How to Renovate a House with No Experience, No Finesse and A LOT of Enthusiasm

July 2016 - Feelings, Photos & Numbers

My second home purchase happened in the summer of 2016. i was faced with finding a new place to live after a sad breakup. I prepared myself to rent a room in a house with roommates (womp). My salary had climbed to from $43,000 to $53,000 since 2013.  While i could have technically afforded it (again, feeling so rich) my frugal brain still wasn't prepared to spend $1300 on a 1 bedroom. I also wasn't prepared to move backward into my first house (cash flow is king). One "Rooms/Shares" craigslist scroll later, I knew there had to be a different option.

Inspired by my very badass friend, Liz, who was buying a fixer upper on the east side, and $backed by my mom who happened* to have some extra money from a recent home sale, I started to search for a deal. 
*my mom is incredible with money

Luckily, my mom and her girlfriend, Shanna, were very onboard and looking to invest. They were the perfect partners. We all worked on the same inflated plane of reality. Shanna was the grounder, but my mom and I flew high and employed the confidence of a well-seasoned construction team. 

We found the "perfect" 1950s bungalow in my favorite zip (78702). It was a flat 2 mile bike ride to downtown, right off East 7th St. Great bones, gross wallpaper. Some crazy things about this house: 

Galley kitchen before - eeeeeeek

  • Originally listed for $495,000 (we scooped it for $302,000)

  • Pictures on the MLS were so AWFUL, I almost crossed it off my list

  • The garage had been converted into an empty room, with two large storage units (filled to the brim) and hella sparkles in the ceiling paint. I now know this as an Accessory Dwelling Unit or ADU.

  • Tinyyyy galley kitchen, with wild wallpaper covered in cooking grease ---------->

  • The sellers had added an "extra room" that was mildew-y, rotting and falling down (picture below)

  • 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1400 sq ft

  • Seller's family had recently installed new windows and new laminate flooring ($$$)

  • It was an estate sale, which means the owner recently died & her estate was being sold

Dining Room Before - yikes wallpaper! Keeping the chandelier was better in theory than in practice.

Dining Room Before - yikes wallpaper! Keeping the chandelier was better in theory than in practice.

Family Room Before - WOOD PANELING GALORE

Family Room Before - WOOD PANELING GALORE

Moldy Add-On - These walls were exterior facing drywall, AKA, this drywall was GROSS. GOODBYE

Moldy Add-On - These walls were exterior facing drywall, AKA, this drywall was GROSS. GOODBYE

So. We put 5% down (standard minimum for primary residence), to keep as much money out of the deal to use in renovations. We hired Tony, a contractor who would end up firing many workers and doing most of the work himself. My mom and I were both teachers, so our summer was free. We stayed in whichever room we weren't working on. We slept on an air mattress. We worked from when we woke up, to when we went to sleep. I didn't see my friends, I didn't eat very much and I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials. 

Here's what Tony did: 

  • tore down the rotting room and built my screened patio

  • moved the washer/dryer hook ups from the middle bedroom to the patio

  • tore down two walls creating an open concept kitchen/dining and destroying the galley

  • both walls were load-bearing, so he put up two support beams (need house to stay UPRIGHT)

  • tiled my kitchen backsplash (pretty haphazardly)

  • secured the new cabinets and butcher block countertops

  • reworked the "master" creating a bigger closet and a bigger shower (still very small)

  • plumbed and tiled the master shower

  • installed the electric tankless water heater (NOT RECOMMENDED - imminent water heater post)

  • ADU will be a whole different post, but he did a bunch of stuff back there, stay tuned

Here's what we did ourselves: 

  • completely demolished the kitchen

  • removed popcorn ceilings (MY GOODNESS, WHAT A MESS)

  • painted every inch of the walls (white, of course)

  • put up open shelving in kitchen

  • refinished the living room floor to it's original hardwood glory

  • taped and floated Tony's drywall

  • installed built in shelving

  • put up new crown molding

  • remodeled the master bathroom

  • installed kitchen sink (s/o to Shanna!)

  • landscaped the front yard (s/o to Eric!)

  • replaced the back door

  • put up window coverings

  • installed a wood wall wherever we could (will post tutorial because it's the best accent)

  • built the kitchen island

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Progress shot! Walls down, still pretty gross. #ratpoop #cockroachpoop

Progress shot! Walls down, still pretty gross. #ratpoop #cockroachpoop

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So here we are. Renovating a house with no experience, no finesse and A LOT of enthusiasm. Looking back, I would do so many things differently, but it came together. We will never be finished (just right now, I realized that we have a 2 inch gap in the ceiling where some trim fell and I need to replace it ASAP before we are infested with creatures). Here's how it turned out. It took us about six weeks to "finish." I'm sure many of you reading have been to my house for one party or another, but please still look at these pretty afters. Scroll doooown for numbers!

After Six Weeks of Renovation:

Front Living Room without furniture. We refinished the original hardwoods in this room, and even though they aren't perfect, I love them so much. This was the room that sold the house for me. These windows!

Front Living Room without furniture. We refinished the original hardwoods in this room, and even though they aren't perfect, I love them so much. This was the room that sold the house for me. These windows!

Front living room with furniture.  Couch: Salvation Army Print: recycled old map of Austiin, frame from Goodwill Jute rug: Craigslist Side table: Room Service Vintage Marble coffee table: West Elm, but via Craigslist

Front living room with furniture.

Couch: Salvation Army
Print: recycled old map of Austiin, frame from Goodwill
Jute rug: Craigslist
Side table: Room Service Vintage
Marble coffee table: West Elm, but via Craigslist

I bought this credenza in 2013 from a yard sale with lots of office furniture stacked on top of itself. I found this at the bottom of the pile and asked how much it was. The guy said that he would take whatever, so I gave him $20! Buy of the mid-century!  Photo by Rebecca Dreilling :)

I bought this credenza in 2013 from a yard sale with lots of office furniture stacked on top of itself. I found this at the bottom of the pile and asked how much it was. The guy said that he would take whatever, so I gave him $20! Buy of the mid-century!

Photo by Rebecca Dreilling :)

These "poofs" are great for when I have more people than I do official seating.  Photo by Rebecca Dreilling

These "poofs" are great for when I have more people than I do official seating.

Photo by Rebecca Dreilling

Another knock out picture by Rebecca - I got this green lady print second hand in 2012 and she's followed me to every house since. She is magical.  Photo by Rebecca Dreilling

Another knock out picture by Rebecca - I got this green lady print second hand in 2012 and she's followed me to every house since. She is magical.

Photo by Rebecca Dreilling

PLEASE scroll up to see the kitchen before photo one more time. Countertops are walnut butcher block from Lumber Liquidators. The open shelving boards are from my sweet old neighbor's yard. He let us have them - they are for real salvaged! Pendant lights and sink are from IKEA. My mom and I didn't want to see the edge of the stove, so we built that built in bookshelf.

PLEASE scroll up to see the kitchen before photo one more time. Countertops are walnut butcher block from Lumber Liquidators. The open shelving boards are from my sweet old neighbor's yard. He let us have them - they are for real salvaged! Pendant lights and sink are from IKEA. My mom and I didn't want to see the edge of the stove, so we built that built in bookshelf.

Rebecca lived with me for the first year of this house and she took the MOST beautiful photos. She also contributed incredible art to the walls! This lamp was left in the house by the sellers.  Photo & print via Rebecca Dreilling

Rebecca lived with me for the first year of this house and she took the MOST beautiful photos. She also contributed incredible art to the walls! This lamp was left in the house by the sellers.

Photo & print via Rebecca Dreilling

The sellers painted the mailbox to get it ready to sell. Whyyyyy? Oh how I wish it were the original brick color.

The sellers painted the mailbox to get it ready to sell. Whyyyyy? Oh how I wish it were the original brick color.

Long shot of the fire pit (s/o to my boo, Alan, who built this fire pit as a Christmas gift last year) and the screened patio. You can also see the washer/dryer from here!

Long shot of the fire pit (s/o to my boo, Alan, who built this fire pit as a Christmas gift last year) and the screened patio. You can also see the washer/dryer from here!

We just recently replaced the beige vinyl siding with horizontal wood paneling - pink, because I love it. We put up the TV and it's officially the coziest patio of all time.

We just recently replaced the beige vinyl siding with horizontal wood paneling - pink, because I love it. We put up the TV and it's officially the coziest patio of all time.

Detail shot of my bedroom. s/o to Queen Frida & easy peasy pothos plants!

Detail shot of my bedroom. s/o to Queen Frida & easy peasy pothos plants!

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Numbers

  • Original list price: $495,000 (reduced again, and again, and again)

  • Final list price: $310,000

  • Offer/Sale price: $302,000 (multiple offers!)

  • Appraisal: $315,000 (woo! built in equity!)

  • Down payment: 5% = $15,100

  • Closing costs: $6,000

  • Renovation labor (main house only - see what Tony did above): $7,500

  • Renovation materials: $6,500

  • Total cash involved: $35,100

Monthly

  • Monthly payment WITH mortgage insurance, taxes & insurance: $2,010/month (since we didn't put a full 20% down)

    • Six months later, we got the house reappraised to remove mortgage insurance. The house appraised for $408,000, which means the mortgage insurance is permanently OFF the monthly payment. It also means we added $93,000 in value in six months!

  • Monthly payment with taxes and insurance, but WITHOUT mortgage insurance: $1,790/month

  • Alan lives with me now, so his rent + Airbnb income: ~$2,600/month

I am responsible for repairs and maintenance, which work out to be about 5% of the monthly payment average. It doesn't come without stress and hard work, but I was able to create the space that I wanted. My mom and Shanna were incredible throughout the process. My mom definitely led the charge. Alan helped a whole lot as well. Anna & Molly came to paint doors! Dan came to rip out cabinets. Rebecca was here through a lot of the ups and downs of the first year. It was her idea to Airbnb the third bedroom! Thanks to everyone who helped even a tiny bit. I'm so happy we did it, and I'm so happy it's over. On to the next..!

I will post about the back house renovation process soon. Stay tuned! Here's a sneak peek:

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Stephanie Douglass1 Comment