Barton Update: Renovation Limbo

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There’s a reason we haven’t posted any photos from the Barton house in a while: We’ve been in renovation limbo. Or renovation hell, depending on how you look at it. (We’re currently leaning toward the latter perspective.)

We’ve had some challenges with permits and inspections, and we’re currently waiting to get approval from four different inspectors before we can finish the house. Finish the house meaning replace drywall, paint, install trim and doors, install kitchen and bathrooms, refinish floors, trim out electric and plumbing, build a fence, and some other things.

In other news, our own house is under contract and we close in about a month. Yes, that means we have one month to finish this renovation and move. Anxious doesn’t even begin to describe our current mood.

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Despite our intimidatingly long to-do list, if you look hard, you can see that we have made quite a bit of progress on the house since we started just about two months ago. We did all new electric, plumbing, and HVAC, insulated the whole house, and rearranged a lot of walls, doors, and windows. The floor plan has been drastically improved, and the house is much brighter and modern-feeling. Yes, there’s lots to do but we’re trying our best to stay positive. If this was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?

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The Surprise Gut Job

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There are few things that can ruin a trip to Paris. One of them, we recently learned, is a text from your contractor saying, “I gutted your house.”

Luckily, this surprise news didn’t completely derail our vacation, but it did put a huge damper on the day, became a topic of frequent discussion for the rest of our trip, and made us extra eager to return home.

After several weeks of talking and negotiations, we’d officially signed with our contractor and gotten him his first check literally the day we left the country. We resigned ourselves to being completely hands-off for the first few weeks of the project, curious how much he would be able to get done while we were away. We were initially drawn to his ambitious schedule—he hoped to be completely finished within six weeks.

Things seemed to be going well until that gut-wrenching text. Our contractor was moving right along with our punch list—which did not, in fact, include gutting the house. The old plaster walls and trim weren’t perfect, but we were fine with them. However, he’d made the executive decision that the house would be better without them.

International calls were made, along with apologies and new agreements. Eventually we decided to let him finish up with phase one, repair what he had done, and reassess when we returned home (to put it simply).

We also decided to make the most of the situation. By taking out all of the walls and ceilings along with some damaged floors, we had unexpectedly been given a blank slate. So we decided to completely redo the electrical, add insulation, add new closets, and change the floor plan a bit. All of this while on vacation an ocean away.

The moment of truth came early this morning, when, heavily jet-lagged after a long day of travel, we went to check out the progress on the house. The walls have been opened up and the new closets have been framed out. HVAC, electrical, and plumbing are well on their way. Damaged floors have been repaired. The exterior has even been painted. It looks… good. Really good.

We have several weeks to go, and a lot is hanging in the balance, but we’re feeling good about where we stand. Here are some photos of where we are about three weeks in.

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Opening up the hallway.
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Starting to expose the fireplace.
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Opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and added French doors on the back.
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Framed out laundry closet.
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Oliver approves.
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Looking into the dining room from the kitchen. Todd removed all of the plaster on this side of the fireplace.
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Looking into the new pantry.
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Bedrooms with new closets added.
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This room will become a master bath in Phase 2.

 

 

The Barton House: Before Photos

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Some people would walk into a house like this and walk right back out. It’s old. It’s dirty. It needs so much help. But walking into a house like this makes us giddy. We work hard to look past the grime and the years of neglect and see the possibilities. And there are so many of them. We’re so excited to get started on this house!

First, the exterior. It doesn’t look awful, but we’ll be painting it (stay tuned for a post on choosing exterior paint colors), completely replacing the roof, replacing the front door, landscaping, installing a fence, redoing the sidewalk, installing porch railings, replacing the light fixtures, and doing other minor repairs.

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Inside, the layout is very segmented, with every room situated off of a main hallway. We plan to open this up as much as we can, including the walls between the living and dining rooms (above) as well as the hallway. This should brighten things up quite a bit and improve the flow dramatically. The fireplace will be a challenge to work around, but we’re excited about the wood floors and great natural light.

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Of course, the kitchen is a complete gut job (as it would be in any older home). But if we’re able to open up the walls between the kitchen, dining room, and mudroom, we’re going to have a ton of space to work with. We may be able to add a walk-in pantry, an island, and a little breakfast nook if all goes according to plan. As for the overall look, we’re thinking of using classic subway tile again, a nice slate tile floor in a herringbone pattern, quartz or granite counters, open shelving on one wall, and some really great lighting. We want to make this room a real gathering place in the home.

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There are technically four bedrooms upstairs, but one is very small without a closet. We’ll either turn that space into a master bath or a walk-in closet/dressing room, depending on how our budget shakes out.

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This is the current state of the upstairs bath. Unlike the Griffin house, we won’t be keeping the clawfoot in this reno. It’s just too big for the space, which is pretty compact. Instead, we’ll be adding a new tub with a tile surround. The downstairs bath is pretty much too small to photograph, but we’re hoping to do something fun in there, like a patterned floor tile.

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The bedrooms are all a good size, but as with most of these older homes, the closets are tiny. We could either eat into the floor space by adding new closets, or hope buyers will be OK with what we’ve got. We always lean toward the latter option, because we prefer to keep the square footage.

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This house has a great backyard with both shady and sunny spots. We’ll be removing that old balcony and replacing the door with a window. We’ll also add a privacy fence around the whole shebang.

Next steps: We’re getting quotes from contractors and starting to put together our budget and shopping list, with everything from tile and light fixtures to appliances and doorknobs. Luckily, we learned a thing or two from our last renovation, so this stage will be quicker—and probably more fun—than last time.

Want to see what’s inspiring us? Take a peek at our Barton House Pinterest board, which we’ll be updating on the regs.

On to the Next: The Barton House

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After many months of waiting, we can finally share some news we’ve been excitedly sitting on: We have purchased another house to renovate! And we’ve already learned something from this experience: Short sales are no joke. Seriously. Lots of red tape. Lots of back-and-forth. Lots of waiting. But it was worth it, because we got a great deal on this house.

And it’s a good thing we did, because it is going to need a lot of work. Previously used as a halfway house, it’s in serious need of TLC. It needs a brand-new roof, new HVAC, and all-new kitchen and bathrooms. Refinished floors and significant exterior improvements. Not to mention all the little things like paint, light fixtures, and landscaping. The current layout isn’t great, so we’re planning to tear down a lot of walls, too.

A few things we love about this house: The big, shady backyard. The spacious kitchen (we’re planning to put in an island). The original tile fireplace. The beautiful wood floors that just need a little work. The spare room upstairs that will either become a master bath or walk-in closet. The location just off up-and-coming Brookland Park Blvd., spitting distance from Black Hand Coffee and The Luncheonette.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be documenting the process once again from beginning to end. We can’t wait to share the journey of this house with you!

How Much We Made On Our First Flip

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Anyone who’s watched their share of HGTV knows that flipping houses is a risky business that can have a big reward. So how did we do with our first flip? I’ve avoided discussing the financial aspects of this venture for fear of seeming tacky, but I realize it’s one of the details people are most curious about (not to mention the numbers are right there on Zillow). So here it is: the nitty gritty on our first renovation project.

We bought the house in December 2015 for $102,500. At the time, the house was priced on the high side for its condition—livable, but in need of a complete renovation to bring it up to date. Similar houses in the neighborhood were going for under $100K, but most were being snatched up by cash buyers within a day or two of hitting the MLS. So we raised our budget slightly and snagged the Griffin house.

Our then-realtor (whom we have since parted ways with) estimated that we could renovate the house for about $40,000. Renovated houses in the area were selling for about $200,000, so we felt safe with the investment potential—especially given that our contractor assured us he’d be done within six weeks.

Well, six months passed, and it became obvious that our original budget was unrealistic for the quality of work we wanted to do. We gutted the kitchen and two bathrooms, added a new master bath, refinished the floors, updated the electrical and plumbing, added HVAC, did work on the roof, and a bunch of other stuff. Our final tally was around $75,000.

We grew anxious as our costs increased, but at the same time, housing prices in the neighborhood were rising as well, including one house two doors down that sold for over $300,000. We crossed our fingers and hoped the trend would continue, but the market took a bit of a dip just in time for our July completion date—summer doldrums are no joke in the real estate world. Still, things were better than when we started, and we listed the house for $265,000. After a few weeks with no bites, we lowered the price to $259,500, and a few weeks later we sold it for $256,500.

So the final tally is:

Purchase price: $102,500

Renovation costs: $75,000 (ish)

Sales price: $256,500 (- ~$5,000 toward closing costs)

Realtor fees (6 percent of sales price): $15,390

Taxes (approx. 20 percent of profit—still waiting for final numbers) & Fees ($3000ish in interest): $20,000ish

Total earnings: $38,610

We put a lot of hard work and time into this renovation, but it was worth it—we were very happy with the results. We also learned a lot, and I think we can shave down our renovation costs in the future, and maybe be more strategic about when we go to market—and how we work with our contractors. We’re definitely planning to do another renovation project in the near future. In fact, we’re currently under contract with another house in the neighborhood. Stay tuned for all the nitty gritty on our next renovation!