Posts Tagged Real Estate

Keys to Green Gables

Well, it happened! This past Monday, to be exact. I drove to the bank right after work, signed 6 trees worth of paper, and they handed me the keys! The best part was my realtor bringing a 12 pack of one of my favorite beers with a big red bow, right into the banker’s office to congratulate me! What a surprise that was! Is it even legal to have beer in a bank? Oh well, my banker was good about it and laughed it off. I finished the paperwork and headed to my new place. I already had an ice cold beer in the car, ready to help me inaugurate the new place, and a camera in the other hand to make sure I could get a photo out front with the realtor’s SOLD sign.

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So there she is, in all her green gable goodness. Not a nice green either, but sea foam green. Or bright fresh spring vegetable green. Not a bad color by any means when a kid is excited about a brand new 48 pack of Crayola crayons, but on a house?? I drive down the street and barely notice the other run down homes, and then – BAM – like a jar of baby food smashed peas, there’s my little bungalow! It has a one car detached garage, stone driveway, and not a bad size front yard.

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So what all does this house have going for it? Well, it’s entirely wrapped in aluminum siding. Not my favorite color, but it’s wrapped pretty well. Siding, soffit, and spouting all look to be in great shape. Upon closer inspection, the window trim was never wrapped in aluminum, so it either needs painted or covered. The concrete walkway to the front porch is in great shape, the steps are nice too. Being 3 steps, code requires it to have a handrail. The porch floor has taken a beating, looks just like a weather beaten deck. And the windows are reeeally bad. Loose glass, water damaged sashes, and cracked or missing glazing. And neither of these photos do justice to how bad the roof is, or just how many pieces of shingles I picked out of the yard the first afternoon.

I need to take “before” photos of several more rooms, and the nice back yard. But already I know what the first project will be: the bathroom. It’s dingy, moldy, rotting, and who knows what else. Looking in from the kitchen, it looks like this:

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The nice large bathroom window floods the room with light. And that’s about where the amenities end. The walls are covered in bad paneling, the goose-themed wallpaper border is glaring, and the linoleum is peeling up all around the tub from water leaking.

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Step through the doorway, and immediately to the left are the skinny skinny vanity, the room’s only light fixture, and the toilet. The yellow tags are reassuring, they were left by a property maintenance company to let the realtor and myself know that the drains were winterized with antifreeze. Although the toilet isn’t that old, neither of these fixtures are staying.

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Standing just inside the doorway shows how close the front of the toilet bowl is to the tub. Cozy, to say the least. Notice all the seams in the paneling below the window, the installer used scraps which means more seams and more areas for water to get through.

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Stepping inside and turning around, here is the tub. Yep, the paneling is deteriorating from water, the tub faucet and handles are so corroded, I don’t even know if they would work if the water was turned on. The tub itself isn’t in too bad of shape. At this point I’m hoping to save the tub, after going a little Nicole Curtis on it with gentle cleaner and a ton of elbow grease.

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Here’s the plastic hose and hand-held shower head, and in the ceiling is the home’s only attic access. The yellow wall is a poorly built divider between the tub and this unfinished space which puzzles me.

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I can’t figure out what this area was. It is immediately to the right once inside the doorway. The linoleum has been tore up, exposing the original wood floor. The open wall looks like it used to be a doorway into one of the bedrooms. Part of me thinks there could have been a stand up shower here; its big enough, but there is no sign of plumbing, either supply or drain. So I figure this must have been a closet, and that would explain the door frame still in the wall. Perhaps the previous owner removed the closet in a first step to renovating the bath.

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This is the same area, with the back of the tub faucet showing. This half-open wall was not constructed correctly and will be coming out. How about that great insulation job – aka- the opening in the sub-floor stuffed with an old towel. The entire room screams years of leaking without being repaired, and the quick-fixes I’ve found so far deserve some kind of award for stupidity. The sink, cabinet, toilet, and partition wall all need tore out, followed by the linoleum. I hope to find a solid floor underneath there somewhere. I’m also sketching a few ways to rearrange the bathroom fixtures in order to maximize space.

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What’s it Worth?

Apparently, almost exactly what I’m paying for it. As part of the mortgage process, my bank had a real estate appraiser survey the property for real estate value. They do this to make sure the house is worth, at minimum, the amount I’m borrowing to purchase it. If the house appraises for more, thats great for me the buyer (instant equity). If the house appraises for less, the bank won’t let me borrow any more than the appraisal amount. And in many cases, you take the appraisal back to the seller and say, “about your price…”

My appraisal came in just $1000 higher than the purchase amount, so I’m in good shape. As part of the appraisal, which my bank gave me a full copy, it shows the recent home sales in this and similar neighborhoods which show where she based her number. She compared my house with 4 others which have sold in the last few months, all similar in square footage, number of rooms, and condition. The house she ranked as the most comparable was the house across the street. Although it has a basement, she deducted a certain amount from its selling price and volla, my house appraisal.

Now I am waiting on the bank to do a clear title search and schedule a closing date. We are less than 1 month away, or so they tell me.

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House Hunting – Part 2

Continuing where the last entry left off, I put in an offer on a different home, although just across the street. Also a foreclosure, but this property is owned by a different bank. It’s been listed since October of 2013, and every 2 months they drop the listed price by about 10%. I had an idea of what I thought I would pay for this one, but my realtor convinced me to make an offer significantly lower. And I’m glad he did. I submitted my offer with the realtor after work on a Wednesday evening, I had a counter offer before noon the next day. Their counter was even below the price I originally had in mind, so I accepted! I know what you’re thinking, I thought it also: why not make a second offer and see what they say? But we’re only talking about $2,000 difference, and I didn’t want to get greedy and lose this house to the next person in line like I did the first one.

Then it was a waiting game to get my contract. I had to initial 12 pages of “addenda” to the offer, basically a bank novel to help me understand that “as-is” really means “as-is.” One week later, I had my contract and took it to the bank. I was already pre-approved for a mortgage several months before. I did this for 2 reasons: first of all, I wanted to know what dollar amount the bank would let me borrow for a home, because there is a very precise calculation they do comparing your debt to your income. Secondly, if I did find the right house, I would need a bank financing letter in order to submit an offer. Since I already did the first step, the bank took my contract and I signed the mortgage application. The funny part was when the banker (super nice guy, btw) says, “how much?” The look on his face was priceless. I had already explained to him in our first conversation that I was looking for a fixer-upper. Apparently he didn’t know just how much of a ‘fixer’ I was after. The look on his face said, “Are you sure you know what you are getting yourself into?” YEP! But I was prepared for that expression. I explained that I’ve tackled home improvement projects for the past several years, and have done woodworking for even longer. To convince him further (not that it was necessary, but I don’t shy away from showing my work) I brought along a small album of before and after photos including inside, outside, and a major bath redo. He seemed impressed, not so much by the work itself, but that he had no idea I was a DIY guy.

So now its just waiting on the bank to confirm all of my application details, hire an appraisal on the home, run a title search on the property, and then hopefully schedule the loan closing. On or before April 18, just over a month away! Being under contract is such a relief. I’ve been making an inventory of the things I will need. I can start picking up household items when I see them on sale or at yard sales this spring. I’m Craigslisting every day to find nice used appliances. And I can’t stop Pinteresting ideas for every room. Have you searched “Craftsman Bungalow” on Pinterest? You don’t know what love is until you do.

My little bungalow (yes, I am already calling it mine; I might also drive down the street at least every other day to see what the neighbors are up to and how the house looks as the snow continues to melt) – anyway, it has 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, kitchen, living room, dining room, and small laundry area at the back entrance. Also a 1 car garage with stone drive, back yard shed, and pretty good size yards in front and back. All the woodwork and dining room built-ins are painted, but they look original and otherwise in great shape. Hardwood floors under the old carpet, though needing refinished. The windows look original to the house, and badly need replaced. The roof also looks terrible; although there’s no water damage to the ceilings, it looks like just a matter of time until it fails. The bathroom is terrible; plywood on the floor, extremely soft all around the fixtures from lots of water damage. And the bath layout overall looks cramped, I’ve already been sketching ideas for moving either the vanity or the toilet. But I cannot wait to get started! And I do plan to document every room and the outside with lots of “before” pictures so I can enjoy looking back and seeing how much change I’ve created over the next few years.

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