Thursday, November 6, 2008

Back to Home Improvement... Petworth Edition

Ignoring the nagging doubts that festered in my gut like an undercooked McRib sandwich, I threw down half of my remaining cash for a down payment and bought another house. That's right, folks, while the stock market plunged to a place that had been forgotten seen since the previous century, and most people were buying gold and stuffing cash in their mattresses, I took out a second mortgage. The monthly mortgage payments on my two houses now equal 80% of my take-home income. Awesome.

But life is not without risks, eh? And the sucky housing market and economy are exactly the reason I decided to take this plunge. The house, a foreclosure, was a goddamn steal. It will be no trouble covering the mortgage with rent. At worst I should break even (which is basically making bank, since you have someone else paying the morgage on your house while it appreciates). At best I should clear a few hundred a month.

I put an ad on Craig's List yesterday to fill up the 3rd room in this house. Myself and a friend will be occupying the other two. I got two responses in the hour after I posted the ad. I got about 6 more last night. I think this will be a piece of cake to rent the room. The location is pretty good - 12 minute walk (about 6 blocks) to the Georgia Avenue/Petworth metro, residential street, and there's a little commercial strip a block away for picking up 40s.

Like any house I would buy it needs a little work, though this one is in WAY better shape than my current residence. It's perfectly livable as-is, though I will be taking care of some minor issues. Pictures below.

The Great Experiment

Because I am a super-green enviro-wizard, I have decided that house #2 or "PetProject" will be the subject of a great experiment in green renovating (and ultimate cheapness). My goal is to do all the work on this place -- and furnish it -- for less than $5,000 and using recycled fixtures, products, and building materials whenever possible. Since I'll be doing most of the work myself, that cost is largely materials, and if I need a new roof, the game is off. And I don't intend to do a crappy job - everything I put into this house must be of decent quality and in relatively good condition.

There are three primary components to this plan which, together, will make it possible:

  • Freecycle DC
  • Craig's List
  • The Community Forklift and The Loading Dock

The first is an awesome mailing list where people just give stuff away. A lot of the stuff that comes across the list is lame-- I mean, does anyone REALLY want a used toothbrush? But there are plenty of finds to be had every day, like appliances, furniture, anything. The Community Forklift and The Loading Dock (in Hyattsville and Baltimore, respectively) are recycled building supply warehouses. People doing renovations can donate what they tear out and get a tax writeoff, and then people like me can go and buy the used stuff for pennies on the dollar. Great place for doors, windows, cabinets, tiles, you name it.

In just one week's time, I have already acquired the following:
  • Washer and dryer - $140
  • Toilet - approx. 1 year old - free. This will go into a new 1st floor powder room.
  • Vintage sink with new, quality fixture - replace existing ugly bathroom sink with broken fixture - $60 from The Loading Dock
  • Small sink - free - for powder room
  • Eight bar stools - free
  • Brass chandelier, 5-light, excellent condition - free
Sure - it requires a little running around. But almost all of the free stuff was within a 10 minute's drive of either work or home and required far less time than a trip to Home Depot.

I'm going to set up a page with a running list of everything I've bought or acquired and the cost for this house to see how it goes.

No, I don't plan to keep the fridge in the dining room.

The kitchen definitely needs a little TLC. And a dishwasher.

Bathroom? Check. Interesting note... there is no shower upstairs!! Apparently, everyone showered in the basement for the last 92 years. That is high on the list.


HomeImprovementNinja said...

THere's an old fashioned shower faucet that I've seen where the pipe that goes from the downspout to the shower is outside the wall. You could probably switch that out for one of those without tearing up the wall and still keep the original vintage look.

Carrie M said...

it looks like a great space though. good luck and keep us posted on the finds.

Jamie said...

ninja - I've never had a clawfoot before but I think I know what you're talking about. Sounds like another trip to the community forklift... or some creative plumbing.

carrie - It's a really cool house. I fall in love old houses that's never really been renovated, love the original details. Since I posted - made a deal for a dishwasher & fridge. I already broke my rule already about going cheap, about $1000 for the both, but they are SWEET and barely used. Probably over 3K new. I figure having high end appliances will pay back in more rent in the long run :-) And I could theoretically still stay under 3k... there's not too much else expensive that I need.

lacochran said...

You're moving the fridge to the bedroom? Awesome!

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in hearing about the foreclosure property you obtained. how was the process of searching for it and obtaining it.

I'm looking forward to you posting the page of keeping track of the expenses, etc.

Renee said...

This is funny. My husband and I looked at this very same house in August. At that point it was going for about $280k. I remember seeing the significant reduction about a month ago.
The back yard at that place is awesome. We decided against it because we thought it would be tough to rent out the basement (no front entrance and very low ceilings). We were planning to live upstairs.
We found another house closer to the metro that has a more rentable basement.
We will also be doing most of the work ourselves.
Want to do a work swap? We can provide some manual labor in exchange for your manual labor at our house.

Jamie said...

Mike: I got the property through the usual process. I had been looking around for cheap houses and found it on a real estate web site I like. Since it was bank-owned, the negotiations were not much different than working with an individual owner. My realtor simply presented offers to the bank instead of a listing agent.

Renee: Any time!! I'm not planning any big projects until next year., but I've got plenty of lawn cleanup, patching, and tiling (the carpet in the basement and sunrooms is awful...) I'll be doing in the next couple months.

I've already dealt with a few issues (put in a new back door in the basement, and the kitchen updates are underway) and I have two tenants for upstairs. I am not planning to rent the basement as a separate unit. I will be living there (in one of the three rooms) for probably at least the first year while I get it up to snuff. Definitely drop me an email or drop by (since you know where I live), we're neighbors!