All Paintjobs Are Not Created Equal

 

90 man hours and $400 bucks in sandpaper and we haven’t even started shooting the primer or caulking yet. A good paint job is all in the prep, as you can see here we’ve been giving this grand old lady some love this week. You cant just paint over 90 years of multiple peeling paint jobs on one of these historic houses and a scraper wont faze it. I’ve seen people pay $18-20k for a paint job like this, stay tuned we’ve got 7 great colors going up playing off the colors in the original stained glass windows still present. Oddly enough after first picking the colors we found that our trim choice was exactly the same as what was underneath all those layers of paint. I guess the builder had the same idea about matching the windows.

Happy 4th! Video Update

Happy 4th! Here’s a construction update for our big rehab, the Target House. It rained all week from Hurricane Alex so we got skunked out on the exterior prep for paint but at least I saw some progress with the interior trim-out that’s now complete. I used a cool new 5 panel style door from Masonite called “Riverside” and a complete custom MDF trim out. Walk through the project with me below and see how our progress is coming along. There’s a house for sale on our street that just went under contract, cant wait to see the sales price as that will be the nearest comp. It’s listed for $300k but its hardly updated at all. With this in mind, I think our list price will be close to $399k for this project when its completed later this summer. In other news, our House Flipping Blog got chosen this week for “Top 20 Real Estate Investing Blogs”over at Biggerpockets.com. Thanks to Joshua Dorkin for the recognition! PS, keep the comments/questions coming as well! Thanks for following along with me on our 1923 Arts and Crafts Bungalow renovation.

Just Say No To Hoppers!

It’s finally starting to look like a house again. As I’ve said before its always fun to see it with drywall so you can get a feel for the new spaces you’ve created and how they flow together, the new master suite I built is definately going to sell this house. I’m very particular on the drywall job for these big projects, I use a new construction crew that specialize in this trade and do it all day long, every day. Of course every tom, dick and harry out there can hang drywall and tape and float it (including me) but this important step really dictates how your final finish out will appear. My guys use all the latest tools like roto zips to cut out the boxes and mud bazookas and taping machines to float it out. There’s literally no sanding when the mud is applied correctly. Tons of other rehabbers here locally are going “handyman” style and having painters hang their drywall, tape and float it and use a hopper to spray the texture. The texture on your rehab is a very important detail, some buyers probably wont notice bad texture but the 20% who are in the know will recognize the quality. Plus, after all that work to get to this point who would want a chunky uneven surface on your walls that looks like old drywall thats been retextured and patched?  Hoppers are o.k. for small jobs but for a big house it will be hard to get even coverage and mix it consistently one bucket at a time. A professional crew will bring in a truck with a spray rig, one mixture and they spray the whole house evenly without stopping.

Once again, that’s what these guys do for a living. Once the texture truck pulls up 3 guys start running around masking off all the windows and can lights while the sprayer starts at the back of the house and works his way forward. The whole house takes about 2 hours to complete. For a professional drywall job like this we pay $10.00 per sheet for labor. That includes the hanging crew, tape and floating as well as the texture. I supplied the drywall itself, this house ate up 270  4×8 sheets. Of course we don’t use 8 footers so as to minimize the joints but thats how the labor is calculated, what actually went in was 180 12 footers. Per building code we use 5/8 on the ceiling and 1/2 on the walls. If you hire someone to do the drywall in your big rehab and he shows up with a texture hopper, run!

New Concrete & SA Slippage

Over at our historical renovation, The Target House, we took care of the new concrete driveway and garage foundation this week. My contractor is charging around $3.00/s.f. for a job like this including demo and haul off, we poured 2000 s.f.  The concrete was an important part of this project, the original 1923 driveway width was more suitable for a Model T rather than a soccer mom SUV. Additionally, since our lot is sloped and I excavated such a deep cavity under the room addition for the peir and beam foundation it was imperative to prevent any water from entering the crawl space so the new driveway & curb will divert all rain and roof run off down the driveway. You’ll also notice in the video we are rough sanding the hardwood floors even before we hang drywall. This is a little trick I learned in cases where there are bad stains and smells. Sanding the wood takes the finish off and opens the pores in the wood so it can breathe and dry out. We’ll start bleaching out any stains and then once we are ready to refinish the floors possible do a bit more patching in any areas that still need it. Since my plan on this house is to go light with the floors I wont be able to hide anything with the dark stain. The last thing I want to do is go all dark on my brand new wood floors just to try and hide 4-5 stains up front on the existing portion of the house. We passed framing inspection and the insulation is now hung. Once we pass insulation inspection Monday we’ll be free to finally hang the drywall so I’ve got a delivery for 180 12′ sheets on Monday.

The May San Antonio real estate market stats were released this week and although activity was up nearly 20% the median price dropped almost 4% from last year. I normally don’t put a lot of weight on median prices anyway but there were certainly more less-expensive homes selling due to the buyer bait program. The higher transactions were also obviously a result thereof. After 2 consecutive months of low foreclosure numbers, SA now jumped up by 34% for the July auction and is on track for a record high 2010 number. I think the market will be slowing as Summer settles in, let’s hope home prices don’t continue to slip.

Puttin’ Pests To Rest

We have now passed all rough-in inspections for the Target House. Tomorrow I’ve called for the next inspection which is for the framing. This inspection is on the whole house permit that the owner or GC pulls. When inspecting framing they look for placement and relationship to all the trades’ fixtures as well as other items like foaming the windows and fire blocking the holes from the electrical wires. Once I pass framing  I’ll be free to hang the insulation this week. Only after the City then inspects the insulation job can I hang the drywall. I’ll order it for a late week delivery and we’ll start hanging right after the insulation inspection.

Today I had the whole house sprayed for wood destroying insects (termites). This is the perfect opportunity to spray as the walls are all opened up. I don’t know any other rehabbers doing this, it’s a little more expensive but worth its weight in gold to the future homeowners and the life of this killer old house. The residue stays in the walls for up to 10 years and also kills roaches and other bugs who normally use those highways to enter your house. These old historic homes have tongue and groove wood all over the walls and ceilings so it’s a party if termites get in. I’ve heard of some people sprinkling seven dust in the wall cavities before drywalling but as you can see in the video we soaked everything to the hilt.

A/C Duct Blast Test

New regulations from the City of San Antonio with regards to my mechanical permit tripped me up this week. Turns out there are several new codes that took effect January 1, 2010 which affect new central air conditioning systems in remodels. San Antonio is now requiring a duct blast test to be performed by a third party licensed mechanical contractor. After having my new system installed and inspected for rough-in we had to bring in another contractor to test the duct-work for leaks. Since you would never know if there were any leaks until the system was turned on at the time of final inspection they have come up with this cool way to test your contractors work before you hang the drywall.

A fan is connected to the return air box and all registers are sealed with tape. They then crank up the fan and measure at one of the grills for pressure. The fan measurement vs. its affect on the duct pressure determines efficiency. Any leakage is shown on the computer and would indicate a loose seal somewhere that may need more tape or “pookie.”  Before this technology existed we would wait until passing final inspection, turn the a/c on and manually feel around the joints for cool air.  Leaks in your ducts cost big bucks on utility bills, especially in hot climates like Texas. If you are remodeling a house its now mandatory to have this test performed, the results are sent to the local power company CPS, and you wont get your electricity turned on without it.  If you haven’t checked your system lately it might be worth a trip to the attic, one neighbor to a rehab I did asked for my help last summer. Upon inspecting her system my A/C guy saw that she was losing all the cool air into her attic as the tape from the coil/furnace had come completely unglued. Today we passed the duct blast test as well as rough-in for mechanicals.

Installing Red Oak Hardwoods

I picked up 1200 s.f. of hardwood flooring last week from Home Depot and we got started putting it down. On a full gut rehab I always put down the new wood floors before hanging drywall (if they are unfinished). We patched into the dining room, staggering the joints and have run the new 2 1/4″ unfinished Red Oak all the way through the kitchen, utility room and we are half way through the master bedroom. In the old portion of the house the wood nails right to the floor joists but in my new addition it nails to the plywood subfloor with some felt paper in between as a moisture barrier.  Most of the Craftsman Homes in San Antonio originally have Red Oak flooring but occasionally you’ll see Long Leaf Pine used and especially in kitchens. After some deliberation I decided to have all hardwoods in my master suite instead of using high end carpet for the bedroom and tile for the bath floor. On the last couple of houses I used carpet and didn’t really hear any complaints but these Arts and Crafts style homes are really all about having hardwoods throughout. By the time I looked at what I would spend on the carpet, tile and installation it made more sense to just put down all wood and I’ll end up with a way finer product. Like the last house, I’ll even run the hardwood floors through the master bathroom which got great feedback and will really give my new addition some character. I usually buy this flooring at Lumber Liquidators for $1.99/s.f. but their price went up to $2.89 now. Home Depot has it for $2.39 plus I got a little bit more off the order since it was over $2500.00 we got to send it to the bid room.  I’ll still have to have these floors sanded and refinished with the rest of the house once the renovation is complete but on the flip-side putting down a prefinished engineered wood just wouldn’t give you that old house feel.

I’ve been doing extra dark stains like Dark Walnut & Ebony on my last few projects but for this house I think I am going to go lighter with Golden Oak just to change it up. The dark floors are really trendy right now and very dramatic but they get so dusty and are a nightmare to keep clean during the period the house is on the market for sale. When the flooring got delivered the driver didn’t show up until 7 o’clock. Wouldn’t have been so bad but he dropped the pallets curbside so I had to lug all 63 bundles up 15 steps myself after a long week.

Here’s another item that I always do before the house gets drywall, I install all the HardiBacker in the areas that I have planned for tile. In the hall bath (not shown) I am doing the floor and tub surround. In the master bath pictured here I’ll do the entire new shower all the way up, inside and out of the 9 foot walls, and the box for the spa tub with a mini surround. Before the backer board could go up I had to do the shower pan.  I use the rubber membrane and a dry mortar bed and slope to the drain. It takes about 2-3 hours to complete. The backer board is easy as well, it cuts great with a skilsaw and goes in with tons of screws. You want a real stable base so your tile job doesn’t crack. I’ve seen some remodelers using that blue board the sell at Lowe’s, don’t do it, your tile job will crack in a few short months! That would suck to have your flip on the market for sale and a tile job start cracking. I’ve seen it happen, multiple times. Always use 1/2″ HardiBacker and screw it down, even if the guys on DIY Network nail it.

Hot & Cold

It was nice to get in a full week on the project now that the other house sold. I finished up the front porch by making new stairs and replacing the siding skirt where needed. We got a comment from Mike asking what I was going to do about the column base overhanging the porch floor, I’ll just have to live with it as its only over by a few inches and doesn’t strike me as really looking that odd since they overhang the top too. The posts that hold up the porch are existing 6X6’s. Their placement was really far out to the corners so in order form me to have the tapered columns I had to have the bases hang over the floor a bit. If I had gone back with just square posts I don’t think it would look as cool so I’ll live with it.  The 16 degree flare on the skirt looks real cool with the 117 siding.

My firebox arrived this week as well so I got to install it. Of course the dimensions I got online for the rough-in framing hole didn’t work out so I had to reconfigure this wall a bit on the fly. It’s a double sided see-thru gas fireplace that I’ve put between the jacuzzi tub in the master bath and the master bedroom. Locally you’d spend $5,000-$8,000 for something like this even at a wholesale builders supply so I was excited to find them online for $1295.00 from Ebay/Discount Fireplace Outlet. With the vent pipe and everything you need, the total including tax and delivery was about $1800.00. It’s easy to put in, once you have the box framed in there’s just one gas line that I’ve got coming in underneath and then the vent through the roof. The unit doesn’t need electrical as there’s an ignitor and low voltage switch that you mount on the wall. This is a real cool feature for what I spent, we’ve designed the whole master suite around it, can’t wait to see it with all the tile around it and the 6′ tub in.

I found a new HVAC guy last week who’s already got started roughing-in my new 5 ton central air/heat system. It’s a horizontal gas furnace of course (electrical is not smart energy) with a A-coil like I always use. Since this house is so long we’ve got a real long supply trunk line with 11 drops and 3 return air grills. Yellow Page retail prices in San Antonio for a total new install like this would run over $2,000/ton, or $10,000. My regular sub-contractor was bidding $6,500.00 for this house which equates to $1,300/ton. Like I’ve mentioned before, it’s common to experience price creep with subs, you always have to keep hammering them or switching because they slowly raise their prices on you. So here’s the good part; my new guy is only charging me $4400.00 complete. That’s only $880.00 per ton my friends! I’ve already turned him on to another investor friend of mine, this guy is hungry for work and I saved over $2k by shopping around and walking away from old faithful. In my business any savings along the way goes straight to the bottome line.

San Antonio Home Sales of single family residences were up 20% in April when compared to the same month in 2009. Great news but undoubtedly this is directly reflective of the Federal Tax Credit that’s now expired. In typical cheerleader fashion, the San Antonio Board of Realtors has come out to predict “these home sale increases should hold through the Summer” although I have different thoughts..especially knowing that mortgage applications are taking a dive in May.

Settin’ Hooks & Sad Wings

It’s often been said that a buyer decides whether or not they like your house within the first 30 seconds of pulling up in the driveway. What I’m talking about here goes way beyond curb appeal. We are selling house fronts my friends. Not sides, not backs, not baths, not fences and not kitchens although all that has to be dialed in as well. What sets the hook in your buyers lip is what you do up front. All those other items just help you reel them in once inside. I’ve given this advice multiple times to other flippers; you must focus on everything up front and at the door area because as the agent is typically fumbling around with the lockbox to get the keys, your potential buyer has time to really study your work. With this in mind I stayed busy this week rebuilding the missing front porch columns, they are a very important feature of this house and if done correctly can really enhance the homes other characteristics. The big front porch on this house hooked me from the start although it was missing the original historic columns. Instead of rebuilding the style it came with I opted for square tapered historic house columns to tie in with the interior columns in the dining room. The driveway was really narrow before but with my new design I gained about 18” under the Porte Cochere. You know those old Model T’s had no problem rolling through there, but the Soccer Mom SUV would definitely be a tight squeeze. Before building the new columns I had to first jack up the structure to level it and replace the 4X4 supports. The new columns are essentially cosmetic and hollow with all the weight sitting inside on the posts.

 My electrician spent 4 days at the house this week as well, for those of you who are regular readers you’ll remember that he is the lead singer in a Judas Priest cover band here in San Antonio called Sad Wings of Destiny. He’s a blast to work with, not only is he a great master electrician it’s cool when he busts out singing to the classic rock we listen to all day. Adam Lambert aint got nuthin’ on my boy Rick. Thursday’s temps got to 100 degrees; in the attic it was an easy 125. I told him if I didn’t hear him singing I’d come up and check on him. It’s serious business working in a Texas attic if you are a contractor as there’s been a lot of accidental deaths, always make sure you are working with a helper in case you pass out. Total cost for complete new electrical including 200 amp service, meter loop, sub panel, 28 recessed can lights and permits: $4200.00. Fixtures not included. Another great price, this job is easily worth 8k retail. We should be calling in for rough-in inspection early next week.

Plumbing Passed, Pendings Up

We passed plumbing rough-in and top out inspections this week at Target House and have now got started on the electrical. My electrician is getting a slow start so I am kind of disappointed but its par for the course here in Land of Manana, especially when you are getting great prices. I am going to stay on his ass all week and try for an inspection Friday. On the exterior I am completely done with all the siding and window trims on the new portion of the house and have started working my way forward replacing various sections on the original siding where I moved windows or there was damage. There will be alot of changes once I get up front rebuilding the porch, porte cochere and columns so that’s exciting. On the new back porch ceiling I used authentic 1×4 tongue and groove bead board, sweet!

The San Antonio housing market certainly showed signs of Tax Credit fever while everyone scrambled last week for the handout. I’ve been tracking the Pending sales and as you can see they rose by about 100 houses for each week in April all the way up until the cut off of Friday. It will be interesting to see 2 things from here, if the Pending sale growth continues and how many pendings actually close and turn into solds. The San Antonio Spring buying season typically is just now heating up, we’ll see how bad the tax credit affected future demand shortly. There are currently 11,455 homes for sale, down from 11,697 last weekend.

Week                          # Pendings

Mar 29-April4                    246

April 5-April 11                 363

April 12-April 18               430

April 19-April 25              456

April 26-May 2                  556

Target Pex & PVC

The new plumber got started mid week at The Target House and is moving fast towards the rough-in inspection which should probably happen Monday. I am impressed with the guys on his crew, they are very detail oriented, we even addressed the baseboard height so the water valves for the toilets will be at the right height. I am running 8″ high baseboards again on this project to mimic the houses original design so this puts the water valves higher than usual.  All the new Pex lines are ran and as you can see he brought all new pvc drains and tied them in under the old existing bathroom to the main sewer line by removing the old cast iron stack. This is the right way to do it, we aren’t trying to tie into anything old so there wont be any problems for the new owner. I had also asked him to minimize roof penetrations for the plumbing vents. Every drain needs a vent so a lazy plumber would have poked through my new roof 5-6 times but instead these guys tied all the vents together in the attic so I only have 3 vents visible.  I had to put my siding project on hold as its been raining all week, looking forward to finishing it as soon as the weather cooperates and the mud dries up.

The sale of The Neighbor’s House is still looking good. The buyer is using a VA loan and we are currently waiting for the appraisal to come back as this will be the last big uncertainty before closing. I got a call from the apprasier Monday asking a bunch of questions about The Hat Trick House next door, as I guessed they are infact using it as the best comp for this sale.  What were the chances of rehabbing 2 houses next door to each other and needing my own comp?

117 Siding and New Plumber

I started getting the siding on this week and have been interviewing new subcontractors for the 3 trades that will be next in line to rough-out the house. I love the historic style #117 wood siding, it gives my projects a real edge over the competition as most guys run HardiPlank on their additions. It cost a little more at about 45 cents a foot but well worth the price for my projects. Its always my goal also to find the best prices for any work that I have to hire out because it increases my net profit. A dollar saved is a dollar earned, right?  My DIY method of doing these rehabs does not involve hiring a general contractor who would tack at least 50%  profit right onto your cost but instead managing the subs personally and working right alongside them doing most of the work myself. This gives me the freedom to pick my own sub contractors and negotiate with them directly and pocket the savings.  As with many of the subs in the past, I started to experience “price creep” with my plumber on every house we did with him. With construction as slow as it is I cant justify paying a higher price for the same job so we give new hungry guys a shot.

Out of the 3 trades I always do the plumbing first, its hard pipe and cant move whereas the electrical and mechanical can work around anything. I accepted a bid from a plumber yesterday that I’m really excited about. He’s been is business over 25 years, does alot of new construction homes, comes highly recommended and has beat our last guys price substantially. We are getting a complete new plumbing system with “15 fixtures” including new pex supply lines all the way from the water meter,  new pvc drains all the way to the sewer and complete new black pipe hard gas lines from the gas meter throughout the house to 4 locations in order to qualify us for the “Smart Energy” title. Our local energy company CPS right now is really pushing awareness of using a combo of gas and electric to builders but we’ve of course always done this anyway. They designate your project a Smart Energy House, this combined with all the Energy Star appliances has been a real plus for our customers. His bid also includes supplying the hall bath tub and 50 gallon hot water heater. I am getting a 1 year warranty as well and he wont even let me touch the fixture installation to save money as he’s that concerned about his liability. The price is $5900 for the job where previously we were paying over $7000 and having to furnish the tub, heater and do the trim out myself so effectively I think I’ve shaved about $2000 of this one trade alone. I hope he works out, he is suppose to be all roughed in and topped out this week for an inspection.

The Neighbor’s House is under contract again as of last weekend. We are passed the home inspection and are expected to close at the end of the month. Additionally there is a back up offer in the lurch. I still will share all the juicy details from all the previous offers we received and deals that fell through but not until the sale closes. This house is incredible and someones going to be very happy to own it. What a great project and fun story!

Moonshine Jugs

I had a  productive week starting out by hanging all the OSB plywood on the room addition exterior, it really starts looking like a house once it has something on the framing. After the OSB I wrapped it with Tyvek, wow does Lowes like to advertise! Its amazing how many local rehabbers I see that dont use house wrapping on their additions. They’ll go straight over the OSB with the siding. For $88 bucks you cant go wrong and it really makes a difference on your electric bill and keeps the drafts out. The windows arrived Friday and I got most of them in along with the back door so now it all locks up again. As you can also see I had a retaining wall built this week from CMU block under the perimeter of the new addition. There was such a deep below grade cavity from my excavation that this was necessary for correct drainage and to prevent water intrusion under the house. I’ll backfill the sides now and we’ll be good to go. Another example of how we are doing things right, some guys would have thrown down some plywood and backfilled. The back porch is really neat, cant wait to see everything now with the historic waterfall style #117 siding on it to match the house.

The original owner of the house stopped by and said that their dad build it back in the 20’s. She’s going to give us all the info on the home and story behind it so we can pass it along to the new owner eventually. I am hoping she has some vintage photos of the front so when I go to rebuild the columns and porch area I can replicate it correctly. While I was under the house this week I found some old moonshine jugs, a 1927 Good Housekeeping magazine and a Texas automobile license plate from 1933. Since last weekend we’ve had 10 showings at Neighbor’s House and more offers as well. Spring buyers are out in full force. Cool stuff, stay tuned …

Post framing walkthrough ~ Target House

Here’s how my 900+ s.f. addition came out over at The Target House. The floorplan is flowing nicely even with the change in elevation to the master suite. That hallway is actually 46″ wide even though I mistakenly tell you 42″ in the video so its not cramped at all. As you can see I basically had to rebuild the entire floor in that back room this week because it was originally a screened-in porch so it sloped down for drainage. It’s all straight now and lines up perfectly with the new addition. As far as sales go, we are getting great showings at The Neighbors House, Spring is here, the weather is beautiful, flowers are planted and there is a strong smell of home buyer in the air: ).

Window shopping

The roof is all complete and just in time to beat this week’s South Texas rain storm. Final tally after adding up the receipts for my spreadsheet is $3998 for labor and materials, an excellent price for 40 squares of 30-year roof including 23 squares of old roof tear-off. Speaking of finding deals I’ve been doing some window shopping for the past few days in search of the best price for dual pane, white vinyl, low E windows for the Target House. I compared 4 different sources and ended up back with my usual supplier Builders First Source here in San Antonio. Sometimes I cringe at putting vinyl windows in an old historic house but with today’s energy prices it really makes sense.  After having Home Depot quote it and send it to the bid room twice, Lowe’s quote and send it to QSP, I was still able to do better by a few hundred bucks. For 25 windows I am paying $3340.00 with tax. Keep in mind most of these for the old portion of the house are ESW’s (exact size windows) and are made custom to fit inside existing wood casings in order to preserve the historic qualities of the home. There is a Federal tax rebate for 2010 in the amount of $1500.00 if you spend over $5,000 and the new windows have a U factor greater than .40. This changed from last years requirement of .32 but in any case we wont qualify due to our low invoice price and we didn’t see it necessary to pay an extra 20% for the extra U factor just to get the $1500.00 back. Make sure and check with your CPA if you are a rehabber, there is some great energy efficient Obama money out there for grabs.