granite Selection

 

Selecting finishes is everyone’s favorite part of a rehab – it’s when things finally start coming together and your vision becomes a reality.  While much of the house is still in full throws of rehab, the kitchen demo is complete and is finally ready for a little love.  We’re still bouncing around ideas for flooring and backsplash, but my wife took a quick trip to the local granite supplier to pick out the countertops.

Granite was the first finish we selected as it will dictate our backsplash and flooring selection.  In that the existing cabinets have a  natural oak finish, my wife select a rustic granite with hints of cream, beige and brown.   Doesn’t it blend perfectly with the cabinetry?  You’d think she’s done this before!

Given the granite selection, my wife suggested we go with a darker floor covering and simple and light backsplash. I agree!  We don’t have anything in mind just yet, but will be heading to TileShop to make our selection.  They have such a diverse product offering (much better than Home Depot or Lowe’s) and their prices are similar, if not better.

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

How We Find Our Flips

A few of you have asked how we found our first flip.  Finding a suitable property is pretty easy; that hard part is seeing it before another investor has already placed a bid on the property.

To actually find the homes, we use both Zillow and the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service).  While Zillow is a powerful tool, it usually updates a day or two after the MLS.  As an investor, timing is key because some of the most desirable properties will have multiple bids within the first several days.

The MLS system sends us an automated email each morning with newly active listings in our target market. These listings are filtered based on our criteria, like the city, number of beds/baths and square footage.  While important, I look at those later in the process. The first metric I look at is price (can I make a profit?) and the description (does it read: TLC-needed, DIY special, updates needed, foreclosure, etc).   Oh, and the pictures.  I look at the pictures.  The uglier, the better.  From there, I build my list of potential investments.  It’s time consuming, but I typically do it over a glass of wine.

Once we have a list of properties we’d like to see, our Realtor schedules a marathon showing session.  We spend less than 30 minutes in each home, mostly because touring foreclosures (no power / no heat) in the Cleveland winter is miserable.  Check out a few of the properties we’ve toured and bid on, but ultimately lost to other investors:

FML, indeed!

20140304-170728.jpg

The kitchen in my college house was nicer

20140304-170809.jpg

Grandmas house

20140304-170835.jpg

Not bad, but it still needed some love

20140304-170904.jpg