Meet our #3!

Back in October, we bought our 3rd rental property.  My husband is a bit gun shy when it comes to buying rentals which is why we didn’t buy another right away after our 2nd rental that we bought over 3 years ago.   But, after I showed him the numbers (read: we’d be making lots of $$ now and in retirement), he was a convert.

Meet our #3!

Buying and managing our growing rental portfolio is my job because 1. I LOVE doing it, and 2. my husband doesn’t 🙂 .

So last Fall I started looking at different areas in which to buy and honed in on my “target” area in Baltimore about a half hour from where we live.  I chose this area because the price of houses relative to rent is just too good to pass up.  Long story short, I found a realtor who also invests in rentals, looked at a bunch of units, and put offers on some that were rejected until one was accepted.

Because the house is not right in my hometown, I wanted something that was turnkey so that I didn’t have to be there every day to either monitor contractors or do the work myself.  The one I chose has everything already done and I didn’t have to lift a finger.  I just had to find a tenant and start collecting rent.

I know that some people do creative financing to be able to afford buying rentals (see BRRRR method), but we like to do it the old fashioned way by putting 25% down and financing the rest with a mortgage company.  Well, maybe the old fashioned way is buying it all in cash but, yeah, we’re not that rich.  After all expenses are paid every month, we clear about $750 on this property.

This week I put an offer on rental #4, but it was rejected.  DARN!   That’s fine because I simply put another offer on the second house that I liked.  Even though I liked the first one better, I know I will get the same amount of rent for the second one.  Even though I love turnkey for the simplicity, this one needs a little bit of work (new backsplash in the kitchen and possibly new paint throughout since the walls are a light purple gray color) and I’m excited to put my touch on it ever so slightly.  Wish me luck!

And before ending this post, here are a few more pics of #3:


New Year’s Resolutions

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back into blogging because I really like it.  I just have to make time for it!  One way that I’m doing that is by prioritizing what’s important and will push me forward in life or make me happy.   What doesn’t will go by the wayside.

Every December I look for a paper planner that will help me get my sh*t together and this year I might have found THE ONE!  I’ve been using it for a about a week and love it.  It does take some time to set up because you have to decide what your long range goals are then break them down into monthly and weekly goals.  I tried using an electronic calendar but they don’t give you that big picture look on where you’re going; they are more of just a calendar.  I want to be able to write down my goals and break them down into manageable pieces then tackle those pieces.  This planner does that for me.

This planner also suggests different areas of your life that you may want to make goals toward and gives you examples.  I do the finances in my house and I love managing our money so every year, all my goals revolved around building our net worth with a couple other “life” areas thrown in. This year, I’ve made family, social, and personal development goals as weighty as my financial goals because those areas as just as important, if not more so.

So, in the spirit of sharing, in the hopes that my examples can motivate others and to hold me more accountable, here are a few of my resolutions for 2018:

  1.  Buy 2 more rentals.  This obviously is a financial goal but it also serves as personal development for me because I learn so much every time I buy another rental.  We currently have three rentals and I just put an offer on rental #4 so dang if my goal setting is not working!  🙂  I really want to buy one when no one else is looking because it’s like buying property on SALE (and who doesn’t love a sale!).  Typical buyers are not looking to spend a bunch of money right after the holidays and don’t want to go out looking when it’s 10 degrees outside (like it miserably is here).  I offered about $10K less than I normally would in Spring and Summer.   Fingers crossed that I get it!  BUT… if I don’t, there are a bunch more in the wings.
  2. Plan 2 outings per month for the family.  My kids are getting older (they’re 13, 15, and 17) and very soon they will be at college and will want nothing to do with us.  So, I want to spend as much FUN time with them as possible.  Typically our weekends revolve around cleaning the house (fun!  NOT.) and soccer games with an occasional play, symphony performance, or party thrown in.  We live very close to Washington DC and I can’t tell you the pitiful number of times we’ve taken advantage of sightseeing in our nation’s capital.  So, this year, there will be more trips to DC and more outings in general.  I want my kids to be sick of doing too many fun things with me!
  3.  Volunteer once a week at a local school.   When my husband and I were both in law school, we scraped by and lived in an area where the schools were good but not great.  Just before our oldest was to go to middle school we moved.  We wanted more room and could finally afford it.  However, we still have fond memories of the elementary school that our kids left and for the past few years, we’ve donated money to the PTA and to the school lunch fund.  While my kids were at the school, I was the PTA president for while and volunteered in the classroom a lot and I loved it!  I felt like I was making a difference, however minor, and really liked interacting with the kids.  So, I want to do it again at that same school.  The little kids are the cutest and that’s where I want to spend my time so every week I’m volunteering to tutor reading with the same kindergarten teacher that one of my sons had.  I start this week and can’t wait!
  4. Move into a McMansion.  Yes, that is what I wrote in my planner.  Dream big, right?  I have never loved the house that we live in.  I love the memories of course but not the physical house.  It’s a colonial and very segmented.  The whole “open concept” floor plan was but a glint in someone’s eye when our 1986 beauty was built.  We’ve talked about hiring a contractor to make in more open but the cost and hassle of that seems far bigger than just moving into another house.  We don’t necessarily want a bigger house (not that we live in a McMansion now, because we don’t), but I want a more open feel.  And maybe a pool.  And maybe a hot tub.  🙂

Okay, so that’s 4 of my 10 resolutions.  They will get done little by little.  Hopefully one of the two rentals properties that I want to buy will be done this week then that goal will be 50% completed!  What are your New Year’s resolutions?  Please share!

Rental Bathroom Overhaul

Yesterday I wrote about how I renovated the basement in our latest property and the bathroom reno was definitely the most labor intensive.  Because I had so much painting to do, I let my contractors do the all the work, but I did tear out everything for them before they started to save some money.  So I tore out the sink, vanity, toilet (ewww…), and shower walls.  It was fairly easy to do, it just took a while.  I had renovated a bathroom down to its studs before so I had experience this time around.

As a reminder, this is what it looked like post purchase:

Old Bathroom

Spectaaaaaaaacular right?!  What you don’t see is the vinyl floor coming up on the other side of the toilet where the years of urine overshot had made the glue unstick.  Gross.

So, to tear out the bathroom, I just worked my way from the front of the bathroom to the back.  Disconnecting the faucet was first, then I ripped out the vanity.  The mirror and light fixture came next.  Then the nasty toilet was on the chopping block.  All this took me a half day to do mostly because the vanity did not want to come out easily.

Basement Bathroom Torn Out

Removing the shower walls took the longest and was the most dangerous.  Imagine shards of ceramic slivers flying toward your body.  Goggles, long pants, and a long sleeve shirt were a must.  A crowbar and hammer made easy-ish work of this but knocking that hammer against the crowbar was LOUD, so I suggest ear plugs.

Basement Shower Torn Out WideAfter the walls came down, I pulled up the shower pan.

Basement Shower Torn Out

The last thing to do was the floor which the contractors did because it was vinyl and they used a blow torch to melt off the glue to pull up the floor.  I don’t own a blowtorch and honestly, after wrestling with the shower all the day before, I was happy to do nice, easy painting in another room.

So, after all my frustrations on the world were unleashed in that bathroom, I went shoooooooping!  Seriously, picking out new tile, paint, faucets, etc. is the best part.

I initially went to a specialty tile store since they were having a “huge” 20% off Memorial Day sale and spent about $1,200 on tile.  After all that time picking out the tile with the bonehead sales guy (I say bonehead because he tried to steer me to all the expensive, hard to care for stuff even though I told him it was for a rental), I just said, “Yeah, sure $1,200 sounds totally reasonable.”  I then went to Lowe’s and worked with a guy in the tile department who said, “A rental?  You definitely don’t want to spend a lot.  I know just what you need!”  He totally got me (reno soul mates) and I had all the tile I needed for $250!  Of course, I canceled the first outrageous tile order.  Big box stores really are the best for this kind of stuff…

After buying a toilet, vanity, faucet, and fixtures and having my contractors install it all, I had this:

New Whole Bathroom

I used Repose Gray by Valspar on the walls and that tied in beautifully with the tile on the floor and the accent tile in the shower.  I used white subway tile with a medium gray grout to modernize the space.  Because there’s not a lot of storage space, I installed a shelf above the toilet and also a medicine cabinet with a mirror above the sink.

Basement Bathroom Front

All said, because I did all of the demo, the bathroom total came out to be about $3,000 with labor.  It was more than I wanted to spend, but for the rent I was asking, I needed the bathroom to look swank and it will pay for itself in less than 4 months so for me, that’s a win.

After seeing the contractors put the bathroom all together from beginning to end, I think that next time, I’m tackling the entire project myself… except for the plumbing in the shower… that still scares me because of the whole leaking-behind-the-wall thing.  I’d try all the rest though.  Me and my crowbar and new tile saw that I still need to purchase… ahhhh, new project, new tools!


We Got Another Rental!

I’ve been MIA lately which means that I’ve been super busy with life and more specifically, with buying and rehabbing a rental property.  We already have one that we lived in before moving to our current home.

Townhouse FrontIt was our starter home and has so many memories for us since we lived there for almost 12 years through the births of all our babies, first steps, first words (I’m getting teary!).  Tuscan was 6 when we moved away and we drove by the other day to check on the place and he said that he LOVED living there and has so many good memories of playing manhunt, trick or treating, running around with his friends, and just being a little baby doll (my words, not his!).   I’m so glad we kept it!  It brings in fairly good cash flow per month and we refinanced a few years ago with a 15 year mortgage since we knew we’d still get some cash flow with a 15 year so in about 10 years, this puppy will be paid off!  So, that’s our first rental.

With this second rental that we just bought in March, the plan was to rent out the basement and to have our “home office” in the top two levels.  I was looking for something that was close to our current law office because we plan on keeping a professional office there to meet clients since we don’t want them in the “working office” and we didn’t want to travel a lot between offices.  Further, I wanted a fixer upper- that was a must because I wanted an undervalued property and you can’t find those with properties that are in tip top condition.

I posted on (a real estate website that I highly recommend) on how I purchased the place and the podcast host, Joe Fairless, of The Best Real Estate Advice Ever read the posts and asked if he could interview me for his show, so if you want to find out the nitty gritty on how I found, negotiated, and purchased the property, you can find that here.  *I’m a star! (not really)*

Enough shameless publicity…  To make the numbers work for this property I had to fix up and rent out the basement so getting that area ready was top on the list.  There’s a good sized bedroom, a laundry room, a full sized bathroom, and a living room with a fireplace that goes out into the fenced backyard so there’s a lot of room in the apartment.

The first step was curb appeal since the front yard was a weedy mess and I didn’t want people scared off before stepping foot inside.  So I spent a couple days digging, planting, sweating, and getting really dirty.  I loved it though!

This is what the left side of the yard USED to look like:
Old Front Yard Left

And now it looks like this!

New Front Yard LeftThis is what the right side of the yard USED to look like:

Old Front Yard Right

And now it looks like this:

New Right Side of Yard

So with the curb appeal taken care of, it was time to move inside.  The biggest eyesore in the basement was definitely the bathroom, so that had to be practically gutted.


Old Bathroom

And, it now looks like this:

New Whole Bathroom

Much more modern and clean looking!

New ShowerThere’s so much that went into the overhaul, that I’ll leave the details for another post.  In short, it went from ugly to swank for not a lot of cash.

I also painted the entire basement to include the fireplace (yea, it looks so much better!) and the ceilings (yuck!).

Basement living room before:

Old Basement Living Area

And after:

New Basement Whole Room

New FireplaceAnd last but not least, basement bedroom before:
Old Basement BedroomIt’s a terrible picture I know, but here’s what it now looks like with lighter paint:

New Basement BedroomAs I was remodeling, I showed it to a couple people and the second person took it even though the bathroom was completely ripped out and such a mess!  I had all the finishes laid out though so that he could imagine what it would look like.  The only hard part was that he needed to move in a week and a half so I had to work sometimes until midnight to get it ready.  Honestly, it felt like one of those house flipping shows where I’m under the gun, working hard, WILL IT BE READY IN TIME!!!  It was… because I’m awesome and had no other choice. 🙂

So the renter’s moved in and now I’ve moved on to fixing up the upstairs. More on that to come!

I LOVED the experience of buying this house, fixing it up, and being a landlord so my goal is to buy another this year in September and to keep buying a couple a year for the foreseeable future (if my husband doesn’t divorce me over it…).  I’ve been reading a lot on the subject as well as listening to podcasts and just overall researching how and where to buy real estate and I’m excited to buy the next one!

Quick Breakfast Room Update

I wasn’t planning on replacing the chairs anytime soon in the breakfast area but when I saw these at Home Goods, I had to have them!

Back Side

The old chairs were more or less the same color as the breakfast table and that made for a boring breakfast area since there was no color anywhere in the space.


The old chairs were not very comfy and also we had five of them that fit awkwardly around the table.

These new chairs (which just happen to be in one of my very favorite colors!) give the area a punch of color.  I love the modern lines and how well it relates to the light fixture.  And they may not seem like it, but they are super comfortable.  They have a groove for your butt that makes them heaven to sit in!  I also like the juxtaposition of our Craigslist barn wood table and the chairs.

Front Side


What I told myself to get over the guilt of purchasing chairs when we already had perfectly good ones was that the old chairs dinged the window molding (which they did) and also the ledge on the half wall behind the chairs (which they did).  Because the new dining chair profiles are so low and because they are upholstered, there will be no more dinging.  I just have to paint the old dings which I will get around to…

Whole TableI bought five of these chairs but only put four around the table since adding the fifth would be too tight.  The fifth one will be switched in and out as we need it.

We are buying another property soon and the old chairs will go in the new house so they won’t just be relegated to the basement to die a dusty death.   We’re actively looking and it’s so exciting!  At least I think so.  It will be our second investment property.  More on #2 as we find something!

Changed my Mind! Closet Rehab

In my last post, I thought it would be a good idea to remove our closet that blocks the flow of one of our main thoroughfares.  However, after thinking about the fact that the flooring might look choppy since we’d have new flooring right next to the old, we decided to keep the closet for now.  We’ll remove it when we renovate the entire kitchen since we plan on expanding the kitchen into the space where the closet currently resides.

Because the kitchen renovation is a ways away, I thought I’d at least try to make the closet more functional for now.  The closet had one high shelf with a coat rack.  We have a coat closet at the front of the house already so another one didn’t really make sense especially since we needed more practical storage.  Also, the shelf was so high that for us shorties (that would include my entire family), we’d have to get the step stool to reach the shelf or risk things falling on our heads.  The closet also had the last vestiges of the ugly mustard color that poisoned the entire first floor when we moved in.

Here’s the nasty flashback:Full Living RoomTry not to cringe at all the ugliness!

I have a lot of wood in my shed left over from the treehouse we built a couple years ago, so the only thing I needed to buy for the shelves was caulk and a few smooth trim pieces for the front of the shelves.

Here’s the before:

Old Closet


And the after:

Finished Dresser

To make the shelves, I found this video particularly useful.

I’ll just touch on the basics since the video does a good job of explaining how to install the shelves.

1.  First I painted the closet the same blue color as I used in the kids’ bathroom (Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore).

2.  Measure and cut your ledgers.  The ledgers are what hold up the shelves and should be the same length from the back to the front of the closet as your shelves.


That’s me measuring.  🙂  I try to put any pic I can of me in these posts since I rarely have any!

LedgersThese are the ledgers.  I marked the studs first to make sure I drilled into them.  I also made sure to use a level so that the ledgers wouldn’t be all wonky.  I sunk the screws below the surface of the wood so that I could dab wood putty on the holes later and paint over them.  I also put one coat of paint on the ledgers before they were installed so I wouldn’t have to paint as much when they were on the wall.  Also, don’t worry about any gaps in the corners because they will be covered with caulk.

3.  Cut the plywood to fit on the ledgers using a circular or table saw (I used a circular).  I made sure that the plywood was as long as the ledgers so that I could nail trim pieces along the entire front of the shelves.  I cut the shelves a little shorter than the width of the closet so that they could easily slide in but still sit comfortably on the ledgers (the video explains this pretty well).

4.  I cut trim pieces for the front of the shelves to make the finished product more polished and nailed them in place.  I also caulked all the ledgers and plywood pieces to the wall to make them look more “built in.”

Ledger Caulk

caulk v. no caulk

5.  Get some baskets and organize because you’re done!

Top ClosetAll baskets are from Tar-jay.  All our dog paraphernalia, reusable grocery bags, and cleaning supplies are now neatly corralled.

This was a fairly easy project that was definitely budget friendly since I had most of the materials already.  Now, things are at a good height and instead of just one high shelf, we have three shelves for more of our crapola.

Next on the list is tackling the master bedroom.  Painting is first!  I LOVE painting!  Not really.

Door Knob Switch-a-roo

We are slowly purging all things ’80s in our house and the interior door knobs have died a Milli Vanilli death.  It may not seem like a big change to update door knobs, but it really is- especially when the ones you originally had were outdated and in some cases, broken.  These are the old ones:

Old Knobs

And now for the new ones:

New KnobThe knobs are Weslock – Elegance Collection, Impresa knobs

Much better, right?

I liked the fact that these have a backplate because of the way they look (fanciness) and also because they cover any “mistakes” in taking out the old knobs.  All nicks, scratches, and scrapes in yanking out the old knobs are covered by the back plate.

Installation was easy and it took about 10 minutes per knob.  The only tool that I needed to buy was a one inch hole drill bit  to enlarge the hole that the latch slid into.  The other tools I needed was a Philips screwdriver,  a flathead screwdriver, and a drill.

The steps were simple:

1.  Take out the old latch and knob by unscrewing the latch and pulling it out and unscrewing the knob and pulling both sides of the knob out.

Taking Off Latch


Taking off knob1

Taking Off Knob

2.  Remove the old strike plate by unscrewing.

Unscrewing Latch

3.  Enlarge the hole where the latch slides into (if needed) with a one inch hole drill bit.

Hole Bit

Drilling Hole

4.  Slide the new latch into the hole but don’t screw in yet.  Remember that the curved part of the latch faces the strike plate.

Putting Plates Together

5.  With my knobs, I had to take off the interior knob to access the screws on that side but you may not have to.

Taking Knob Off

6.  Insert exterior knob first (normally the one without the screw holes on the backplate or knob base).  If it’s a bathroom/bedroom type knob, it will have a lock on it and obviously the lock goes on the inside of the room. Closet/hallway knobs do not have a lock.  Stationary knobs are ones that don’t turn and that can be used on pantry doors, linen closets, etc.

Putting Plates Together

7.  Align the parts of the interior and exterior knob with the latch and screw together.  Make sure that the backplates are straight before screwing.

Back Plate

8.  Screw in the latch.


9.  Install the new strike plate.  You might have to notch out a bit of wood if the hole is uneven or not deep enough.

Notching Hole

Latch1Note: Some knobs come with multiple strike plates and you just have to match up the old one with one of the new ones.

Different Latches10.  Test the knob to make sure that the latch fully lodges into the strike plate hole when you close the door.  If not, then you need to adjust the strike plate either forward or back to catch the latch.

New Knob

And that’s it.  Easy peasy.  I had the kids each do one knob installation from beginning to end to teach them some basic DIY.  I try to have them do at least one piece of every project I do because I don’t want them to be DIY-helpless as adults.  Anyway, if they can install doorknobs, anyone can.

My next project won’t be so easy…  I plan on removing a closet near the garage door.  Another not so endearing trait of our 80s house is that there is no open floor plan.  We have boxed off, distinct rooms so removing the closet is a first step to making the flow a little better and opening things up a bit.  I have an electrician coming on Monday so I need to at least remove the drywall from the closet before he/she gets here.  More on that soon!