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.


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!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Future

Ahhh, the future. That's pretty grand and vague. Are you ready for a text-heavy post?

Do you remember back in August when John and I celebrated 7 years of being together? In my post, I said that I was finally really happy where I was, and for once in my life, I wasn't looking forward to the next big thing. Rather, I was able to live in and appreciate those awesome moments. I'm happy to say that nearly a year later, I still feel the same way. So, while I'm looking forward to the future in a general sense, I don't find myself actively hoping it will come sooner rather than later. We're in such a fantastic chapter of our lives together and I just want to savor every moment!

With that said... the future. Let's talk about that. Currently, John and I live in a 1,400 sqft condo, which is more room than we actually need. Not by much, but we rarely ever use the guest room (guest count: 1 in the past 16 months), and we don't spend much time in the loft, either. Some day though, in the very (very, very, very) distant future, there will be more than just us + Olive. When the time comes for us to get a larger place, we plan to do a sort of property swap with my dad.

Between our condo, my childhood home, our investment property, and my dad's girlfriend's condo, we are lucky to have a lot of flexibility when it comes to a property shuffle. Our current line of thinking is for me and John to move into my childhood home, which is almost 2,200 sqft, for my dad and his girlfriend to move into one of the other three properties, and for us to rent out the remaining two. 

I haven't posted in a while, and that's because 1. I've been super busy with work (woo hoo!) and 2. there's just not much going on around here because I've more or less done everything I'd like to do to the condo. We're slowly replacing the three toilets (one down, two to go), so I should have a post about that eventually... aren't you excited?! ;)

Luckily, there are some things happening over at my childhood home that I can post about! Let's have an introduction, shall we? Like I said, the house is about 2,200 sqft. It sits on a corner lot and has 4 beds, 2.5 baths, a formal dining room, and a second living room. In my next post, I'll share some pictures, but for now, here's the floor plan.

The home is rather outdated. The kitchen was redone in the middle of 2005 (with questionable finishes), and we had the windows replaced at the end of 2010. Other than that, everything is pretty much original to when my parents bought the house in 1987... carpet and wallpaper included. I must say, the carpet is looking pretty good for being nearly 30 years old, which I'd chalk up to the fact that no shoe has ever walked on it. As clean as it may be considering its age, its still in need of replacement, which I hope to do in the next year or so.

The only other thing that's been done is painting, both interior and exterior. Let's just say that our condo is very lucky that my childhood home took the brunt of my novice paint selections and techniques. There were some big oops moments that I'm totally mortified to share with you... but I will. Not today, but soon. 

If you remember, I may have gone a little overboard during the paint selection process for the condo, when I got test pots of nearly 15 cans of paint and painted test patches on every single wall of every single room to see how they'd look in all possible scenarios (morning, noon, night, lights on, lights, off, etc.). The reason I did that is because I truly made some seriously horrendous mistakes in my dad's house by not putting actual paint on the walls and instead merely holding up a paint chip in one kind of light. You won't even believe me if I tell you, so you'll just have to wait and see.

Next time, I'll share some pictures of the actual house, and hopefully I can find some of its original glamour so you can see where it started. Soon, there will be big changes in my dad's back yard that I'll be excited to show you! Plus, we're doing a mini kitchen remodel in our investment property, so I'll share that when the time comes as well.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Holy Union

I always liked the light fixture that was installed in our dining room when we bought our house. It felt fun and interesting... but then two things happened. 1. We painted the walls yellow which made the little votives look kind of dirty in comparison, and 2. the bulbs started burning out, and it turns out they cost $9 a piece. I've already spent $27 replacing bulbs, and I'm sure the other ones are close to burning out as well, so I figured I'd cut my losses and get something new.

Shall we pay our respects with a throwback to this hilarious moment?

Moving on. I've been on the lookout for the perfect fixture for the past 6 months or so, and finally, this guy went on sale at Crate & Barrel.

The mighty Union Pendant was still a little more than I wanted to spend, so lucky me that I got to buy the floor sample for an additional 15% off. I used the last of our wedding gift card money and paid the balance out of pocket which felt very weird, since we've shopped for "free" at Crate & Barrel for over a year now!

Had I hung the fixture exactly as it came, it would have nearly sat on the floor because the chain was so long. Typically, you just remove extra lengths to shorten it up, but the wonderful people at Crate & Barrel had soldered every. single. chain. link. together. This meant that I had to saw through the links and then bend them apart, which added an additional hour or so to the process. I'm a little nervous that I now have little metal filings embedded in my skin from all the sawing, which I only know is something to be concerned about because when you go to get an MRI, they ask you if there's a possibility of having metal shavings in your body. I guess because the magnet would pull them out  (the M of MRI stands for magnetic)? Yikes. Fingers crossed I don't ever have to find out.

Anyway, onto the fun part. Let's install this baby! I don't have very many pictures of the installation process because holy cow are light fixtures heavy, which makes balancing on a ladder and snapping pictures a bit tricky. 

Step 1. Turn off power to the fixture
Step 2. Remove the fixture (de-couple the fixture's wires from the ceiling wires)

Step 3. Install the new fixture (re-couple the fixture's wires with the ceiling wires, being sure to match black to black, white to white, and copper to copper)

Step 4. Have sore arms for 5 days from holding the fixture up for so long. Oh, and marvel at your work.

The old one is sitting in the garage waiting for me to Craigslist it. Know anyone that wants an inexpensive light fixture with semi-expensive bulbs?

Now I have this pretty view when I come down the stairs. It's nice and substantial feeling without being bulky, and it only has one bulb! 

The one that's in there is the one that came with it, but I think I may switch it out for an Edison bulb. Any suggestions on where to get them? Good deals? Cool shapes? I've never bought one before so I'm not "in the know."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Come. Sit. Play.

Olive's birthday party didn't quite warrant printing out and mailing invitations, so instead I made a Facebook event and DIYed an "invitation" that was posted to the page. Oh Photoshop, what would I do without you?

First I chose a picture of Olive to include on the invite.

Next, I cut her body out (and fudged her paws a little), and applied a watercolor filter.

After that, I started typing. I found some dog birthday party invitations on Pinterest that said "Come, sit, stay" but I felt a little weird instructing humans to "stay," so I went with play instead. The font is Debonair Inline, from

I used Janda Elegant Handwriting (also from for some of the details, alternating with more Debonair Inline.

I knew I wanted a "2" somewhere, since Olive was turning two. My first idea was to do it in the background, but because of where Olive's picture was located, it looked a little top heavy.

Instead, I decided to add some balloons which I did by making lots of semi-opaque ovals, and tied those to the number two.

And voila!

Is anyone else as obsessed with Photoshop as I am? I have no idea how I would run my business (let alone my dog's very, very important birthday parties) without it.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Metal Magic

Ok, so back in my post about our trip to Florida, I alluded to creating earrings using magic. I would say that statement is about 50% true. The other 50% of the recipe was, apparently, sheer and utter frustration. BUT, but but but, the result is really cool.  Let it be known up front that the documentation for this project wasn't great. I'll chalk that up to being on vacation, and oh, the fact that my hands were required to be covered in olive oil (really!).

Would you be surprised to know that these earrings started as clay and ended as metal? Hint: no spray paint was involved--they really and truly are silver.

These magical earrings are made from a product called PMC3--precious metal "clay," which is actually not clay at all, but does look and feel similar to clay. It comes in various metals, such as copper, gold, bronze, etc., and we used silver for our project. The stuff is hella expensive, at around $40 for 9 grams (which, for reference, is maybe the size of a AA battery).

The tools you use are the same ones you'd use to work with regular clay, plus a spray bottle filled with water, and a bowl of olive oil. This "clay" is extremely sticky (think gum/silly putty), so the olive oil is supposed to help keep it from sticking to you and whichever tools you're using to manipulate it. The water is for keeping it moist, because it dries out very quickly.

After hours of trying to figure this stuff out (but really), these are the two pieces I made. They don't look all that nice, I know. Trust me though, it was hard to achieve! I couldn't even go into detail about why this product is so impossible because I think I've blocked the trauma from my memory. Ask my aunt--she'll back me up, but it's mainly due to the fact that it sticks to everything it touches.

After the pieces were formed, we put them on a little heating element to dry them out. After they were bone dry, we used very fine sand paper to remove any rough edges, and then we got ready to fire them up!

We used a Beehive Kiln to fire the pieces. Flame is apparently normal, and only lasts for 10 seconds or so. I think it's probably the olive oil burning off. 

This is where we ran into lots of problems. The directions that came with the kiln (which my aunt had never used before) kept referencing a piece that we didn't have, which controlled the temperature. Without this piece, the kiln heated up, but we had no idea if it was too hot or not hot enough. With no alternative, we decided to move forward. We decided to use the "lid" to keep in as much heat as possible.

We knew that once the pieces glowed a salmon color, they would be ready to remove, which is supposed to take about 15-20 minutes. Unfortunately, after 25 minutes, they still weren't glowing. The plate under them was glowing, but the pieces themselves were not.

We decided to remove them anyway, and dropped them in a cup of cold water, as was suggested. They looked more or less the same as they did before they were fired--still a very light grey.

The next step was to scrub them with a metal-bristled brush using water and dish soap. These pictures are of my aunt scrubbing her piece. 

After she finished hers, I very excitedly scrubbed mine. One of them snapped in half. Womp womp. It was the thinner of the two, and was markedly thinner because controlling this material is next to impossible. Regardless, the piece being thin shouldn't have caused it to snap, and we're 99% sure that they didn't get fired hot enough, which didn't allow them to fully transition to silver. My initial plan was to solder the pieces back together, but my grandfather didn't have any silver solder, and I learned once I got back to Austin that PMC3 actually can't be soldered. 

Instead, I decided to get some good ol' metal epoxy. JB Weld was recommended by multiple people, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I just flipped it over, dabbed it on, and so far, so good.

I added some colorful beads so the earrings weren't so one-dimensional, but made sure to choose something small enough that you could still see the pattern in the metal clay.

So, what do you think? Magic, right? I've vowed to never touch this material again, but have enthusiastically told my aunt to keep at it ;) She's the most creative person I know, and is certainly more patient than I am, so I think she has a good shot at figuring it out. By the end of the process though, we were both totally exhausted and on edge.

Have you all ever worked with this stuff, or even heard of it? Have you ever made jewelry out of something unconventional? There are shops on Etsy that work in metal clay, and I just stare a the pieces in awe knowing how difficult it is to even touch the material and not have it turn into a gunky mess!