Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dining Room Hutch - Deja Vu

Seriously, what's the likelihood that we'd buy two houses in a row with a pine dining room hutch?  And you guessed it, the same dilemma.  The men all say tear it out and I want to keep it.  This one is in much better shape than the last one.  And I think it has some real potential.  Maybe add a light up in the top glass section?  New hardware for sure!

What do you think?

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Diamond in the Rough - Before Photos

Yikes - is that a bathroom in the kitchen?  Why, yes it is.  And it's the only bathroom in the whole house!  We've closed on our new project and are realizing what a big project it is.  Remember, we bought this house without an inspection, so we're in the process of discovering what we've acquired.  It should be an interesting couple of weeks as we learn more.

We will be eliminating this bathroom, moving a powder room to an alcove off of the kitchen and putting a whole new bath on the 2nd floor.  So lots of big changes to come.  BTW - that's antifreeze in the toilet bowel.  The house was winterized, so there isn't any running water.  

Ah you ask, but what about those big water stains on the kitchen ceiling?  If there's no bath up there, where did they come from?  Excellent question!  We suspect that the heating pipes froze and burst, but that's a mystery we'll solve later this week.

And what's with the funky 2x4's on the window over the sink?  Looks like the window got broken and that's how they do the repair.....there's plywood on the outside.

If you're a fan of knotty pine - this is the house for you!
Dining Room

Upstairs Hall
The living room escaped the knotty pine treatment.

Future Bathroom - note the knee wall on the back of the room.....more about that next.

Master Bedroom.  Again, there is a knee wall at the back of the room.  
Master Bedroom 

What's behind that knee wall space?  Closet space with a shared dresser!!  The dresser has drawers that open from both sides.  But, it's only accessible if you're a lot shorter than Richard and me!
Last but not least, here's some pics of the basement.
This must have been a rec room at some point in time.....Richard's standing in front of the bar.  Note the wood stove and Player Piano

This piano is beyond saving.....but I thought I'd put it on Craig's List to see if anyone could salvage some parts.  It was manufactured by The Aeolian Co, New York, NY.  The song on the roll is 'Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head'.  Wasn't that from the early 70's?

So please stay tuned, we've got a lot of work ahead of us, but know that this Diamond in the Rough can be a real beauty when we're finished!!!

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Favorite Part of the Renovation Process......Shopping!

So, we haven't even bought the house yet, but I'm in full planning mode.

What did I want for Mother's Day?  A trip to the Restoration Hardware Outlet.  Yes, I know, an unusual choice, but Richard had to be nice to me, after all, it was Mother's Day.  Oh, and I threw in a visit to the giant HomeGoods as well.   Why not shoot for the stars, it's a holiday that only comes once a year!   I need to take advantage of it :-)

And we scored, big time!  We got a mini-van full of light fixtures.  Beautiful Lugarno sconces for the powder room, a great triple fixture for the upstairs bath (which, by the way, doesn't even exist yet!) and this industrial style light that I am in love with.  I think it's going to go in the foyer (which, by the way, doesn't even exist yet......are you noticing a theme here???).

Now we just need to close on the house so we can get started!  Stay tuned, lots to come!!!!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What Style Is It?

We're scheduled to buy our next project the end of this week.  It's a foreclosure that has some unique challenges.  We can't wait to get inside to start working, but at this point all we can do is make plans for some big changes.  One of the first things we want to do is improve the curb appeal!  It's on a great street and this diamond in the rough needs some updating.

Will a porch help the curb appeal?

We can't figure out is what the architectural style should be.  The house was built in the 1930's.  And it looks like it started life as an elongated saltbox........but got a shed dormer addition at some point in time.  So what should we do?  Give it an Arts & Crafts look?  Go with a Maine Cottage look?

We're thinking about a small front porch, a new front door and more windows.

We'd love to hear your ideas.  And we'll have lots of 'before' pictures once we can get inside!

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Farewell to our First Project

Today is the closing on our 1900 Victorian project.  It's bittersweet.....we're thrilled for the new owner, but sad to say goodbye to this great home.  Last night, Richard put together a short retrospective video - check it out!

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Foyer - Before & After

The smallest room on the first floor, turned out to be one of my favorites!  This room started as a dark boring space, with a curtain blocking the beveled glass front door window and dark purple and orange inserts in the stained glass window.  But most of all, it's narrow shape didn't really provide a lot of function.  So instead of trying to squeeze a table or console into the space, Richard built this great boot bench with beadboard backing and a row of hooks for jackets and backpacks.

Foyer Before
Foyer After - Same Camera Angle 

The too subtle stripe treatment
 What would I do differently?  Well, it's hard to see it, but there is a horizontal stripe treatment on the long wall with the bench.  It's a cream and white set of stripes....but probably a little too subtle!  Next time, I think I'd accentuate it just a little more.

What would we do the same?  We changed the ceiling height on the stairway so someone over 5'8" can walk up the stairs without bumping their head.  That's made a big improvement!  And all the things we did to make the room brighter really helped make this a welcoming space as you come through the front door.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Kids Rooms - Before & After

To stage the smallest bedroom, I started with an antique postcard I bought on e-bay.  It shows a turn of the century shipwreck at Willard Beach, with Spring Point Lighthouse in the background.  I had it blown up onto a canvas as a piece of artwork.  Isn't it cool?  And it helped define the colors for the space.

As a reminder, here's the 'before' picture of the room.  It's not big, but there is certainly room for a bed, desk and dresser.  This room was in nice shape, so we didn't make many changes.

And here are the 'after' photos.  With only one bed in the room, it adds a lot more flexibility.

And of course, there are lots of little colorful details.  My favorite touches - this little $1.99 stuffed bear from IKEA!  And the super soft anchor appliquéd pillow sham.

Paint - Sherwin Williams Crisp Linen
Curtains - Pottery Barn Kids
Red Chenille Rug - IKEA
Desk & Chair - Crate & Barrel
Anchor Appliqué Pillow Sham - Simplify Marketplace
Lobster Pillow - L.L. Bean
Toys - IKEA
Red/White/Blue Quilt - Richard's Grandmother made it in the early 1980's!

Girl's Room

This room had a pretty dramatic transformation.  It was in rough shape when we started.  Underneath all the dark blue wallpaper, there was a lot of damaged plaster.  But we love old plaster walls and didn't want to lose them.  So we did lots of repairs and painted the room the same crisp linen that we used throughout the 2nd floor.  And of course we replaced the acoustic tile ceiling with new drywall.

And here are the after photos.  Love those beautiful floors!!!
Here's the Pottery Barn Dollhouse Bookcase I found at our local consignment shop!  Can't wait for another opportunity to use it.

Richard took a radiator cover that I found on Craigslist and modified it to fit this tall radiator.  It looks so much nicer than the old metal one.   One of my favorite pieces of furniture is this small table with the spool trim. I found it in an antique store in Portland a long time ago and it seems to work where ever I use it. The bed linens are all from Company C - love the bright, cheerful colors!

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fasten Your Seat Belts - Buying a Foreclosure

We're trying to buy a foreclosure for our next project.  And when I asked the attorney at the title company for some advice, that's what she told us - 'Fasten Your Seat Belts'.

It's already been an interesting ride.  We looked at this house about a month ago and thought it had potential.  But it had just come on the market and the asking price was way too high.  So we waited.  Last week, they reduced the price $20,000.  We called our realtor immediately and were able to tour it that afternoon, with the guys from Waterhouse Builders and Succhinis Plumbing & Heating.  They quickly gave us a ROM (rough order of magnitude) estimate on what it would take to renovate this house (more about that in a later blog!).  With their information in hand, we made an offer the next morning.

With the new reduced price tag, there was a lot of interest.  Even though we made an offer within 24 hours of the price reduction, we were one of 3 bidders on the property.  But good news!  We got a phone call the following day that Fannie Mae had a counter offer for us.  1) we needed to close in 3 weeks, 2) we had to agree to a 'Special Warranty Deed' that said we couldn't borrow more than 120% of the property value or sell it for more than 120% of the purchase price for 3 months, and 3) we had to forgo inspections.

What, no inspections?  This place has been vacant for some time.  Some windows are boarded up.  We've heard rumors that there are burst pipes, but because the property was 'winterized', there's no water in the house to see how bad the issue is......just lots of water stains on the ceilings.  And who knows if the furnace even works?

What to do?  We also learned if we went back with a counter offer to their counter offer....we were opening it back up to the other bidders, who could improve their bids. Oh, and by the way, another new bid was coming in.

So, we had another glass of wine (or maybe it was two??) and decided to take the risk.  We already knew we had to redo the plumbing.  And we had budgeted for a new kitchen as well.  We also knew we needed to fix some issues in the basement.  So we had a lot of the bases covered.  We agreed to their counter offer.  We quickly got an 'accepted' and thought we were off to the races.

Then we discovered the asset manager at Fannie Mae had to approve it.  On the bright side, he quickly said yes.  But now we learned he doesn't have final approval - it needs to go for management approval, which takes another couple of days.

Sigh.....I have a feeling the turbulence is just beginning!!!!  Stay tuned, if we get it, I'll be posting some interesting before pics!

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Can you sell a house on Facebook? Yes - sold with multiple offers in 3 days!

When you own your own micro-business (we're not even big enough to be called small!), you get to wear a lot of hats.  Richard gets to be the CFO and CIO.  I get to be the Chief Marketing Officer.  And I thought that was going to be an easy role.  I was planning on getting my real estate license and would use the usual marketing channels when it came time to list our house.  But I quickly discovered that when you're working on the house 10-12 hours a day, you don't have the time/energy to complete your license. And as our margins started getting slimmer and slimmer, it became apparent that we needed to do a For Sale by Owner - FSBO - to make a profit.

So we decided to use a multi-pronged approach, which employed a lot of social media.  Here's what we did:

1 - Built on the community that we'd already started with the Blog and Facebook business page.  And it took some work!  Given Facebook's algorithms to appear in their newsfeed, we needed to be posting every day - ideally 2-3 times per day.  It's a challenge to come up with something clever multiple times a day (okay, so I failed on that one....not so clever...and only once a day)

2 - Put up a professional style sign in front of the property, directing them to our social media for more information.  My Facebook reach almost doubled within 24 hours of the sign going up in the front yard.   And interestingly, even though we also posted our phone number, we got very few calls.  The vast majority of the traffic was online.

3 - Posted a 'Coming Soon' banner on the Facebook page as we got close to putting it on the market.  We put this up about 2 weeks before our Open House.  We made sure we did a 'pin to top' - that put it at the top of our FB page for a full week.

4 - Kept the blog up with 2-3 posts per week.  The blog had more in-depth information and lots of photos of the house.

4 - We always do an Open House as a kick off to listing a house.  Word of mouth (virtual or live) is powerful, and the more people you can get in the door is better - if they like it, they'll be letting their friends and family know.  We posted an 'Open House' banner on our Facebook page with a link to our  Open House blog and photos, 4-5 days before the big day.  Also, ask your friends that are well networked if they'll 'share' your posting.  We got lots of additional Open House traffic from that!
5 - Put up additional signs with balloons the day of the Open House.  We did a Saturday and Sunday open house and found a lot of people returned the next day or told their friends who came the next day.  Having back to back open houses was helpful, since it was brand new to the market.

6 - Post on the free sites like Zillow and include your blog address.  We also used Zillow's link to do a one time MLS (multiple listing service) post, which helped generate additional traffic and got us wider exposure.

So how did all our marketing strategy pay off?  We had so much traffic come through the doors of the Open House, we don't really have an accurate count.  And while I tried to get people to sign in, I failed at that, it was just too busy.  Our guesstimate is we had 50-70 people each day - plus a lot of children.  And because people had read our blog and the work we were doing, they already knew the house when they walked in the door!  It was so funny to hear them say 'Oh look, here are the Martha Stewart kitchen cabinets' or 'look at the Pottery Barn light fixtures'.  Richard said they knew more than he did, because he rarely reads the blog!

We had people want to make offers immediately, but we asked everyone to hold off until Tuesday.  That way, they had time to work with their bank and have all the necessary paperwork in place.  By Tuesday evening, we had multiple offers in hand, from some wonderful people who really loved the house.  The hard part was having to call the folks that didn't get it and deliver the bad news.

Would we use this approach again?  Absolutely.  It was a lot of fun and we got to meet a lot of interesting people, both online and in person.  We'll be continuing the blog and the Facebook page.  But I'd really like to have the additional support of a real estate license for the next transaction!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Before and After - the Bathrooms

The bathrooms were some of the biggest projects we tackled in the house.  Both the Powder Room and upstairs Bath were tired and in need of an update.  We wanted to make them both fresh and bright, with high end finishes.  Check out the changes!

Upstairs Bath
Upstairs Bath - After

Upstairs Bath - Before

Given the small size of the bathroom, we left all the fixtures in their original location.  But we did a major facelift.  All new fixtures, crisp white subway tile with a marble border and a carerra marble basket weave floor.  The basket weave 'rug' has an absolute granite border that ties to the granite top on the vanity.  We updated the storage area with a new white cabinet, white shelves and wicker baskets for lots of storage.
It's great to have a spot for all your favorite soaps and lotions
And we made sure there were lots of fun details!!!

Who says the toothbrush cup can't be a vase???
Every tub needs a rubber duckie!

Product List
Paint color - Benjamin Moore Green Cast
Basket weave marble floor & Subway tile - Lowes
Marble border - Old Port Specialty Tile
Light fixtures, Grafton cup holder and medicine cabinet - Restoration Hardware
Faucets - Grohe
Metal Basket - Pottery Barn

The Powder Room/Laundry got a similar transformation.  Again, we left the fixtures in their original spot, but we added a wall with bifold doors to hide the laundry.  



We wanted to dress up the floor and used a glass, frosted glass, granite and marble border to create a 'rug' on the floor.

And of course, we included lots of details - the laundry room decal got lots of laughs at the Open House!!

Giant sponge holds bath products

Product List
Vanity & Top - Foremost from Home Depot
Pivot Mirror - Restoration Hardware Dillon Pivot 
Light Fixtures - Pottery Barn Sussex Tube
Floor Border - Home Depot
Floor Tile - Paul G White (Portland)
Wall Decal -
Towel Bars - Handle It! (Portland)
Paint color - Sherwin Williams Ancient Marble

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