Taking Care of Business

I had a big week on the project. Monday morning I dragged the whole family up to Ikea in Austin to buy the cool farmhouse sink for $299. After getting back I went and picked up 6 pre bull-nosed granite slabs and with the help of a friend we got all the counter tops installed by 11 pm. This is the way to do your granite counters for about $10/s.f.

I used the color Verde Butterfly this time. I had to alter my sink base cabinet to accept the farmhouse sink from Ikea but with some simple cutting out on the front and back it fit perfectly. I also got all the bathroom sinks and faucets in and the hot water heater installed.

The A/C guy finally showed up and installed the condenser so we can call in for HVAC final inspection this week. We started sanding the hardwood floors Friday and I was pleased to see that most of the problem areas are disappearing. Once we come back with the dark Walnut stain they should end up looking fantastic.

The wrought iron driveway gate is also installed now and adds a great touch. The floor refinishing guys will work through next week, while I switch gears to the landscape. My “Coming Soon” sign is in the yard now so stay tuned.

“Hurry Up and Finish So We Can Make Another Offer”

“Hurry Up and Finish So We Can Make Another Offer”

This is what the potential buyer told me Friday when he stopped by during my cabinet install. It’s the same couple that wrote the great offer a few weeks back. First time I’ve ever heard anyone say this, he’s really not shy to let me know how bad he wants it. They really love the house so I hope they get it. I passed final electrical inspection Tuesday so now we are waiting on CPS to drop the power to the new meter loop. I finished the fence, it ended up being a 4-day project with my helper and a total of 210 feet of dog-eared cedar with a rear, locking gate on the alley. Because all the cedar started to look a little “fency” I decided to go with a wrought iron driveway gate so I had my guy come and measure on Friday. After the fence I jumped right into the 30’ x 12’ rear deck project, only 2 days total to build the 360 square feet with a sweet bench to boot. When the pressure treated wood dries out for a week or so I can put some stain on it.


The cabinets arrived Thursday so I got right into hanging the boxes and vanities as well as topping out the plumbing. All that’s left for the cabinets are a few filler pieces, glass and the crown molding. The simple Shaker style with square lines really goes with the house and the wine rack adds a nice touch. All in all, I am really pleased with how my kitchen design turned out. The next major items to tackle on my list are granite slab counters for kitchen and baths, hardwood floor refinishing and A/C final inspection. I am ready to get this one done, it’s been fun but I’m feeling a little burned out from the final big push.



One more week until the Grand Opening of the $74.4 Million dollar Museum Reach section of the River Walk Extension Project. Here’s a great video containing a sneak peek of the new River Walk Museum Reach area and the artwork incorporated. Thousands of people are expected to be milling around down there next Saturday. We are planning a family stroll Sunday morning.

Riverwalk Extension and HUD Blunder

Riverwalk Extension and HUD Blunder

The Hat Trick House is coming along quickly now. I switched gears to working outside this week painting the garage to match the house and starting the rear privacy fence. Final inspection for electrical is scheduled for Monday so if we pass we’ll proceed with finishing A/C and calling it in for final as well. The cabinets and vanities will hopefully arrive on Thursday. The buyers who wrote the killer offer have been by twice this week checking progress.


$8000 Dollar Tax Credit as HUD down payment?

HUD is now allowing first time homebuyers to use their $8000 tax credit as the down payment on FHA insured loans. Isn’t this taking us right back to where the problems began with putting people in homes with zero down and no skin in the game? We already got rid of the “down payment assistance programs” due to the high default ratios of buyers who didn’t put anything down. HUD secretary Shaun Donovan announced this brain fart this week during a prepared speech.

Paint and Two Offers

Paint and Two Offers

The interior paint came out really good and we’ve received 2 offers already and the house isn’t even done yet! Build it right and they will come. Instead of popping out different room colors like a clown house we ran Ralph Lauren Macaw through the entire house except for the baths.

With all the floor plan changes and the room addition now it seems the house is reconnected with the color unity and it all flows well. My electrician also came this week and installed all the devices, switches and receptacles.

Paint Colors

The buyer’s agent I spoke about on the last update showed up Monday with her buyers in tow, a really cool young couple. I had told her my price was in the $300k range but wasn’t specific. They absolutely loved the house and have been looking since Feb and have seen almost 70 houses.

They wrote an incredible offer the next day for $310k with only 2 pts for the agent so effectively a $313k offer. With the recent new comps I really think we can push it a bit higher and as good as the offer was, I really want to market the property correctly and see what we can get.

There have been 2 recent sales (one was ours with Craftsman Bungalow) that have got $175/s.f. The new pending sale we are excited about will be close to $190/s.f. With our addition of the master suite the Hat Trick House will be around 1930 s.f. so even if we use the conservative $175 per square foot then that puts us at $337k.

If they love it now just wait until the landscape is done and we stage it. The highest sale in our area was for $299k and only 1650 s.f., so it looks like we are headed to another record breaking sale.

Paint Colors

Wednesday night we received a call from Agent #2 whom we’ve done business with before. He has another buyer who has evidently already stopped by, spoken with me and seen our project.

They offered a little less than 300k and wanted to finish it themselves so they can pick the colors and fixtures. We’ve got about 13k left to spend but we also have final payments to our subcontractors and open permits to finalize.

Plus as we mentioned, half the fun is staging it and marketing it so we maximize the potential on the project.

Tile and SA Market Stats

Tile and SA Market Stats

It took 4 days but I got all of the tile done minus the white grout which I’ll do Monday. I went to Daltile and opened a wholesale account to get the Arctic White ceramic because they don’t sell retail to the public.

You can find white ceramic at the big box stores but they don’t have all the special bull nosed corners necessary to do the job right. There are also 5 different shades of white ceramic tile so be careful if you are mixing pieces from Lowes and Home Depot.

I used 6”square up to the glass liner then 3×6 subway tile on top. For the floors in both baths I used 18” travertine. I spent about $900 for ceramic and $350 for the travertine for both bathrooms. We generally budget $3500 for a complete high-end bath remodel so we are in line here with this expensive tile.

I think the classic white ceramic mixed with the modern travertine and glass achieves a good balance of old and new. The cabinets are also now officially ordered with a 12-day turn around out of Dallas.

Hall Bath Tile

Master Bath Tile

We had several new, interested parties contact us this week including a realtor representing a buyer whom had heard of us through a lady 3 blocks over.

She knows the area extremely well and didn’t flinch when we had told her our plan on listing in the 300k range and in fact she also was aware of the recent price increases in the area including the 2/1 that’s under contract for 249k without major upgrades. There is virtually no inventory in our area and it’s also helping push prices up.

We spoke about why Mahncke Park is seeing such good appreciation while for the most part the rest of San Antonio is staying flat. She felt its partly because it’s the second best choice for a historical neighborhood to King William/Monte Vista where prices are substantially higher.

I still feel strongly it’s mostly due to the San Antonio Riverwalk extension to Witte Museum and all the Broadway revitalization. Additionally, M.P. was just under priced for its location for a long time and is now just catching up. San Antonio Board of Realtors put out a press release regarding March 2009 real estate sales statistics and first quarter trends. It said sales activity had dropped by 25% but prices remain stable.

From talking to struggling agents on the front line it seems to me that activity has slowed a bit more but as one agent just told me the other day “There are just too many agents in San Antonio, all hanging on after the boom years when Californians were buying 3-4 houses sight unseen.”

Those days are gone now because investors in California and other bubble markets can get cash flowing properties closer to home and be better positioned for the next up cycle in real estate prices.