2016 Review

I'm going to be honest - 2016 was a tough year for us. While there were many happy milestones like becoming debt free, finishing our three-year-long renovation, and starting new jobs in a new city, there was a lot of loss this year. Loss of loved ones in our family through death and divorce. Loss of our beloved first house when we sold it. Loss of vicinity to family and friends when we moved away from my hometown. Sometimes, it felt like I had lost my sanity! While we are so fortunate with all that we have and I know I have no ground to complain, this year was still emotionally draining.

At times, 2016 felt like a continuous cycle of sucker-punches to the gut. You'd get through one roller coaster event only to be mowed down by the next one hiding around the corner. I have felt physically and mentally exhausted for a while, but instead of taking time to reset and simplify, I've been adding more and more to my plate. Saying "yes" to things I should really turn down. I think a lot of women do this.

Being exhausted makes me feel like a failure, so I thought that maybe if I accomplished more, I would feel more energized. Clearly, my thought process was flawed. In the end, instead of giving a handful of things 100%, I am giving a dozen or so things about 10%, including this little blog of mine. Obviously, not very effective or productive.

Life's gotten so incredibly busy. And noisy. Not literally noisy, but in a sense where complete solitude is so precious and rare. Work emails are sent to us 24/7. We are always accessible to family and friends with a quick text or Facebook message. Pinterest and Instagram silently scream at you that you are not up to snuff. It's exhausting.

The gist of my ramble is that sometimes we need to unplug and just relax. Re-focus, cut out the loudness, and trim the unnecessary fat that has crept into our lives. In light of this, I'm signing off for the rest of the year. It will be a little quiet around here until 2017 so that I can ring in the new year refreshed with renewed energy. Maybe I can ultimately accomplish more by attempting less.  

Thank you all for your comments, kind words, and virtual friendship this year on my blog. Receiving emails from y'all are truly one of the highlights of my day and I can't wait to bring more meaningful, thoughtful, and helpful content to you guys soon (suggestions welcome!). I hope you enjoy down-time with your loved ones this holiday season and I'm excited to see you next year! Cheers!

Flip Hunting: The Smith House

I am really excited that we are finally able to pursue a big dream Brian and I have had on the back burner for the past five years: flip a house. Not live in it and fix it, then sell it a few years down the road. I'm talking a bonafide real estate investment, friends. I know I had millions of questions about house flipping when we first broached the subject all of those years ago so I thought it would be fun to take you guys along with us on the journey! I want to share our thought process, property tours, renovation estimates, and design ideas along the way.

A few weeks ago we looked at The Smith House. Even though I should know better, I really fell hard for this cutie-patootie house. It is old, small, and just quirky enough to make it charming and unique. Here are some facts:

Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping

List price: $49,000
Bed/Bath: 3/1
Square footage: 1066
Built: 1938
Floorplan:

House Flipping

 

THE GOOD

With it being built in 1938, there was still a lot of charm left in this sweet little cottage. Original glass door knobs, archway, hardwood floors, and built-ins were all still perfectly in tact.

Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, glass knobs
Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, medicine cabinet with key
Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, arch

I also loved the location - it is nestled in an up and coming neighborhood. However, it is right around the corner from THE best street in town with $500,000 homes and just a skip and a hop away from the blossoming downtown. The square footage was decent as well; not too big, not too small.

THE BAD

Unfortunately, the "bad" list was longer than the good. Just on a first glance it looked like most of the systems hadn't been touched in decades. We're talking old electrical, plumbing, and HVAC (and we haven't even seen what's behind the walls yet). Along with the charming old details, there were some items that we wish had been updated or better maintained including the original windows and the joists.

Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, original windows
Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, water damage

Plus, the lot situation was weird. It wasn't clear if the driveway and shed were included within the property line. There was a vacant lot next to it for sale which would eliminate any questions, but that would be another $9,000.

Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, old shed

On top of all of that, the layout was pretty bad. The third "bedroom" was only accessible through another bedroom. The one bathroom was TINY and only had a tub (no plumbing for a shower).

Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, bathroom1
Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, bathroom2

Above all, there were signs of my arch nemesis: termites. The joists had been nibbled on quite a bit and there were large dips in a few places. In order to access and fix them, we would more than likely have to rip up the original hardwoods. Ugh.

Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, linoleum
Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, shag carpet
Elizabeth Burns Design | First Time House Flip, guide to house flipping, living room

RENOVATION ESTIMATES

Even though there are a lot of issues with this house, if the numbers make sense, it can still be a good deal. Here are the repair costs we estimated:

New roof: $3,000
Electrical: $3,000
Plumbing: $6,000
Structural repair: $6,000
Foundation venting: $5,000
Flooring: $3,500
New windows: $3,000
Drywall: $3,000
HVAC: $3,000
Bathroom finishes: $1,500
Countertops: $500
Sink/faucet: $400
Appliances: $3,000
Hardware: $1,000
Paint: $2,000

TOTAL: $37,300

We estimate that once this house was renovated, it could sell for about $80,000. With a list price of $49,000, these numbers just don't make sense.

$80,000 ARV - $49,000 PURCHASE PRICE - $37,300 RENOVATION = -$6100 PROFIT

This negative "profit" is before realtor fees, closing costs, and carrying costs which would lower our profit even further. We still haven't considered that other lot that would probably need to be purchased along with the home to make sure there aren't issues with the driveway.

VERDICT

In order for the numbers to even come out in the black, we would need to get the purchase price down. Way down. Probably closer to $20,000 to provide enough of a cushion for surprises. Even still, the amount of work and time this little house needed would cause carrying costs to balloon and seems too risky to take a chance. I joked with Brian that if the Brooklyn Street House and the Myrtle House had a baby, it would be this house! The same quaintness of our first home but allll of the work needed on our current home. 

Even though I love the charm of this 1930s beauty, we will not be making an offer. On to the next!

 

Why We Chose (& Love) Our Formica Countertops

Do you ever find a product that you love so much, you want to tell everyone about it? Like almost in an annoying, yes-you've-told-us-1000-times way? That is how I feel about our new laminate countertops. We chose the Formica 180fx Calacatta Marble style and it is for sure one of the best selections we made during the renovation of the Myrtle House

Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx

I, like many Pinterest-addicted women, wanted that bright white kitchen with just slab upon slab of gorgeous honed marble. I would scroll through the "marble countertop" search results late into the night until my thumb got sore (sad, but true). Occasionally, I would come across a photo that I loved of marble counter tops with a title like "Budget Friendly Kitchen Renovation" and I would roll my eyes. There is NO way marble counter-tops would fit into our pretty modest kitchen renovation budget of $5000. However, once I clicked on the post, it was almost always Formica "Farble" that had deceived me. I swear, if it is done right, you really can't tell from a photo that it is not real.

Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx review

So! After going in to Lowe's a few dozen times and comparing the Calcutta Marble to darker samples that resembled Soapstone (my other favorite out-of-budget countertop option), there was really no contest. Calacatta, it was always you.

We had a really great experience ordering from our local Lowes. The lady that helped us was new, but super organized and detailed which is a huge plus when ordering something so precise. We brought in the measurements, she asked questions and then finalized the dimensions for the final cuts.

Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx Sherwin Williams Silver Strand

As far as I know, we didn't have a choice of finish (matte, gloss, etc.) but we did have a choice on edge. This is an important selection because certain edges can quickly give away the countertops are laminate and not marble. When you go with a squared-off edge, it will create a dark seam. The seam will contrast greatly with the white marble and make the countertop look fake. I would suggest selecting one of their rounded edges (pencil round, full bullnose, half bullnose) but be cautious with any edge with a sharp corner (pencil, bevel, and ogee). If you love these styles, I would just ask the Lowe's associate where the seam(s) will be so that you know what to expect. If you go with a dark laminate, the seam will be less noticable. We chose the 1/2 bullnose since it was standard and wouldn't cost anything more. Also, keep in mind that if you pick a fancy edge, only the front of the counter will have it; any exposed side(s) of the countertop will be squared.

Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx edge
Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx, white cabinets

They priced our countertops with and without installation. My husband is pretty handy, so we opted out of installation, bringing our grand total to $489. (Lowe's was running a 10% off countertop promotion and we used our Lowe's card for an additional 5% off.) We ended up with three pieces of countertop - one 4.5' section, one 12" section for the little cabinet next to our stove, and one 10' section for under the windows. Our order came in to the store within a few weeks, we loaded up in the truck, and brought home to install.

Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx white kitchen

Installation was pretty easy if you have a drill, level, and jigsaw. Most newer cabinets will have corner brackets that you can screw the countertop into. The hardest parts were getting the small runs of countertops to lay flat (apparently the top laminate application process can slightly warp the backing) and creating a sink cut out. Gosh, that was a scary task. Our sink didn't come with a template since it was a vintage Craigslist freebie, so we had to flip it upside down to trace. Cue nervous sweating. 

Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx vintage sink

The best part about this countertop? Sure it is BEAUTIFUL and affordable, but guys, it is so incredibly durable. Not to name any names, but a certain member of our household often forgets to use a cutting board when dicing. Not a scratch left behind! In other words ladies, these Formica Marble Countertops are husband-proof, and I would assume kid-proof too. ;) It is great, because we can both be in the kitchen cooking and I am not hovering behind him making sure nothing gets scratched or stained like I would be with real marble counters. Additionally, we enjoy drinking red wine. Those bottle and glass rings left behind come right off!

Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx wine stain
Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx low maintenance

If you are considering budget friendly countertop options, I hope you will consider laminate, especially the Formica 180fx collection. I am so happy with our decision, and I love that we won't be paying for our kitchen renovation for the next 10+ years. If you have any questions or concerns not covered in this post, please leave a comment!

(P.S. This post isn't sponsored by Formica and I received no incentive for writing this review. I just really enjoy our counter tops and wanted to share with you guys :).

Elizabeth Burns Design | Calcutta Marble Laminate Countertop Review , Formica 180fx subway tile