My Fixer upper – Finished (sort of)!

July 8, 2015

About 2 years ago a purchased my first house in Squantum, MA. (North Quincy really). I was, and still am totally obsessed with the location. I bought a little bungalow for myself and figured I’d fix it up as I went. Apparently, fixing a house on your own isn’t easy, at all! I did have some help from friends, family, and concerned passerby (Thank you random shirtless man for making sure I didn’t fall of my ladder and die while cleaning my gutters in the pouring rain, I owe you one sir).

What was a major love/hate relationship with fixing stuff, turned out to be an amazing learning experience. In two years I feel like I have learned years’ worth of useful knowledge and am a regular fixture at Home Depot and Curry Ace Hardware (special thanks to the late night Home Depot crew who dealt with me while I was drunk and ran out of whatever material at 10pm). I now can walk into any house and have a much more in-depth understanding of what it takes to make a home exactly how you want it to be. Trust me, it’s not at all like HGTV, AT ALL, it’s a million times harder, and messier.

Below are some photos of my finished product. I got an AWESOME tenant (I love her) and have now bought and even BIGGER piece of Junk house that I can document the progress of on this blog (although, I pretty much always forget to update this thing).  Before I share the “After” photos, I wanted to give a few tips to my fellow “Do it yourself-ers” who are just getting started or considering remodeling a house or condo on their own.

1. However long you think it’s going to take…Triple it.

Seriously, things take a lot longer than you’d like. For example. I decided to put a front porch on my house to make it look less like a trailer. Just a small little porch for friends. Well a porch requires permits, and inspections, and an actual contractor who is AVAILABLE to build your porch (everyone is busy right now who is in the trades so get ready to wait). Aside from buying all the materials which may or may not be in stock and need to be ordered (yes you have to SPECIAL ORDER even the most obvious things), you have to handle all these other unforeseen things. Let’s say you have a hose on your house, hoses are nice to water plants and whatnot, but if you want to build a porch on your house, well you have to move the hose, and in order to do that you need a plumber, and well plumbers are busy! See where I’m going with this?? IT TAKES TIME!! Sit back, get a cocktail and get ready to wait. Building a porch doesn’t take a week, it takes a month or more, and there you have it.

2. However much you think it will cost….Double it.

So I wanted a new front door, pretty normal right? I went to Home Depot, they have nice doors for $175.00…SCORE! Well no; are you going to install a front door yourself? …SURE!! I CAN DO ANYTHING –  I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! No, actually you can’t, I’m smart and I couldn’t either, so don’t feel bad about yourself. Call a contractor or your favorite uncle who lets you pay him in beer (this takes 3 times as long fyi and is usually crooked). And then you have to pay people, even if it’s in beer, it still costs money. New front door? $600.00, easy.

3. Get the right tools to do stuff, it makes it a billion times easier.

You want to paint? Sure! You should, you can save a lot of money painting yourself! But get the right tools, like a Roller extension (easy little thing that you put on your roller for high walls so you don’t have to climb up and down a frigging ladder all day, saves you hours and back pain). Get a small set of your standard tools, screw drivers, pliers, MEASURING TAPE, hammer, etc. and keep them handy. Tightening up a toilet, or changing out hardware on cabinets is easy peasy – IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TOOLS. (Ikea screw box and tools DO NOT COUNT).

4. Don’t be cheap.

If you buy the cheap stuff, it breaks, and also sucks. Don’t waste your time and money, just get the real thing the first time and get to work.

5. Nobody’s going to help you so don’t get all teary when they don’t.

Your cousin, Uncle, Friend from band camp, all said they would “totally come over on a Saturday and help you remodel your entire house!!!” … NO, they won’t. Literally, it seems glamorous, but after about 2 hours of painting Peach Pagoda on your bathroom walls you can pretty much guarantee yourself they never call you again.

6. Think about something for a long time before you do it, and do it in the CORRECT ORDER!

I can’t stress this enough. Before you decide to do a project, get an understanding of what it entails so you don’t have to do it all over again because you didn’t realize it corresponded with something else you were going to do. For example, you decide to re-finish your floors, but then want to take a wall down? Well what do you think goes where the wall once was? FLOORING, and if you want it to match you should probably do them all at the same time, know what I mean? And really think about the whole picture before you do something, you may end up moving stuff around and all your hard work and more importantly all your MONEY gets wasted.

7. Don’t over improve.

I mean this in the most sincere way. Some people have a moderate house and they think they are building the friggin Taj Mahal. Know your neighborhood, know who your end buyer is going to be and don’t over spend. If you are in a moderate area, don’t do a $70,000.00 kitchen and expect to make that $70,000.00 back. You don’t necessarily make back what you put into a house and you need to keep that in mind. And not everyone has the same taste as you. You may love bead board and starfish…guess what, NOT EVERYONE ELSE DOES. Keep that in mind.

The most important thing is to take your time and not waste money! 

Here are some of my before/ after pictures. A lot of the updates don’t really show up in the photos but trust me, this place is like night and day!! Moving onto another project!! Stay tuned for updates!

Front Before

after with porch!

kitchen before

Kitchen after! Took down 1/2 wall, granite, new sink, crown molding etc.

 

side view

 

before bathroom

granite, new sink, lighting

These were my floors

yay new floors, also - recessed lighting!

bedroom and broken closet

This closet rocks! Took down the whole wall and rebuilt

made this a dining room

sun porch

Laundry room nightmare, I wish I had a before photo! Turned out ok!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Financing? Stay CALM!!

Posted In:
June 25, 2014

If you’ve never bought a house then you probably aren’t accustomed to the stress associated with spending your entire life savings on one thing. One thing that may have some major issues attached with it, OR that could be your dream home for your Leave it to Beaver dream life.

Unless you’re rollin in cash, you’ll probably need financing. Financing is the MAKE OR BREAK of a deal. Right now I’m dealing with two financing extensions on two sales, and let me tell you if you think you’re closing Friday, and then you find out that You’re NOT, panic ensues.

I wanted to share some ways to avoid financing issues for buyers, I hope these tips help!

1. Research your lender, find out if other people you know have used them and have had good results. Good reviews, or friends with positive experiences are a good place to start.

2. Find a lender who is RESPONSIVE. If you send your potential lender 3 emails and 2 phone calls and they don’t get back to you quickly, find another lender. When crunch time comes, you want someone who can get back to you quickly so you don’t lay awake at night biting your finger nails.

3. Get the paperwork in early! This isn’t like studying for final exams in college, the day before = no bueno. EARLY, EARLY, EARLY, as soon as you know your lender needs something, SEND IT. Don’t procrastinate on getting papers into your lender. The sooner you have everything in, the sooner they can send it to underwriting. (The Underwriter controls the financing, and is basically the  dream crusher or magical wizard of the deal).

4. Don’t spend up a storm while you’re trying to get financing, don’t quit your job, don’t get fired, don’t be an idiot! You heard it here first, when you’re trying to get a loan you need to keep all of your finances in order. The lender will need your final pay stubs, and account info right before closing, so just because you are pre-approved doesn’t mean they are going to give you the loan. Don’t mess it up by buying a new car, or going on a shopping spree, or being a dumb ass. You’re welcome in advance.

5. Construction Loans. If you’re getting a construction loan get your contractor lined up in advance. If your contractor is also a dumb ass, you’re screwed. Banks like paperwork, they like people who are legitimate and not your uncle’s friend Joe the handyman. There is paper work involved, they need licenses, estimates on paper, etc. etc. If your contractor isn’t good at that type of stuff, if he’s an illegal, if he doesn’t have an email, if he can’t put estimates on paper, find another one (trust me I love the inexpensive people as much as the next do it yourself-er, but the banks don’t). You need an organized contractor who can handle the paperwork, do it properly and not mess up your loan.

6. Have a good attorney. If you are buyer, some people think they don’t need an attorney. If you don’t have one, you should get one. Sometimes the banks will suggest an attorney to review the P&S for you, which is fine, as long as that attorney is responsive to your questions and needs. If you hire a separate attorney to represent you, a lot of times they are more willing to spend time making sure you understand what is going on. It really depends on the attorney, just like it really depends on the real estate agent (most are terrible some are REALLY good). Everyone hates lawyers until you need one to save your deposit, or fix your purchase agreement, and then you love them. Get a real estate attorney, not someone that does divorces and has never negotiated a P&S.

7. Financing contingency date – KNOW IT, LOVE IT, DON’T FORGET IT! This needs to be a more important date than your wedding date. Do not miss your mortgage contingency date. If you don’t have financing in place by this date, make sure your attorney or agent requests an extension. If you don’t request this extension in time…stab someone because you may lose your deposit.

Hopefully this was helpful. The most important thing is to have a good team behind you when buying. Get an agent that knows what they are doing, get a good real estate attorney, and research your lender and make sure they are responsive.

Condos – A few tips!

January 1, 2014

I sell any type of property that can be sold. Buildings, condos, single families, land, commercial spaces, whatever! If It can be sold, I’ll sell it, done and done. However, many of my clients really are specific about their desire for a condo. Condos are a slightly different type of property than your classic single family or one owner property, so there are some things to take into consideration.

1. Condo Fees: Condo fees cover an assortment of things that pertain to the condo association (Landscaping, Maintenance, Pool etc.) . Depending on whether the association consists of many units (15 +) or a smaller association (let’s say a triple Decker converted into condos, 3 Units) can make a difference on how the association is handled and how much the condo fees are. Make sure you factor in the condo fees before even looking at a unit. A really high condo fee can either make or break your ability to afford a condo. Considering if the condo fee includes utilities (heat, hot water etc.) is important as well.

2. Condo rules, regulations, financials: Make sure to read these before purchasing a condo. The condo rules and regulations can give you an idea as to how the association is handled and how it is doing. Reviewing their reserves etc. will help give you and idea if something needs to be done to the building the reserves can handle it or if the owners will have a large assessment (bill they have to pay regardless as to if they agree with it or not). Requesting meeting minutes to review and asking if there are any pending or planned assessments is also a good idea.

3. Legal Action: Make sure before you fall in love with a unit to have your lender send their “condo questionnaire.” It’s a standard form that they have on hand that asks an assortment of things, one of the most important items on this list; ” is there any pending legal action against the association?” If someone is suing the association, you will have a much harder time getting financed and it could effect your property value. I’ve tried to sell multiple condos in this one particular building where one of the owners is suing the association for $400,000.00 because a light fixture fell on her. Every time I try and sell a condo there the lender won’t let it go through. I feel terrible for the other owners because nobody can sell their unit the legal action is resolved. Which leads me to tip 4 …

4. When buying a condo you need to understand that the other owners in the building can potentially effect the value of your unit. If your next door neighbor forecloses on their unit, it effects the value of your unit. If there’s a giant pit bull that barks all day in the unit next to yours it makes it hard to sell your unit. Conversely, a lot of people find comfort with the condo lifestyle. There is a maintenance team, the grounds are cared for, someone removes the trash and snow, you live without most of the hassle of a single family.

- Just a few tips to consider as you try to make the decision on Condo Vs. Single family.

Either way, make sure you do your home work! And if you have any questions, email me and I can help!