Wednesday, October 10, 2012

168 Mills - A Work in Progress

House #2 is slowly coming along.  It's also slowly becoming the house of surprises.  Lots of surprises.  

The first big surprise was from the city.  I called to turn on the water and electricity and was given the "ohhhhh there's a problem with that house".  Great.  Long story short, the pipe from the street to the house was broken and yup, it's the property owners responsibility to fix it.  Yea!  So project #1 ensued. I had to find a plumber that had a backhoe.  Then the surprise within the surprise was that the plumbing from the road to the house turned a 90 degree angle.  Fun times. 

Project #1 - New water pipes from the road

The second major project has also been completed - new windows.  No pictures in this category -- so you'll just to have to trust me on this.  I wasn't planning on new windows in the beginning - however, after I took possession, it was clear that the windows were really old and really needed to be replaced.  I got a STEAL of a deal on new windows from a local Michigan company.  They've been installed already, and made an instant impact on the warmth of the house.  

The third project came about after the water was finally turned on to the house.  When I tested the water it wasn't pretty.  Not a complete surprise after 4 years, but then it stopped running.  We called a different plumber (no backhoe needed this time) and some new copper pipes were installed in the basement.  In addition, the plumber had ANOTHER surprise:  the water heater that had been installed was made for a mobile home.  Wait.  You didn't know I bought a mobile home?  Oh that's right, I DIDN'T.  Surprise - a new water heater was added to the list.  

The fourth project was one of the few that I had planned for.  When I looked at the house originally I suspected the furnace needed replacing.  An insurance agent in town that I had consulted about insuring the house mentioned to me that he had the policy on the house for the last owners and they had to replace the furnace during a flood that affected 1/4 of the town back about 7 years ago.  Hmmmm.  That sounded odd to me.  The furnace was NOT new.  Now granted, I am not a trained eye... but this was NOT a new furnace.  In fact, it was not.  The manufacture date on the furnace was 12/26/60. It was 52 years old.  So sounds like the previous owners took an insurance claim to pocket.   So the dinosaur was replaced with a new high efficiency furnace.

Furnace before and after

Lots of other progress is happening.  There has been a lot of wall scraping, wallpaper scraping, and plaster removing.  The stairs to the kitchen have been strengthened.  
Plaster removed

Stronger stairs

Finally, the last surprise that we stumbled across seems to be in the basement.  There is a small room, and the second plumber started joking about it.  I thought it was maybe used as a bathroom at one time, although the basement isn't really a basement you'd use as additional living space, so it seems odd.  The plumber laughed and said he thinks it was a "grow room".  There is a propane heater attached to the wall and it still has a smell associated with it.  Niiiiiice.  
The former grown room.  CREEPY.

Lots of more work to go, but we're making progress!!  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

168 Mills: "The BEFORE"

Here are some BEFORE pictures of 168 Mills Street.  Just a warning, the pictures aren't pretty, but the bones of the house are solid.   Most of the issues are cosmetic.  The biggest problem is resulting from some missing shingles/roofing on the attic dormer.  There is some water damage in the front bedroom and the living room.  Additionally, the house has sat empty for 4 years.  The constant hot/cold/hot/wet combination has caused the paint to peel in some of the rooms.  

Front of the house.  Not sure if I'll keep the overhang on the front or not.  

Back/side of the house.  

Front porch.  Will make a GREAT 2-3 season room.

Standing in the living room/dining room near the front door.   Ceiling shows the water damage.

Reverse view - a little dark, but shows the area of water damage.

Taken from the dining room into the kitchen - paint peeling.

OLD kitchen cabinets.  Not a lot of space and an OLD "pepto" pink swirled counter tops/back-splash.

Back bedroom - note the beautiful wood window. 

This room may have the worst paint peeling issues.  The ceiling is fine, not even cracked.  Just paint!

1 bathroom.  Ugly, but not horrible.

Middle bedroom, the smallest.  Interesting lay out -- two entry doors on either side.

Front bedroom - some water damage.

Stay tuned!  It's a work in progress.

Round Two

Back to the drawing board!  With 153 Howard rented, I have been looking for the next possible property purchase.  I've looked at a few houses here and there, but it seemed like the super cheap deals had dried up.  Good news for the housing industry, bad news for me.

All the potential houses that I saw were a) already snatched up, b) had serious structural issues that would be cost preventive to use for a profitable rental, c) were VERY costly to repair due to unbelievable lack of care to the house (think multiple dogs and cats left on the 2nd story of a house with no litter box/place for the dogs to go to the bathroom) or d) a combination of the before mentioned issues.

Finally one day when driving on the main drag of my humble little town, I passed THIS sign just across the street from 153.
You may be thinking, "she took a picture of the auction sign?"  Yes!  I did!  My daughter and I walked down to the house to check out the contact information, but couldn't possibly remember all the #s, so I took a picture to access later.

Property auctions have always fascinated me.  The house next door to my house was auctioned after the owner passed away and her family didn't want to wait for it to sell traditionally.  It was fun to watch and painful at the same time.  Painful only because it went for HALF of what I had purchased my house just 4 years prior and they were similar in size/style.  Guess I won't be moving anytime soon.  This auction was a county auction for tax foreclosures.

There were 4 houses and 1 piece of property being auctioned in my town, but over 50 in the county.  During the evening of the open house I went to see 3 of the houses, ruling #4 out by viewing from the street alone.  The first one, the one with the sign I originally saw, looked decent at first.  It appeared there was no basement - the location of many structural issues in old houses.  However on further inspection in fact a basement DID exist - a hidden door was found and the news in the basement was NOT pretty.  I brought a friend's husband along with me who is in the construction business - and his advice was "walk away".  On to property #2.  Property #2 looked scary from the pictures, but the good news was that it was an easy repair involving a small piece of roofing.  Mostly just cosmetic issues.  This property's starting bid was higher than the other 3 but overall it looked like a good option.  Finally, property #3 was pretty dumpy.  It could have some possibilities - but due to previous owners poor planning, 1 of the 3 bedrooms was changed into the furnace room.  Yes.  A bedroom was now the location of a furnace.  At the end of the day, I was really only interested in #2.

The weekend before the auction, I heard there was a 5th house being auctioned, listed as a local township vs. our city because it was just outside city limits.  I took the kids out for a drive and drove past this "new" house and each of the houses again.  This new house - a solid brick house -  looked decent, but without being inside, it was a risk I wasn't willing to take.  During the drive, I noticed the auction sign at house #2 was taken down and there was a roofing sign in the yard as if someone had hired a company to work on the roof.  I was TICKED!  The rules of the auction stated that while the county could remove a house at any time, houses would NOT be sold before the auction timeframe.  I had my assistant mom call the county while I was at work and thankfully the house was still on the auction block.

Mom and I went to the auction, agreeing upon our limit we were willing to spend on the house.  There were over 50 registered bidders in attendance.  I got nervous.  One of the first few houses that was up was the brick house just out of town.  Starting bid was $4400.  It sold for $22,000.  Still quite a deal - but I was surprised how many bids there were.  We sat for a bit as the house we were interested in was approximately 40th on the list.  They breezed through the list pretty quickly.  Some properties had only 1 bidder or none at all.

#1 came up first - the one I was advised to walk away from, and it sold for $3500 more than the opening bid.  #4 came up and only 1 bidder came forward, so it went at opening cost.  #2 - the one I wanted came up 3rd and I braced myself for a fight.  Surprisingly no other bidders stepped forward and the house was mine for the opening bid!  I was SHOCKED.  Lots of work to be done, but I got a steal of a deal!!

Next post.... BEFORE pictures.  Brace yourselves.  It's not pretty!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

153: The "After"

Transformation got started slowly in December.  My cousin who did a lot of the work was working for a Christmas tree farm, so between juggling that, a pregnant wife, 3 kids and the 153 house project, it was a tight schedule.  After Christmas I was sick, so my jobs didn't move as fast as they should either... Progress continued through January and February and was nearing completion.  

I love small towns!  On one of my MANY trips to the local hardware store, I started talking with one of the employees about the project at hand.  I had mentioned that I still needed to find someone to replace the roof.   Coincidentally, the same employee does roofing on the side.  His bid was much lower than the first I had received.  I knew at one time he was my neighbors cousin and I saw the work he had done on that house, and honestly that was all the reference I needed.  Roof is in progress as we speak.  

With word on the street, we found a renter pretty quickly when the house was nearly completion.  Again, with a small town, although I didn't know the couple personally, half of my friends did.  The waited patiently while we finalized the last details.  


Starting upstairs again, this is the front bedroom -facing Howard St.  It was a khaki color previously, but gone is the green trim and ripply carpet.  Most of the house was painted in Behr paint - I believe the color is called "Baked Scone".    It's a light beige.  

Another shot of the front bedroom.  All the outlets/light switches in the house were replaced as were the plate covers.  We added base board moulding around the floor of the bedroom.  I don't know why it makes a big difference, but it does! 

Master bedroom "after" transformation.  Six plus layers of wallpaper were discovered and because the house is so old, the walls were plaster and not very smooth.  We covered the walls in white bead board (faux wains coating) but the room was so overwhelmingly white, we decided to paint it the light beige of the rest of the house.  The nasty dirty carpet was replaced.  

This is the view from the entry door to the bedroom.  This shot gives a better look showing the bead board.  The small door is access to attic storage.  

The master bathroom after shot.  The shower was replaced with a regular stand up shower stall.  We added a side wall for support.  In the long run, with renters, my thought is this will stand up better.  No worrying about glass doors.  

Gone is the Robins Egg blue paint and pink striped wallpaper.    A new mirror was added as well.  

This is the view as you enter the front door.  The maroon carpet was removed and the stairs were in great shape.   They were cleaned and new polyurethane was added.  Yellow paint was replaced with the beige.  

Another after view of the gorgeous stairs.  

After view of the living room - floors and fireplace.   I expected to have to replace the carpet in this room, thinking there was a reason that carpet was put down in the first place.  However, when the carpet was removed, the floors - like the staircase were in good shape.  The floor in the living room and dining room were both sanded and polyurethaned.  They look incredible.  The fireplace had been placed on TOP of carpeting - so we added trim to hide the remnants that wouldn't come up.  

Another view from the front entry door of the living room leading into the dining room.  

Dining room looking toward the front of the house/living room.  The floors here were bare already and the original plan was just to clean them up  but when I made the call to redo the living room, this room was sanded to match.  They also look incredible.  
This is the downstairs bedroom.  The main challenge in this room was to cover the closet doors that had been written on in marker.  It took MULTIPLE layers of KILZ.   The stained carpet was replaced with a beige and baseboards were added here as well. 

Downstairs bathroom:  wallpaper stripped and KILZ added to ceiling.    My cousin thought the beige would make this room a bit too dark and I agreed, so we found this medium green in my basement, unopened.  I honestly can't remember  what I bought it for.

Another shot of the downstairs bathroom.  The wood was cleaned up with Murphy's Oil Soap.  

View from the kitchen toward the dining room.  Gone is the wallpaper - LOTS of stripping.    What a serious pain!  The cheap bead board (lower quality than the bathroom bead board) was painted to look like wains coating.   With the age of the house, some of the ceilings are coved -- including this one.  Because of this, we decided that the ceiling would need to be the same color as the upper walls.  The beige would have probably been too dark again - and at this point I was reaching a beige over saturation point.  With the counter color (see below), there weren't many options, so green was a likely choice.  This is called "Delicate Leaf" and was purchased at Tru Value -- as it was a last minute call.  

Cabinets were painted, a new stove (and refrigerator out of view) were purchased.  No more country stickers on the doors!

It was a LOT of work, and isn't still 100% completed.  The roof is about 60% completed.  Two small cedar trees along the south side of the house will be removed.  When summer arrives, we'll probably do some outside paint touch ups.  All in all I am very happy with how things turned out!  

Friday, March 2, 2012

153: The "Before"

A few years ago I started walking around the town I live in.  Mainly for some exercise but also to get out and enjoy some fresh air.  This house is on the main street of town (Howard Street) and I would pass it usually once or twice on my walking route.  I first noticed it because it was for sale and one of my cousins was looking to buy.  I thought it was a cute looking house that had a lot of potential.  Since then, I think it's changed hands 5 or 6 times.  

In late 2011, I noticed it was for sale again.  The telltale stickers on the window told me it was a foreclosure.  I checked online and couldn't believe the asking price.  New cars sell for more than this house was listed at!  I mentioned it in passing to my mother and was surprised when she agreed that we should look at the house.  

For a foreclosure, the house was in remarkably good shape.  From my mother's research on the city of Croswell, we know it was built somewhere between 1890 and 1902.  After one or two visits, we put in an offer lower than the asking price and it was accepted.   We had it inspected and the only major issue was that it would need a new roof.  It needed some TLC and a minor interior face lift, but all in all, it was a great house.  We closed in late November, 2011.  

The front of the house.  It probably won't change drastically, but the roof is in progress as I type.  

Working backwards - this is the upstairs, front bedroom.  The smaller of the two upstairs, and facing Howard Street.   It's a good size room, with a nice size closet.  Notice the green trim around the windows, and if you look closely, there is green trim around the ceiling and walls too.  The carpet wasn't in too bad of shape, some minor stains, but it was quite puckered and rippling.  

Another view of the front bedroom.  A better look at the green trim.  

A wonderful shot of the "master" bathroom.  This is upstairs off the larger/back bedroom.  It had a BRIGHT Robin's Egg Blue paint, and the sink/toilet area also had 1 wall of pink striped wallpaper.  Hard to make out in this picture, but if you look close, you can see the stripes.  

The "other" part of the "master" bathroom.  The shower was nice looking, but the doors were broken.  This seemed minor at first, but proved to be difficult to replace.  

View from the stairs landing into the "master bedroom".  This is across the hall from the other upstairs bedroom and has windows facing south - toward downtown.  The walls were covered in wallpaper (we'd come to find out there were about 6 layers on there!) that was peeling and honestly, UGLY.  The wallpaper needed to come down.  The carpet was badly stained and due to it's light color was likely not able to be saved.

Reverse view of the "master bedroom", looking back toward the stairs.  Room  you can see with the other door is the front bedroom.  Notice the door is not stained.  You can see some of the carpet stains here a little better.  

The stairway!!  Such a gorgeous staircase - even in the before pictures.  A total selling point for me!   The walls are painted a BRIGHT yellow and the carpet is a deep maroony-wine color.  While sounding rather alma-mater-ish (FIRE UP CHIPS!) and close to maroon and gold, this was NOT a great color combo.  

Another view of the stairs.  I am still shocked that no one ever painted these.  So lucky!

A look into the living room from the dining area.  The living room is on the front of the house - facing Howard Street.  Coming in through the front door, you enter into this room.  Another good visual of the carpet/wall color combo.  The carpet, even though it was very dark, had many visible stains and was cut in one area.  

Looking from the living room toward the dining room.  

Taken on the stairway - a nice shot of the fireplace (gas).

The dining room.  Other than the hard wood floors, this room was boring.   Some scuffs along the baseboard, but the room was in decent shape.  

Looking into the dining room from the kitchen.  There is a built in china hutch/cabinet on the left.

Off the dining room on the first floor is the 3rd bedroom.  The carpet was a MESS.  Large stains.  You can see the opening to a large closet.  The closet doors had been written on in marker, and it was bleeding through the paint.  

The downstairs bath.  Located off the kitchen, this room was DARK.  There was some mold on the wallpaper.   Some of the wallpaper was slightly peeling.  

Not the greatest picture, but a good look from the kitchen into the bathroom.   The toilet was NASTY.  Take my word on it.

The "country" kitchen. Cheap bead-board plus ugly wallpaper.   

A view from the dining room into the kitchen.  There were stickers on the cabinet doors.   While also "country in theme" like the wallpaper, the stickers were a different material and honestly, didn't match.  The door on the right leads to a back entry door and the stairs to the basement.