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

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Round One

Today was our first round of looking at houses. Here's what happened!

House #1:

This house was a HUD house that we could tell needed a lot of work from looking at the pictures. It was well below our price range, though, so we thought we would take a look and see if it would be something we could take out a rehab loan for.

The first problem we saw was the roof. At this point our real estate agent had already seen a few things that she said were major problems and would normally tell us to run. She walked us around and through the house so that we could use this as a test house for the future and would know what she meant when she said that there was a problem in the future.

This is a hole in the backside of the house that lead underneath. Obviously a big problem.

We didn't take any pictures of the inside but the ceilings were only about 7' high, the entire house was slanting and there was a room that Tracey dubbed the "punishment room". It had no lights, an old wooden bench built in and locked with a deadbolt from the outside.


House #2:

One of the houses we wanted to see went off the market the night before we went to look at it so our agent sent us a few she thought we might add. House #2 was one of them. We pulled up and decided to not even look at it. It had been updated inside and looked great but was on a major road (something we couldn't tell by looking at Google Earth the night before) and was surrounded by some questionable apartment buildings. So, we left for the next house.

House #3:

The owner knew we were coming but the screen door was locked which meant we couldn't get to the front door to look at it. We poked around outside while we tried to get in touch with him. The outside was decent and had a cool bomb shelter but we never heard back from the owner. This may be a house we look at later.

House #4:

Finally! A house we can get into! This house was super ugly outside but it was all cosmetic-- some paint, some landscaping and it would be a million times better.

The listing for this house specifically mentioned the great paint job done inside. Not really our style. Gold trim, red walls, purple walls. It was very bohemian and cool; just not for us.

The dining room was a great size and our agent was pretty sure there were hardwoods under the carpet.

The kitchen was in good shape and had probably been remodeled in the late 80's/early 90's. There was a cute little built in breakfast nook, too! The kitchen had a door that went out to the backyard.

The owners were kind enough to leave a note asking us to excuse the jungle in the backyard. Tall grass aside, there was a little shed, some rain barrel system set up and a nice clothes line.

On to the basement! At this point we were feeling pretty good about this house. Everything we disliked about it was something that could be fixed fairly inexpensively. The basement was in good shape, the furnace was newer, our agent noted that there were no asbestos pipes, and the electrical panel was new. Awesome! Until Tracey opened a second panel and we saw this:

Fuses! Not something we want to deal with fixing. Right after we saw this our agent went to check on the oil tank and it was underground so we would have to find out if it was leaking into the soil. This house was a short sale as well so none of these issues would be addressed by the current owner. So, off we went to the next house.

House #5:

This house we were excited to see. Not only was it in our ideal part of town, it is just four blocks away from Tracey's best friends and their baby! The front yard was a disaster. Aside from the toys and personal belongings everywhere, the owners had placed a concrete slab in the middle of the yard. We're guessing it was because there's really no back yard to speak of (just the front and side) and they wanted a patio? Anyway, that would have to go at some point.

The inside was nice. Even though the outside looks like it was built in the 80's, it was actually built in 1908, and had a lot of the original built-in cabinets in the living spaces.

The owners had recently moved out and left a lot of stuff. We aren't sure if they were planning on coming back for it or not but this awesome old safe was in one of the rooms. They also left behind some dirt bikes and a Sea-doo! The rooms in this house were good sizes and really just needed the gross carpet pulled up and some paint.

There were some really nice features to this house like the front door...

... and some not so nice features like a really outdated kitchen. The cabinets were actually in really good shape but they had done some weird stuff like adding a dishwasher in a weird spot and the stove was all the way against the back wall. It would need to be re-done for sure.
The bathroom on the main floor was really gross to me but Tracey loved it. She can have it.

The entire basement of this house had been remodeled and had nice tile flooring (travertine?) and two more bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs.

When we went around the side of the house we started to see some issues that would need to be addressed. Even though the foundation was really great, the wood siding was starting to rot and would have to be dealt with. There was also some water damage on the roof and side wall of the garage that our realtor thinks was from a neighbors tree that has branches extending over the garage roof.

Our agent is going to investigate this house a little further for us. It's a short sale and priced above our range so in order to move forward with it we would need the bank to approve a lower offer. This might be feasible as it's been on the market for almost a year and has dropped in price almost $70k since it was first listed. If the bank were to approve our offer we would then have to get bids done for the work that needs to be addressed within the 40 days at closing and apply for a rehab loan.

We're going to keep an eye on this house. It's in a neighborhood that we know will give us a good return on our money in the future and had lots of space to grow into. After a nice kitchen remodel and some cosmetic work it would be very cute.

House #6

This house was another house our agent sent to us the night before we went to look. We decided to look at it even though it was not in a neighborhood we ideally want to be in because it was well within our price range and had easy free way access.

The outside of the house was beautiful and the inside had all of the original molding around the windows. The paint job was dark throughout but something we could fix easily.

The carpet was pulled up in most of the rooms to show the hardwoods underneath. I'm guessing they figured no one would keep the carpeting as it smelled like pets pretty bad.

Super cute kitchen with nice cabinets. No appliances, though! It was listed below our price range so we could have got a stove and fridge easily.

Off the kitchen was a sun room and utility room which led to the backyard and garage. The garage was in great shape as was the backyard. This is a picture from the listing so the pool was gone when we looked at it. We didn't take pictures of the upstairs but I was a little freaked out that the top floor was not totally level. Tracey and our agent assured me it wasn't dangerous. The house was built in 1886 so it was just 'settling'. Tracey was really starting to like this house and we went outside to look around some more.

Our agent started poking around the side and saw something fishy going on with the foundation. She was able to find a section that just had a piece of wood up and we discovered why it was priced so well-- no foundation! Well, there was a foundation but it was just poles and you could see where some of the wood was already being attacked by termites. This was basically a 30k fix and, even if we felt like fixing it, would have brought the value up way too high for the neighborhood (Montavilla, for those who care).

So, that was our first round of houses. One possibility, one that we can go back and look at another day. Our agent is leaving to take her kid to volleyball camp tomorrow and won't be back til Sunday so no more house hunting 'til next week!

- Misha & Tracey