Just About There

Rehabbing a house is a marathon. I wake up thinking about what I can get done today and the best way to do it. I spend all day going from task to task, adjusting the to-do list as I go if I find a project requires a special tool I don’t have on hand or some material I forgot to pick up. Then I finish the day writing down what I plan to do tomorrow and hitting the hardware stores on the way home while I look forward to collapsing on the couch after dinner. Sometimes I have the satisfaction of looking at a to-do list with everything checked off. Sometimes I get the exasperation of looking at a to-do list with only a quarter of the items crossed off because I ran into so many road blocks during the day.

Some days are just so physical that I wake up the next morning, after a good 9-10 hours of sleep, with all my muscles still tired from the day before.

The good thing is I think I naturally strike a nice balance between pushing myself to get the project done, and allowing myself a few days off here and there to recuperate and spend some time with my neglected friends. Too much time off and nothing seems to ever get done. Too much time working and I make myself sick (literally), drive away my friends, and make myself miserable.

I purchased my latest house a few months ago and have been working at it entirely by myself for about ten weeks. As of today I’m just awaiting an appointment next week with a plumber and town inspector to get the gas turned on. Then, after checking that all the plumbing and appliances work correctly I will be ready to rent it out.

I purchased the house for just under $20k and the material costs of the renovations have run me just under $4,500. I replaced all the windows, rebuilt half of a farmer’s porch (in one day ;-)), patched the walls throughout, shaved all the doors so they open and close properly, installed flooring and trim throughout most of the house, sealed up the basement in multiple spots to prevent cold air from coming in, custom built some shelving in a couple of closets, installed a bathroom sink and vanity, installed several new light fixtures, refinished a wood floor and cleaned up the yard. The house is about 17 miles from where I live so I also spent a few hundred dollars in gas.

During the renovation the house next door was sold to another rehabber. The buyer, John came over to introduce himself and talk shop when he saw me working on the place. He doesn’t rent anything out, he buys cheap places, pays other people to fix them up, and then tries to sell them at a profit. He was an encouraging and positive personality. He’s been doing it for a couple of decades and looks to be in his 40′s. We swapped information and a few anecdotes and he told me to call him anytime if I ever wanted to talk about a project or need a lead on some cheap materials or labor. He bought the place next door for $40k and is hoping to sell it for $120k or so when it’s all done. It’s always nice to bump into a kindred spirit.

I’m going to try to rent mine out for about $900/month. Today was the first day in a couple of months where I didn’t wake up with a massive to-do list to work on. After breakfast, when I was trying to figure out what to do with myself, I had to triple-check in my head that, indeed, there is nothing left to do. So now I’m just going to wait for the plumber, think about getting a rental ad up so I can start looking for a tenant, and enjoy the holidays while I figure out what my next project is going to be.

Here are some before and afters:


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  1. rjack
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    The after pictures look great! What do you estimate the house is worth now?

  2. P
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Please add “not enough posting/enlightening the masses” to the sentence starting with “Too much time working…”.

    Great job. I wish I could do what you do (I really like renovation work) but stuck in very low cost rent control in coastal So Cal. Ugh… ;)

  3. Posted December 12, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    House looks great! Best of luck getting it rented out.

  4. lurker
    Posted December 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    nice job. hope you find good renters…you deserve them.

  5. Posted December 12, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    That’s some great renovation! The flooring in particular looks wonderful – good wood floors make such a huge difference in appeal.

  6. alapolo
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    You’re self taught in the game of redoing houses right? Where did you start – just in one end, then learning how to deal with whatever came up?

    What are US regulations like concerning electrical and plumbing work? Can you do it all yourself?

  7. alapolo
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I forgot to compliment the work! It’s all very handsome looking – well done!

  8. Posted December 13, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Thanks everyone!

    @rjack To get the most out of my money selling the place I would have to put on new siding, add some more kitchen cabinets and maybe relocate the hot water heater that currently takes away from some living space. But I could do all that for under $5k and I could probably sell the place for $85k-$100k.

    @alapolo I helped family members when I was teenager put additions on their houses and built sheds and things. In a trades program in high school I spent 2 hours a day for a year helping to build a large 4 car garage and workshop with one teacher and 9 other students. So I was comfortable handling the basic tools and working with my hands. But when I bought my first place there was still a ton to learn, especially when it came to plumbing, electrical and finishing work. But I figured it out by talking to experienced people whenever I could about their trades and reading articles and books and watching videos online. Plumbing/electrical work is regulated by county and city officials where I live. If you’re building a house from scratch there are multiple inspections throughout the process. But when rehabbing a place the inspectors don’t usually get involved unless your putting an addition on or something. So I can do the easy stuff myself, like repairing a burst pipe, adding a faucet, changing a light fixture, adding an outlet. Right now I need an inspection because the town has a rule that if a house’s utilities have been off for more than 6 months they must be inspected before the town will authorize the utility company to turn them back on. Since this house was empty for so long, they were all off. The electrical was already inspected and approved, so now I’m just waiting on the gas inspection.

    And I call in the licensed pros when I’m in over my head. If I had to trouble shoot a head-scratching electrical problem on a complicated circuit I’d just call a pro and pay him the $75-$150 to figure it out.

  9. Posted December 13, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    Congrats on the new cash flow fountain!

  10. Kewldewd
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Where on earth are you buying these houses for 30k, a house like that one in downtown Ottawa where I live would sell for 400k and rent for maybe 24k a year.



  11. Heidi
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful job. I don’t remember if I’ve ever posted before but I really enjoy your blog.