Selling our house was like ending bad relationship. No matter how hard we tried, the relationship was never going to work. We accepted the fact that it was best for everyone involved to just move on.
And move on we did. We bought a new house and our house got a new owner. But the transition was anything but smooth.
Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Were the events leading up to moving day simply due to Murphy’s Law? Or did our house somehow become the psycho ex, making our lives miserable while it still could? Okay, it was mostly Murphy’s Law. It’s just easier to blame the ex.
This is the tale of the series of unfortunate events that occurred between the time we crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s on the real estate papers and moving day, and which ones we could have avoided.
Taking our time packing.
Why shopping for new furniture wasn’t the best idea. Filling the house with new furniture caused more problems than it was worth.
The consequences of spending money before we had it.
Bad timing of breakdowns, mishaps and mortality.
It’s important to pay close attention to schedules. We didn’t and this is what happened.
What we should have done differently to make the move easier.
Links to additional content
This podcast is the third in a series that covers our move from the money pit where we lived for almost 13 years to our current house.
This episode is sponsored by Thomas Avenue Ceramics
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The Thumb and Hammer Home Improvement Podcast returns after a break of a little over a year. And what a year it’s been. The topic of this episode will be familiar to anyone who has read my blog, as I recently wrote a post about The DIY Shuffle.
What is the DIY Shuffle? Well, it refers to the shuffling of stuff from one part of the house to another during home improvement projects. Quite often some stuff gets moved around multiple times. It also refers to shuffling from one project to another before the first project is finished. For the last year, we have been doing both versions of this dance.
This is the story of how I managed to turn a house that was in “just-move-in” condition into a construction zone and what we could have done differently to avoid this mess.
Listen to the episode
The very first time we set foot in the house, I was already talking about doing some minor demolition and re-framing in the master bedroom, much to the horror of the real estate agent and my wife.
The very first day we owned this home, I started with that minor demolition.
Our ambitious plans for the first week of owning this house and how they were doomed to failure.
How a “weekend project” in the master bedroom escalated, and why it remains unfinished a year later.
The “shuffling” of our daughter’s bedroom and the guest room.
“Please don’t blame my doggy; it’s not his fault at all….” (Benny Hill fans will understand this reference).
So we bought ourselves another house– one that was not butchered by a previous owner. It may not be perfect but at least it’s structurally sound. So you would think we would just move in, breathe a huge sigh of relief, and enjoy living in a house that is not a constant construction zone before diving into some home improvements.
Well, you would be wrong.
I wish you were right. I really do. But it turns out that I am a sick man. I cannot look at a house– any house– without seeing flaws. And apparently I cannot live in a house– any house– without turning at least half of it into a big DIY project.
It started at the first showing
The very first time we set foot in this house with our real estate agent, I criticized the closet in the master bedroom. The closet was six and a half feet wide, but the opening was only four feet and was over to one side, leaving 2 feet of closet space behind a wall.
No problem, I said. I can re-frame that door opening.
Yes. I was already talking about renovating a house we had only set foot in less than ten minutes before. Our agent was appalled.
I also said I wasn’t crazy about the popcorn ceiling in the master but noticing the glares from both by wife and the agent, I quickly added that I could live with it.
We walked through the rest of the house and we loved enough about it to put in an offer that night, knowing that there was going to be a lot of competition for this particular property.
It started the first day of ownership
The same day we got the keys to the house, I started demolition in the bedroom to re-frame the closet doorway. We had a bridge loan, so we actually owned both houses at the same time for a week. Our ambitious plan was to paint the bedrooms and the family room, plus do this little framing project in the master before we had to be out of our old house.
We both took vacation time so it’s not like we were completely delusional.
However, the master bedroom didn’t stop with the closet. I ended up scraping the popcorn ceiling and taking up the laminate floor which had some unsightly damage in a highly visible high traffic area. The room was in construction zone mode when we closed on our other house and had to move the rest of our stuff in.
We were already down a bedroom and we hadn’t done any painting at all.
And thus began…..
The DIY Shuffle
So, what exactly is the DIY Shuffle?
Moving (or shuffling) stuff from one area of the house to another in order to work on a project in the first area.
Jumping (or shuffling) from one project to another without finishing the first one. Having multiple unfinished projects going at the same time.
Both of these definitions apply.
Our house is a four level back-split. Living room, dining room and kitchen are on the main floor. You go up half a dozen steps to three bedrooms and a bathroom. You go down half a dozen steps to the family room and a bonus room, and then down another half dozen steps to the basement, which has another family room, plus a large laundry room and mechanical room (picture a traditional ranch style house split in the middle with half of it shifted up half a storey).
We plan to use the rooms thusly:
Upstairs: Master bedroom, daughter’s bedroom and daughter’s study. Downstairs: the bonus room becomes the guest room. And the second family room in the basement will become my home office.
Moving day (January)
The master bedroom is a construction zone so we put our bedroom in the study and set up our daughter in her bedroom. The guest room is used for temporary storage of stuff until we can find a place for it. And my computer and desk go down in the office. Wall hangings are stored temporarily in the office area. A lot of our stuff is in self-storage. My larger woodworking tools are in storage. The rest of my tools are either in the garage or in the laundry room.
The flood waters cometh (February)
A sump pump failure and heavy rains. Hundreds of gallons of water. It was a mess.
We manage to move stuff out of the basement but we quickly run out of places to put it. We have now spread clutter throughout the house.
The waterproofing gets done in July but the walls still need to be repaired and new flooring needs to be installed.
A place for everything and everything in its place? Nope!
Electrical work (April)
We needed a new panel and I wanted the garage wired for my woodworking shop so we hired an electrician. To give him room to work in the garage, I move some of the boxes of tools to the garden shed.
The in-laws are coming (June): we need a guest room
The master bedroom is not finished, but is done enough that we can move our stuff from the study to the master.
We were still using the future guest room for storage downstairs. Our daughter’s bedroom was bigger than her future study, so we decided to make her bedroom the temporary guest room and moved her bedroom into the study that we had just finished using as our temporary master bedroom.
School starts in September
Okay… I want my daughter to have dedicated study space separate from her bedroom. She is in the ninth grade this year so this is a priority.
The plan is to replace the door. The bedroom doors are just basic hollow core slabs that are not in very good condition. Whoever installed the flooring didn’t undercut the door frames, so the flooring just goes up to the frame instead of under, leaving unsightly gaps. We will eventually replace each door and fix up the floor at the same time.
I have matching flooring and a new door to make everything right for the bedroom. I pry up the poor fitting pieces of oak flooring in the doorway, but in the process, I damage a piece of the bamboo floor in the bedroom. No problem. There’s some leftover bamboo flooring stored in the basement. One thing leads to another– long story short, let’s just blame it on some sloppy work with the circular saw– and I now have half a dozen boards to replace.
Yeah. That’s right. Six.
Tired? Frustrated? Work getting sloppy as a result? Making stupid mistakes? It’s time to quit for the day, right? But no. I will not admit defeat. At least not until half a dozen boards are damaged.
When it comes time to replace the boards– I am well-rested– the first two fit perfectly. I’m feeling pretty confident. But the next board is less than about 1/16 of an inch too wide. It won’t fit. I try it in another spot. Nope. So I try another board. Same result. And another…. The DIY gods are having a good laugh at my expense
After much thought and discussion, we decide to take up the bamboo floor and replace it with a high quality laminate. And by we, I mean my wife and I make the decision but I am the one who takes up the bamboo floor (and the half dozen or so staples for each board). Not fun. Not fun at all.
I’ve wasted a lot of time and I am way behind schedule.
Before I can install the laminate floor I need to drop this project and turn my attention to the guest room on the lower level because in about 6 weeks we are going to have a…
House Guest Invasion
Our niece and her husband visit us for a week around the Canadian Thanksgiving. And so did my wife’s parents. We needed to turn that bonus room into a guest room.
Did I mention the bonus room only had 3 walls?
As the Tragically Hip performed their farewell concert in August, I was probably the only Canadian not at show or watching it on television. Instead, I was framing a partition wall.
Stuff stored in the bonus room had to be sorted, put away, donated or tossed out. We moved a lot of it to other areas of the house.
Anyone else could have finished the project in a couple weekends, but I’m lazy and I’m a procrastinator.
Anyway, when our guests arrived in October, I had just finished hanging the drywall. I am talking about the same day. I was a sweaty gypsum covered mess when they rolled up in our driveway.
We set up an AeroBed in the guest room for our niece and her husband. The room was far from finished but at least they had some privacy.
Meanwhile, the guest room upstairs (which will become our daughter’s bedroom) was still set up as a guest room for mom and dad-in-law, but now it had a bare sub-floor. Not exactly five star accommodations, but it would have to do.
Despite the primitive conditions, it was a wonderful visit.
With my wife’s folks returning yet one more time at the end of the year I really wanted to have the guest room completely finished in time for Christmas. That didn’t quite happen. I did finish the drywall and painting and installed the trim.
The only thing left to do is to install a SnapClip ceiling.
King of the unfinished projects
(I read that on a t-shirt once and it applies here)
You may notice a recurring theme here.
Of all the projects I started since we moved in, I have completely finished none. I still have to install trim in the master bedroom and the flooring in our daughter’s bedroom. There is still some work to do in the guest room. I painted one side of the family room but not the other and I have yet to do any work at all in the basement.
I have jumped from one project to another without finishing anything. And I have shifted “stuff” from one area to another area to another area, and it seems like nothing has yet found its permanent home.
Meanwhile, if I am looking for a tool, it will either be in the basement, in the garage, in the tool shed or in one of our two storage units. …. No wonder I can’t seem to get anything done. I spend more time looking for my tools than I do actually working on the projects, or at least so it seems.
If you listen to the podcast or subscribe to my mailing list, you will know that my family and I have recently made a big change. After about 12 and a half years of living in a house that was butchered by the previous owner, and after spending over $100,000 to restore compromised structure and undo bad DIY and renovate the house to suit our tastes and lifestyle, and with another 6-figure construction project looming over us to tear down and rebuild the family room addition (thus removing the last trace of the previous owner’s handiwork from the house), we finally waved the white flag and gave up the fight.
I did the math and the math wasn’t pretty. So rather than tying up another hundred grand in that house, we decided to cut our losses and start fresh in a house more suitable for us. Basically, this is how the numbers worked:
If we stayed:
$200,000 purchase price
$100,000 in renovations and improvements
$100,000 to $130,000 or more for the addition
Total investment of more than $400,000 for a house that would be valued at about $300,000
Total “loss”: about $100,000
With the existing mortgage added to the cost of the renovation we would have a total debt of about $200,000
If we sold and downsized
We still have $300,000 tied up in the old house
Sale price $175,000
Total “loss” of approximately $125,000, BUT
Frees up about $100,000 in equity once the balance of the mortgage is factored in.
Purchase price of new house $200,000
Leaves us with about $100,000 in total debt.
Once I was able to wrap my head around the fact that over $100,000 would never be recovered no matter what we did, it made better financial sense to live in a $200,000 house instead of a $300,000 house.
It’s all about freeing up capital.
We sold our house and bought our new house in November and we closed on those transactions earlier this month. If you would like to know how all that went, listen to Episode 13 of the Thumb and Hammer Home Improvement Podcast.
Our new house is about 37 years old. While it has been updated, it has not been heavily renovated. There have been no alterations to the structure. It has, as they say, good bones. That is not to say that it doesn’t need some work. There are plenty of DIY projects for a weekend handyman to tackle– enough to keep me busy for a while– but nothing so overwhelming as to cause stress or financial hardship.
Allow me to show you around:
This is going to be a difficult adjustment. The kitchen in our money pit was completely remodeled in 2009 and had loads of counter space and tons of storage. The kitchen in our new house is much, much smaller. We are definitely going to have to edit our kitchen wares and resist “stocking up” on groceries. There is room for a pantry in the laundry room area in the basement, so items like canned good can be stored down there along with larger cookware that only gets occasional use.
This is the other side of the kitchen. Yup. That’s it. Now you’ve seen the whole thing. The cabinets are in acceptable shape, but I may eventually try my hand at building new ones. For now, though, these are functional. I would have preferred to have our fridge with the bottom mount freezer, and our gas stove, but appliances were included in both real estate transactions. At least the appliances aren’t stainless steel. I don’t like stainless steel.
The kitchen has a nice eat-in area overlooking the family room. While that space may have been better used for more cabinets, I actually like the idea of having a small bistro table in this spot.
The one thing I do miss is having in-floor heat. The ceramic tile, and there is a lot of it, is pretty cold under foot. The house has a forced air gas furnace so in-floor heat is not an option.
The Dining Room
For the first time since I became a homeowner in 1996, I own a house with the space for a formal dining room. Sure, it will only get used a couple times a year when we have dinner guests or holiday meals, but it sure makes the house feel complete. Behind the curtains are patio doors leading to the patio in the back yard.
The Living Room
AKA the wife’s Reading Room. There is room for a love seat and a couple of chairs and our old 37 inch TV in the corner. The hardwood floor and trim are new. There is nothing to do in this room except hang a couple of pictures.
The main floor bathroom is pretty basic. The vanity is a candidate for replacement some time in the future. The bathtub was recently refinished, but the wall tiles have a hairline crack the length of the tub that was likely caused by someone falling against the built-in soap dish. There are no other wall tiles in the bathroom, something I think I would like to change down the road, especially around the toilet which is tucked into an alcove opposite the tub. As it stands right now, the bathroom is perfectly functional but it is on the “someday” wish list for an update.
The Master Bedroom
The master bedroom is a good size with plenty of room for our queen size bed. This room is my current project room and is undergoing a minor renovation as I write this.
The closet is over 6 feet wide but has a 4 foot wide opening offset to one side, leaving 2 feet of closet space difficult to access. I am in the process of widening the doorway to 6 feet so that the entire space is usable. In addition, the popcorn ceiling has been scraped, the wallpaper border has been stripped and the trim and laminate floor are being removed. When completed, the master bedroom will have all new laminate floor, new trim, new closet doors and a closet organizer.
The other two bedrooms are going to be taken over by our daughter. The larger dark blue room will be her bedroom, while the smaller light blue room will be her study. She is heading into high school next year, so we want her to have a dedicated space for doing homework, Both rooms have bamboo flooring, and there is little else to do other than paint.
What’s not to love about a fireplace ready for a flat panel television to be mounted above? Laminate floor and oak trim complete the look. The only thing to do here is paint and painting is a priority given that none of us like the salmon. At some point in the future, I intend to make some built-in bookshelves to flank the fireplace.
This bonus area just off the family room has a tile floor and only three walls. The plan for the future is to add a fourth wall and door and install laminate flooring over the cold tile to create a fourth bedroom which will serve as a guest room.
The lower level bathroom features a tiled shower with glass door, a pedestal sink and a dual flush toilet. Unfortunately, it also has a suspended ceiling and the panels are not holding up well to the moisture created in this room. I will be looking for a better solution.
The location of the bathroom is ideal– with easy access to the family room, bonus room/future guest room, and the back yard via the nearby grade entrance.
Basement, or the lowest level
In addition to the furnace room, the bowels of the house features a second family room, which will become my home office, and the laundry room, which is unfinished.
On one side of the room will be my desk and podcasting equipment. I have some room to spread out so that everything is not crowded onto the desk. I hated the claustrophobic feeling I had when recording the podcast in the other house. Our old kitchen table will hold the “studio” which will give me back about a third of my desk.
The other side of the room has space for book shelves and possibly some other storage. The only downside is that one must walk through this room to get to the laundry room, so it isn’t going to be entirely private. But it is a step above the office/guest room setup that we had in the money pit.
The Laundry Room
I am definitely going to miss the convenience of the main floor laundry room in our old house, but this much larger room will offer more flexibility. The room is unfinished, but will be an ongoing project as time allows. The washer and dryer were supposed to be included but the previous owner got our offer mixed up with another one and removed them. Rather than move them back in, we have invested in a new high efficiency laundry team similar to the one we had in the other house.
Similar in size to the garage of my first house, the attached garage will become my workshop. There is no entry to the house from the garage, so I won’t have to worry about sawdust getting inside. It will be a little tight so I will have to be organized and use the space efficiently, but I can finally get my tools out of storage and start building stuff.
There is also a large tool shed in the back yard so my woodworking tools will not be competing for space with the lawn mower, garden tools and bikes.
I would have liked a larger garage for my workshop, but given that my tools have been in storage for more than a decade, I am excited just to have a workshop at all.
As you can see, there is a lot to like about this house. There is work to do, but no heavy-duty renovations are needed. Overall, once you factor in the garage and the shed, we probably have as much square footage as we had in the money pit, so we aren’t really downsizing much at all. Packing and unpacking boxes of stuff is giving us an opportunity to see exactly what we have so we can at least downsize our possessions.
Best of all, from my perspective, we have gone from two thirds of an acre down to a more modest 50×120 lot size. Lawn cutting in the summer will be a breeze.
After a four month hiatus, it’s the triumphant return of the Thumb and Hammer Home Improvement Podcast. In this episode, I talk about acting on a life-changing decision we made back in the fall and how everything came together with hours to spare when it all could have just easily fallen apart.
I also talk about how losing over $100,000 isn’t the end of the world. And how it’s okay to admit defeat.
I explain some of the math behind renovating to flip versus selling as is, as well as why working with a real estate agent was the best choice we could have made.
The podcast will be now be returning to its bi-weekly schedule starting with this episode.
The plan is for the podcast to eventually return to its bi-weekly schedule. When this happens, members of the mailing list will be the first to know.
Help support this podcast by clicking through my Amazon link in the sidebar when you shop at Amazon. I will earn a modest affiliate commission on your purchase which will help pay for hosting expenses. Thank-you.
John from AZDIYGuy.com returns to the podcast to give us an update on his pool, which was sitting empty, awaiting repair, back in Episode 5 of this podcast. And the timing couldn’t be better since I discussed contracts in last week’s episode. John shares his experience in hiring the right contractor for the job and relates how he was able to renegotiate a couple clauses in the contract. This episode is intended to be a continuation of Episode 11.
“Get it in writing.” Seems so obvious, doesn’t it? Why would anyone do work or have work done without a contract? As a homeowner, I have hired contractors and handymen and I have had work done with and without contracts. In this episode, I give a couple examples of when I had work done without a written contract and the consequences. I also explain what should be included in a good contract.
Elements of a Good Contract
The general job description
The price and payment terms (when installments are due)
What is included in the price– the materials to be used and what the contractor is going to do. Basically this is the job description in more detail.
What is not included. For example, “priming and painting not included.”
Details of any warranty and the transferability of that warranty.
Details of liability limitations (the damage waiver). For example, a roofing company is usually not responsible for cracks to interior plaster or drywall.
The contract should also mention that the contractor has worker’s compensation insurance or the equivalent.
In the last episode, Angela Allen of LivingSmall.com shared her philosophy and enthusiasm for downsizing and simplifying. We talked about tiny houses (Angela lives in a very small cabin) but the conversation evolved into so much more than that. In a very general sense, it became a discussion about figuring out what is important in life. And for Angela, working for a house and becoming a slave to the bank was not part of the equation.
And so I began to reevaluate my own priorities. We have been trapped in our money pit for more than a decade, sacrificing and saving so we could repair the damage done by the previous owner and make improvements. As we are preparing to tear down and rebuild the family room addition, I am feeling the stress and trepidation of going back into debt.
After talking to Angela, I finally concluded what I have suspected for a long time and my family and I were going to have to make a difficult, life-changing decision.
In this podcast episode, I elaborate on a few of the topics Angela talked about last week, plus I talk about our own decision.
Be sure to listen to Episode 9 of the Thumb and Hammer Podcast for my conversation with Angela Allen.
I have also previously written blog posts about how we would go about financing the addition (other posts related to finding the money for the addition renovation can be found by following the “Budget and Finances” tag at the top of that post).
Speaking of my daughter’s bedroom, here is a photo of it. That’s our black lab enjoying the new bedding. You’ll understand the significance of that if you listen to the entire podcast episode.
Angela Allen from LivingSmall.com built a small cabin in the woods and is living the dream. In this podcast episode she talks about how that dream is defined, as well as the virtues of tiny houses, simple living and deciding what is truly important in life.
Topics covered in this episode
Angela’s “cabin in the woods.”
The Tiny House Movement and the politics surrounding Tiny Houses.
Spur, Texas: a Tiny House community
Downsizing and decluttering.
The advantages of living in a small house.
The challenges of living in a small space and how to overcome them.
How technology can help us simplify our lives and our space.
SpurFreedom.org: Website for Spur, Texas, the nation’s first Tiny House friendly town.
My guest on this week’s podcast is Sarah Fogle from The Ugly Duckling House. Part story-teller, part DIY tutor, Sarah shares her experiences, successes and challenges in fixing up a house that suffered from 20 years of neglect. She uses her site as a running log of knowledge that she has gained in the hopes that it will help others with their own DIY.
Topics covered in this episode
One person’s definition of “move-in ready” is not necessarily the same as another person’s definition.
Sarah’s childhood experience helping her father: there is no such thing as “can’t”.
How her background in crafting helped her with larger home improvement projects.
How Sarah approaches teaching DIY.
Why she avoids writing about DIY “from a woman’s perspective.”
How the power of social media can be harnessed to define a brand.
Links to websites mentioned in this episode
Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls: Smart Girls seeks to help future women channel their intelligence, imagination, and curiosity into a drive to be their weird and wonderful selves.
Girls Who Code: Girls Who Code seeks to close the gender gap in technology, inspiring girls to pursue computer science by exposing them to real life and on screen role models.
DIY Diva: Kit is an experienced DIYer, admitted power tool junkie, and accidental farmer who has spent the last decade tearing houses apart, putting them back together again, and writing about it on her website.