Monday, August 8, 2011

Curb Appeal

One good thing about this house is that it's a pretty blank slate. There haven't been any real updates in a few decades but everything is in good shape and fairly neutral. This should make it really easy for us to fix things up.

The front and back yard are no exception. There used to be a huge tree in the front yard that still shows up when you look at the house on Google maps. It must have been cut down earlier this year and now there's just a big stump. The backyard has one little tree. The grass is in pretty good shape. That's it. No bushes, no flowers. Nothing.

And to that I say: AWESOME.

Even though it would be nice to have some mature plants in place, this also means we get to pick what we want. Some of you may not know but I absolutely HATE roses. Rose bushes are like, the most popular plant for people to have in their yard and I am so grateful I don't have to deal with them. I hate the thorns, I hate the way they look, and I would have hated knowing I had to pull out a bunch of them.

Anyway. Here is what the house looks like now:

Pretty sad looking, huh? This is my artistic rending of what it could look like in the future:

Photoshop is not one of my best skill. What I was trying to illustrate was the following changes:

  • Repainting the lower brick that is currently white. We were thinking a grey would look nice.
  • Repainting all of the trim that is currently forest green, probably in the same color as the brick.
  • Painting the front door and mailbox bright red. I've always wanted a bright red door!
  • Building brick flower boxes along the front of the house. We talked about doing flowers or shrubs but aren't sure. I personally like the idea of shrubs because they won't die in the Fall and Winter. We could always do both!
Here is what the backyard currently looks like:

Not too bad. The backyard is actually L-shaped because the garage cuts into it. This is the bigger portion. Here's what it could look like after some work:

Photoshop skills! What is supposed to be illustrated here is:
  • Berry bushes along the garage. We'll have to see where the sun hits it to see if we can plant anything there. 
  • Garden boxes towards the back fence. 
  • Flowers and bushes along the perimeter. I'm partial to hydrangeas!
Here's the only existing tree on the property:

If we move into this house I'll probably walk around the neighborhood and take pictures of other people's front yard to get more inspiration and make our yard look similar to what's going on around it. Unless there are roses bushes, of course.

The Inspection

The inspection and sewer scope for the house we put an offer on was last Tuesday. There ended up being a few bigger things that need to be addressed before we're comfortable purchasing the property. We have until this Friday to make a decision without losing any money (besides the cost of inspection).

Crawl Space:

The crawl space under the house is not covered with a plastic vapor barrier. This has caused humidity to rise up into the house, specifically the attic where there are no windows or any way for the moisture to escape. This means one thing: mold! Gross. Luckily, it's not the evil black mold and can be treated pretty easily.


So, I'm looking at the actual inspection report and can't find this in there for some reason, so excuse my lack of proper terms here. There was something going on with the furnace where it was spitting back air into the crawl space and, subsequently, into the house. Our agent had someone look at it and it's apparently a really cheap fix, so this dropped down in OMGWTFBBQ!!! status. The entire HVAC system does need to be cleaned especially with Tracey's allergies.


The sewer line on the property had some roots coming through. Sewer dude said it could be from the tree that was chopped down in the front yard so they might be dead but he can't say for sure. They're not too big and he said we could just have the lines cleared yearly and they should be good for 5+ years. There was a hole in one pipe but it was past the property line. City's problem!


While the inspector was on the roof, he noticed that the front of it was replaced recently but the back half was still old. I wish I knew how to pull pictures out of a PDF document because it's pretty crazy looking. Our realtor has a roofer going out today to inspect it and do a bid on it and the seller had roofers come out last week. The roofers that have been out there made some recommendations and projected that, with those repairs, the roof would be good for another 10 years. This included replacing some shingles, sealing the chimney/edges of roof (more on that in a bit), cleaning the gutters, and installing 8 vents into the attic to help with air circulation and mold. Their bid was around $800 which is a lot cheaper than replacing an entire roof!

Those were the biggest things we were concerned about. The rest of the list was pretty manageable-- some ungrounded outlets, a window that wouldn't open, a foundation crack that was from the house settling. Luckily we have some pretty handy relatives who can help us with most of the list and that will help us save a lot of money.

So, we are trying to get the seller to help. I don't think I ever updated about what happened when we went under contract but we made a final offer that was $11,000 less than what the seller wanted with all of our closing costs paid. He accepted but wanted to sell it as-is. Even though he said as is, we're trying to move around some money so that the closing costs are lower and he can use the money left over to pay for the roof, mold issues, and a few other things. If we can get him to agree, we won't have to pay for them upfront, he won't lose any money, and our mortgage payment will barely change. We should be getting everything together this week so we'll know by Friday whether we're moving or not!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The First Offer

So, this is the house we put an offer in on:

We sent the seller the offer last Thursday with a response time of 5 p.m. on Saturday. Friday evening we heard back from his agent saying he was on vacation and not near his computer. She asked to give him until Tuesday at the latest to respond which we agreed to since we worked until Tuesday anyway.

(Side note: Misha had a dream the night before that he would be on vacation. She is going to start looking into a new career as a psychic.)

We heard back from him today. A little background on this specific house:

  • Has been on the market on and off since last August
  • Was originally listed for $20,000 more than it is currently listed at 
  • Went pending in December but that offer fell through and was off the market until April
  • Re-listed in April at it's current price with a new agent and has had no offers since then (probably because it's slightly overpriced)
 Our offer was for $19,000 less than it's listed at with the seller to pay for all closing costs as well as part of a one-year home warranty that covers everything associated with the house for a year (appliances, wiring, plumbing, etc.). The seller responded and agreed to everything except the price. He countered us back at $6,000 less than his price (so, $13,000 more than our offer).

When we pulled the comps for this neighborhood, the prices were all over the place. His agents comps were a little ridiculous-- they were for houses that included unfinished basements and most of them had been remodeled in some way. This house has really great bones. You can tell that the owner made sure to do things correctly and keep things in good condition but it hasn't been touched in regards to appliances or cosmetic features since the 70's or 80's.

We're confident that we can update it cheaply over time to make this a good investment and home for ourselves so we countered him back with a final offer of the maximum we think it's worth with the stipulation that, should the house not appraise for what our final offer is and we can't come to an agreement on price, the seller reimburses us for the cost of the inspection. So, we'll see what happens!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Round Two

We went and looked at our second round of houses today. Here's what happened! Make sure to read all the way through for a bonus question!

House #1:

 This house was was the furthest into St John's of the four we looked at today. Even though it was pretty far NW, it had the advantage of being a 2 minute drive from downtown St Johns and was within a few blocks of a Fred Meyers, Dairy Queen (!!!!) and other shops. The neighboring houses were all really well maintained and the blocks was pretty quiet. The outside of the house was a little sad looking. The siding is vinyl so after a good power washing we could brighten up the white, paint the lower brick and trim, and get some flower/shrubbery action happening to the front and the curb appeal would go way up.

The inside was in pretty good shape. This was the only wall with color and all the original woodwork was still in tact. We were concerned that there may not be hardwoods under the carpet as the dining area had laminate flooring and the house was built in the late 50's when carpet was popular. Luckily a corner was peeled back and there were really beautiful hardwoods underneath.

The kitchen was in pretty good shape as well. Cabinets were nice and it was pretty clean. The stove was pretty old and there was an old rolling dishwashing machine. After some appliance upgrades and some paint it would be nice. It's galley styled so it wasn't huge but had a good amount of counter space. There was a mud room off of the kitchen with washer/dryer hook-ups and a door that led outside to this:

A garage for Tracey! It was nice inside-- some built in shelves, no leaks or water damages. We discovered that they were funneling electricity to the garage off of the central air conditioning system so that might need to be addressed. That's right, people-- central air in a house in Oregon!

Back inside we saw the small bathroom. Our Realtor hated the tile floors but I loved them. They were clean and in good shape and just needed to be re-grouted. The sliding doors on the bathtub would need to come down as well.

No pictures of the 3 bedrooms but they were all decent sized with good closet space.

You can kind of see one of the bedrooms in this shot. These doors lead out to the backyard which was a nice size. Enough room for the dog, a few garden boxes, and picnic table or a fire pit.

The only real problem our Realtor saw with this house was that we would need to put in new windows at some point. They're are double paned right now so heating/cooling costs wouldn't be too bad for the time being but it would need to be addressed in the future.

House #2:

I actually didn't get to take a picture of the front of this house because the owners were here and met us at the door. Well, one did. The other was in a bedroom sleeping. They knew we were coming so it was kind of awkward. It was just a normal looking ranch with an attached garage that was various shades of brown. Not really anything too interesting to look at.

We were mostly interested in this house because of it's location. It was in a neighborhood called Kenton and was on a block in between a huge park and a commercial street. The commercial street had a library, cafes, a post office, and a butcher. It was also just a few blocks away from the Max Yellow Line. 

Inside it had an open floorplan. The living room was on the small side and carpeted. The owner, who lurked around behind us, pointed out that there are hardwoods underneath.

The kitchen was open to the living room and had been updated. The listing said the counters were granite but our Realtor called the guys bluff and he fessed up that they were laminate that just looked a lot like granite. The appliances were newer and there was also a little wine cooler built in. Off the kitchen was a garage that was packed full of their stuff so no pictures of that.

The bathroom had some newer fixtures like this sink. There was no bathtub, just a walk-in shower that had been redone with nice tiles.

At each end of the hallway were the bedrooms. One we couldn't see since someone was sleeping and the other was just a little girls room. Decent sized with hardwoods. In between each room was a room with french doors that wasn't quite a bedroom but could be used for an office.

They were still putting up siding in the back. The backyard was a nice size. Unfortunately, there was a hoarder living on one side, apartments on the other and the back faced a large commercial space that took up the whole block. Not very private or pretty.

We didn't take a lot of pictures of this house since the owner was walking around talking to us about all the things he was planning on doing and it was kind of weird.

House #3

Back to St Johns! We had re-directed ourselves to go to house #2 because they only showed it during a certain part of the day. This house was pretty much right in between #1 and #2. Nice quite neighborhood with nice houses and lots of trees. The only downside of this location was that it wasn't within walking distance of any real amenities. We're pretty certain this was a house that was flipped recently.

This was the living room. We're pretty sure these are laminate floors but they looked great. The windows were also brand new vinyl windows which was something the first two houses did not have. The living room was an ok size and led straight into the kitchen. There was a small area off the kitchen that a veryveryvery narrow table would fit into. Maybe. You can see it in the next picture.

The kitchen was pretty fun. They left all the original cabinets and shelves but put in new sink hardware and countertops. The appliance were pretty old (not as old as #1, though!). This kitchen also led to a mud room and the access for the garage. Forgot to take a picture of the inside of it but it was bigger than the other two houses and had lots of workspace set up.

The backyard was gorgeous and had a dog run set up. This is a shot of someone elses backyard that was full of umbrellas. The entire thing. It was pretty nutty. At this point a wasp started flying around us and we ran back inside so that's it for pictures of the outside!

The bathroom was really nice. Beautiful tiles in the bathtub area (versus a plastic insert in house #1). The bathroom was between the two bedrooms that looked exactly like the living room but smaller.

Speaking of bedrooms, this one only had two. We were ok with two bedrooms if it had some sort of bonus area but it didn't, so we would have to take that into consideration.

House #4

This was the only house that we looked at that wasn't in North Portland. This one was in the Hollywood district which was not a neighborhood we were were looking at since most of the houses weren't in our price range. This was in a good spot in terms of being near amenities but was right off of Halsey (a major road) and I-84. So, loud. The side of the block the house was on was also mostly commercial space so it didn't have a nice neighborhood feeling. It was the same price was #1, though, but larger so we thought we would look.

View of the living room from the dining room. This house smelled old but kind of in a comforting grandmother way. It was really spacious but we aren't sure if there are hardwoods under the carpet. It had really great arched ceilings and you could tell it has been well taken care of. Our Realtor told us that the woman who owned it grew up in the house so it's been in the same family since the early 60's (when it sold for $9,000, according to

This phone worked! It was so cool. This house had all sorts of little built in things. There were no pictures of the kitchen or bathroom on the listing so we were a little scared of what they might look like.

They were cute! The kitchen had newer appliances but all of the original tiles. That little blue box up on the wall is actually a built-in napkin dispenser. It was a really good size and in good shape. There was a door that led out onto the back deck (first house we have seen with a deck!) but I forgot to take pictures of that. Back inside, a door in the kitchen opened up to:

An equally cute bathroom! All of the original built in cabinets, built in soap dishes and toothbrush holder and a really deep tub. The tub also had tiles of swans and stuff. Totally kitchy.

Upstairs were three bedrooms that were a bit on the smaller side. They all had hardwood floors, which leads me to believe the downstairs does all well. The woman who lived there had all sorts of cool toys from the early 1900's all over.

All of the rooms had actual closets but this room also had one that stuck out from the wall. All of the woodwork in this house was original and would look really great with some elbow grease.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Neighborhood: St. Johns

Our Realtor is back in town and we're picked a few houses to look at on Wednesday. 3 of the 4 are in a Portland neighborhood called St. Johns. Located in North Portland on the tip of the peninsula formed by the confluence of the Willamette River and the Columbia River, St. John's is one of Portland's most forgotten about neighborhoods.

Downtown St. Johns by Werewombat
The neighborhood was settled in the late 1865 and was annexed into Portland in 1915. Since then it's become a primarily working class neighborhood and is one of the few neighborhoods left in the city for affordable housing. Because it's slightly separated from the rest of Portland, it almost feels like a small town and has a little "downtown" area that has seen some reinvestment from the city over the last few years which has allowed both small, independent businesses as well as larger corporations, like Safeway and Starbucks, to move in.

The bridge that connects this area to the downtown area is also arguably the most beautiful bridge in the city.

St. Johns Bridge by Zeb Andrews
St. John's is also home to the University of Portland, a farmers market, two pub theatres in the downtown area, and Cathedral Park.

Cathedral Park by Werewombat
While looking at homes in this neighborhood it's important for us to weight the pros and cons so here they are!

  • Affordable-- most of the houses we are seeing in this area that are well-maintained are between $140,000-$200,000
  • Small town feel that satisfies Tracey's desire to not feel like she's in an urban area but still close enough to the central city that Misha is happy
  • "15 minute neighborhood"-- if you're close enough to downtown St. John's you can get most of your errands and activities done by foot
  • Near an industrial area that was recently designated a redevelopment area, meaning more residential homes and businesses will be built there
  • Most of the homes we are seeing are structurally sound and only in need of cosmetic work. Since we don't want to spend every cent we have rehabing a home and every spare minute working on a project, we can update a house easily which will allow us to sell it in the future and get a better return on our investment.
  • Resell potential may be greater than other areas of town. Houses in this neighborhood are low compared to the rest of the city but are starting to rise as the rest of the city becomes less affordable for working-class and lower middle-class families. 
  • Relatively safe. When we pull up crime maps for the neighborhood, the majority of crimes are for smaller offenses like petty larceny, vandalism, and car break-ins which is much better than assault, burglary, rape or drug offenses. I also like to think that the current economic situation is partially to blame for some of the larceny and not a true reflection of the neighborhood's character. There are also only two registered sex offenders in the whole of the neighborhood which is far lower than other neighborhoods that usually have half-way houses with multiple offenders living in each residence.
  • The close proximity to the University of Portland would allow us to potentially use the house as a rental in the future.
  • Diversity! The neighborhood has a higher percentage of Hispanic and African-American residents than other neighborhoods in the city. We like diversity and want our children to experience it too.
  • Location: It takes anywhere from 10-20 minutes to get to the freeway entrance by car. Going across the St. John's bridge gets you to downtown pretty quickly (12 minutes or so) but to get anywhere else in the city it could take awhile.
  • Car dependency: There is an express bus that runs Monday-Friday from 9am-6pm but other than that it can take awhile to get places on the bus. We would need to keep one car for sure.  
  • Still a bit grungy: There is a wide range of housing styles in the area-- everything from Craftsmans to Bungalows. Most are well maintained but the overall feel of the neighborhood is outdated. This is obviously something that could change in the future as more people begin moving in. 
So, there are obviously more pro's to this neighborhood but two of the con's are kind of big. We could go without a car if absolutely necessary but would be more comfortable having one.  Guess we'll see what the houses look like!

Signal Station Pizza by unknown.

Friday, July 15, 2011

DIY: Lamp

I found this lamp a few months ago and immediately saved the picture. I think it's such a fun way to make something that's normally boring and functional into something that makes more of a statement.

It was crazy expensive so I saved it thinking I could eventually replicate it. Any suggestions on what to use for the flowers? I was thinking clay of some sort.

I can't even remember where I found this picture so if anyone knows where it is from let me know!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Inspiration: Kitchens

It's no surprise that we are both fans of vintage styling and homes and home decorating are no exceptions. So, how do we get that vintage look without a room feeling dated, tired, dusty, or kitchsy?

Lavender and Lillies

Lavender and Lillies

Light cabinetry with pops of color!

Lavender and Lilies

Removing the cabinet doors all together and adding color, vintage inspired jars and era appropriate hardware!

Southern Living

One of the best features of our current home is the deep sink. Most of the vintage inspired kitchens I have seen have these great farmhouse style sinks. The glass tile backsplash also adds some vintage flare.

Good Home Construction
I love most of this kitchen. The best part of this picture is that it's the original kitchen! This was a before picture of a $30k remodel. I would have updated it with some nice hardware, fresh paint, and window treatments and saved myself a lot of money, personally. I think it's super cute.

Styling in a vintage fashion not only visually pleasing to us. It allows us to re-use items in both expected and unexpected ways which saves us money by not buying new as well as reduce our impact on our environment by keeping items out of landfills. 


Lavender and Lillies
Good Home Construction
Southern Living