Here’s the full before and after slideshow of our Mid-Century Modern remodel, (6 minutes) Hope you enjoy!
Here’s a great 1920’s bungalow project. It’s a bank owned REO in a highly sought after neighborhood. I missed this deal yesterday literally by hours. By the time we went to submit an offer they had just accepted another one. There’s another great investing tip back story with this house, I’ll share it after I know it’s gone for sure.
As my hardwood floor guys got started sanding this week they kicked me out of the house so I was relegated to landscaping duty. I called my good bud Dan who’s always happy to give me a hand when he’s between projects so together we really got the neighbors talking. After finishing the fence project and multiple dump runs we finally got to the fun part of laying out the beds. I opted for river rock on this house for several reasons, one being that there are alot of neighborhood cats that evidently have claimed rights to my yard or possibly even get a kick out watching us wipe our feet off, so I didn’t want to make it easy on them with big new mulch beds. Additionally the river rock goes really good with our style home, in California we would have also mixed a few palms for a tropical bungalow feel but of course that’s not possible here in South Texas because palm trees wont survive the freezing winters. After then laying the 4 pallets of St. Augustine sod down Thursday, our welder showed up and installed another sizzle feature for the property, our solar powered automatic driveway gate. No electrical connections here, a solar panel on top of the gate charges the battery which operates the gate motor. This is such a cool feature and will pay off huge for potential buyers.
Always wanting to change things up a little, I decided to go light on my floor stain as recently we’ve done several rehabs with very dark wood floors. The issue with going with a light color is that it will show any past pet stains. My floor guys brought a new product that I wasn’t familiar with, Zinsser Wood Bleach. It comes in a 2 part kit and after following the instructions we watched the old stains bubble up and disappear. It seems to work killer except it took a bit of the red tone out of my red oak wood floor as well but he assures me that when he comes back down with the new stain he’ll be able to play with it a little and hide most of the variations. I cant wait to see the floors done, remember I put down all new wood in the kitchen and back through the addition so they should be gorgeous. The shower glass and appliances arrive next week pending floor completion, stay tuned for more fun!
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.
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.
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: ).
After some last minute on-the-fly floorplan changes Thursday night from our architect Morgan at Dewitt, we finally got our material delivery Friday afternoon and my new framing crew got started. We really cut it close as she actually showed up to the jobsite with the new plans just hours before the framing started. These guys are very detail oriented and even cheaper than my last guy so I’m pretty stoked I found them. Framing in San Antonio goes for about $3.00-3.50 per square foot for new construction if you deal directly with a sub contractor, in case you are wondering we negotiated $2.71 per foot for this project. In a day and a half they got the floor system done and all the walls up, all that’s left for Monday are the ceiling joists, rafters and decking. The master has a cathedral ceiling and we are also doing a double-sided gas fireplace between the spa tub and master bedroom which are both new for us so its exciting. I’ll get the roofers over as soon as framing is done so we’ll be all “dried in” and then i can get started on the siding myself.
A Major TV production company in Hollywood that does all the good reality shows on TLC Network and HGTV contacted us this week about doing a reality show about house flipping. They found out about us evidently through our YouTube channel and got to my website. It would be real cool to get our own show but unfortunately they are looking for someone doing a minimum of 10 houses per year, probably so they can film enough episodes. Theres been a real lack of good flip shows on TV lately, we really enjoy Flipping Out because Jeff Lewis does the larger spec deals like us and Property Ladder was always good because Kirsten Kemp the host is great and they also featured such a wide variety of different investors from pro to novice. As far as the new Flip This House crews, Rudy in LA isnt really doing it for us and the New Haven crew seems to be more focused now on selling courses online like Montelongo. It’s pretty flattering nonetheless to get approached anyway, maybe there will be a Property Ladder episode in our future?
We are still getting good showings at The Neighbor’s House and I feel the Spring buyers are just now getting out there now that we have great weather. In San Antonio, sales are off 4% year to date when compared to last year and inventories are slowly rising this year by about 100 houses per month. After a closer MLS search for our general area, its apparent that there are tons more sales that are AO (under contract) or Pending right now so this figure should be improving for March.
I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thanks for checking out our house flipping blog this year and a special thanks to the 6000+ returning visitors who find our content interesting and have returned regularly. In this first full year with the website we received over 23,000 new visitors. It’s great to get the comments also; we enjoy the questions and feedback. 2009 was a great year for our company, especially with the success of our project “The Hat Trick House”. It was probably my favorite renovation to date and we set personal records in several areas on this house. In the process we also were able to buy the house right next door “The Neighbor’s House” and are 99% complete with that big rehab and looking forward to an early Spring 2010 sale. Our third and last big deal this year was the purchase of a house we’ve been after for years, “The Target House”. I’m all set roll into 2010 with this big historic renovation as we’ve already handled the demo and foundation leveling so stay tuned if you like house flipping and Craftsman style homes.
I’ve somehow managed to stay busy through the Holidays and have at least some sub contractors show up at Neighbor’s House. As you might have heard from Twitter, the first attempt at the floor refinishing was a bust. The guys had to re-sand them all down again after the stain and clear coat wouldn’t dry due to the weather conditions and did some weird stuff. They really know what they’re doing but I think he was just in a rush and trying to pull it off before Christmas so he could get his final payment. This put us back a week on having the Energy Star appliance package (all stainless of course) delivered but they finally came and wow, what a Cadillac the new Samsung refrigerator is. It’s a grand more than I usually spend but we required a counter depth model for this kitchen design to flow properly. Really nice. I also managed to do most of the landscaping while the floor crew kicked us out, I threw up about 150 feet of fence and brought in 4 yards of top soil, some river rock and 4 pallets of sod. With my energy efficient theme on this remodel I decided to use Bermuda Tiff turf grass instead of St Augustine as it requires way less water and holds up to this Texas heat in the summer. Of course I know all grass is dormant this time of year and arrives brown from the grass farms but it still sucks to put down brown sod and not to get that initial “new yard” look like the summer. The A/C guy stopped by and installed the compressor but the heat isn’t on yet until I can pass finals on Electrical, HVAC and Plumbing and then have the power company come out and set the new gas meter. I am doing a killer driveway gate again this time but this one will be automatic. Should have been installed “before Christmas, I promise” but hopefully it will come this week. Land of Manana here again in good ole SA as a lot of Hispanic workers go to Mexico from Christmas to New Years to be with family. A cool old guy stopped by this week from the area, an 87 year-old millionaire investor. He had heard of me through some local Realtors and came to introduce himself personally and see my work. Of course I love listening to seasoned pros, he told me of a land deal that netted him a million bucks in 3 months time. His parting words were: “There’s one out there for you”, very motivating.
It was a crazy week now that we have two projects in progress. At “The Neighbor’s House” we are winding things up and are having the floors refinished while the concrete guys are pouring 1500 s.f. of driveway, 2 patios, an A/C pad and flatwork around the room addition. With all the mess over there I’ve now received disgruntled phone calls and threats of calling the cops about the workers having to stay so late finishing the concrete. I feel like an unwanted houseguest that comes and stays at your house for a week. At first everyone is glad to see me, has remodeling questions and loves what I’m doing for the area, but add 3-4 months of random work trucks parked in front of their houses, mud everywhere in the street and a constant mess and noise and all of a sudden it’s not so cool and the animosity starts to set in. Understandable though, I’m sure it’s annoying. It was really difficult to pour concrete this time because the cold weather delays drying time and the days are shorter now that it’s winter. They’ve had the forms and rebar down for almost 2 weeks and we keep getting days on end of misty cold rain. After finally having four trucks dump about 30 yards, the finishers ended up having to stay until midnight using lights…temps were in the low 40s and it wouldn’t dry fast enough to smooth. That was a particularly bad night for neighbors, I hate having to do that. On the inside, the floors are coming out great as the crew has gone through 3 sanding stages, wood filler and a fine screening to smooth them out. The stain goes on today so I am anxious to see the extra dark walnut stain we’ll custom mix. Can’t wait until they are done so I can install appliances and then it’s down to the final stretch of small punch list stuff and I can get off this street, its time to go!
Over at “The Target House” we broke ground with the demo this week with the help of some day laborers and tore out the entire house in one day gutting every room completely down to the wood and removing both the kitchen and bath. Additionally there was a dilapidated garage and apartment in the backyard that took 2 more days to take down by hand. I had planned to rent a Bobcat to knock it down but it ended up being cheaper to just pay the laborers to do it. Going through someone’s old personal stuff in a garage really lets you get to know them, weird. We found pictures of the house from Christmas 1991 in perfect condition, crazy how 20 years of deferred maintenance can take its toll. Now that the demo is done, the next step is I’ll have my foundation guy get started leveling the house. Our architect is currently working on plans; I have some great ideas for totally changing the floor plan around as well as adding about 1000 s.f. onto the back of the house. We’ll do a walkthrough soon and show you how we are changing things around for the renovation. Several of the other interested parties who didn’t get the house have stopped by this week seeing the demo underway and inquiring about our plans.
We’ve been “targeting” this house for well over a year after finding it in one of our secondary farm areas. It’s not in our favorite Mahncke Park, but along the Broadway corridor closer to downtown, the River Walk Extension Project and the hot Pearl Brewery revitalization area. While it fits our overall financial investing criteria, additionally it also stays with our current model of taking historic houses close to town and turning them into better-than-new special homes for the young, hip and trendy urbanites. Over the past year we’ve sent numerous letters to the homeowner as well as left notes asking if they wanted to sell the house (see video). The elderly owner never wanted to sell the home and didn’t answer any of our correspondence but when he passed away a relative came into town and gave the listing to the first Realtor sign they saw which happened to be a few houses away. The listing agent had the home priced accordingly for its extremely poor condition but even at asking price in the high 130’s we knew it was a great deal.
After seeing it hit MLS late on Thursday night after I got home from work I called the listing agent and scheduled a showing for the next morning and had her write it up. You have to monitor MLS everyday to grab the good deals when they pop up, another day and this puppy would have gotten snagged. For anything in MLS we always write our own offers and take the 3% commission but for the $3900.00 we left on the table it was worth it to let the listing agent double-end the deal as from our experience it *somehow always increases your odds of getting an acceptance. After she wrote it up I pressed for her to present it to the sellers that very day which was Friday the 13th so we wouldn’t get into the weekend and have more offers come in. Our strategy worked and just as we received the signed contract evidently the rest of the city awoke to the offering and other agents were calling disgruntled because they didn’t have a shot. You snooze, you lose! The neighborhood that this house is in is very small so there’s not much turnover or recent sales comps. For as close to downtown as it is, it’s fairly stable and walk-able. All of the SOLD comps have an average price of 275k but go back to 2004. Average price for all ACTIVES now on the market, (only 3) is 335k. It’s only because we knew our area so well and have an accurate handle on what’s going on that we were able to jump so hard and fast. By looking at the numbers it’s going to pay off, stay tuned, as I’ll start the restoration after Christmas.
The interior is getting close to paint. I’ve hung all the doors and trimmed everything out using MDF this time. The finish out is really going to be slick so I’m excited. The master bedroom closet got a little more love this time with trim. I’ve also been busy getting some of the tile done. Picking building materials is like fashion, you have to know what’s new and in style but also know when to use it. Everything is always changing and you have to keep up with what’s new. While it’s all really still subjective, there are new trendy materials that are becoming very popular and incorporating them can set your house apart from all the other inventory therefore increasing the likelihood of a quick sale. I frequently look at design magazines and go through custom homes to keep up to date on what’s cool. You know that colored ceramic and glass tile accents are hitting big time when you can now find them at Lowe’s. While our specialty size ceramic wall tile is of course special order, the glass accents are Dal Tile and came from The Home Depot. Up until last year you couldn’t get the colored glass tiles at the big box stores, we used to have to special order them or get it online. Picking the right materials can really make or break your rehab. It really sets apart the pros from the Joes. There’s nothing worse than walking into a rehab that just looks like a flip.
When I am doing a major renovation there are a few very important features to try and incorporate to maximize retail sales price. In no certain order they are: Master suite (master bath is connected to master bedroom), dual vanities in master bath, walk-in closet, indoor utility room and food pantry. To be missing one of these items would be a huge mistake in my opinion.
My cabinets are now on order as well and should arrive before Thanksgiving. I am using Kent Moore here in Texas and they are full custom Maple and made to size with no filler pieces. I picked an off white shaker style that goes well in historic homes. For that high end custom touch, all the bathroom vanities, linen cabinets and laundry room cabinets in the whole house will match and for the bathrooms we will be using the 34” high new style vanity that you don’t have to bend way over for when brushing your teeth. We’ve used these before and it’s amazing to see how many buyers walk through and notice the vanity height.
The house was scheduled to be done December 1 but since there’s no rush to get anything on the market during the holidays I’m planning to take my time with all the details and landscaping so we can hit the market after Jan. 1. There have been buyers stopping by every week so we’ve got interested parties lined up, and as always I like to focus on that last 10% of the project because that’s where most house flippers drop the ball and how we make our houses sell for top dollar.
I had my framing inspection Monday and he passed me on the room addition but failed the new front porch because I had trimmed it out already and he couldn’t see how it was framed…oops. He said he would pass it with a letter from an engineer so I had to pay 300 bucks to have my engineer crawl in the attic to verify my framing was done correctly and draw up a certificate on it. I went straight into hanging all the insulation and called in for the insulation inspection Tuesday. The same inspector showed up the following day and passed me on that. Meanwhile I had all the drywall delivered. It turned out to be 150 sheets for the room addition, kitchen and existing bath. Man, prices on drywall have come down; I only paid 6.50 per sheet for 12 footers. My drywall crew hung it in a day and went straight into tape and float over the weekend. It’s coming out really nice as it’s always a cool stage to get to when you can see it all sealed up and smelling new. My drywall crew charges 10 bucks/sheet to hang, tape and float and texture. Since the existing bedrooms were not demo’ed I am retexturing the whole house so it will match. These guys are real pro; they do mostly new construction so the seams come out great. For texturing they don’t mix in a hopper, a truck with a mixing machine actually shows up and they spray the whole house with one batch so it turns out consistent. Drywall finishes and textures can make it or break it when it comes down to your final product so it’s important to get pros to do this part. In the past I’ve done small rooms myself but now that we are on a larger level I always sub this out. I also got all the wood floor patching done which included all new wood in the kitchen and I also ran it into the addition. I even put the wood floors into the master bath, which will be new for me this time and should be a real dramatic touch. With all the rain lately (6 inches in 1 night) I feel lucky that at least I’m making progress inside the house. After being in a record drought all summer now we get hammered with flooding, crazy weather here in Texas.
The local San Antonio real estate market continues to slow. So far this year we’ve had only 13,185 homes sold compared to the same period last year of 14,724 and 17,981 for 2007. Last year was the big slow down here when a lot of Realtors went starving. Things picked up a little this summer mainly due to the $8000 first time buyer tax credit so it will be interesting to see what happens to the real estate market if they let it expire. There’s a bill in Congress to raise the credit to $15,000 and open it to non-owner occupied buyers which would be great for investors and definitely clean up some inventory, but I’m not sure how we could pay for it. Foreclosures at the courthouse steps here in SA are also still rising, I ran across a Realtor friends’ house while reviewing the auction list for this month. Ouch, now that’s hitting close to home. Our strategy for this market is as always be extra careful on location, buy extremely right and offer a high quality renovation and unique product for the price level. Even with the slower market there are a lot of people continuing to move here to San Antonio and we only need one buyer.
The skies cleared and the inspection gods have blessed our project. Finally, we passed all 3 rough-in inspections. We had to have the mechanical inspected twice and he almost failed me the second time because I had the incorrect tape on the joints of the dryer exhaust vent. The correct taping for the seams is the UL rated aluminum tape with the red letters, same as the A/C guys use. After some word games and a battle of the egos he busted out the green card much to my relief. It always seems the young inspectors have such a chip on their shoulders while the old guys just roll through, pass you and start talking sports and telling stories. Since I pulled the main building permit myself as the owner/builder then I am in charge of the next 2 inspections. First I’ve called in for framing inspection Monday for which the City of San Antonio will look at the placement of the fixtures with relation to each other, framing and construction as well as fire blocking of all penetrations from wiring and plumbing and foaming of the windows. Once I pass this framing inspection Monday I’ll be free to hang the insulation and call in for insulation inspection for Tuesday. If you hire a company to insulate your new construction they will furnish you with a certificate that will satisfy the city but because I am such a penny pincher I hang it myself which thereby requires them to come inspect. I buy the insulation wholesale saving about 30% from what Home Depot or Lowe’s charge. Once I pass insulation inspection I am finally free to drywall! Yea buddy, whew! You’ll also see on the video update that I’ve trimmed out the front porch and removed all the kitchen hardwoods due to old water damage and poor patching. I need to get the new wood patched in also before drywalling the kitchen but that won’t take long. The original wood floors in my house are red oak, which is still available through lumber liquidators for .45/ foot. All 330 feet of wood I am replacing only cost me about 700 bucks. Once the floors are refinished you wont see the patches. I am planning on the dark walnut stain again since they seem to be so trendy now. Stay tuned; next time you see the house it will be all sealed up. It’s a big milestone, what was previously stick framing all of a sudden becomes recognizable defined spaces.