Monday, September 22, 2014

Mini Rent House Kitchen Makeover

My last post gave the grand tour of our rent house, and today I'd like to share with you a little kitchen makeover we did recently. Really, the most glorious part of this reno is that I hardly lifted a finger. I considered doing parts of it myself, but in the end it was a very good decision to have someone else do it (more on that later). We hired the job out to qualified professionals and am unbelievably thankful that everything went as planned! No delays, no material mix ups--every step of the way I found myself knocking on wood that things would continue to progress smoothly, and they did :) It was a miracle!

On the other hand, the day of the counter installation was a horrible, no good, very bad day, because my camera died a very sudden death and refused to take pictures, plus my phone imploded and deleted all of its content within about 15 minutes of each other. I took a lot of deep breaths, and also a lot of iPhone pictures, so please forgive the low-quality images. I was hanging onto my sanity by a thin strand, but it's all better now!

Let's remember where this kitchen started--purplish brown laminate counters that fed up the wall as the backsplash. Behind the stove was a sheet of white plastic, and a utensil holder that the current tenants never used and frankly seemed very odd to me. Not sure I'd ever want to lean over an open flame to grab a spoon? 



Before any of the demo go started, I had to choose our materials. This was a pretty hard process for me, because I had to constantly fight the urge to upgrade to something we didn't need. After all, this is just an income property, and not something that I (or the tenants) will have to live with forever, so getting a fancy edge on the counter wasn't worth the extra money.

For the counter, I chose a white quartz, and they came from Home Depot because they had the best prices, by far. It took me a couple of trips and an appointment to successfully connect with someone in their design department, but once I did everything went very smoothly. First, I gave them the rough measurements that I had taken myself, and then they sent someone out to template the space. Easy peasy.

The backsplash came from Kevin Lorino at The Tile Guy. I'm a huge fan of Kevin's, and I highly recommend his store if you ever need tile. They have a huge selection, but I think Kevin's knowledge of his inventory is what makes him stand out the most. I went into the store with an idea of what I was looking for and found a sample that I really liked. Unfortunately, it was about $20/sqft which is a lot more than I was looking to pay, and when I showed Kevin what I liked he actually apologized that something so expensive was out on the floor! Apparently someone had come in and requested that particular product, and that's the only reason it was out. He said he had something that looked exactly the same for less than half the cost, and went and grabbed the tile I ended up using. Sure enough, it was just as nice and was a much better price!


So, demo time. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't do much of anything myself, but I was in and out to oversee the process as a whole. Partially because I'm a control freak, and partially because I really, really love learning how all of these things work. I didn't know anything about how counters were removed or installed, and was eager to learn.

The counter guys requested that we move the stove, so our handyman took it out and also removed the plastic panel that was behind the stove. Unfortunately, it uncovered some pretty sad drywall work, so he had the added step of re-drywalling that area so the backsplash would have something to stick to.


Here's a better look...


In the end, the biggest reason I was thankful that I decided not to demo myself was when I saw how hard it was to get the laminate "backsplash" off the wall. It was installed with a huge amount of adhesive, so our handyman had to get it really hot with his heat gun. Even then, it was difficult to get off, and after watching him struggle with it I was glad I could just snap some pictures rather than burn my fingers!



After he got some pieces off, he started chiseling the corner to detach the backsplash portion from the counter portion.


It was a very sticky situation.


To get the counters off, first he pried off the decorative cap on the front of the counter.


Then it was just a matter of separating the counter top from the wood it was nailed to.


You'll see that the wood is actually just sitting on top of the counters. We debated removing it as well, but it provided some extra support (mainly on the other side of the kitchen from where this picture was taken) so we decided to leave it.


Woohoo, no more purplish brown!



Next up was the counter installation. As promised, the counter guys called me on their way to the house so I could meet them over there. They made pretty quick work of it, and really, it was very anti-climactic. They got the counters, put down some caulk, and laid them on. Not much to see or learn there.


On the other side, they cut a hole for the sink. The hardest part of their whole installation process was rigging a platform under the sink hole to "catch" the counter when they finished cutting it. 



See how pretty? Me lovey these counters.


Next up was the backsplash installation. Earlier I said I didn't lift a finger... well, that wasn't quite true. I carried all of the tile and grout in from my car, and holy cow that stuff is heavy! Don't laugh, but I was sore for days.


Laying the tile went pretty quickly, although longer than I would have guessed. All in all, it was probably a  6 hour process. 


Once the tile started going up, I was pleased to see that it had more blue undertones than I realized. I was worried about the kitchen being white on white on white, but didn't want the backsplash to have tons of color either. What we ended up with is perfect!


Before they grouted, I was feeling a little nervous because the glass tiles were reflecting light in a strange way and almost looked like they were glowing on the ends.



Once the grout went on, though, it took care of that problem!



Instant gratification is my favorite thing, so naturally I was a huge fan of the point where they start wiping off the excess grout--haze, I think they call it. The left side of the picture below has been wiped, the right side hasn't.


Helllloooooo pretty tile. How are you?


And now things are so much lighter and brighter! You'll notice that between the counters and the cabinets is a dark line--that's the wood we decided to leave that I mentioned earlier. These cabinets are due for a new coat of paint, and when that happens, that line will get painted and disappear.



How about a little side-by-side action?



Of course now the grout on the floor seems a little harsh, so painting that might be in my future. They sell "grout pens" which are a lot like paint pens, but are specifically made to re-color grout. I think a lighter tan/beige would make those floors look more seamless and less in yo face, but that's a project for later, especially since it's tedious and completely unnecessary.

Next time, I'll post some pictures of the rent house as a whole and you can see how far it's come since we bought it! Amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do, especially when you have navy doors and avocado-colored trim :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tour de Rent House

Holy moly I've been AWOL! Long time no see, huh? I've been busy selling houses which is awesome, but I've totally neglected to check in! As I mentioned in my last post, we're in the process of doing some work on both my dad's house and on our investment property. Before I show you what we've been doing, I thought it would be good to take a little tour of the houses and to talk about our history with them.

Today: the rent house. We (my dad & I) bought the house in October of 2011 when the market was very different from what it is now. We knew we wanted the home to be in the same neighborhood that my dad lives in, mainly for convenience. At the time there were 6 or 7 homes for sale, and after viewing them all, we narrowed it down to three, took a second look, and submitted an offer on our favorite.


It's truly funny to look back at the process--there was plenty of inventory to choose from, and also pretty substantial room for negotiations (a far cry from today's seller's market). After agreeing on the terms of the contract, everything progressed pretty smoothly. There were a handful of items discovered on the inspection that we took care of after it closed, and we were able to rent it out less than a month later.

We've been extremely lucky to have wonderful tenants who have made managing a property relatively easy. There are of course things that come up that need to be handled, but our tenants have all made the experience a positive one (as I knock on every wood surface). Our first set of tenants lived there for a year and a half, and our current tenants have a two year lease that will take them through May of 2015.

Now, shall we take a tour? (Please forgive the low picture quality--they're tiny and I'm blowing them up more than they should be.) These were taken in 2011 immediately after we closed. We didn't do a single cosmetic update (we only did things that were safety-related or required by the Austin Property Code for landlords), but the interior wasn't too bad.


You'll see that the walls were an interesting shade of grellow (green + yellow). Sort of an avocado, if you will? The floors in here are a painted concrete (they're brown with a twinge of purple), and the baseboards were painted to match which sort of makes it look like the floors are going up the walls.

Formal dining & office

This shot is of the dining room, and you can see that on the left are slate floors which are just inside the front door. This house is home to many a flooring product, as you shall see.


Here's the kitchen, which had a much greener coat of paint. That doorway leads to the office, and the door leads to the pantry. The counters were laminate and had been re-coated with a brownish/purpleish speckled treatment. As far as laminate goes, they looked pretty nice, but they were still screaming "update me!" And, if you haven't noticed, we have floor type number three. The kitchen sports some pretty large tiles (18"x18", I think) as well as some large grout lines.

Kitchen

This photo is of the breakfast nook, which is attached to the kitchen. Through the doorway straight ahead is the laundry room, a door to the back yard, and a door to the half bath. To the right is a doorway and a passthrough to the living room.

Breakfast nook & laundry room

Here's a better shot of the laundry room which has some awesome built-in shelving. What built-in item could be more awesome than that? Perhaps the cat door that's set straight into the wall.

Laundry room

Here's the half bath that you can access from the laundry room.

Half bath

The living room has the nicest floors in the house--a very pretty hardwood. I'm not sure what kind it is, but I love it. I also love the brick fireplace, which surprised me because normally I'm not a huge fan of brick. You'll notice we're back to grellow in here, and have a second door to the backyard.

Living room

The living room is sort of an odd space. It's a rectangle, but it's strangely cut in two by the doorway you see on the left (which leads to a closet, the garage, and the master bedroom) and the doorway on the right (you can barely see where the wall ends and the baseboard is white--that doorway leads to the kitchen). Those doorways create a sort of walkway that splits the living room into ⅓ and ⅔ pieces. Our first tenants used the ⅓ side as a sitting area, and our current tenants use it as their formal dining. Those wall sconces always seemed super strange to me, but our current tenants replaced them with different fixtures that look much more modern and intentional.

Living room

The master bedroom debuts flooring number 5: a beige carpet. The master is a decent size and has that same green that's in the kitchen. The strangest part of the master is that it's open to the bathroom sink (a feature that no one seems to love, and is on our long-term to do list to change).

Master bedroom

Enter flooring number 6: green tile. The doorway to the left leads to the shower/tub and toilet, and there's a doorway to the right that you can't see which leads to a walk-in closet.

Master bathroom

The shower isn't anything spectacular, but it's nice enough, and clean looking (and clean-being, for the record).

Master bathroom

The closet is a nicely-sized walk-in and has lots of storage

Master closet

Now let's head upstairs, which is a very long and narrow space. On one side is a large bedroom, then we have a full bathroom in the middle, and another large bedroom on the other side.

Here's the first bedroom. This picture doesn't do its size justice, but the current tenants have two bunk beds that sit next to each other lengthwise on that left wall, and there's still tons of room left for the kids to play.

Second bedroom

You may have noticed that there's some furniture in this picture because I didn't take any of this side of the room before the first tenants moved in. I wanted to include it to show you the very strange paint choices. Green walls like the kitchen, white trim, and then grellow doors and doorways. I mentioned that we didn't do anything cosmetic before the first set of tenants (or even the second set) moved in, so they both managed to see past these very odd choices.

Second bedroom

The upstairs bathroom introduces flooring number 7: white tile. You'll see we're back to grellow in here, and while it's not horribly outdated, it could use some love.

Upstairs bathroom

Alas, the third bedroom and final room. I didn't even bother to include a picture showing the majority of the room because there's nothing exciting to see on the other half. What is exciting are these navy blue doors! Again, this is once it was being lived-in, and the tenants just rolled with it.

Third bedroom

Finally, the back yard. It's a nice little space with a wood deck. You'll see in the top left corner that there's no grass and there are two randomly placed bushes. That little corner is where they stored some sort of boat or boat accessory (please excuse my complete lack of boating vocabulary & knowledge), which looked pretty odd once the boating thing was removed. Our first tenants worked at a landscaping company and he told us it would be fun for him to nurse that corner back into shape, and so he did! Jackpot.

Back yard

When it was time for the first set of tenants to move out, the carpet in the master bedroom was totally trashed, but not due to anything they did wrong. They had 3 or 4 large dogs and it totally reeked, even after they had it steam cleaned. Somehow our current tenants viewed the home and saw past the overwhelming dog smell that filled the whole house (the steam cleaning seemed to have worsened it, kind of like how dogs smell worse right after you bathe them) as well as the odd paint choices and constantly changing floor types. They signed a lease knowing that we'd be replacing it, but I was really holding my breath (both literally and figuratively) about how much of the smell would linger after we got new carpet.

Luckily, this all happened while I was in the process of reno-ing our condo, before I was a realtor (read: when I had more free time to get things done because my job had very clear hours).

Sidebar: people think that being a realtor means I set my own hours and can have all of this awesome time off, but this is both true and untrue. It's true because I don't have to be in an office from 8-5 and don't have a set lunch break or a certain number of vacation days. It's untrue because I'm always just a phone call, text, or email away from my clients and whatever issue of the moment is occurring. I respond to things quickly, by choice, because that's something that I know they value and that not all other realtors agree to. So, what this means is that I'm simultaneously always available and never available to get things done. I can't do much without being interrupted, but that's fine with me. When I'm on vacation, I'm still working, much like people in other professions. But, have I mentioned that I love my job, and not to mention, my clients? They're the best, and I'm happy to be available to them at all hours :)

Ok, back on topic. I decided to rip out the carpet one afternoon and my god is that harder than you'd imagine. The hardest part was moving it once I'd ripped it up because carpet weighs a ton, which I hadn't really considered. Pretty much as soon as it was out of the house, the smell went away. Whew! We had new carpet put in (aka flooring type number 8) and we were ready for our second set of tenants!

Since they've moved in, two pretty impactful updates have been done: painting and a mini kitchen reno. The rent house is slowly but surely joining us in the 21st century. Stay tuned to see where it is now!