Countdown to Closing

My offer was accepted on rental #4 and now I’m in countdown-to-closing mode.   Because I want to start collecting rent ASAP, there are things that I do while waiting to close that take the pressure off on the backend.  I know some people will think, “What if the closing doesn’t happen?  Then you’ve done all this work for nothing.”  Sure, that’s a risk, but I’ve never had a closing fall through, almost get pushed back, yes, but never fall through.  So, if worst comes to worst, my pre-planning will be pushed back a bit.

Part of that pre-planning starts when I view the property.  I go through each strong potential property and video as much of the house as I can with notes to myself on what needs to be updated or renovated.   For the videos of the houses that I really liked but didn’t buy, I take screenshots of the parts of the houses that I liked for my reference for next time (i.e. a really good kitchen configuration or wall color that I liked).  The ones that I just didn’t like get deleted.

The below video is one that I made on the property that I just bought.  It’s a little lengthy but will give you an idea on what I look for in a property and what I think ought to be changed before I get rent it out.  My realtor is also an investor hence the side talk about smoothing out the ceiling in the living room.  Also, this video really only outlines the things that I need to change so even though it seems as if I’m harshing on the property, this is my second walk-through of the day and I had lots of nice things to say in the first go-around (otherwise I wouldn’t have bought it)!

With the video of my house that I bought, I make a list of what needs to be done and what materials I need to make that happen.  For the repairs that I don’t or can’t tackle, I call my various contractors and put them on the schedule for the earliest day they can work after closing.

In this house, I want my electrician to install recessed lighting in the living room since there are no overhead lights.  He said he can come 2 days after closing.  My handyman is coming the next day to patch holes from the electrician and to install a new kitchen backsplash.  Perfect!

When I decide on which repairs or renovations to do, I always look to get the biggest bang for my buck in the search for universal appeal.  In this house, the kitchen backsplash is an aqua color that clashes with the brown toned granite countertops.  I polled my realtor, the lead inspector, and house inspector and they all said that it’s got to go!  They would never rent the house with such a “feminine” color for the backsplash.  Same goes for the door that they thought was too girly although I really like the door color.  Because those are quick fixes, both will get a neutral facelift.   The backsplash will be either a white or taupe subway tile and the door will be painted red.

Goodbye beautiful blue door!

Staging the house is next.  The last house that I bought already had beautiful staging furniture and when I called the seller a couple months later to talk about who she used for staging, she told me that she did it all herself with stuff she already owns.  Genius!

Seriously, how nice is this staging!

So as soon as the repairs are done on this house, I will shop my own house for staging furniture and hire a couple of my daughter’s classmates who own a truck to haul the furniture to the house for staging.  I’ve already used these guys and they are cheap and efficient.  A real estate photographer is scheduled an hour later to take photos of the staged areas, then the furniture is hauled back to my house right afterward.  I know this sounds cumbersome, and it is, but there is a big difference between a tenant looking at an empty house online and one that is beautifully staged with upscale furniture.  I want to attract upscale tenants so the place has to look the part.  Also, stagers in my area cost about $1,000 to stage a living room and master bedroom.  My way costs about $150 to pay the kids for their muscle and truck and I know that it is staged the way I want it.

What a difference staging and professional photos make! This is another one of my rentals where I didn’t use either. Never again!

Also, the photographer costs about $150 and with that I get photos that I can use forever in my rental listing.  I never change anything inherent about the properties, so even if down the road I need to change the wall color, for example, it will still be a neutral tone and look almost identical to the photos.  Same goes for carpet.

My goal in doing all this pre-planning before I even close is to get the house on the rental market as quickly as possible.  With my last house, I had a tenant within a week of closing and although she was not the tenant who ended up moving in (LONG STORY), if I had not been ready as soon as we closed, the house would’ve sat for much longer.

Also, because mortgage payments don’t start until a month (or more) after you buy the house, getting someone to rent ASAP is like a getting a month of rent for FREE.  So, pre-plan before closing, people!  It’s worth it in time and money.

Knock-off Designer Living Room: Layers

When we moved into our house from the townhouse, I realized that there were a few extra rooms that we were gaining that I didn’t have in the townhouse.  A formal living room was one.  So, I started buying a few pieces here and there and storing it in the townhouse.  There wasn’t a lot of room in the townhouse to begin with so you can imagine I was looking forward to moving ASAP to get the extra furniture in their proper rooms and out of our way (there were a lot of bruised hips and toes for a couple months).  Our formal living room is one of the first rooms I started designing in my head, and buying a few pieces for, even before moving.


I wanted to have an eclectic living room and I really liked the below living room designed by Elaine Griffin published in Better Homes and Gardens:

Living Room Inspiration

Using my inspiration photo I came up with this living room arrangement, which seeing them side by side, I realize that they are very different, but I think the flavor is similar.  I’d like to take down the wallpaper that came with the house and paint the walls either a soft blue or soft green.


I used a lot of layering in this arrangement mirrors, stool, chair, side table.  Everything is layered.  I think that’s important when you have a small room that is essentially just a rectangle with no real architectural features except for the bay window.


The piano occupies the other side of the living room.


Side couch view


Close up of the side of couch


Coffee table objects


Pics of the kids above the piano (I still have to put a photo into the gold frame)


And finally the teal dresser that the website is named after!

     There’s a space next to the piano that I need to fill with a comfy chair, but I haven’t seen one that I like for the right price.  In addition to tearing down the wallpaper and painting, I’d also love to replace the carpet with hardwoods and find a beautiful area rug to add even more color.

     Creating this room was a lot cheaper than the designer room that I based the room off of.  The teal dresser was a free piece of furniture that a friend was going to throw away.  It was sort of an eyesore since it was old (it belonged to her grandfather) and it was dusty, but it was well built so I asked her to have it and a few coats of paint later, it was fit for the living room.

     Most of the knick-knacks were from Target, Pottery Barn or West Elm (when I had a coupon), or Michaels with a coupon (the vases on the teal dresser) so I saved money there.  I got the two light blue chairs with a Groupon for a furniture store in my area and the mirrors were either from Home Goods (the large brownish mirror) or from my childhood (the gold mirror).  The end tables and little bee stool near the mirrors were from Ballard Designs (it was one of their “Bring Home Ballard” deals).

     Curtains were from Pottery Barn (again on sale).  The only truly costly items were the couch (Ethan Allan) because I wanted it to last a long time and I knew it could withstand the stomp of our family since it was in the “formal” living room which is used a whole lot less than the family room.  The piano also cost a boatload but my kids all take piano lessons weekly and Sofia has a “gift for piano” (her instructor’s words, not mine… I don’t know diddly squat about playing piano) so I wanted them to have a nice instrument that they could grow with.  Our first piano I got from Salvation Army for $100 because I didn’t know if the kids would be interested enough to stick with piano but then we upgraded when I saw the motivation kick in.  So, oddly enough, our current piano is actually the most expensive piece of furniture in the house which doesn’t say a lot!  Good luck truckin’ off with that robbers!

     Still working on what color to paint Sofia’s room.  She’s thinking green and purple.  I’m thinking not… but it’s her room.  We’re off to look at paint samples after school today and hopefully it will be painted in the next few days.

Beachy Bathroom on a Budget

In the spirit of making the house presentable without busting our budget, the kids’ bathroom is the first room to get a coin-friendly makeover.  The bathroom was not touched by the previous homeowners in 25 years so it was an outdated ’90s nightmare.  I hated going in there to occasionally clean it so, I made the kids’ clean it so I wouldn’t have to claim its existence.  Here are the befores:

DSC_0017Lowdown: Builder grade cabinet, yellowing sink and countertop, outdated hardware, cracked toilet (but it didn’t leak), beige stained walls, beige tub, beige tile, black grout, outdated fixtures, huge old mirror, dark shower curtain (I took it down so it’s not visible in pic), the list of atrocities goes on and on…

And here are the afters:


Better, right?


Another one




The vanity

It turned out so much nicer than I thought it would on a budget.  Initially, I wanted to gut the entire thing, but because I wanted to have some money for other rooms, here’s what I did instead:

Painted the walls Palladian Blue by BM            $25

Painted the vanity Stratton Blue by BM         $15

Painted the ceiling white by Behr                        Leftover so FREE

Changed the hardware on the vanity             $12

Scrubbed the crap out of the grout                  FREE

Sealed the grout using grout sealer                  $5

Put up artwork (Target and Home Goods)    $50

Shower curtain                                                               $50

Towel Hooks (Target)                                                  $23

New bath mat (Target)                                               $20

Hamper (Bed, Bath, and Beyond)                        $24

New soap dispenser                                                     $10

New outlet and light switch                                       $20

Grand Total                                                        $254

Now for the deats:  I wanted a beach theme for the bathroom but not the “hit you over the head” kind of theme; I wanted subtlety.  I also wanted the bathroom to be coral and blue/green with hints of tan but I wasn’t sure which colors would be the leads and which would play supporting roles.  Then I saw these ombre, coral curtain panels at Target and I had my color scheme: walls-blue/green; shower curtain- coral; accessories- tan.  So beachy, right?

The window curtains went from this:


to this:


with a little sewing.  I just bought two curtain panels and sewed them together the same width as the old shower curtain then I shortened the curtain again using the old shower curtain as a template and presto!: a new ombre shower curtain.  Because it’s not made from typical shower curtain material, I Scotchgarded the crap out of it so that it’s more washable.  I’m also hoping that the steam from the kids’ shower will pull out the wrinkles in the curtain, because I wasn’t about to iron it!

     I painted the walls Palladian Blue because that to me is a perfect blue/green bathroom color and because my sister recommended it and she’s got a great eye for wall color.  Thanks Nancy :).  I also painted the vanity a couple shades darker than the walls because initially I painted it white but it clashed with the countertop which is staying (for now).  The vanity is Stratton Blue and it looks great against the wall color.  I also put on new handles that I got at Lowe’s.  It really classed up the vanity.  The ceiling also went from beige to bright white.  It’s amazing how much more open and bigger a space looks with a fresh coat of bright white on the ceiling.


Now the not-so-fun part:  I spent three hours scrubbing the dingy grout with bleach gel from Clorox and by the time I was done, I ruined a pair of pants, and couldn’t smell anything but bleach for hours… but, the grout went from this:


to this:


It was a huge difference!  After all that scrubbing, I didn’t want the grout to turn grimy again in a few weeks, so I applied grout sealer.  Hopefully, the grout will stay white…

     Back to the fun part: Artwork and accessories.  I got the coral prints from Home Goods and was so happy that they were coral and tan, my accent colors (that was just luck as is most finds at Home Goods!).  The towel hooks under the artwork is from Target.  There was a traditional towel bar initially hanging, but it could only fit two towels.  The new towel hook can fit 5 towels which is so much better since three kids are sharing this bathroom.   DSC_0013

On the other side of the bathroom, I hung some shell artwork from Target which also had tan in it (the burlap mat) so it tied in perfectly.


A tan bathroom mat from Target rounded out the accessories.  BTW, the mat was so soft and plush that my son took a nap on it in the bathroom.  Should have snapped a pic of that one… darn.

     Overall, I’m so happy with how the bathroom turned out especially for the money I spent.  I think it’s definitely presentable now and phase 2 will be a while off yet but here are the to-be done additions:

  • New vanity (I LOVE how this one turned out, but there’s still not enough storage for three kids, so it eventually has to go…)
  • New floor (Even with the shiny, white grout, the floor is still outdated so I’d love to install marble tiles eventually)
  • New tub (white please!)
  • New tile in shower (marble subway tile would be perfect)
  • New toilet (even though ours is cracked, it doesn’t leak so it’s staying for now)
  • Scaled down mirror
  • Shelves over the toilet for more storage

That list is easily another $1K which is why it’s a list and not reality!  On to making the next room presentable!!!


Let There be Light!

The chandelier in the foyer is gone and in it’s place is some serious bling!  But, as usual, there were some mis-steps on my part before arriving to the final light fixture.  Here was what was originally in the foyer:


It’s the Belora Chandelier from Pottery Barn and I loved it when I got it but I’m an idiot and didn’t take into account that our ceilings are low, so it ended up hitting anyone in the head who was over 5’9″.  Luckily, my family consists of short people, but when “normal” people came over, we always had to warn them to watch their head.  And in the case of the kids’ piano teacher who comes once a week and who is tall, he hit his head on the thing just about every week even with the warning!

It was also too wide and when we opened the front door, the door banged into the light.  About half the time, the really heavy crystal balls would fall off when that happened and either land on the ground (“whew”) or land on someone’s head (“sorry….”).  What a way to welcome guests into your home, right!  “DUCK and try not to break our chandelier!”


See the heavy, concussion-causing, crystal balls?!

So, I knew that I needed something that was either flush against the ceiling since the ceilings are low, or maybe semi-flush if it didn’t hang down too low.  I went to Lamps Plus online and found a light that I thought might’ve worked, but as my husband ALWAYS points out, I’m really good at getting things right the second time around.  So here’s what didn’t work:


It was super easy to install but I didn’t like it because it didn’t go with the “theme” of the foyer… It was too modern whereas, the foyer, and really the whole house except for my husband’s traditional office, is eclectic.  It was a nice fixture and I liked it but I just didn’t like it in MY house.

I went back to Lamps Plus because their selection is huge , their prices are reasonable, and I knew I’d find something else when I came across this light for about $300:

Chandelier in foyer


It was love at first sight!  It’s a little fancy because of the crystals but it’s also eclectic because of the “cage” around the crystals.  After a quick 20 minute installation, viola!



See how well it goes with the dentil detail in the crown molding?   And, I love how I can see the light from the two mirrors in the living room.  It also puts out major wattage since the bulbs that came with it are halogen so when it’s turned on, the entire foyer is bright, bright, bright!



This is a picture of it looking up which I did a lot the first night I installed it because it was mesmerizing!  Also, when the light’s on, it makes a pattern on the ceiling that is an extra little plus:



Now everyone’s happy, my piano teacher with the soon-to-be lump free head, the kids because they love the pattern the light makes, my husband because of the price, and me because it really is a beautiful light!




Shiny, Happy Mirror

I love to re-purpose, especially if that re-purposing involves spray paint so when we replaced the mirror above our mantel with artwork and the mirror was homeless (poor mirror :() I busted out my spray paint and got busy.  The last we saw of the mirror, it was gold and shiny above the mantle:


But then it got the boot and was replaced with a canvas print that just looked a lot better in the space.


I loved the shape of the mirror but not so much the color so I grabbed some paint from Home Depot and got to sprayin’ that bad boy:


First I covered the mirror with scrap paper that I just shoved between the mirror and the frame.


It actually worked out really well when I sprayed because hardly any paint landed on the mirror and what little bit did, I just scraped off with a razor blade.

Then I spray painted about 10 light coats of Rustoleum Satin Paint in Summer Squash and viola, the finished product:


It makes me happy to see that mirror right when I walk into our house :).  You can see where our front door is from the reflection in the mirror, it really is right when you walk in.  Here’s another pic:


The wall color is Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore (a shade lighter than Revere Pewter) and love how the yellow and gray look together.  I scored the basket on clearance from Target.  I love Target…

The little table is from Ballard Designs and was free because I bought one for the office that was a little off kilter when I put it together (the screw holes wouldn’t line up correctly), so Ballard, being the great company they are, sent me another one for free and told me I could keep the original one since it was almost all put together.  I fixed the original one by breaking out the drill and making the holes bigger then superglueing the screws in the holes- something I didn’t want to do if Ballard wanted me to return the original!

With the addition of the funky gold and coral chair and now the mirror, the foyer is coming along nicely!  Next on the list is replacing our too-low hanging chandelier that always hits people in the head when they walk into our house…  Welcome to our home!  Sorry about the concussion!  More on that later.