Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Walkability - a Major Trend in Buyer 'Must Haves'

Talk to any realtor and you'll hear a new buzzword.  'Walkability' is becoming part of the vocabulary for their buyers.  Maybe it's the crazy lives we all lead, or the desire to be more environmentally responsible, but many people want to be able to walk to shops, parks and restaurants. It's certainly high on the buyer's 'must have' list  for a new home.  And it makes a difference in a home's value.  The Brookings Institute finds that it can have a dramatic impact on the price people are willing to pay.

Do you know the Walk Score of your house?   There is a website that will give you a walkability score.  You simply type in your address and it gives you the walk score.  Not surprisingly, New York City tops the list in the US with a score of 88.  But many cities score much, much lower.

So, I was curious how our neighborhood stacked up.  At first glance, when you look at South Portland, you discover it's not very walkable - it has a score of 40.  It's classified as 'car dependent'.  A walkability that low means you need a car to get around.

Spring Point Lighthouse and Fort Preble at the end of Willard Beach
But when I type in the address for our project, the walkability shoots up to 51.  That's 'somewhat walkable' - and they don't even take into account that Spring Point Lighthouse, Bug Light lighthouse and Willard Beach are all less than a 15 minutes walk.  It's also close to the 'Greenbelt' which is a walking and biking path that runs across South Portland and will eventually connect to the Eastern Trail, providing off road routes all the way to Portsmouth, NH.

Willard Beach on a bright, crisp day
Personally, a walkable neighborhood is incredibly important to us. We want to walk to shops, restaurants, the beach.  We see it as an important quality of life element.  Do you want to live in a walkable neighborhood?  And if yes, why is it important to you?

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Curb Appeal - Door Color

I'm not sure if it's spring fever or this sudden burst of warm weather, but I suddenly want a dose of color on the house.  I had originally planned to paint the front door black - but now I think we need a pop of color.

Front door before - dark purple

Dark orange

The new door is on order, but in the meantime, I painted up the old one with two shades of orange.  What's your vote?  Dark or light orange?  I'd love your opinion!

Light orange

Oh - and once spring is really here to stay, the yard will have lots of color!  Here is a picture of the front garden from last year.  Can't wait to see everything blooming!!!

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Living the Dream: So You Want to Flip Houses

At least once a week someone tells me they can't wait for the day when they can have a job like mine.  It's a dream job they say - you're living the dream!  It always makes me smile, because I’m not sure they know what is really involved.  Sure, the people on the TV shows make it look fun and glamorous, but I can assure you, that’s not the day to day world.  I’d love to only show up on the job site once a week in high heels and designer clothes – but that’s just silly!  You need to be on the job site every single day and ready to pitch in on a moment’s notice. And yes it’s fun to pick out paint colors and tile and fabrics, but that’s a tiny portion of the job.

So I thought it might be fun to share a few things from my dream life, if you’re really thinking about giving this a try, it might help you to know what you're getting into:

Dirty Jobs – Yeah, typically you get to do the crummy stuff that no one else wants to do.  Toilet stopped up?  It’s your job to clear it.  Backbreaking work of heating up old vinyl tiles till the mastic softens and you can scrape them up with a putty knife?  Yup, that would be you again.  Shop vacuuming 2 inches of water out of a basement when a pipe breaks at 10 pm?  Or when your demo guys forget to turn the water off when they tear out the toilet and it sprays a geyser of water everywhere, before you can find the shutoff?  You again. And wallpaper removal?  I've been come an expert!!  As Richard is fond of saying, there are two types of people in the world - the ones that shower before going to work and the ones that shower after.  I've crossed to the other side with the dirty jobs!!
Never ending days – doing a dramatic renovation of an entire house is a big undertaking. For me, it’s a 7 day a week job.  You’ll find your days are taken up with managing sub contractors, solving challenges and juggling priorities (not to mention the dirty jobs outlined above).  Your nights and weekends are spent paying bills and sourcing products for the house. Oh yeah – and writing a few blog posts!
Stress – there are surprises almost every single day.  That wall that you thought was going to be easy to remove?   Well you discover that the joist above it is cracked and will need to be replaced - a big job.  The dumpster that was supposed to be delivered in the morning?  They took it to the neighbors house instead.  The BIG lumber delivery for the second floor, they tried to deliver it to a different neighbor at 6:45 am (yeah, this is not a way to make friends with the neighbors!).  The big contingency budget, that you thought was going to cover everything you found?  Guess again, it’s not nearly enough and your profit margin is dwindling.  I feel like I have a mental spreadsheet in my head at all times, adding up all the overruns.
Exhaustion – this is physically demanding work.  Even if you hire out all the technical aspects, you’ll still find yourself carrying heavy items, scrubbing up messes and running up and down the stairs (for what seems like a thousand times a day).  I’m glad I didn’t wait until I was a lot older to get started, because I’m not sure I’d have the stamina!

So why do it?  For me, it’s a way to do something really creative, a big change from my old corporate life. There is something so fulfilling about taking a tired old house and transforming it into a home for a new family to enjoy.  Some of these houses have been vacant for years and when they’re updated, they bring a new level of vibrancy to the neighborhood.  The new owners love their home and are
incredibly happy.  At the same time, it provides jobs for people and helps build the community that we live in.  

Is it worth the crazy challenges?  Of course I think absolutely yes!!  But before you make this your dream job, be sure and think about the less glamorous aspects of house flipping.  You'll be glad you did.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Second Floor Bungalow - Sneak Peek

Now that the walls are up, with new electrical, plumbing and insulation, it seems like a good time to take a peek at the second floor.  It's come a long way since the boring, unfinished attic that we started with.

Remember our starting point?  It was a blank canvas - some skylights had been added and some framing - but not much else.

The first big change?  The soon-to-be bathroom.  We did a lot to stabilize the structure and increase the headroom.  I banged my head on that low beam more times than I'd like to admit!  Now it feels so spacious and will be a BIG bathroom!
Bathroom Before 
Bathroom 'During' 
Next change is the master bedroom.  Thanks to a big dormer, this is now a large room with windows looking over the Portland skyline.  Can you believe the difference???
Master Bedroom space - Before the dormer
Master bedroom - new dormer creates  a large room!
We added a window on the far wall, to take advantage of the view.  There are great glimpses of Casco Bay in the winter!

We're calling the space at the top of the stairs the Loft.  It's a bright space, thanks to a south facing skylight that floods it with light.  This will be the perfect place for a desk and bookcases.
The perfect spot for a desk and bookshelves
Finally, we have a pretty fabulous front bedroom.  We raised the ceiling height to really take advantage of all the funky angles.  And we removed the small windows and replaced them with large, egress windows (a building code requirement) that bring in so much more sunlight!  There will be multiple closets and room for a full size bed.
Front bedroom before

Front bedroom after
Next up?  Drywall!  That will really make it look like a house.  But what do you think so far?

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