July 11, 2013

Selling the first Door. p3. No longer a landlord and we love it.

This past year without the college rental has been AWESOME. I can barely describe how nice it's been to have that albatross off our shoulders. To no longer worry about the condition of the place, getting the rent in on time, getting renters for a year, about the appliances and if they were about to die...the list goes on and on.

Our old renters were scheduled to move out this summer, which meant months of showings and trying to get new tenants signed for the coming year. And it would also mean that mid-June to mid-July we'd be pulling duty at the rental getting it into top shape for the coming year. Even with good renters there is work to do after move out.

Having these four weeks back means we get to work on our own renovations, and enjoy the summer too because we're not up against a hard and fast deadline of Mid-July for move it. So instead of burning ourselves out on an intense burst of four weeks worth of annoying work, we can keep our pace going on at the Wee house. I always felt like when the work was done and the renters moved in that it was like waking up completely and realizing that you've slept a month away with a horrible dream. Since I wasn't going to burn vacation time working on the place, we were mainly weekend and after work warriors. Sure we could have hired a contractor to get the work done for us, but that cost would have put our measly profit margin deep into the red for the year.

The first six months after selling, it was a lot like normal when we didn't get calls from 57. As the new year approached we'd mention how nice it was to not have to worrying about a random call saying the heat wasn't working, or have getting a water bill that show the equivalent of an Olympic sized swimming pool getting filled. January and February is also when we start the search for new tenants, usually culminating in a few stress filled months until the contract was signed. There was none of that stress this year. We lalalala'd our way through the spring, happy as can be because it was no longer our responsibility and we couldn't give two shits about who does or doesn't sign the rental contract.

 When the middle of June hit this year, and we didn't have to load up for a long weekend of work over there in 57, but instead got to work on the Wee house, well that was just as fabulous. Certainly we didn't need to do the work every year, and by this point we'd done so many renovations on the place that it shouldn't need major work this year, but still the knowledge that it wouldn't be us scrubbing up random DNA off every surface was fanfrickingtastic.

 Selling the place when we did was completely worth it for us and is a decision that we haven't regretted for a second this past year. After all the whine I've done about the place, you still always wonder if you're letting go of your investment at the right time. Sort of like selling stocks. Sure I wish we sold in 2007. So do a lot of people. You live and learn, and I'm just glad that we crunched the numbers and realized it was time to let the place at a below rock bottom price. I can't even say it hurt to go below rock bottom, because it would have hurt more to hold on to the place for another year.

Would we go back into the rental game and become landlords again? Maybe. I've learned to never say never with all this house business. Owning and managing a full time rental is never as easy as people make it out to be, but I do realize that people can, and do, make a nice income from owning a rental. If we ever do become landlords again at least I'll go into it with a real view of what it can really be like sometimes. (Yes, we still have the beach condo which we rent out during the summer. But that is so different than dealing with a full time renter that I don't count it as the same thing)

June 18, 2013

Selling the first door... pt 2.

June 2012.

Our original buyer has secured financing again for the purchase of the college rental. Collectively Pete and I are 1.5% excited about the prospect of selling the rental. Overall we're cautious and make plans as if selling it isn't an option that is ever going to pan out. Blase is the best word for our attitudes at this point.

Inspection happens and we get a list of the repairs needed before the sale can go forward. Really the list isn't that bad but it's also not that great, because now we need to shell out the money for everything that needs "fixing" from our own pocket. Remember, we've been burned before with house sales falling through days before closing so spending this money could really be no return on investment. We load up at the hardware store and let the tenants know we'll be there for a few nights during the week to work. At this point we have a pretty good relationship with the girls and they're fine with our presence.

We're getting down to the final days before the sale. At this point, we're about 3% excited about the possibility of selling the place. I didn't even ask for the time off of work for closing until about 72 hours out from the sale.

The morning of closing dawns and we both work from home for a few hours. When the time comes to leave the house we act as if we're going to the grocery store, instead of headed towards the sale of our biggest pain in the ass property that we were dying to get rid of. At the real estate office we make make polite conversation with the agent, the buyers and the bank official that was there to give us the money. I remember thinking that it wasn't over and at any point everyone was going to stand up and leave, leaving the deal dead on the table. There were some delays with various things and each time a delay happened my heart would start pounding and blood would rush fast, as I was positive that it was the end. After about two hours of expecting, nay knowing, the sale was not going to go through, we sold the first door.

Suddenly we one less house.

Apparently selling houses isn't just an urban legend, it actually happens and it happened to us!

Up next... the reality of no longer having the college rental.

June 17, 2013

Selling the first door... Pt. 1

Thank you for the kind words about my less than triumphant return to blogging! I can't tell you how nice it was to read the comments and how they helped inspire me on to not let the blog slowly die floundering (again).

Now that we're measuring our renovation in terms of years everything is really starting to really swim together. I find myself stumped about when we did/demo'd/built certain things more often than not lately. Keeping track of everything on here would be helpful for my growing older memory. For most of my life I've kept a journal, going all the way back to when I first learned how to write and it's a blast looking over my life in those old notebooks and diaries. One of my first entries is "I am lerning how to writ cursiv and do not like it." (I still don't like to write in cursive, btw) Also, I lost my grandfather from Dementia/Alzheimer's so I know how precious memories are and I'm trying my hardest to preserve what I can now in case the same horrible disease strikes me in my old age. I hope to high heaven it never does though, as the thought of losing all I hold dear in my head is scary beyond belief.

So... where to start... I left off with the start of 2012, ready for a new year, and a whole new attitude regarding our 'too many houses' situation.

Let's go even further back.. in March of 2011 we put the college rental up for sale. We didn't think that we had a chance of selling it until the crappy tenants were out in three months and we had a got in there to fix it up. Given the horrible condition, our speculation was that we'd not only get no offers from buyers but that we'd get some seriously less than desirable tenants. 

For some wonderful reason Karma smiled on us and we signed a contract with the best college tenants in the entire world. Somehow they saw through the complete filth and destruction that the property was in and signed for the upcoming school year. It was a complete miracle that we got such great tenants with the unit in the condition that was in and to this day we're still so thankful for those girls. (No offers during this time- FYI).

So June 2011 comes and we spend a solid month transforming our beat to shit, smells like an old bar, and looks like an abandoned building, college rental into something that we'd even live in. It was hard. Possibily the hardest transformation we've ever done and in the shortest time frame yet. I might write a post about that month, but might not as I'm afraid it would just come across like a whinefest.

Months go on while the real estate market gets worse. And we've had zero offers on the place. So, we drop the price. Time goes on. 2011 turns into 2012. And still no offers. We instead focus on getting the girls to sign for another year. "Give them anything they want" we told our agent. Getting tenants to sign for two years is always a relief, but getting these girls to sign again would amazing and would talk a lot of pressure of us for the coming year. When the girls signed for another year I almost cried with relief.

Suddenly out of nowhere we started getting showings in March of 2012. And then we got offers. Multiple offers. Really low offers, but offers just the same! We picked the better offer and started to work with them. Having been burnt badly by a house sale that fell through 10 days before closing, we were cautious and didn't let ourselves get any hopes up at all. It's a damn good thing we kept all expectations low, because what followed was a roller coaster of a house sale. Two weeks shy of the closing date, the sale fell through because the bank pulled their financing from our extremely qualified buyer. We'd already mentally prepared ourselves for the news and carried on like the sale never was an actuality. Most important, as we told ourselves time and time again, was that we had girls signed for another year. That gave us time to focus on getting other things done before we had to come up with new tenants, or a new plan of maybe moving into the rental ourselves.

Three weeks went on after the sale fell through and we got more low offers. While in the process of working out a deal with someone else, our first buyer walked back into the picture. Apparently he'd been working that whole time to secure financing with another bank. Despite him being an extremely qualified buyer, it's hard as hell right now to get a loan through most banks for a property in a complex that is 99% rental units. It seemed like that he really wanted the place and was willing to jump through the hoops in order to get it.

I finally let myself get a teensy bit excited at this point.
But only the teensiest of amounts.

March 26, 2013

State of the doors.

Has it really been over a whole year since I last updated the blog?

I'll hit the highlights of what everyone assumes happens when you go radio silent for over a year.
Not pregnant. No baby. Still happily married. Still have the houses. Still renovating one house and have not given up. Not hiding out in a cave wearing a tinfoil hat and completely freaked out about the direction this world is headed in (yet).

Please let me know if I missed another reason.

I stopped writing for one important reason and one silly reason.

Silly reason is: I didn't feel like I was good enough to write a blog and that I should give up. That maybe people were only tuning in to read my horrific grammer and laugh at my excessive comma usage. And that somewhere out there is an ex or frienimy who is saying "I knew Eva was a moron, but man, she's really dumb."  I'd hit one of those really introspective points of my life where I examined everything about who I was and what I was potraying to the outside world. And that maybe, it was me and I was the problem. With my excitment, natural enthusiasm (for everything), self centered nature, and tendancy to talk first, think later. So I spent the better part of 2012 hiding from others because I felt like I was so annoying that who would possibly want to hang out with me. My friends slowly stopped getting emails and phone calls. And in turn, the blog suffered. I felt like I couldn't be honest on here because it would just be used for fodder against me and confirming that I was indeed a giant idiot.

It also seemed like other bloggers were just so much better and more than I could ever be. They could craft a long post and have it flow effortlessly along. Their blogs were carefully designed and certainly didn't rely on the standard blogger background. Most importantly, they knew what their style was and I  still couldn't pick my style out of a line up. I felt like an imposter.

Important reason: The last half of 2011 was rough house wise. We'd been balancing everything- the primary house, the wee house, building the garage, the beach rental and the college rental for years, and it was getting hard. That was never our plan. We were going to sell the house we live in, use the profit to fix up and then pay down the wee house. The college rents were going to go up with every new set of tenants and the property was going to go up in value as the college accepted more students. Eventually we'd sell and use that profit to pay off our now complete Wee house. Except that pesky little thing called the real estate bubble burst wide open and recession spewed everywhere.

Suddenly we couldn't sell our house for a profit. Or at all.

The rents dropped at our college rental and we had trouble finding renters. All when the town raised our taxes to almost double what were paying before. Our new tenants were the worst we'd ever had, by far.

Construction on the garage was taking longer than we expected, in part because of six months of crappy weather in early 2011. In part because building a garage in your spare time on the weekends, 100% DIY as a husband and wife team, takes time.

Our beach house was hemorrhaging value.

And then I got a raging case of 'I can't keep doing this anymore'. All these houses weren't investments, they were anchors driving us down, doing the very opposite of what they were intended to do. Keeping us from being able to enjoy our lives, building stability early on so we maybe didn't have it as hard later in life. I began to really resent the houses. It got worse after my second nephew was born in June. We were elbows deep into fixing up the college rental and I took a half day off of work to see him the day after he was born. I couldn't even spare the time to go up and see him on a weekend to help my sister and cuddle this new little guy, as Pete and I were spending 14 hour days fixing up the college rental each weekend because we had a hard and fast deadline approaching for the new tenants and their move in date. Every smash of a hammer was just a reminder of what the houses were denying me. Time with my family, time with my husband, and weekends that didn't slip away in a blur of dirt and hard work. Most importantly they kept us from feeling stable. Everything was so strenuous that we knew if one more fly landed, the whole apple cart would tip over and we could lose it all.

That was when, in September of 2011, I lost my shit. Tired of holding it all in and telling myself that things would get better if I just kept at everything, I blew up at Pete. I just couldn't keep going feeling like we were running backwards to catch up. We needed new goals now, since the old ones got ruined by the economy and it was getting more apparent as time went on that things were never going to be the same. Except at the time I don't think I got that across so, uh, clearly. It was mostly high pitched screaming coming from me and then me crying out of frustration. Sometimes you have a fight as a married couple and come out of it feeling productive. We don't fight really, and rarely to that magnitude, but I think this one was cathartic and allowed us to get it all out there. A lot of what I was holding onto was let go, and I felt like we could finally more forward again if we were both on the same page.

So, in summary. The houses were killing us. I'd lost my motivation. 2011 was hard. I gained weight.

2012 dawned after hours of slamming cheap champagne and dancing. It was a new year, and I had a new attitude to go along with it. Because in addition to the dancing and champagne, we went outside and talked for a good long while about our goals for the year, and then us, as a couple and our future. It was heartening. And gave me the motivation I needed for the time yet to come.

January 31, 2012

Muffin Problem, Solved!

Remember all the pissing and moaning about my muffin top last year?

I'm pretty happy to report that I have fixed the muffin top problem! All by buying a pair of $6 overalls off the clearance rack at Target. Overalls which, if I'm honest, give me an illusion of a spare tire, but I'll consider it to be the lesser of two body evils. Especially since the tire is imagined but the muffin top was oh so very real.

Everything designated "Work Clothes" got an honest assessment from me and I ended up piling up a ton of old clothes for donation. It felt pretty good to get rid of the old, tight clothes and just stick with a few essentials that I know fit me well and can do what I need out of them. For instance, my winter work jacket was a very warm, very old pink puffer jacket from the GAP. It was an XS and my arms stuck out of the sleeves like some sort of awkward 13yr old after a growth spurt (oh the memories!!) and once I zipped up the jacket over my many layers, I could barely move. Usually I'd end up abandoning the jacket while working in favor of movement.

Did I mention my new work "jacket" is a men's fleece lined flannel shirt? I look so 1994. And a little bit like a lumberjack.

January 30, 2012

Planning the yard. Not as fun as stomping it.

Over the weekend Pete and I sat down at our table with a copy of our house's survey, a pencil and a plastic ruler that one of us clearly stole from a grade school. We were on a mission to seriously talk and map out a master landscaping plan for the Wee House. After many years of loose conversation and general agreement, it was high time that we penciled a plan for the yard together. Something to serve as our guide through this everlasting renovation of the Wee property, and that encompassed both of our many ideas for the outside.

All in all, it was a well spent hour and a half. We measured, plotted, planned and dreamed our ideas right onto paper. I wouldn't call it fun. If anything it was just another reality check for how effing long this renovation is going to take us. But it was nice to get each other on the same page of our personal plans, you know, the ones that have since only existed in our respective brains or have only been verbalized in passing before this point.

We got the following plans ironed out:

- Driveway planning. Right now we have a mess of pebbles and sand forming something that maybe once resembled a driveway? Once the septic is done, we'll get right on getting something that doesn't look so... afterthoughtish put in.

- Good fences make for good neighbors. We think both sets of neighbors are great people and are beyond excited to live next to them someday. However, that does not mean I want to be all up in their business and vice versa when we're out in our yards. Right now we have an uber low fence and a retaining wall and I feel like time I spend in my yard means I'm on display for everyone to see. They've really seen enough of my muffin top to last them a lifetime.

- Privacy and noise reduction planting locations. Rather self explanatory in that I like privacy, hate noise and love plants.

- Patio location. It'll be off the dining room. Another total no-brainer.

- Fruit tree location. This one is totally all Eva and my crazy plan to turn the backyard into a wee farmette. I started with six fruit trees as my opening bid, but bargained down to four. Two apples trees and two peach in wide open back yard.

- Split rail fence location for the grapes. Apparently I think that because my grandparents successfully ran a vineyard that I must have some sort of genetic aptitude for farming and viticulture.

- Veggie Garden locations. Again, me and my crazy notions of backyard farming.

- Tree locations. We're big believers in planting for the next generation and are trying to put as many trees in as possible while still maintaining our sunny yard!

And to think, we only resorted to name calling once during this whole thing! Go us.

October 6, 2011

Le Sigh. Le Muffin Plague

Eight years ago I stood in a JC Penny dressing room as 20 year old trying on a pair of jeans. Admiring how Levi’s stepped it up a notch to introduce a new low rise selection and marveling at how I ever wore pants that came over my hips. Back in the early 2000’s I was rocking some serious low rise and skin tight denim around campus. All purchased from a multitude of mall stores, Cough Cough ::: Express Bikini Jean:: Cough.

Thankfully in the years that have followed my college graduation I’ve learned a thing or two about the benefits of a (slightly) higher rise and pants that don’t cut off your circulation when you sit down. My denim stash is much less “Jersey” than it used to be and I've slowly given up all my low rise/glittered/bejewelled jeans in favor of quality design and construction.

Which leads me to my old pants, I’ve been slowly turning over denim from daily wear to work wear over the past couple of years. My now work pants are currently covered in a paint, rips and stains of construction origin. Which is all just fine… except… they are all REALLY low rise.

I'll just admit it.

I get muffin top now in my old jeans.

While I still can get my old pants zipped up, and you better believe I’m taking that small victory, that doesn’t really mean they actually fit me anymore. A harsh reality that I think most women must face at some point in their lives: current body vs. the old body. My body has changed shape in the last 8 years, what with biology taking me from the fine boned, slim look of a college sophomore to the (not really) curvy statue of a corporate woman who spends her days sitting in front of the computer and commuting 3 hours a day.

In layman’s terms- Baby got some back now.

I’ve come to slowly slowly realize that I ...

a) need new work pants, a phrase alone that is contradictory to me. Work pants mean well worn and way past what is acceptable to leave the house in pants.

b) I do some heavy duty renovating and need a pair or two of serious pants or coveralls that can keep up. Old Express denim isn't exactly Ford tough when it is paired against plaster shrapnel.

c) Ultimately I have got to get rid of my renovation muffin top, it’s bad for my already piddling sense of self esteem. And it makes me feel guilty after housing a cheese steak for lunch on the weekends.

AndPlusAlso I’m sure my neighbors are tired of my crack hanging out every time I bend over on the job site. I know I’m tired of hiking my pants up before bending down to work.

This all leads me to my new shopping quest of procuring some new constructions pants. I’d like one pair of coveralls and one pair of jeans or pants, that should be enough for me to get rid of my old muffin offenders and get through the next couple years of work.

September 2, 2011

Nerdy Couch Confession

You know you have a Chesterfield addiction when...

you *gasp* and in a hushed whisper say "A Chesterfield", when that tufted awesomeness pops up during a scene in Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Pt.2

The only way I could make this confession worse is when I tell you this all went down during the Midnight showing of HP7.2...

Sigh. I blame Sandra Bullock. It was a candid shot of her Chesterfield Couch in some rag years ago that got me started on this dark tufted path of obsession...

August 29, 2011

Irene. Is Riotously Evil Not Evaded.


I'm so glad that last week and it's multitude of natural disasters is, well, so last week.

Earthquake+ Hurricane Irene+ Tornado Activity + Flooding... I'm really ready for some boring weather going forward for the rest of the year. All these kids going back to school are going to have some interesting fodder for their " How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essays.

It is with an amazing amount of relief that I can report we suffered no major damages during the storm to any of our properties. Some limbs down, major flooding in our backyards, and an actual swimming pool in one of our basements. I'll take it. We're safe, my family is safe and our home is intact.

Unfortunately, my current town did not handle the flood waters so well and two bridges washed out almost completely during the 16' creek surge we had at the during the first bands of the storm. We think the bridge washed out sometime around 1am, because at 11:30 when Pete and I took a stroll around the neighborhood during a lull in the storm, the bridge was still there and seemed solid. There was an insane amount of water rushing into the lake, but nothing that appeared to be destructive. It was during that stroll that we went to check on our backyard, which slopes down a bit towards a teeny little drainage stream, was then about 20' deep, 75' wide and 100' across of water.

The words "We're Effed" came outta out our mouths when we saw how high the water had risen. A whole multitude of gratitudes came forth for our deep property and small, sloping hill. Had we gotten the rain that was expected, which was a good 4-5" more, I have almost no doubt I'd be singing a different tune right now.

The rain let up and we (thankfully) did not end up effed by mother nature.

As for the actual storm itself, I slept through it. Like a log. In fact, it was the best night of sleep I've gotten in a while. All the stress of the preperation and anitcipation, combined with the adrenaline of area Tornado warnings just conked me out for the night. You should have seen me during the Tornado warning, I packed an essentials backback, laced up my Timbs and sat in the hallway for 15 minutes with the cat in one arm and dog on her leash like the paranoid freak that I am.

Hurricane season is so much more nerve wracking as an adult. I liked it better when a Hurricane was a potential day off of school.

August 26, 2011

Waiting on Locust

Flippity Flip.

There is a hurricane coming our directly towards all four of our houses.

Listen, this Jersey girl lives in Jersey for a reason, and I deal with all negatives that come with living in the Garden State by all the counter balance positives. I like the beach, hate extreme weather, the great soil and love myself a good mall. In 2011 I've dealt with Blizzards, 115 Degree Heat Indexes, my first Earthquake and now Irene is threatening to storm herself through almost everyone I love.

And that my friends, scares the beejebus outta me.

The only thing I am really, incredibly, extremely grateful for is the warning time. We have about two days to mobilize and prepare; to set plans in motion and evacuate as needed. I'll take it. Two days seems like a luxurious amount of time compared to the minutes Joplin, MO had for the tornado that caused such unimaginable devastation earlier this year.

Last night after a long and stressful day at work, Pete and I hit up the grocery store and headed right over to the other house to prep as much as possible for Irene. We closed and locked all the windows, nailing some of the worse ones into the house. All the debris around the yard was pulled inside, things like picnic tables, scaffolding and the lawnmower got stashed in the safest place possible. All of Pete's tools got moved off of the garage floor, we put a lot of them inside the beastly '72 Land Cruiser. We also broke out the hammer and nailed up lots of extra supports for the front of the garage.

I am nervous as hell about how the garage is going to handle this hurricane. At least I can rest easy in knowing it was built to code and then some, all thanks to my Dad and his insistence in building quality construction. And all the hurricane straps are nailed in like woah. So, that is some relief.

Inside the house I tapped up a few windows and moved anything "valuable" into the center of the house. Hoping that if we get some blown out windows that things shouldn't get sucked out or ruined when the rain gets driven in.

We also grabbed our two chainsaws and gassed them up. They'll stay with us during the storm in case clean up is needed afterwards.

Tonight and tomorrow is prep for our house. Not going to lie, it makes me a little sick to my stomach thinking about everything that has to get done...

Please stay safe through the storm everyone. I know our homes are important to us, but nothing is like the people and pets who live inside of them.

xo, Eva

August 18, 2011

Not At The Big Top

The daylight is changing down here in South Jersey just a tiny bit, we’ve hit that time of year when nature cruelly reminds you that colder days and less sunshine are ahead and are coming faster than you'd like. Instead of exclaiming about how nice it is that the sun just went down at 9, we’re starting to see signs of the sunset starting earlier and earlier. As always late august reminds me of childhood and how I’d start to dream about the upcoming school year and all its unknown mysteries ahead.

This year I have no school to go back to. And I’ve spent most of the summer ignoring the one outlet I have for getting out all the thoughts, feelings and memories I have associated with this time in my life.

The truth is, Pete and I obsess about our housing. Paying, planning, selling, cleaning, decorating, fixing and living in them. Most of our free-time life revolves around our houses somehow. I just needed a little break from something in our house cycle, and also, maybe my job BLOCKED BLOGGER. Since my lunch break was my number one time to blog you can imagine how much that sucked. At first I was devastated and pretty sure it was just a glitch since the page would load and load and load until I got a time out error. But as the days turned into more days, I knew it was for real and that I was going to have to figure out a new way to keep up with blogging if that was what I wanted to do. So I thought about my blog, its life cycle, where it could go and if it was what I really wanted to do by putting out my 'dirty house laundry' on the internet for everyone to see and judge.

The problem with blogging at home? My office tends to run at about 95 degrees in the summer with it’s non- a/c having, summer sun getting self. I don’t even turn my home computer on unless I have to because I’m freaked out about overheating and loosing everything that I haven’t backed up (everything). Plus, I’m both uber lazy and very busy. Work and full time adult life, family, friends, holidays and all that jazz.

So with a few obstacles blocking my lazy self from blogging, I took the easy way out and gave my brain a break for a few months.

It was nice.

Until I started realizing that I was composing blog posts in my head without even realizing it. When I found that amazing $100 Chesterfield on Craigslist, I mentally started a post about it, and then I started the follow up post that detailed how it was already sold and despite my best effort to be slimy and offer him triple the asking price- I still didn’t get my dream couch.

Oh, and the time Pete and I had 30 more minutes worth of work to do for the day before a summer storm rolled in with no signs of quitting. I mentally was telling everyone how I might win the best/most crackpot dangerous DIY award of our drenching rain installation of a ledger board on the garage. Ladder/Rain/Drill… not the safest combo ever, but Pete needed to get it done that day for his sanity and I recognized that in him, so I worked while getting drenched to the bone. With promise of dry clothes and pizza afterward.

Projects went on.

The Summer Sweltered.

I met my newest love, who arrived in a 9lb11oz Nephew package.

Harry Potter Ended.

Life went on.

I just didn’t blog about it.

But I’m ready to get back to here, and hopefully everyone is ready to stick around for the rest of our house related follies

Sorry to disappoint any that thought maybe I ran away and joined the circus.

July 1, 2011

Lawn Maintenance, Shop Vac Style

The one where I tell you about how my husband had to vacuum the lawn.

57 has a few patches of grass to its name. Nice little bits of lawn in the front, and a big enough sized pad out back. The space out back would blend seamlessly into the other units and vague "no mans land" if a two sided fence coming off of the house did not offer a bit of separation from all that. Why two sided? One side got ripped down a few years back, and we decided to keep it open as a sort of gate/passageway to the back door.

This area out back is where kegs are kept for parties in all but the most frigid of winter weather, plays host to the nice weather beer pong games and, judging by the amount of butts in the air conditioning unit, is where the smokers go to get their nicotine fix on. The ground is a hybrid of greenery and an ancient cement landing pad. After these tenants moved out it also hosted shards of broken bottles. Not just ONE broken bottle spread about but it looked like someone was hoarding broken glass in our back yard. We have female tenants moving in next, I'm presuming that they are going to be like 97% of the female college population in their footwear choices and will wear flip flops all the time until it snows on the ground. At that point (again, presuming) they'll switch to uggs or toms. Flip flops + Broken Glass = No Bueno.

We want these girls to like 57. Perhaps like the place so much, that *gasp* they don't destroy it and give a crap about keeping it in decent condition.

So Pete did the most sensible thing he could think of to clean up the broken glass the backyard.

He vacuumed the grass with the shop vac.

It worked.

Shop-Vacs never cease to amaze me with their versatile vacuuming ability.

PS- We got an email from one of the tenants today asking when they could expect to see the security deposit back. Gave me a good chuckle.

June 30, 2011

Rubber Gloves Required

Here is a little peak into what our lives are like when we’re working on 57.

The first Saturday we got the keys back:

8 am: head out door

Buy much needed iced coffee at mcdonalds.

8:20- arrive at 57 braced for worst. Take a brief tour of the place mentally calculating damages and making notes of items that need to be replaced. Snap picture of the cabinets and measure them while jotting down the sizes on an old “how to compost” leaflet fished out of giant purse.

8:45 head off into Philly for a Habitat for Humanity RE-Store garage sale. Cheap prices plus 25%?! Yes please.

9:15 arrive at the garage sale which started a mere 15 minutes ago. The place is mobbed already.

9:20 Call dibs on a matching stainless stove and microwave set for the beach house.

9:25 Dibs again on a sink base.

9:45- I get in a long line with the tickets and my 6 free books and wait while Pete goes to snag a parking spot by the door. While waiting in line I watch multiple fights over a table set and grill happen. Also, lament that I can’t purchase the amazing French provincial buffet for uber cheap because of lack of space in house/trusty SUV.

10am- Buy all the items for… $146. Load the SUV where everything fits snuggly inside, curtsy of creative arranging. Amen for our large car. I’ve said it before but we could not do what we do with these houses without an SUV. It is essential to the way we do home renovations.

10:30- Go to Wal-Mart, pick up heavy duty cleaning supplies and some snack food to keep at 57.

11:30- Head over to Lowe’s for a few items for 57. Buy the exact model of dishwasher we’ve been eyeballing for the beach house on clearance for $200. Somehow, despite meaning to we’ve just bought the remaining appliances for the beach house. Squick.Have to leave dishwasher there for later pick up due to lack of SUV cargo space.

1pm- Picnic lunch in the shade outside of 57 on our scrap rug from the trunk, 57 smells too bad to eat in there.

1:30- Start scrubbing down the walls and bathroom floor. Sister-In-Law, Janet, comes over. Get almost the entire downstairs scrubbed with her help. Janet rocks. Go through a half gallon of bleach and heavy duty de-greaser.

7:00- Call it a night and head home

8:00- Head out the house showered and cleaned up for a quick trip to another Lowe’s to price out cabinets and get dinner.

8:30- Price out stock cabinets.

9:30- Ordering beer and nachos at a favorite bar to discuss the day and make a tentative budget for the place. Budget also gets written on scrap composting pamphlet.

11pm- Home. Crash into bed.

Busy and especially expensive Saturday, although, we got so much accomplished that I fell into bed feeling really good about the day. Which is really, the best way to feel when you're falling asleep.

June 29, 2011

The Draining Month Begins

Since 2004, this mid-june to mid-july has the potential to be my least favorite time of the year. It is when we get the keys back in hand from our college rental unit and have a scarce four weeks to make it habitable for the next group of renters. Every year we hope like crazy that our renters will want or can stay for an extra year (come on fifth year seniors!) Which means no clean out, no repairs and another year’s lease is signed with ease.

In the off years between renters the unit is an unholy mess and gargantuan effort to get the place in inspection passable condition, all in the short four week down time. When we have to deal with 57 – what I call the townhouse- it eats a giant amount of our summer work schedule right up that leaves us and our wallets drained.

This year 57 might just be the death of me.

We’d been getting reports from our property management company, first year for them btw and it has been so worth it, about the condo and how was everything was in deplorable condition for a long while now. When the heater broke our HVAC guy gave us the skinny on the damage to the place and said he went right home and jumped in the shower after working on the unit because it was so gross. When we got the notice that the renters would not be returning for the next year we felt relief, these guys were trouble and the sooner they left our lives the better. However, in the meantime the unit was having trouble renting and we were getting feedback from the agents that all people they brought through got hassled by the current renters and that everyone was so appalled by the filth they wouldn’t consider renting it.

After a few really stressful months something AMAZING happened, the agent brought through a bunch of girls and a father to see the place. The girls got hassled and at that point the father gave the renter a piece of his mind about his actions and the condition that the place was kept in. (points to that dad) Amazingly, the girls signed the rental contract with us a week later!!! Angels sang down from the clouds.

All that happend in the spring, flash forward to the first week of June and our contract was now up with the current tenants. The moved out on Friday, we stopped by early Saturday morning to check the place out, opening the door we braced for the worst being that there was already visible damage to the outside of the place. I was expecting Camden. What we got was bad. Really bad. The worst we’ve ever gotten back and this was the only time we’ve ever had tenants for just a year.

However it wasn’t the bombed out crack house that I was expecting. It was more a beer soaked, dirt slimed, graffitti’d party den that was a bit of cross between a Frat house and a dive bar off of route 95. I also counted no less than 18 not-very-graphic-or anatomically correct man parts drawn on the wall. Everywhere I looked something was wrong. There were hand prints on the ceiling, vomit on floors, tons of giant holes in the walls and someone tried (and succeeded) to kick the front door in.

Here is a good part to mention that both Pete and I lived at this place, separately, for over three years. NOTHING LIKE THAT EVERY HAPPENED WHEN WE LIVED THERE. Pete will even tell you about the most epic party ever that he threw where the 5 surrounding towns had to bring in their police to break it up, and yet… nothing like this damage. The worst thing that ever happened was we caught someone peeing on Pete’s car.

Let me lay out a picture of what was broken:

- Dryer

- Stove

- A/c

- Hot water heater

- Downstairs vanity

- Four doors

- Every wall in the dining room

- All but one ceiling light is broken

- The light in the bathroom

- Upstairs medicine cabinet

- 3 yr old Carpet was shot

- All the walls in the living room have graffiti on them

- Fire Alarms ripped off the ceiling

- Upstairs window

- Front porch

- Walls in downstairs bathroom

- Every closet door is missing a handle

- And there are random bits of trim missing

- Shelves in closets

- Paint, can paint be broken? Cause this paint was up the creek bad.

The next month is just going to be splendid.

June 27, 2011

Upgrading the microwave cart

Let's go back about a month ago...

Eva: I'm going to throw this old microwave cart away. It's just getting in the way, taking up space and we have no use for it now.

Pete: Are you sure? Did you take a picture of it yet?

Eva: I'm positive I snapped a pic of it. There is no way I didn't.

The conversation ends with me bringing the 80's era wood paneled microwave cart out to the dumpster in bits. Last night I just checked my entire library of pictures. There is not one single picture of this horribly ugly wood sticker paneled thing anywhere hiding on my computer.

Blogging fail.

Unfortunately the before would have been helpful at just how far we were able to rejuvenate a little corner of the beach house for $110. Use your imagination and rest assured this microwave cart was just as horribly outdated as the rest of the condo.

Originally sitting in this little corner was hip height mdf wonder of a "wood look" cabinet that sat on wobbly plastic wheels. One of the doors sat a precarious angel, always threatening to fall off if you closed the door with too much force. On top of the doors sat one drawer that we shoved every take out menu and spare trash bag into. Topping off this whole shebang was the matching wood look microwave. Don't you wish you had a wood paneled microwave also?!

Since a full kitchen renovation is on the books for the future, but not anytime soon, we knew that we'd be keeping the stand alone micowave until the point of the gut reno. It really is wicked handy to have around and we're sure that our renters appreciate us having one. However, that flipping ugly cart had to go, it was bringing down the whole look of the stairs right back into the 80's. Putting the microwave on the counter was out as a solution. Our counter space in that kitchen is almost nil. There is really no room for a microwave on the counter at all.

We did some combing of craigslist but nothing struck our eye as working well for a new microwave cart. Falling back to ye old faithful for the beach house, the two of us planned an Ikea trip after work. It's not exactly a "trip" so much as there is an Ikea about 15 min from where we work, but we did make plans to hit up our fave non-shore pizza spot beforehand for some cheesy saucy goodness. The budget was "as low as we could get it", but we definitely didn't want to spend more than $100.

Surprisingly that amount of money doesn't give as many options as you might think.

After combing the aisles and displays in Ikea we settled on the Bekvam, a nice solid wood kitchen rack for $60. It was a nice and small option that didn't break the break and fit the space. The nicely compact box of parts fit neatly into the back of our sedan and we drove away with the mission accomplished.

A few days after buying the cart we found ourselves at Home Depot, which isn't that strange since we're there all.the.time, and while bringing up our cartload we walked out the store right by a bathroom fixture display. There was stopping on our part admiring the really good deals to be had and we both zero'd in on this one vanity cabinet w/ a soft gray/ ivory washed color that had clean shaker lines. For $99 it came with a stone top and under mounted sink, the quality of the piece was pretty damn good considering it's recession-friendly price tag.

Then I opened my big trap and " Wouldn't this look nice as the microwave cabinet?" came tumbling out before I could stop myself. Damn it Eva! I always make things more complicated. We already had a very nice cart purchased and this one was more expensive. This one was clearly nicer, and it would fill that awkward space under the stairs better. So we bought it and shoved the giant and unyielding box into the back of our SUV.

The next week, we journeyed back to Ikea to return the other cart and while browsing the fantastic "As-Is" section I snagged a large door/ side panel (?) in a black color for $3.50 to use as a protective extra counter on top of the sink vanity. The new counter also keeps the microwave from falling into the sink, we just assumed that the giagantor microwave would cover the smaller sink completely and it does... but almost doesn't. Which leaves the potential for a microwave-in-the-sink disaster at threat level red. We also didn't realize this until after the sink counter was glued down. Hence the new topper counter top!

Sink Vanity turned Microwave Cabinet: $99

Appliance Spray Paint- $6

Ikea Counter- $3.50

We're really happy with the new microwave cabinet, it fits in with our whole modernization effort of the beach house perfectly!