This is how the Miller House came to be.
Our home is tucked back in the woods with a long private driveway, sporadically there are coyotes that pass through.
It didn’t bother me to see their tracks in the snow or occasionally catch a glimpse of them. We could hear them howling in the valley every now and then.
But one day a pair of coyotes came running out of the woods towards the kids. The kids were oblivious, splashing happily in the pool. I jumped up thinking the loud noise was a deer that had been hit by a car. The coyotes split off and tried to circle where we were playing. I was able to chase them away by yelling and running towards them.
We needed a protector!
Two weeks later we got Miller, a Newfoundland. He’d lived on a farm as a protector. They no longer wanted him since they had too many other dogs to take care of.
I felt safer at home and Miller did his job keeping the coyotes away. He also alerted me to any cars that came into the driveway, or individuals walking by.
The only issue was the intensity that overcame him when he saw tires moving. This became problematic when friends would come over, or when delivery drivers would try to do their jobs. No matter how much I called his name, or tried to intervene or catch him, he was zoned in and couldn’t snap out of it.
We would put him back in the fence or leash him if we knew someone was coming and try to avoid any confrontation.
Fast forward 2 years
Almost two years to the day after we adopted Miller, he was hit in the head by a truck.
This was a massive curveball that changed everything. Our low maintenance protector, was now a very high needs part of the family. The financial, emotional, and physical stress of caring for such a large, damaged animal weighed on me.
His injuries were extensive, requiring a long and difficult surgery. They took months to heal and still haven’t healed completely a year later. Fractures throughout his jaw, nose and eye area, that still bleed when he gets worked up. After being in the ICU for about six days he was released home on tube feedings.
After a good check up, we were able to transition to soft food by mouth. Two more weeks and his feeding tube was removed and he could be outside on his own. Eventually he was able to go back to dry food.
Bring on the hunt!
Since I was trapped at home taking care of Mills around the clock I doubled down on house hunting. I was able to walk through two properties on and I put an offer in for one of them. We had recently put offers in on three houses and were outbid by $1,000 or less. Ugh.
I was able to get into this house quickly after the listing went live and was the first to put an offer in. We finally got a signed contract! We closed mid-October!!
We call this one The Miller House. The idea was that the rent would help to offset the cost of his surgery. Maybe naming it after him cursed the house?
There was value being a 1450 sqft 2bed, 2 full bath. There’s room for a third bedroom! New carpet and paint throughout. What a change! I was knees deep in The Palace rehab, tearing out urine soaked floors and having snakes literally fall from the ceiling into my hands.
Mistake #1: I was emotional and over eager.
I didn’t want to lose another house. This one seemed good on the surface and had been lived in. The disclosure sheet was pretty clean.
So I went in full steam ahead, no inspection, cash offer. The home came with a home owners warranty for the first year. I felt safe and protected.
I was not.
I quickly realized there were big issues. The hot water heater didn’t work. There was suspicious ductwork and a questionable furnace. The floor drain in the basement was iffy.
We knew we wanted to add central air and replace the gutters- but the major system failures were a surprise. Even more of a surprise was the fact that the home warranty was useless. A technician even told me “We get a $100 bonus to find a reason not to cover a claim.” Ouch.
We replaced the gutters and downspouts, and added gutter guards.
We added central air, a sump pump, and a dehumidifier.
We replaced the hot water heater, fixed the ductwork and the furnace.
We vented the dryer OUTSIDE because it was only vented into the next room. Really.
We added a stair railing, closet systems, smoke detectors, and other finishes.
It was finally rental ready. I put a “for rent” sign in the yard. It was stolen and hidden in a graveyard. Luckily I had used a google voice number on the sign so I don’t have random numbers calling me all the time.
We found our tenants. I bought a new washer, dryer, and gas stove. We upgraded the fridge to the nice stainless steel one from The Palace. I made a welcome basket and completed our move-in walk through.
The troubles were over!
The troubles were not over.
Two days later our tenants let me know they were having trouble with the first floor toilet. No biggie, our plumber would be back in town the next week and would fix it then. The next day water was leaking under the kitchen sink. I replaced the gaskets and tightened the connections. No more leaks! But there was no drainage- the stack was clogged.
I called a plumbing company, told them the issue (the stack is clogged, not the sink) and they sent out t-h-r-e-e, count them, 3, different crews to unclog the sink. None of which had the equipment for unclogging the stack. I had also called the main company twice during this time to be sure they understood the root of the issue. They said they could come the next day and charge me a weekend fee.
They did come the next day and were able to unclog it, and what do you know? It was an issue with the stack just as I had diagnosed. They also cut a massive 12″X40″ home in my wall for no reason. Nice.
At least those problems were fixed! My regular plumber came back, trenched out some of the pipe, and fixed the first floor toilet issue. The problem plumbing had been put together with HVAC fittings (I can’t make this stuff up!) and now we were finally back in business.
…Until later that month when we learned that the sewer line was cracked *just* before it reached the street. Which meant it was our responsibility to pay for it. So we got to replace the sewer line from the street to the house too.
This was our first rental/tenant experience, and boy did we start off with a doozy!
Needless to say, our original renovation budget grew exponentially with the failure of the home warranty company to cover any of the problems.
Let’s chalk this one up to a learning opportunity.
Purchase price: $75k
Reno + holding + repairs: $22.3k
Cash left in deal: -$4.8k
Vacant/under construction: 2.5 months
Time from purchase to refi: 7 months (COVID delay of 1 month)
It wasn’t quite what we had imagined going in, but a higher than anticipated appraisal allowed us to pull all of our cash out. There were a lot of lessons learned here. The months of aggravation have paid off as things are now more stable and hands off. Knock on wood.
You can go back and check out The Palace renovation or move forward to our next project: the Shell House!
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