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.
Even though we were plagued with more rainout days this week, I still managed to get the exterior paint 95% complete. This is probably the most labor-intensive paint job I’ve done as it’s 6 colors and it entailed a lot of detail brushwork on the trims. So far I’ve put up over 60 gallons on the exterior! Keep in mind there’s a big 2-story guesthouse in the rear and I also sprayed 2 coats of everything including primer. As you read in my last post, I picked up a guy from Lowe’s parking lot to help me paint so it’s gone really fast. This guy is actually a great painter, he was making fun of me for using economy brushes so I broke down and bought a Purdy brush, man this thing practically paints by itself. Well worth the $14 bucks.
Because I was so happy with my historic craftsman style replica window screens on the last project, Hat Trick House, I decided to make them again for this house. I changed the design a bit so they wouldn’t look exactly the same, especially since the other house is right next door. I designed the center mullion placement to minimize the visability of the white vinyl and this new design came out great. I won’t stretch them with screen, although the future owner can if desired. My new double pane windows have screens already so these frames are basically just a cosmetic design feature that also plays an important part in the color blocking of our paint job. The historic replica screen hangers are also still available from Stanley. This extra little finishing touch really gives the house the historic look that I need for our neighborhood.
There was a new BusinessWeek article this week that ranked San Antonio #1 for the top National economy. The measurements used were job growth, economic growth, employment and home prices. Texas seems to be the clear winner with San Antonio in the lead and five other metros in the top 10. While we are still seeing signs of the recession here and I’m always quick to say we are late to the party, this study shows that we are still fairing extremely well compared to the rest of the country. We’ve seen the housing market here drastically slow down in the last 2 years, but homes are still selling and people are still moving here everyday from other states so we have to be thankful that when coming from California, we picked a winner with San Antonio.
Things finally started to dry out after all the rain we had, so I got the texture crew in last weekend and as luck would have it, pouring rain again all day. Geesh. It took 3 days for the texture to dry with 90% humidity. It finally dried and looks incredible so I proceeded with spraying a good primer coat and ceiling paint throughout. I was at Lowe’s buying the exterior primer and met this guy in the parking lot asking for work, I’ve had him helping me everyday to speed things up and he’s actually turning out to be a great helper. We spent 4 days just caulking, scraping and filling holes on the house in preparation for the paint job. The weather cooperated at weeks end so we made a huge impact with spraying the entire house in a day. We got 2 coats on the soffits and body of the house, accounting for 2 of the 6 colors planned. I still have all the time consuming trim brushwork to do, which is really going to be the important part of this color scheme. Our façade designer for this project Morgan Penix at DeWitt Architects really picked some unique colors, which I initially had a hard time grasping, but now I’m finally starting to see her vision and am loving how it’s looking. The dark rich columns with rust accents will make a bold statement against the soothing earth tones on the body of the house, all done in historically correct flavor.
The 9th Annual Mahncke Park Home Tour was today so my wife and I had the chance to mingle with some neighbors and enjoy a diverse mix of 6 inspirational and eclectic residences. We saw some great gardens, tons of personality and very cool historic craftsman bungalows. Adorned with unique features, incorporated artwork, bright colors and highly personalized, these homes offered something we never get to do in our designs with resale in mind. We saw green painted hardwood floors, claw foot tubs, blooming esperanzas, purple staircases, garden borders made from Skyy Vodka bottles and mosaic tile galore. Three of these unique homes belong to artists and included studios, fun workshops and galleries. The tour was a great success and Mahncke Park proved again why it’s THE coolest and most hip place to live in San Antonio for the artistic urbanite.
Interestingly though all of the homes on the tour this year are currently for sale where in past years it was not allowed for any of the participating homeowners to use the tour to promote the sale of their homes. Is this a sign of the times or what? Seems even in our small niche neighborhood we are not immune to the higher inventory levels and general real estate market slow down that finally caught up with San Antonio last year. At any given time last summer in Mahncke Park there were only 2-3 homes for sale and now there are currently 10 on the market.
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.