There were two large, overgrown shrubs blocking the front of the house that needed to go. Danny decided to hook straps to each of them and pull them out with his truck. This process took less than 10 minutes to remove. The ground was quite dry, so they actually came out without any problems!
I just wanted a few shrubs by the sidewalk and up against the house that wouldn’t get too large or overgrown. Boxwoods are always a go to! They are low maintenance, stay green year round, and are perennial, so they won’t die off with colder weather. We’re limited on what to put in since it’s so close to winter and most plants won’t survive the dropping temperatures. Besides Boxwoods, we added some hearty, decorative grass that gets blooming lavender flowers in the Spring. Lastly, I added a few, small juniper shrubs for additional color during winter. All of the plants and shrubs will stay, approximately, 2X3ft in size, which won’t obstruct the front door or window views.
After getting the new plants in the ground, I powerwashed all sides of the house, front and back of the porch, and the walk-way. There was so much dirt and grime that came off, it made the white of the house look like a different shade than it was when we bought it! This took about 4-6 hours of just taking my time and being patient with the process of the sprayer.
Curb appeal is SO important when flipping properties! Never underestimate a good cleaning and a few plants!
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Early on, first steps of renovations are gutting everything, fixing electrical issues, and DRYWALL.
There was some softening I had noticed in one of the bedrooms, underneath the windows. I called for Danny to come see “why” the walls felt soft. My first thought was “water damage due to the roof being old”. This made the most sense, as the roof was on our list to have replaced. As soon as he pushed in, his whole hand went through the drywall.
Later in the week, he was over at the house and pulled back the drywall and noticed white bugs crawling around. He called to tell me what was found…TERMITES. Very shortly after our conversation, I made a call to Pest Control to come treat the property.
Danny had replaced the 2×4’s, insulation and drywall that were under the windows in one of the bedrooms.
Another larger, unexpected project was the back hallway. The back entrance was covered in old paneling that obviously come down. There was also an odd, wasted space that I thought it would be helpful if we added a closet pantry there since the kitchen was so small. Because of the length, it allowed for a closet to potentially go in, but in addition, a 12 or so inch space for additional shelving. We wanted to try to maximize space in such a small area.
Another little project was correcting the space above the closets in both bedrooms. The paneling obviously needed to be replaced with drywall and to Danny’s surprise when doing so…the top of the closet was not framed correctly. Someone had framed it using 1×4’s that had just been nailed to the drywall! Danny pulled the 1×4’s out and re-framed with 2×4’s. Next he installed the drywall then taped and mudded the tape lines.
Apologies for the blurry images. The up close and lighting made it tough for good closet & hallway photos!
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This side project will be a rustic bottle opener. I found a rather interesting piece of oak that I thought I might be able to make into a few different pieces. The first step was to cut a nice thick section of wood off of the main piece. I didn’t have a table saw large enough to cut through the piece so I opted to make this cut by hand. I used a Vaughan Bear Saw to make this cut. It did take some time and effort but this saw cuts on the pull action instead of the push action which made this process a little easier.
Once the cut was made I used an Old Timer Sharpfinger knife to de-bark the outer edge After the outer edge was de-barked I used an 80 grit sandpaper to knock off what was left of the bark to get back to bare wood. I then sanded again using a120 grit sandpaper and then finally used a 220 grit sandpaper to finish prep work.
For the flat surfaces I again used an 80 grit sandpaper to level out any high or low spots to get a flat surface. You always want to sand your wood in stages. On sandpaper, the lower the grit the more abrasive it is. So an 80 grit paper is more abrasive than a 220 grit. For this step I used a Dewalt Sheet Sander and followed the same stages that I used on the outer edge. 80, then 120, then 220.
Once the surfaces were sanded smooth, I had to deal with the bug marks. I like the look that the marks bring to the piece but I wanted to clean them out to bring a little more attention to them. To do this, I simply used a Gerber Para Frame pocket knife to dig out the sawdust left behind by the critters.
At this point I was ready to prep the surfaces for finish. You need to get rid of as much dust and debris as possible. I cleaned the surfaces of with a clean lint free cloth and some mineral oil. You will want to wipe your piece clean so this may take several cloths to get your piece clean.
I was just going to give this a natural look so I decided to apply a few coats of polyurethane to give it a nice shine. Minwax Polyurethane is a product that I have used for years and find it to be fairly easy to work with and it gives me a great result.
To apply the poly coat, I use a cheap 1 inch foam brush. You want to apply a THIN layer of poly here. Several thin layers are better than one thick layer. You don’t want to fight runs and drips in your finish coat. Follow the dry times listed on the back of your polyurethane. Once your coat is dry, it is important to lightly sand in between coats using a fine grit sandpaper. I used a 400 grit sandpaper between each coat of poly. Once you have sanded the piece wipe clean and apply another coat. After applying 5 layers of polyurethane, I had achieved the look I was after.
I purchased a bottle opener from Tractor Supply that was on clearance to use. I drilled out mounting holes using my Bosch Cordless Drill and a 5/32 inch drill bit. I then had to counter sink the back side of the hole with a 7/32 inch bit in order to fit a small nut. I purchased some 8/32 x 1 1/2 inch screws and found two small lock washers and nuts in my parts bin.
After I had mounted the bottle opener onto the finished wood, I needed to drill the holes for the mounting screws. Using my cordless drill I drilled a 7/32 inch hole for the mount screws. I will be using two #10 – 3 inch wood screws to mount this.
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One tip to give out for anyone thinking of doing renovation is to SELL whatever you can! We’ve done this every time we purchase and renovate! It takes a little more time and planning, but puts money back into your pocket that you can then, turn around and use on the property! If we are tearing out the bathrooms and kitchen (which we are), consider selling the cabinets, countertops, sink basin, faucets, garbage disposals, appliances, bathroom vanities, medicine cabinets, bathroom fixtures, WHATEVER you can!
One property we purchased, we bought it wholesale with a hard money loan and because it was an estate, they left all of the furniture, appliances, and items in the garage! We held a community, inside yard sale, and sold everything (and also kept some antiques that we really liked)! Those funds helped pay for all of our initial work for drywall repair, landscape, and repainting the kitchen cabinets. The items that we did decide to keep, we were able to use for staging furniture when showing homes!
On the current property we are renovating we have sold the kitchen cabinets, the counter tops, stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, kitchen sink and the garbage disposal. By doing this we were able the get almost $500 back to put into the renovations. One key to this is finding your audience. We always post on Facebook Marketplace and usually can move the pieces we are selling within 24 to 36 hours. Also, share to other bargain pages to expand your audience. The local pages are really good for getting people willing to pickup from the home.
Another key is to think ahead. You won’t want to be hanging on to the items you are selling until after your drywall has been finished and sanded. You’ll want to move these items on before you really start making a mess. Once everything is covered in drywall dust it makes selling them harder. You constantly have to keep cleaning them and wiping the dust off. One more key is pricing. You can price it to try to get the most out of them, but that may mean that you will hold them a little longer. We generally try to position the price point at a level that is a good deal for someone needing these items. This way we move them quickly.
We will also be renovating the bathroom soon. Since we had already taken the kitchen sink out, we decided to leave the items in the bathroom. We will sell these on a little later in the renovation. We decided to hold on to these simply because it’s convenient to have a sink to wash your hands, clean tools, and wash out paint brushes (and a toilet is nice to have too!). Once we get the drywall finished, and the walls and ceilings painted, we will put the bathroom vanity, mirror, medicine cabinet, toilet, tub and surround up on Facebook Marketplace and try to move these items!
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We’re going to fast forward to the “now” and will share our other house stories from the past in the future! We weren’t really looking for another rental property at this time, as we are in the middle of a live in flip, BUT a live in flip only brings in revenue if you sell. A rental would bring in revenue as soon as it becomes available through the passive income. So, we had been “loosely” looking at properties on the MLS and through sites like realtor.com and trulia.com, when we spotted this potential single family home that met the criteria we look for!
Things we look at when buying: concrete slab foundation, small square footage, a lot of renovation, low cost, & a Chevy in a Cadillac neighborhood! If you’d like to know the “why’s” to these items being part of our criterion, send us a message or drop a comment below letting us know!
When making our offer, we went in strong, with no contingencies, waiving inspection, and paying closing costs. We know enough now what to look for when walking the property and how to address any issues we come cross. In this case, termites, signs of mice issues, and roaches could be found throughout the home. Thus, hiring a professional exterminator was our next call.
Our plan for this property will be to tear out and renovate the kitchen and bathroom completely! This will include new cabinets, counters, backsplash, and appliances. The bathroom with get a new tub and surround, vanity, mirror, and medicine cabinet. The entire house will get new wood plank vinyl flooring, new frames and baseboards, and fresh paint throughout.
The drywall was never finished with tape and mud so that problem will have to be fixed. They filled the space with trim instead of finishing out the drywall correctly. We will need to tear out the wood paneling and install drywall in the rear entryway. Since space is limited and lacking storage space, our plan is to build in a pantry in the rear entry way.
Major cap-ex items will include the roof and windows in the living room and kitchen. Some smaller items we’ll do is replace the shutters, power-wash the siding, clear out the trees growing in the fence line, landscape, and re-side the mini barn in the back yard.
You can find out more about capital expenditures and what to look for when purchasing a property by listening to podcasts such as BiggerPockets, Real Estate Rookie and BiggerPockets Money.
This is how Danny and I learned SO much about real estate!
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If we’re able to save the tub and surround, we try to always replace the faucets and fixtures. This can be seen as a precautionary measure and also an aesthetic choice to make things look more appealing. The vanity and toilet were in good enough shape to leave in place. There was a nice, solid oak medicine cabinet that had come out of another property that we salvaged and were able to use at Emison. With a fresh coat of paint on the walls, ceiling, and trim, the bathroom was good as new!
We rented a carpet cleaner from Lowes and cleaned the carpet in the living room and two bedrooms. It was a slow process, but it made a world of difference when it was finished! We also bought new fan blades for the three ceiling fans. With 11 and 12 ft ceilings, ceiling fans make perfect sense to keep. Fans can help with utility costs by pushing cool air up when on in the Summer or in the Winter you can do so to keep the heat down. We also installed new, faux wood blinds from Lowes throughout the house. Faux wood blinds look very nice, are more durable, and last longer than the cheap $5 plastic ones.
There were no gutters when we bought the house, so that was a must when we purchased so there was proper drainage flowing away from the house.
We wanted to spruce up the landscaping to make it look a little nicer, but we also wanted to make sure that the plants were low maintenance and easy to care for. We decided that a few boxwood’s, some new mulch and a few new landscaping timbers would refresh the front porch. To clean up the outside, we also power washed the vinyl siding and porch, replaced the front door, and added a nice storm door.
More recently, we gave the gravel drive a refresh as well. The old drive was overrun with grass and weeds so we sprayed to kill off anything growing. Danny installed landscaping timbers around the edges to keep the gravel contained and to make it look finished. We then had two yards of gravel delivered and he stopped by after work and smoothed it all out. We think it really helped clean up the curb appeal!
We are going to be pivoting a bit to cover a newly acquired property that we just closed on. We thought it would be best if we share the most recent stories, as they are happening! More to come on those so make sure to follow our blog for the latest posts!
We are picking up from where we left off last week with the property at Emison. As far as investment properties go, this was a relatively easy one to start with, so it was a perfect house for us to get our feet wet on. Keep in mind that this is the first time we had worked on a house in this capacity besides Sunset (see past posts for more on Sunset).
Every project had a ton of roadblocks. Nothing went smoothly! We were constantly running back and forth from the house to Lowes and from Lowes back to the house…and then back Lowes!! So what would now take us a week or two to turn took us three months!!! That’s the beauty of doing this on your own. You learn as you go. Each house brings it’s own issues and problems and you learn what needs to be done and what you need to do to get there.
The second bedroom had a thin 12″ closet that did not function well, even hangers didn’t fit, so it was very unpractical for usage. We hired a contractor to install a new 24″ closet. We used the bi-fold and sliding closet doors from Lowes.
Another big issue was in the kitchen and the bathroom. For some reason when we bought the house there was an orange stain on the ceiling. Mind you these are 10 foot ceilings! We tried to figure out what caused the stain but we were at a loss. Once the water was turned on we quickly figured it out. There was rust in the water lines that continually clogged the sinks up, which at one point caused rusty water to come shooting out of the top of the kitchen faucet and wa-la rusty colored stain on the ceiling! After working with the water lines for a week Danny finally had the water lines cleared out and the water was flowing nicely.
We were lucky enough that the kitchen needed very little “major” repairs done. Danny simply applied a fresh coat of Minwax polyurethane on the cabinets. We also needed to repair a bad drywall, tape job in the kitchen. Drywall repair was not one of Danny’s strong points but you won’t learn unless you try.
With all of the rust issues we experienced, it was also necessary to replace the kitchen faucets. Once we finished this part we had new appliances delivered to complete this stage and of course fresh paint and trim throughout!
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We had begun looking to purchase our first rental during the renovation on Sunset (see previous posts about our house on Sunset so you can catch up with where we are!).
Criteria we were looking for in a rental was: 1. A single family. 2. Not a major renovation. 3. Something close to home so we could head over after working our 9-5pm. 5. No more than $40,000
We found a HUD owned property, and we submitted an offer that night! We knew we had to move fast. The offer we made was at almost full asking price. There were multiple offers, which turned into a bidding war. The bank came back, asking for highest and best. We really thought we lost it, but somehow we didn’t, picking it up for $35,500!!! We were so excited to be owners of our first rental, but super nervous to now have 2 mortgages!
This house had ducts under the house that had been destroyed from feral cats…the smell was pungent when walking through the house, especially in the crawl space area. We knew immediately that we would have to get a professional to fix that issue ASAP! We closed on a Thursday, went home and gathered up some tools and cleaning supplies and headed over to get to work. Once we arrived we realized two things. We hadn’t called to have the electricity turned on yet, so no lights! AND we also neglected to call the gas company, so no heat either…let me just mention that we closed on this house at the end of February so it was about 40 degrees outside and this house was chilly to say the least on the inside. So (after we had called the power and gas companies) we worked for a few hours just cleaning and getting a plan together, but once the sun went down we had to stop…We just couldn’t see what we were doing or feel our fingertips!
We weren’t scheduled for utility hookups until Monday. Lesson learned. Always call and make sure the utilities will be turned on the day you close on a property! Another side note: We’ve made this mistake multiple times since then! So maybe we still haven’t learned that lesson. As we sit here on a Thursday night, we are closing on another property on Monday and have yet to call the utilities!!
Friday we decided to bring the propane heater so we at least could heat the house up a bit. We again worked during the day and the little heater did a good job keeping the house warm (as long as you used it in the living room)! We decided to paint the trim a bright white and do away with the cream color and change the wall colors. We wanted to do something that would look nice and clean. This house had a nice chair rail that surrounded the entire living room, so we decided on a light gray on the top half and a darker gray on the bottom. Mind you, these ceiling were 11 and 12 feet tall and most of the painting was done by me. Danny and I wanted to try to hire out professionals to help speed the process up, but when the estimate for painting came back at $1600, the job came back to me…
We also figured out on Monday that the furnace was not heating the house very efficiently. We called to have the HVAC system looked at and to our surprise we figured out two issues. One, we had no duct-work attached to the registers and two, we had a colony of cats under the house that had made a mess of the duct-work. The AC guy said he would be able to come by next week and install new duct-work. After we closed off the feline point of entry to the crawl space, had successfully “evicted” the cats and paid out a $700 HVAC bill, we had a working HVAC system with the warning that the system was older and would probably need replaced soon (which ended up needing replaced a year later).
Next week we’ll get further into the before & afters of the rest of the house projects. We really loved the character of this home. The high ceilings and the light from all the windows. We were soon to be off to a great start on our rental journey!
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We want to back up for a moment and catch you up to speed on things thus far…at the time we began this real estate journey we hadn’t thought “I think 4 years from now we should start a blog.”
With that being said, the photo images are nearly an afterthought at this point of the journey. Some even are coming straight off realtor.com to be honest. We’re just trying to offer some insight and perspective of what we picked up along the way so you can see some before and afters. Most of the photos are missing the during stages of the projects and renovations. No professional grade cameras used or expensive video equipment to film…BUT we believe our story in the very beginning of when we first started out in real estate is worthy of sharing! We WILL get there. We plan to grow and get better along the way in capturing those moments and actions from here on out. Stick with us on this and we PROMISE to make it worthwhile!! BUT, keep in mind, all that’s already completed within the last 4 years, will only have “gritty” coverage available…
The first home on Sunset Ave. was a live in flip. We didn’t realize that’s what we were doing or that there was a name for it until we started listening to Biggerpockets (BP) and read books like Set for Life by Scott Trench. You can find BP on Apple iTunes, or on Stitcher or Spotify in the Google Play Store. I’m not a huge, sit down and read kind of person, so I listened to Scott’s book on audible.com.
That’s where the thought came of, “you can fix it up, while living in it, and either rent it out or sell it“, AND if you choose to sell, you don’t pay any capital gain’s tax if you live in the home as a primary residence for two years or more!! We made 100% return from the sale, as most of our repairs were paid along the way, we walked out of closing with over $40,000!
SIDE-NOTE & SIDE PROJECT!
We are going to give “random” content to break up the monotony of our housing flips with Danny’s side projects! We’re going to call it Intermission- Projects Provided by Danny…Right now, he’s working on sanding and applying Minwax Polyurethane Pure Gloss to small pieces of tree burl. This started off as a gift for his friend where he bought a cheap bottle cap opener from Tractor Supply on clearance (we love finding deals and giving them out as gifts later!). Stay tuned for more content on this and let us know what YOU think!!
Don’t forget the little stuff!
So after we had all of the major projects done and out of the way we still had quite a few weekend DIY projects that we had to complete before listing the house on the market. We don’t want to just glaze past these because the saying “the devil is in the details” really does apply when you are getting a home ready to put on the market. We still needed to re-stain the built in cabinet in the dining room, install new lighting, including a ceiling fan, landscape, reside and paint the mini barn, repaint the deck, and turn the french doors into barn doors for the bedroom.
The built in cabinet in the dining room did not match the kitchen at all after we had completed the rehab so we decided to see if there was a quick and easy solution that would give this cabinet an update that looked both updated and fresh. We decided to use Minwax PolyShades Espresso on the cabinet. This stain and polyurethane combination will go on right over the existing finish with very little sanding or prep work and will give your piece a nice finish! With a little light sanding to buff out the finish we applied a couple of coats and within a couple of days we finished this small project and made the dining room come together with the kitchen bar.
Our next “small” project was to repaint the deck. We originally had a yellow house with a red deck. The deck was not working with our new gray siding so we decided to go with a light gray on the deck to give it a finished look. We used a deck paint the we found at Lowes called Rust-Oleum Rocksolid Deck Coat. We power washed the deck on a Friday night and got to work early Saturday morning. I will say that the coverage estimate on the can was pretty optimistic. We bought a couple of cans and a few hours later we were back in the car headed to Lowes to get a couple more gallons! We finished this project on a Saturday and the result was fantastic! Good bye frumpy looking red deck and hello nice a clean gray deck!!
The next project on our list was to re-side the mini barn and paint it to match the house. Our little mini barn was in a sad condition. The siding was not in good shape and made the whole mini barn look pretty bad. We were lucky enough to source some metal siding from an old barn my parents had torn down on their farm. Free is always good, right!? We took the next weekend to fit and cut all new sheets of metal for the sides of the mini barn. Once that was finished it was time to paint the barn to match the house! Another trip to Lowes and we came home with Valspar Exterior paint tinted to match the siding. Once the barn was painted we could see the backyard was finally coming together to be a cohesive and relaxing area to enjoy.
We then decided to tackle a problem that we had danced around the entire time we lived in the house. The french doors leading into the bedroom. The issue was that the french doors opened up into the bedroom. The house also had a Jack and Jill style bathroom, so that meant there was a bathroom door that also opened up into the bedroom. The big issue was that they both opened up at the same place, so there was a good chance that the doors could bang together and break the glass in the french door. We decided that a barn door setup would be a simple and easy way to get around this problem.
We once again went to Lowes and picked up some barn door hardware and some lumber. We needed to stain the board to match the rest of the original wood in the house so we continued with the use of Minwax PolyShades Espresso. Danny stained the boards during the week so we would be ready to go on Saturday morning. When Saturday came around we got to work taking the doors off of the hinges. We then prepped the doors according to the installation instructions and within a few hours time had the doors installed, working, and looking fantastic!!
Danny also installed a new ceiling fan just to finish updating the dining room and installed new ceiling lights in both of the bedrooms. We then had to decide what to do with the landscaping.
When we purchased Sunset, we had two big maple trees in the front yard that really closed in this space and made the front of the house look a little dark and shaded. These trees were actually on city property and we were fortunate enough that the city decided that they needed to be taken down. Once these were removed growing grass in the front yard became a lot easier!
We took out some of the old plants that really dated the exterior of the house and planted some really nice perennials that added a nice splash of color and contrasted nicely with the gray siding. We freshened up the flower beds with black mulch and by this time the outside was looking very homey and complete! The curb appeal difference was amazing!!
No real horror stories or funny anecdotal comedy to these, just simple projects that needed to be done to give the entire project a finished and complete look. The horror stories are yet to come…
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Just to shed some insight as to what else we had going on during this time…we had purchased several other rental properties and a new home we were planning on renovating as well. So stay tuned for more projects and horror stories! Our next post will be about Emison, our first rental property that we bought when we were about halfway finished with Sunset…