Lessons

One month ago I made 90 day goals for the remainder of the year. Here we are at the start of a new month. I have learned a few lessons along the way.

October was a month full of celebration, every weekend it seemed like we were celebrating a birthday or attending a wedding. While this offered a lovely (and needed) break from our renovations, it also pushed back my availability for working on the projects.

I am a wife, and a mom. I have four kids and a household to run, and a husband who goes off to work every morning. So my work on the houses is limited to what I can get done with the girls in tow, short after school sessions, and weekends.

During the weekends it is best if Josh and I “divide and conquer,” allowing for some serious work sessions without interruptions.

One of the weddings we attended was in my old hometown of Rochester, NY. During the drive up Josh and I had a great opportunity to talk about life and plans, it seems like we do our best thinking on road trips.

Our long term plan is to be able to do this together, full time. Putting our hours in during the week while the kids are in school, allowing flexibility for the hours when the kids are home.

But right now, they have to tag along and it bleeds into this margin as we grow. It will be worth it in the end, and I am lucky that little E seems to love coming to the houses with me while her sister is in pre-k.

It is also beneficial for the kids to tag along, see hard work, and learn the process and lessons along with us.

The process is simple, but it’s not easy. It involves a lot of hard work and effort.

Goal Check In:
90 Day goals from October 1st.

Looking at the goals that I had set a month ago, it is clear that we have made progress.

The Palace

The Palace is coming along!

We have drywall going in next week.

I have finished limewashing the exterior, and painted the front trim.

I need to paint the trim on the back of the house, and tidy up the area above the garage door. It is going to be skim coated and I want to add a nice rough cut board as an accent in place of the worn out board currently there.

Inside, the plumbing and electric are finished until the drywall goes up. Insulation is 90% in place and will be finished up this weekend.

After drywall and mudding are finished, I will paint and then get our tile floors down in the kitchen/hallway/first floor bath.

Cabinets are scheduled for delivery on the 14th so it will be tight, but if they need to sit in the living room while I tile it won’t be the end of the world.

All in all, I think we are going to be on schedule to finish by the end of the year.

The outside landscaping drives me crazy, but I don’t want to spend time or money fixing it. A lot of the issues are on the vacant lot next door that we plan to develop down the line. It makes more sense to just leave it be.

While getting bids for drywall, one of the previous companies stopped by to check a measurement as we had someone else estimating. It was totally unplanned and pretty awkward.

I just stood there and pet the top of E’s head, and tried to skim over the weirdness. It was one of those “I don’t know what to do with my hands” moments.

Lessons Learned:

-I have never limewashed before so the whole thing was one big bundle of lessons. I watched videos online, read all of the manufacturing literature and then got out there to try it out.

-Limewash is caustic! I got a little bit sloppy on the last day. I have Raynaud’s which causes pain and decreased blood flow to my fingers in cold temps. So, I didn’t necessarily recognize that I was burning off my skin. But I did. I have three “holes” on my fingertips that are pretty sore. My top layer of skin is mostly sloughed off by now but it was gross for a while.

-It can be better to demo everything than to try and salvage walls. We left a few of the exterior walls and two ceilings that were in good shape. We had reached a point of diminishing returns. Some of the bidding companies suggested we take them out because it is a wash between skimming efforts and putting in new.

-Being on an extension ladder all day = grumpy knees. This is more of an observation than lessons learned, but true nonetheless.

The Miller House

As per our goals, we have closed!

We are in the process of cleaning it up and getting it rented.

What was thought to be rental ready, is not.

The home warranty company is, in a word, useless.

We are putting in a sump pump. The old floor drain is clogged, and pipe is cracked. This means heavy rains flood the basement. The foundation is old and stone. We may add in some DIY waterproofing after the sump is done to help control the water. But, it will never be a nice basement. It’s a cellar. Take it for what it is.

We are putting in a new hot water heater. The flooding fried the old one, which was actually only 3 years old.

We are putting in a new furnace. The old one, is older than me.

We are re-doing the ductwork in the basement. Because it is all wrong. Taken apart, weird runs, holes, far too many twists and turns, and clothes shoved in the lines.

It was a fire hazard. And ineffective.

We are adding central air, because we feel that we will see a return and have happier tenants.

We are putting in a new stove, because with the addition of central air we need to switch the stove and dryer to gas.

The new railing is in place on the stairs.

I have towel rods/bathroom finishes that I am installing this weekend. There are also a slew of smoke/co2 alarms that need to be installed, because there are exactly zero in the whole house right now.

Everything should be in place by mid/late November. Ready for a December 1st renter!

As far as renters go: we have had many unqualified applicants, a stolen for-rent sign, and a few promising candidates who have been shown the house.

I have another showing tomorrow. We look to be on track to have it rented.

Lessons Learned:

-Home warranty companies don’t actually want to fix anything. And it takes forever for them to process the paperwork to tell you that they aren’t going to help. I easily spent 10 hours on the phone trying to get the issues resolved. In the end it was time and weeks wasted. Had I gone with my guys from the start, the work would likely be finished by now.

-Chill out! Losing out on several great houses put me on edge. I rushed into this deal with no inspections. BUT, we weren’t dealing with a full gut. This was a supposedly nicely remodeled house. I should have added the inspection and not worried about it weakening our offer. I assumed (you know what they say about assuming) that since it was recently lived in, and had the warranty we would be fine. Rookie mistake.

-I don’t like other people’s work. I don’t trust it. There are so many people who cut corners and do a shoddy job. I want to focus on full guts, houses that need everything from the ground up. I want to be able to pick all my finishes and know what’s behind every wall. Those are the houses I want to hold for 30 years. You can definitely make money many different ways with houses. I want to be the landlord that has solid, safe, and nice homes.

Shell House

The Shell house fulfills our third goal. We have not only gotten the deal in progress, but we have closed! I am excited about the prospects that this house holds.

Lessons Learned:

-Know your area! I have been tracking several houses around The Palace and was on it when the Shell house popped up. This allowed us to be the first in, to get our offer in quickly, and hit the pricing right. Knowing the market gave us an edge.

Going forward:

We have our work cut out for us to finish up and meet our goals. I am also keeping an eye on the market and what is available in our area. Little E and I went down to the sheriff’s auction this week to bid on two houses we had been following.

Because we followed our own rules, set upper bid limits, and didn’t get caught up in emotion, we didn’t buy any houses. They went for way more than we had calculated would work for us right now.

This is one of the biggest lessons I have taken to heart.

You can take risks! And, believe me, buying homes sight unseen is about as risky as home buying can get. BUT, as long as you keep the risks “above the waterline,” you’ll be okay.

If you get a hole above the waterline in your boat it can be a set back, a frustration, but it won’t sink you. You learn from it, fix it, and keep moving forward.

Risks that put holes below the waterline will sink your ship.

I am a lifelong learner and am looking forward to reading the book recommendations that I got this week. Let the lessons continue!

There are 60 (ish) days left of the year! And, we are getting to my favorite part of the renovation process where everything starts to take shape and come together.

Happy Friday!

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We buy, renovate, and rent homes in and around Cincinnati, Ohio using the BRRRR principles. We share tips and information here so you can do the same.

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