As many of you saw the news on social media over the weekend, our Heights House caught on fire Friday night.
We found out by a call from our neighbor at 10:30pm, and raced to the scene to find the road blocked off and lined with fire trucks and police cars. Thankfully, no one was inside and no one was injured, and the fire department was able to contain it before it spread to the neighbors. We feel incredibly lucky because it could have been so much worse.
The investigators were able to confirm that it was an electrical fire, and pinpoint the location it started in the ceiling. Our electrician had installed a new panel and shut the power to the house off the week before, so we’re not sure how this happened. He was scheduled to come Tuesday to replace all of the old wiring, so we were just a few days short of preventing it.
We were able to walk through the house that night and it was difficult to get a good look without any light, but the next morning we came back to assess the damage. It’s worse than we thought.
Fortunately, we are insured under a construction policy, but neither of us have been in this situation before and we’ve been hearing horror stories about insurance companies and their policies.
It looks like the house may be a total loss, so at this point we are just hoping they’ll work with us so we can start over from scratch.
After the initial shock wore off, we’ve managed to stay hopeful and positive that everything will work out for the better. In the grand scheme of things, this is just a bump in the road, and it will surely make us stronger.
The hardest part for me is the dissolution of everything we’ve been working on for months—all of the dreaming and planning that went into this home, our very first home together and that we were supposed to start our family in.
We were finally starting to see our hard work pay off and our vision come together, and now it’s gone. We have to start over, and we don’t know how long that will take or what it will look like.
But I know all too well about the beauty that comes from the ashes, and I feel at peace knowing that our silver lining is on the way. We can’t wait to come back better and stronger than before!
We put out a quick vlog update this morning which includes our feelings about everything, plus video of the fire scene and the aftermath:
I’m not sure what this means for the blog and vlog content, but I’ll keep posting and updating you all as we go. You can find me on instagram and facebook where I’ll be posting frequent updates, and more in depth video and vlog episodes on YouTube. I hope you’ll continue to follow along as we begin to put the pieces back together. Thank you all tremendously for your love and support—we’ve felt it from across the world and are incredibly grateful to have so many people who care! Onward we march…
Another week of demo means another round of surprises—it’s like Christmas in March! This week we uncovered fun things like broken plumbing, termite-damaged joists and roof leaks. It feels like we’re taking leaps backwards, with the house becoming more dismantled by the day…
At this point it would probably have made more sense to bulldoze the place and build a new house from scratch, but that wasn’t in our budget, so we’ll stick with the plan and keep forging ahead.
A few angles for reference, as it’s easy to become disoriented in a sea of dirt and 2x4s…
Here’s the Before, looking at the old living room and front door:
And today. They spent days trying to remove that tile and layers of laminate and screws below, only to end up ripping out the entire subfloor:
Here’s the original view walking into the house from the front door:
And the After. We’re going for that “rustic look”…
The good news is that most of the plumbing is done (we had to re-route the master bathroom shower lines, add washer/dryer hookups and change the sink location in the kitchen). The electrician has also installed a brand new panel, and today we’re meeting with the HVAC crew so they can begin installing the new system. All of our ducks are in a row, so we just need to avoid any big surprises to stay on track (what a miracle that would be!)
In this week’s vlog you can see more progress on the house, and we also addressed a topic that many of you have been asking about—”How do you know if it’s a good deal?!”
In this episode, Lucas walks you through the steps we take to analyze a deal to see if it’s a good investment or not. We go through this process for every potential purchase, including the two here in Florida (update on the 5-unit Bungalow—still under contract and we’re hopeful that it’ll finally be ours by the end of this month!)
If you can’t watch the video now, I highly suggest you save it to come back to later (for Susie’s adorable cameos, if nothing else!) but I’m also including a written summary here.
1. How do you find deals?
These each deserve a blog post of their own, but the basic ways are through direct mail marketing (you can buy lists online and target specific niches), driving around to identify distressed houses and reaching out to the owner directly, advertising with road signs, joining local investor groups and partnering with people, working with wholesalers, and of course the most common way—working with a realtor/broker or looking on MLS sites like Zillow and Redfin.
We found the Heights House on Redfin, and our 5-unit bungalow on LoopNet which is similar to the MLS, but for commercial properties. Nowadays, deals are scarce and competition is at an all-time high, but they’re still out there if you look hard enough.
2. What do you look for?
This all depends on your specific strategy, but location should always be a major factor as it will have a huge impact on your results. Make sure you drive through the neighborhood first to get a good feel of the demographic, and the pros & cons of investing there.
Value-add opportunities are crucial. We focus on buying properties that need work, so that we can unlock its potential and therefore increase the value. Properties that have already been remodeled are going to go for top dollar, making it difficult to cash flow or sell for a profit, especially in today’s market.
Key words in the listing are great indicators of a property’s condition—we look for terms like “Needs TLC” or “investor special”—there’s also less competition since your average home buyer wants something move-in ready.
And of course, you’ll need to take the price into consideration. Compare the price per square foot to similar homes in the area, and make sure you aren’t overpaying. Don’t eliminate a property you like simply because they are asking too much—it doesn’t hurt to put an offer in and you never know where it will lead!
3. Decide on your strategy
Most investors either buy & hold to keep as a long term rental, or flip it. We’re focusing on building wealth by buying & holding to keep as rentals, and also plan to utilize short term income (AirBnB) in the near future (more on that in a future post). Eventually we’ll look into flipping too, but that requires a very different evaluation. For this post, we’re focusing on a long term (annual lease) rental strategy.
The two most important words when evaluating a buy & hold deal? Cash Flow. This is your profit each month after all of your expenses have been paid (Rental income – Expenses = Cash Flow). Here in Florida especially, you can’t count on appreciation (remember what happened in 2007?), so the tried & true method to build long term wealth through investing is slowly over time. This is a marathon, not a sprint!
Let’s take a look at a real-life active listing here in Tampa to evaluate.
This one popped up on the market not too long ago, and at a glance, it meets our basic criteria: decent location (it’s in an “up and coming” neighborhood), value add opportunities (Craftsman charm and that garage could be turned into a third bedroom) and price ($125k is affordable!). Now that we’ve determined it’s something we want to take a closer look at, let’s do a thorough evaluation.
4. Crunch the numbers
We use the Property Evaluation calculators over at biggerpockets.com. This website & podcast has taught us a lot of what we know, and I think it’s the single best resource out there for investors. We did pay for a Pro membership, but you can do a few evaluations for free using their calculators without the membership.
First, let’s input our expenses. This is where a lot of investors go wrong. You just have to pay the mortgage, taxes and insurance, a property manager and maybe a few utilities, right? Wrong! Don’t forget maintenance, CapEx, and Vacancy, not to mention potential HOA’s, PMI or Flood Insurance if you live in a coastal area. Let’s break these down as they appear on our calculator:
Electricity: Most tenants pay their own, so we leave that blank (unless it’s for a short term/AirBnB rental)
Water, Sewer & Trash: That’s usually on the landlord. Around here it averages $55-$60/unit total.
PMI: Private Mortgage Insurance is required by your lender if you put down less than 20%.
HOA: If you have a home or especially a condo in an HOA, those expenses can eat up your profit—don’t forget to include them!
Monthly Insurance: This number will vary by the provider you choose, but you can look on the Redfin property calculator which will give you an estimate.
Property Taxes: Redfin or your local county assessor’s website provides this data, but make sure to round up for next year because they almost always increase annually!
Other Monthly Expenses: These can be special things like landscaping, pool maintenance or other utilities you will pay for each month.
Next comes the important variable monthly expenses that people often forget to include!
Vacancy: The property is most likely not going to be rented 365 days/year—don’t forget about tenant turnover (or worse—the dreaded eviction!) ! 3-10% is a typical range and we budget 5% on average, but this will depend on your location and specific market.
Repairs & Maintenance: These are smaller routine expenses like clogged drains, a broken window, etc. that regularly pop up. Make sure you set aside between 5-15% of the monthly rent to cover these costs for when they inevitably arise.
Cap Ex: Your big ticket items like a new roof, HVAC, driveway, etc. These are less frequent but very costly, and can wipe out your entire profit over a decade with one bill if you don’t set aside a reserve each month. As an average we use 5%, but you can decrease that number if it’s a brand new or remodeled home, and increase it if it’s an older home that will likely need larger repairs soon.
Management Fees: This is commonly 8-10% of your monthly rent, and it’s important to make sure the property still cash flows with it even if you plan to self manage. Just because you can be a landlord now, doesn’t mean you won’t end up moving/getting sick/tired of doing it in the future. In fact, that most likely WILL be the case one day, so plan for it now. For this evaluation, we decided to omit this number because we do plan to be full time landlords for our properties—but we wouldn’t buy it unless the numbers worked both ways!
After you have your landlord expenses figured out, you need to determine the biggest portion of your monthly expenses: the mortgage.
For demonstration purposes, I’m using standard bank loan terms of 20% down, 5% interest and a 30 year amortization. Note that if we were actually evaluating this property for ourselves, we’d either have to pay cash or use private investors since we don’t qualify for traditional bank loans (you can learn more about why here).
Another thing to note—it’s quite difficult to get a good deal these days (unless you get lucky) without paying all cash. That was the only way we were able to get the Heights House, and it was a 48 hour bidding war that went way over asking, due to fierce competition. And it’s not just Florida—the market is tough everywhere right now.
Next, we have to think about our rehab budget. This won’t affect your monthly cash flow, but it will impact your overall return and your purchasing power, if you plan to continue investing.
People often ask “How do you calculate your renovation budget?” and my answer is: practice and experience. It takes a long time to feel confident in your numbers, but even then it’s just an estimate because you can’t predict everything. Although I’ve renovated four homes, the Heights House is the first one in a new market so I’m still learning the ropes. At just a few weeks into demo, we’re already quite a bit over our original budget prediction, but with each house we’ll become a little better at hitting that mark.
Of course, if you can get estimates from contractors before you buy, that will help immensely. A lot of experienced investors warn that you should double whatever you think your budget is to be safe, and I can agree with that, especially if you’re a beginner.
For investment properties that you plan to use as long term rentals, you don’t want to overspend. Keep the finishes in line with what renters expect for the neighborhood, and choose durable and long-lasting materials to reduce the inevitable wear & tear. For this evaluation, we’re using a rehab estimate of $50k, which should cover a basic repair including a garage conversion, exterior/landscaping, and account for a few surprises along the way.
Don’t forget that unless you get a construction loan (or private loan), you’ll need to have cash reserves built up to pay for your renovation.
And that is it for our costs and expenses! Now you need to figure out how much you can expect the place to rent for. An easy way to figure this out is to use sites like Zillow, Craigslist, local Facebook groups and Rentometer.com to compare similar properties in your area.
Make sure to factor in things like washer/dryer hookups, parking situation, if it’s a condo/apartment/single family home, proximity to freeways/airports, school districts, etc. Things that seem small can have a big impact on both price and vacancy rate. Be as thorough as possible, and err on the side of caution.
For this property, it seems like $1200 is a reasonable asking price (especially if you added that third bedroom!)
Landlords can also find ways to earn additional income, like charging application fees, a pet deposit or having coin-operated laundry installed in a common area (for multi-unit buildings).
5. So… should you buy it?
Now that we have both our rental income AND expenses, we can figure out the most important number: Cash flow!
According to our calculator… we’re cash flowing $225 per month!
Personally, we aim for at least $200/mo per unit, but this will vary by investor depending on the market, volume, amount of work, risk tolerance, etc. A big factor for us is also the total cash needed and ROI, since we need to recycle our funds to use for future deals.
Now you might be thinking, “Hold on a sec—I’m taking on $125k of debt PLUS spending over $50k in cash, plus months of rehab work AND I have to become a landlord, all to potentially make just$225 a month?”
Yep. Welcome to the world of Real Estate investing. This is NOT a get-rich-quick solution. It’s going to take us years, decades actually, to build up a portfolio large enough to reach our financial goals. We’d be making a whole lot more money right now if we’d have just stuck with our day jobs… but it’s not about the money—it’s about the lifestyle. We love what we do and we have our freedom. Of course we still work our butts off every day, night and weekend, but a lot of it doesn’t feel like work at all. And we’re working towards a shared goal that we can only reach on this path of self-employment.
Sorry, got a little off-topic there. I could get into this for hours and hours—it’s truly my passion! Anyway, the moral of this post is to share how we have learned (through months and years of studying and practice) to evaluate potential deals, and I hope I’ve been able to explain it in a way that you can easily digest and reference if you are on your own investing path. If you have any more questions or need clarifications, I’d love to answer (we really just scratched the surface here!) and of course, we plan to do more vlogs on specific topics in the future. Just let me know what you want to hear about!
Another week of demo on The Heights House is in the books, and boy it feels like this past year went by in the blink of an eye and I’m right back at the Cottage House Flip again! Funny how the sound of saws and the smell of drywall dust never leaves your memory.
The week started off strong with fast progress on deconstructing the house—the kitchen being the biggest transformation:
Ahhh… so nice and open! And we said goodbye to the hallway and half bath—here’s the view from the sunroom/back door:
Now we have room for a huge dining table:
Here’s the view looking towards where the new dining table will be (you can see into the master closet and bathroom) and to the right is where the new third bedroom will be.
There was a step down into this room before, so they had to build up the subfloor to make it level with the rest of the house. Next they’ll add a wall to enclose it.
The view from the back wall of the kitchen, looking towards the dining room and the living room/front door on the left:
This was taken a few days ago from the front entrance, looking into the living room, dining room, and the kitchen on the right:
And a shot looking at the front door, which will be moved a few feet back to where the current screen porch door is, so we can create a small foyer/drop zone area:
The only big surprise is the floor, which has proven to be quite tricky to remove. It was a mix of tile and vinyl, with various underlayment that was haphazardly glued, nailed and screwed into the subfloor with approximately 2,391 stripped screws. Eventually they decided it was easier to just tear the entire subfloor out. Today they began that process, only to find that the joists are rotted (termite damage) in sections of the house.
These boards & subfloor will all need to be replaced, and will set us back thousands in labor and several days (at least) in our timeline. Fortunately, this is a house we are moving into and plan to keep long term, so the setbacks are slightly easier to swallow.
To decompress from the stress and take our minds off all the not-so-great stuff… we decided to have a little fun in this week’s vlog, with our first big shopping trip to Lowe’s! Click to watch:
This week’s episode shows a few clips of the demo progress, and also takes you down the Lowe’s aisles with me as I point out my favorite products and paint colors, and Lucas plays “Name that Object!” (he’s still learning about all this DIY stuff—I think it’s cute). We had fun with this one, and hope you enjoy watching! I’m still trying to convince Lucas to do another round at Target 😉
It has been over a year since I’ve shopped at Lowe’s, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a few new products in stock and some long-time favorites still standing. For those wanting more details, here’s a recap of some of the items I called out in the video:
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard): This material is super versatile and a great substitute for wood. It’s smooth and takes paint well, lightweight and great for building furniture. I’ve used it many times—remember this DIY paneled wall?
Brought to you by MDF, baby! You can buy it in strips or 4×8′ sheets and cut to size. It’s quite affordable and there’s no need to worry about warped wood or pesky knots like you do with pine!
Honorable mention: these 4×8′ sheets of thin hardboard for only $8 are perfect for covering up textured walls (this is what I did for my paneled wall). They’re super smooth and paintable, and would be great for craft projects, too!
Next up: Lowe’s has officially jumped on the shiplap bandwagon! They come in a variety of sizes, finishes and price points. It’s about time, guys! I think the selection is quite nice:
I’m not currently in the market for a tub, but this beauty sure caught my eye:
When it comes to lighting, it seems that Lowe’s has been stepping up their game. They still carry my all-time favorite bang for your buck indoor/outdoor sconce:
Good to know they’re still alive and well. I’ve also fallen in love with their reasonably priced crystal chandeliers:
And of course, perhaps my favorite of all—the one I used in the Cottage House Flip! $169, what a bargain.
As for paint colors, I’ve used nothing but Valspar Signature for years. My go to colors are Valspar’s Cracked Pepper (rich black), Bistro White (neutral white) and Woodlawn Colonial Gray (pale gray) [UPDATE! I just found out that Woodlawn Colonial Gray is now called Soulful Gray]. These were the only colors I used for the Cottage House Flip, both interior and exterior:
I loved them so much that I’ll be using them again for The Heights House (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it—right?) By the way, do yourself a favor and get this brush to paint crisp lines and save yourself hours of taping!
Lowe’s has introduced a few new types of tile since last year—this Epoch ceramic mosaic caught my eye:
I love that you can customize it with grout color—it would look really neat with black or gray (or green, tan or blue…)
It comes in two different colors, and look at that price! Less than a dollar a piece—Bravo, Lowe’s. Now, please start carrying more patterns and sizes!
Our original plan for the flooring in The Heights House was engineered hardwood throughout. That is, until we walked in and saw this Pergo laminate:
Honestly, it looked so much nicer than any of the real wood samples they had. I love the 7.5″ wide planks and the textured surface. Not to mention, it was half the price of anything comparable in wood! You may recall that I used Pergo laminate in the Cottage House Flip:
Unfortunately, they discontinued that color (Scottsdale Oak) but guess what—they have even more colors now! I was immediately drawn to the Wheaton Oak, but I also ordered a sample of the Brier Creek Oak, so we’ll be deciding between those in next week or so. It’s hard to find photos online, so if anyone has any experience with these, let me know!
In the vlog I showed you the cabinet color & style we chose for the kitchen, but soon I’ll do an entire Kitchen Plan blog post so I’ll be sharing everything then! We’ve made a lot of decisions but still have few more to make, so hopefully in the next month it will all be finalized. I’m probably the most excited about the kitchen in this house—I think you’ll understand why after the Kitchen Plan is revealed 😉
And last but not least—did you catch the whole door debacle I posted about on Instagram? A few days ago I found this antique beauty at a local salvage yard:
It was love at first sight, and I thought it’d be perfect as a laundry room door (it needs to be cut down a few inches to fit) BUT it was listed at $245—more than we were hoping to spend. Feeling internally conflicted, I left the salvage yard and posted it on Instagram to get your feedback.
Within hours I was bombarded with hundreds of messages from you guys insisting I go back and buy the door. It was just the push I needed to make the call, and the next day, the door was all mine!
We even talked them down to $230 delivered! #SoWorthIt. Glad I didn’t pass this one up and live with the regret forever. This is the first official purchase for this house, so I think we’re starting on the right track!
I’d love to think that by this time next week, there will be a lot of new and exciting updates to show you, but now comes the phase of necessary but boring stuff like plumbing, electrical and HVAC. I’ll make sure to update you on our progress, but tell us what else you’d like to see! More shopping? More design/inspiration? More about Real Estate Investing? A video Q&A? We’re all ears over here.
Another week in the books, and time is officially flying here in Florida! Part of me likes that because I’m so anxious for progress and our future plans… and the other half of me is screaming ‘Slow down! I’ll never get to relive these youthful days again!’
The internal struggle is real. But the show of life goes on, and in this week’s episode we get our hands dirty on #demoday and talk about where we’re at with the Bungalow!
Some exciting news to come out of this episode—we were interviewed for our first podcast! The hosts invited us on as guests after we met them at an investor meetup last month, and no one was more surprised than us! We’re still so new at this, so we’re thinking this will be our “Before” interview, and we’ll return a few years down the road after we’re ‘seasoned investors’. It was a fun interview—we talked about how we met, what our strategy is and our plans for the future, and a lot more. You can listen to it here!
In other house-related news—finding a qualified and reliable contractor has been a struggle for us here in Florida, and certainly the cause of some stress over the past couple weeks. I know firsthand how critical a good GC is to these renovations (especially on a timeline and budget) and we were worried we’d never find one. At one point we thought that our only option was to be our own GC and hire individual subcontractors for the work, but last week we ended up finding someone who we feel good about. It’s a trial and error process, especially when you’re new to an area. Now we have a team in place and a schedule we feel good about, so we’re hoping all goes smoothly!
On another note, we’ve been playing around with the kitchen layout and came up with another option. In the Before Tour last week, I showed you our original idea:
Please ignore all of the finishes—the Homestyler software is very limited so this floor plan is purely for spatial planning!
Anyway, I didn’t love the idea of being able to see the fridge from across the house when you walk in the front door (even if it blended in with the cabinets), but the options were pretty limited with this layout.
Until… I decided to think outside of the box (literally) and move part of the laundry room wall to accommodate the fridge…
This plan leaves the perfect amount of space for a washer & dryer, and now you can only see the fridge if you’re in front of it. Plus you get that triangle workspace flow.
We’re pretty sure we like this idea better, especially if we can’t afford a $10k fridge with integrated panel doors (we can’t). I don’t like stainless steel, but it’s much easier to live with if it’s not constantly in my face.
Oh yeah, and we’ve been having fun dreaming up ideas for the back oven wall (despite the mismatched mess you see above, we think the end result will be pretty spectacular). The jury is still out on whether or not a small island will fit/make sense in this space. Now we just have to figure out what to do with this big open empty wall!
More cabinets & windows? Open shelving? A sconce? Nothing at all? We need to decide pretty quickly since cabinet production takes so long and it will hold up other things. We’re hoping to meet with Lowe’s this weekend to get an idea of what our options are. If anyone has any awesome ideas, shoot them my way!
As for the Bungalow, we’re still under contract (I told you this was going to take a while!) and currently in our Due Diligence period. This is the time where you get your inspections done, estimates for repairs, etc, after you go under contract. It was easy with the Heights House—we bought the house as-is and there were no major surprises with the inspection.
Commercial deals, however, are quite a bit different. Before submitting our offer, we had pretty limited information about the property (an estimate of annual cash flow and expenses), but during due diligence, the seller is required to give us all of the actual records—rent roll, copies of the leases, all expenses and costs and anything else on file. We were also able to walk through each of the 5 units with our contractor, and got a thorough inspection.
We knew the electric on this 1925 build property was in bad shape, but yesterday the quote came in at $55,000 to rewire it! That is just insane. So, now we have to go back to the seller to ask for concessions and do some renegotiating. We still very much want this deal because the numbers work, so we’ll see what the seller agrees to do. Keep your fingers crossed for us! If all goes as planned, the Bungalow will be ours by the end of March.
That’s all the news for this week! As always, I’ll be sharing daily updates over on my Instagram stories if you want to stay on top of The Heights House progress. You can also find me on Facebook, occasionally Snapchat, and of course there’s a whole lot more on my YouTube channel.
It’s nearly 90° here in Florida—sending some of our hot February air your way!
What’s the next best thing to an After Tour? A Before Tour, of course! Well, at least it is when you can visualize the end result!
I’ve done a few of these Before & After’s over the years, and this house is certainly expected to be in the running for the “most improved” award. In today’s vlog episode, we’re taking you on a walk-through of the house, showing you how it currently looks along with an explanation of the upgrades, with a 3D design of the completed home! Watch now:
The video tour is definitely the best way to visualize the space, but I’m also sharing the photos & overall plans here in this post. Let’s start with the current floorplan:
We did our best to measure here and the numbers aren’t exact, but they’re pretty close. The house is just over 1400 square feet, plus an enclosed sunroom/porch in the back. It’s a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath built in the 1940’s.
The current floor plan is pretty chopped up, with two potential living rooms that are too small to be functional. The kitchen is a decent size, but it’s galley style and at the end of the hallway, closed off from the rest of the house.
Here’s what we came up with:
The biggest change will be to open up the space by removing the small half bathroom in the center of the house, and eliminating the narrow third bedroom just across from that. A third bathroom isn’t necessary in a house this size, and we will enclose one of the second living rooms (in the top left) so it becomes the new third bedroom. The old narrow bedroom and closet will become part of the open living space, and the back of the old bedroom will become a new laundry room. The horizontal wall in the center of the home is load bearing (it was originally the exterior wall) so we’ll build a header to support the part we’re removing, along with decorative vertical columns.
The master bedroom/bathroom and the front bedroom/bathroom will stay pretty much the same.
In the kitchen, we’ll remove the existing pantry closet and laundry room, and extend the new cabinets all the way to that wall.
Hard to follow? Let’s take a look at the photos! Starting with the modest little exterior:
We certainly didn’t buy this home for its looks—the neighborhood is what sold us! It’s on an oversized corner lot in a desirable neighborhood, just off the river, surrounded by much nicer houses. Here’s the view from above the house:
And this backyard is the stuff of dreams…
Bonus: it comes with a detached 2 car garage and a large storage shed!
We aren’t going to focus on the exterior for a while, though. The plan is to have the main living areas completed (living room/dining/kitchen) before we move in, in July.
Back to the front of the house. Currently there’s a small enclosed entryway with a screen door, which I’d like to become the new front door.
The porch will become an interior foyer/entryway area with hooks and a storage bench.
New view from inside the living room! I’m using the free Homestyler app for these. It’s great for spacial planning, but very limited on decor and finishes, so ignore all of that—this is just to get a general idea.
And here’s the view from the front door into the living room (you may want to put on sunglasses):
It’s yellow! The color of sunshine and happiness, right?
Let me tell you, felt great to sledgehammer that thing a few days ago (demo coverage coming soon). The room is not in the best of shape, and we actually plan to rip all of the overly-textured drywall out because it’s easier to replace than mudding and sanding it all down to a flat finish. Cracked popcorn ceilings are going bye-bye too.
The biggest change in here will be the layout—the entire back wall will be gone!
On the left wall will be an office/study (hopefully with built-ins one day) and just beyond that will be the new living room.
The door on the far right (below) leads to the front bedroom, which will stay the same. The next door on the left leads to a narrow third bedroom, which will be eliminated, with half the space used for the living room, and the other half for a new laundry room. The hallway leads to the kitchen and that wall will be gone, and the space to the left is the half bathroom which will also be gone. The far left door leads to the master bathroom, and that will stay. This house will feel so much larger!
That back wall is load bearing (it’s actually the original exterior wall of the home!) so we’ll add a header to support the section we’re removing (almost 18′), and add decorative vertical columns on either side for architectural interest.
If you walk down the hallway (which is where the new dining room will be) and turn around, you’ll see the half bathroom we’re eliminating:
Across the hall from that is the kitchen.
It’s a decent sized kitchen, but we’ll be eliminating the pantry and laundry room on the back wall to gain a few more feet.
Again, ignore the finishes (this program only has one range hood to choose from!) but this is our general idea for the layout. We want to add a wall of windows above the sink to allow plenty of light.
To the right of the kitchen will be a door to the new pantry (currently the back of the narrow bedroom).
Here’s what that bedroom looks like now:
From where you’re standing in this photo, you’d be right between the new dining/living room. The door on the far right is a walk-in closet which will be removed and become part of the living room, and the door in the middle is to the guest bathroom which will stay put, and be accessed through the new laundry room/pantry area. Here’s another angle:
That creepy pink glowing wall will be the new back wall of the living room, where the TV sits.
Let’s take a look at the guest bathroom situation:
This might actually be the largest bathroom I’ve ever owned!
I haven’t even started to come up with plans for this one—we’re saving this renovation for later. I just know I’m changing the two doors to pocket doors. One leads to the laundry room, the other leads to the front bedroom:
Nothing special here. It’s basically your most average bedroom in the world.
But it’ll make a cozy guest room someday.
Exiting the guest bedroom takes you right back out into the entrance/study area. And on the other side of the study, we have our master bedroom.
It’s long and narrow—not the easiest shape to work with. Definitely can’t fit a King sized bed or a dresser in here (don’t let the wide angle lens fool you).
Once again—the drawing is just for scale & reference.
On the opposite side of the room are two closets and a bathroom.
The bathtub will have to be moved in by around 12″, because right now it’s cutting into where the new living room will be, but it’s still a nice sized bathroom.
Haven’t even started thinking about the remodel in here yet—that will come in the future.
If we go back out into the living room and turn left, you’ll end up at the door of the new third bedroom.
Here’s what the room looks like now:
I’m not sure what they used this space for (maybe a dining room?) but we believe that it’s highest and best use is a third bedroom.
We’ll close up the 4th wall, add a door, and switch the wall on the master bathroom closet so that it’s accessible from this room.
Finally, we have our sunroom.
Haven’t quite figured out what to do here yet, but the options are limitless!
I know that I at least want to replace the back door with a set of glass french doors. Can’t get enough natural light and backyard views!
Standing at the back door looking towards the front of the house, here’s the new view:
I know it may not all make sense right now, but the video tour is a lot more clear since you can physically walk through the space. And don’t worry, I’m going to be posting about this renovation constantly so you’ll probably be sick of it before long 🙂
And there you have it! Aren’t these 3D renderings total game changers? Lucas and I spent hours and days arranging and rearranging, even changing the floor plan a handful of times, thanks to this software. It has certainly helped us to decide the best use of space, and it’s really great for figuring out furniture sizes. I just wish there were more options for colors, styles and products, or the ability to import your own. Then it would be perfect!
The day this is published we’re supposed to be doing another walk-through and inspection of the 5-unit bungalow (can you believe we’ve been under contract for 3 weeks and still haven’t been able to see one of the units?!) so fingers crossed all goes well there.
Things have already started out a little bumpy for us with contractors, budgets and timelines… but the road to success is never smooth, right? At least that’s what we’re telling ourselves 🙂
If there’s one thing you can count on from this blog, it’s no shortage of big changes and newsworthy updates! Today’s announcement may sound familiar if you’ve been following the blog for a few years… watch below to find out what it is!
For those who can’t watch right now—here’s the short story:
I’ve officially decided to start offering design services again! Lucas and I have been talking a lot about our goals as investors and the life we want to build together, and figuring out what we really love to do—what drives and motivates us.
Over the past several months, it has become clear to me that my passion is interior design. Three years ago I launched my e-design services, but that was right before a chaotic time in my life and I had to put everything on hold a few months later. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d ever design another house again, but life is full of twists and turns—and here I am. And there’s no place I’d rather be—doing what I love, with the person I love, in a city I’m beginning to love. When you’re this passionate about something, you want to share it with the world and channel that energy into helping others.
As of now, the plan is to focus on local clients in the Tampa area, but I’ll also be taking on a select number of e-design clients monthly. If you’d like to learn more, check out my new Design Help page and click the fill out a consultation form to get started! To all my Tampa friends, I’d love to work with you, and please spread the word to others in the area!
In today’s vlog I gave a quick update on our two properties along with a preview of our single family home, and next week you’ll get the full walk through tour before demo begins! We’re still making slow progress on the 5-unit bungalow, but things are moving in the right direction.
There’s new updates constantly over here, so the best way to keep up is to follow me on instagram and facebook. And as always, you’ll get the full show on my YouTube channel, so make sure to subscribe so each episode reaches your inbox!
Next up: A Before Tour, our plans for the house, and demo day! And so it begins again…
We’ve officially been here in Florida for three weeks now, and somehow it feels like months—I guess that’s what happens when you stay as busy as we have!
Last week we shared that we went under contract on a single family home here in Tampa, and by the next day we were under contract for another property—a 5-unit apartment bungalow!
It’s adorable, right? We found this place months ago and have been talking to the agent and lining up financing so that we could jump on it as soon as we landed in Florida. The seller hasn’t been the easiest to work with, which is why it has taken so long and we don’t expect this deal to be over for another two months—if it even makes it that far. There are a lot of obstacles with this one, and we’ll share more about that in an upcoming episode.
The real game changer here is the single family home, which popped up on Zillow one night last week, and within 18 hours we were under contract after a bidding war!
It may not look like much, but this modest little home sits just off the river in one of the best neighborhoods in the city—one that we think is going to take off in the next several years—and we wanted to get in while we had a chance. This place needs a complete remodel down to the studs, but I’m preparing for a full-scale Jenna Sue Design renovation, and don’t mind spending the extra cash because we can picture ourselves settling down and starting a family here after we get married in September.
In this week’s vlog episode, we’re talking all about financing—how investors are able to buy properties, why bank loans are a little tricky for us, and how we’re making it work anyway:
I’ll break it down for you here on the blog too.
There’s a handful of ways that you can get started buying real estate:
1. Through a bank
This is the most obvious method of course, and for good reason. Bank loans are the cheapest money you can get, with current mortgage rates in the 4% range (this is historically low, people, and it’s about to go up!) But not everyone will qualify. You must be able to prove an income that falls into standard debt/income ratio guidelines (some banks are stricter than others) and there is a limit to how many mortgages you can have in your name (usually up to 10, sometimes less). If you have a decent job without a ton of debt and you want to buy real estate—you’ve hit the jackpot! This journey would be infinitely easier for us if we fit into that mold, but unfortunately, we don’t.
This formula doesn’t always work with say, folks who are retired, or self-employed and take a lot of tax write-offs. It certainly doesn’t work for Lucas, who quit his job last year, nor I (self-employed). We simply don’t qualify for a traditional residential loan.
Notice I said residential—fortunately, commercial loans are treated a bit differently. A house becomes a commercial property when it has 5 or more units, aka an apartment building. The bungalow barely makes the cut with 5 small units between 2 buildings. After we tirelessly ran the numbers and put together a pro-forma package to present to the bank, we were able to convince them that it was indeed a good investment. With commercial loans, the banks put more emphasis on the property as an investment rather than your personal financial situation or history as an investor—although that does weigh into their decision. Since we’re new investors and new to to the area, it’s a bit of an uphill battle for us to gain their trust, but so far our efforts have paid off! We still don’t have the official approval yet, but we’re expecting everything to go smoothly on that front.
But there are so many banks, where do I start?! Your best bet is the small, local banks and credit unions. Why? You’ll be able to develop a personal relationship with them where you’re more than just a number. Over time, they’ll come to understand your goals and trust you, and therefore be more willing to fund your deals—unlike a highly regulated big bank, where everyone is a number that has to fit into their calculators and guidelines. We’ve already opened up a business account with a local bank here, and hope to start laying the groundwork for a long-standing relationship.
2. Private Investors
Not long ago I read a quote that said “your net worth is in your network” and it really stuck with me. I’m learning this to be true in all aspects of life, and real estate is no exception! It’s all about connections and who you know. So many successful investors have taken their first steps with other individuals who trusted and believed in them.
There’s different ways to structure personal loans, but a promissory note is the simplest way to go about this. My first private investor was with the Cottage House Flip, and it worked out great! She loaned me money which went toward the purchase of the house, and I was able to pay her back with interest once it sold. The great thing about this deal is that you and the investor get to decide the terms and come to a mutually beneficial agreement. It’s a win-win situation, where you gain temporary financing, and the investor gains a safe and high return.
Lucas and I have been open about sharing our real estate journey, and that has led to awareness and trust within our network of friends, family and colleagues. We’re working with a handful of them now, which is how we were able to purchase the single family home. Each investor will get a promissory note outlining the rate and terms, and they’ll be paid back once we refinance the property and pull our equity out. This is a tried & true method that has been used for investors for years, and I’ll go into more detail on this strategy in a future episode/blog post.
Similar to a private investor, a partnership is more of a joint venture where equity is involved. This is a great way to get into a deal with no money out of pocket. Often times, one partner will fund the entire deal, and the other will be responsible for doing all of the work (acquisition, rehab, management/sale) and they’ll split the profit share equally (this happens all the time!).
We definitely see ourselves working with partners in the future, as our capital will be tied up for a while with these two properties. There is less reward, but also less risk, and it’s a nice way to make valuable connections and scale up quickly.
4. Hard Money
Hard money has a negative connotation, and it certainly has its pros and cons. Pros: it doesn’t take much to get approved (they can overlook low credit scores and lack of investor experience), and you’ll get the money fast. Cons: Because it’s a riskier loan in their eyes, it’s very expensive—we’re talking at least 15% interest, sometimes with thousands of dollars in fees. I like to think of hard money lenders as a last resort, and it’s nice to know they are there to fall back on. They aren’t inherently bad—as long as you factor in the costs into your calculations and the numbers still work, then you shouldn’t worry about using one!
5. Creative Financing
This is where investing can get a little fun—like solving a puzzle! There’s endless ways to go about structuring a deal to make it work. Seller financing is a long-time favorite of investors (that’s where you work out a deal directly with the seller to pay them monthly installments instead of the bank) and there’s lesser-known ways to invest like using a Solo 401k or Self-directed IRA. We’re still learning the ins and outs of these and haven’t personally experienced them yet, but the more you know, the more opportunities you’ll have!
We plan to employ every strategy we can to make these deals happen, especially given our handicap of not being able to qualify for a traditional residential bank loan. The best way to become great at what you do is to think outside of the box, and come up with creative solutions to make your dream happen. We’re working on that little by little each day, and we’re certainly making plenty of mistakes, but that just shows that we’re trying to figure it out!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s episode and learned something new! I can dive into any of these topics and go on forever, so leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to chat about next week! We’ll also be doing a video Q&A soon, so I’ll be adding questions to answer later 🙂
Keep your fingers crossed for us with these two properties… there’s still so many unknowns and a lot on the line! I’ll be updating as much as I can over on instagram and facebook, so make sure to check there in the meantime.
Okay guys… we’re off to a crazy start here in Florida. We’ve only been here two weeks, and it feels like months. Our days are jam packed with meetings and research and house hunting and evaluations and networking… not to mention trying to record it all and edit it down into a vlog so you guys can come along for the ride and learn from our mistakes experience. Our heads are spinning… but in the best way possible 🙂
By the time you read this, there will be even more updates and news to share. It’s a real life drama that’s unfolding every hour. Honestly, we’re just along for the ride on this rollercoaster and trying to keep our sanity. At least I have someone to hang onto this time around! Lucas has been amazing throughout this business-launching stage, and I really couldn’t pull this off without him (spreadsheets and I don’t get along). I’ll have to step up and put my strengths into play as soon as we get the keys to this first house, which is scheduled to be the day after Valentine’s. Eek! So much to plan, so little time.
This is the part where I need your help—with so much flying around right now, what do you want to learn about or see more of? What topics can we address in the next episode that you want answered from a real, honest perspective? We’re just getting started and we certainly don’t know it all, but we’ve learned an incredible amount compared to just a few months ago and want to help you guys too!
Drop me a note in the comments below, or find me on Facebook, instagram or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More excitement, coming right up!
As promised after my recent announcement about our new company, today is the debut of our very first vlog! Click to watch:
This past week has been a complete whirlwind (how has it only been 7 days since we landed in Florida?!) and it’s just the beginning.
On top of unpacking, getting situated, 16 hour days filled with calls and meetings and paperwork—we’re attempting to document the entire crazy process to share with the world. We hope that this will help others on the same path or who are simply interested in learning about real estate investing, starting a business from the ground up or the rehab & design aspect. Also, it will be fun to look back in 10 or 20 years and see where we started 😉
Now we want to hear from you—what do you want to see and learn about? We’re basically guinea pigs here, trying to figure it all out from scratch. We’ve made a lot of progress since last year, but we’re committed to dedicating our lives to becoming experts on the whole spectrum of real estate investing (including rehab & design, of course!). I don’t see this discussed much in the blogosphere, so we’re hoping to fill that niche as best as we can.
Reach out to me on instagram, facebook, or leave a comment below with any questions or topics you’d like us to address. Nothing is off limits, and we’ll be doing ongoing video Q&A’s with our answers.
Is it weird that I’m more excited about this than the day we left to travel the world for 8 months? Maybe that just means this is really what I’m meant to do. Big things are coming… I can feel it!
There’s nothing like being taken out of your natural habitat and exposed to incredible design from all over the world to re-energize your batteries. After spending most of last year immersed in cultures I’d only dreamed about—from ancient Greek civilizations to the Renaissance masters to iconic Asian temples, you can bet I took a ton of notes and inspiration back with me.
Of course, I also kept an eye on what was happening back home (thank you Instagram & Pinterest) and the result has birthed a new design style—an extensive catalog of images that have caught my eye fused with mental snapshots from around the globe.
Truly, I’ve never been more pumped about interior design in my life (absence makes the heart grow fonder?) and I am chomping at the bit to get started on a new project.
I needed a place to collect my thoughts and inspiration, so I created a 2018 Design Pinterest board and today I want to share the top 10 design ideas & trends I’m most excited about for the new year!
1. Mosaic & Patterned Tile
If there’s one thing that consistently stood out throughout every single country we stepped foot in, tile was it. I’d go as far as saying that it’s the most universal design element. Even in the most lackluster places, you can find hidden gems in tile with unexpected colors, patterns and placement.
The moment that sparked it all for me was walking into Pompeii in Italy, the archaeological site that was essentially frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. We’re looking at mosaic tile that was laid in the 6th century BC, folks. I was completely captivated.
Tiny bits of stone carefully placed to create these intricate designs that tell ancient stories—how could you not be inspired from the civilization that started this trend? I spent hours on the hunt for these masterpieces, running around snapping photos of every tile floor I could find. You bet I’ll be replicating some of these in my future work. Even outside the village in the city of Pompei, you’ll find mosaic on the sidewalks:
So fun, right? Unique touches like these are really what make a place special and memorable. Even without taking that extra step to spell something out, I’m loving the idea of “tile carpets” or sections of floor with a tile inlay, particularly in entrances or bathrooms (bonus points if it’s mixed with wood!)
Except that I have yet to find anything like this that isn’t outrageously expensive… if you have a source, please let me know!
2. Molding/trim details
I’ve always been vocal about wall/ceiling trim and molding being the holy grail in the bang-for-your-buck category, and my conviction in that has only been strengthened after traveling. Now I want to take it a step further, past the shiplap, beadboard and traditional moldings. It’ll be an uphill battle to achieve the look I want on a limited budget, but it’s a fight I’m willing to stay in ’til the end.
I blame Morocco and India for these new high standards. You can’t walk a block without passing beautifully carved wood and plaster accents covering every building. Square edges just don’t cut it for me anymore.
With that said, I don’t see myself figuring out a way to recreate an entire Moroccan riad on the cheap anytime soon, so I’ll have to start small and work my way up. Even something as simple as adding a wood appliqué to a small section of wall or furniture makes a world of difference (spoiler alert, I already have a project in mind!)
I just love how creative you can be with this! Just think of all the flat and plain surfaces that can be transformed. Ahh, the smell of possibility…
3. Non-traditional cased openings/doorways
You know you’ve seen too much when the sight of a plain doorway wrapped in drywall and paint makes you die a little inside. I don’t wanna live that kind of life anymore. It’s time to step up our game in 2018, folks.
I know, this is one of those things that your house was either blessed to be built with or not. I plan to seek out homes that specifically have these unique details, but I understand they’ll be few and far between. I haven’t priced out what it would cost for a contractor to do that sort of custom work, but there are other ways to add interest to those plain openings. Like a transom window hung horizontally and/or vertically, for instance:
Sticking with this architectural interest theme, I’d be crazy to leave out doors. Transforming boring doors has been my mission for years (remember my DIY door tutorials here, here, here, here, here, here and here?) and now the bar is set even higher.
You know how I said that tile was what most consistently stood out in every country we visited? Well, I just changed my mind. Doors win that title, hands down. I love you America, but the rest of the world is killing it with their doors.
These aren’t just the doors of fancy churches or palaces either—they’re typical homes and abandoned buildings and everything in between. Every door is unique and has history and character. That’s what we should aim to bring into our homes.
I’m particularly drawn to arched doors, but of course those are exponentially more expensive (both materials & labor) so I may have to curb my expectations on that for a while.
Places like salvage yards and flea markets are the perfect hunting grounds for these pieces, but they often don’t come cheap and I’d imagine the labor costs involved will be even more. Anyone have experience with something like this? I’d love your feedback on the costs!
5. Special sinks
I’m pretty sure every sink I’ve ever purchased has been a classic white vessel or farmhouse, but in 2018 I’m looking to break out of that pattern. Leave it to Greece, perhaps my favorite country in all the land, to make me change my ways. Rustic and stone is all I dream about now…
I could sink shop all day long. The trickier part will be striking that balance between price, form and function. I’ll be designing real life houses, on a real budget for real people, so something’s gotta give. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out!
6. Built-in ranges & hoods
Have you noticed the trend of large wall surrounds being built around stoves? I can’t get enough of it.
There’s so many different ways you can play around with this arrangement and style—including hidden storage on the inside, rustic or fancy molding or shelving on the outside, or a simple and clean smooth finish. I can not wait to implement this.
I’ll just lay it out there: I’m over stainless steel. I’ve never really been much of a silver girl, but the general US population has demanded stainless for the past decade so that is what we do without thinking twice. But you know what SS? It’s 2018 and your time is up!
Ok, I wish it were that easy. It’ll take a lot more than one person to change the minds of a collective nation, so in the meantime I’ll look for ways around it. Unfortunately, the ways around it = big bucks, so I’ll have to ride out this stainless steel wave until manufacturers start providing affordable options, or I win the lottery and can afford $7,000 stoves.
Colored ranges are my jam. How are we able to choose every color and style of flooring, cabinets, counters and tile under the sun—but we’re stuck with giant boxes of reflective metal that don’t match anything? This is an epidemic, people.
Beautiful ranges are one thing, but then we still have refrigerators and dishwashers to worry about. In a perfect world, those would all be integrated (faced with panels that match your cabinets):
Of course, this is also quite expensive and I have yet to find an affordable alternative. Hopefully this post will start a movement, or at least a call to action for the manufacturers to provide options to those of us on a budget. If nothing else, I’m putting this energy out into the universe and maybe it will manifest… 😉
8. Antique glass mirrors
Those mercury glass style mirrors have always stopped me in my tracks, and I was able to try it out for myself with a DIY project at the Cottage House Flip:
It turned out to be my favorite mirror of all time and I was completely sold on this antique finish look. There’s plenty of DIY tutorials out there, and the greatest part is that you can even turn any window into an antique mirror! If these photos aren’t enough to make you run to your nearest hardware store to grab the supplies, I don’t know what is.
Ok, so I might have stolen this one from Mrs. Joanna Gaines… or maybe I did this in the Cottage House Flip last year before she did? Classic chicken and egg situation 🙂
But watching it appear time and time again on latest season of Fixer Upper has me sold. Gray walls & white trim have been the default for the past several years—why not switch it around? In the words of the wise Sheryl Crowl, I think a change will do you good.
The gray accent doesn’t have to be limited to the trim—it can carry over to doors, shelving and other accents. It doesn’t have to even be limited to gray either, but I’d caution choosing a non-neutral color because painting over trim if you change your mind later is a huge time commitment.
10. Brick + Stone
If you followed the Cottage House Flip, you may remember what a big impact those brick pavers made:
I used them in a bathroom, laundry room and even the kitchen… and I could have kept going! The pavers are great because they’re thin and you can lay them anywhere, just like tile. They work well in any room too, both indoor and outdoor. You’ll see a lot more of these in my future.
Another material I’ve dabbled a bit with in the past is stone, in the form of pebble tiles in my old bathroom:
I can’t get enough of that earthy look so those will also be making a comeback at some point.
For future designs, I want to experiment with new materials, like the rough stone walls I fell in love with in the south of France:
Budget will likely be a big factor in how well I can execute my vision, but if the option is there, I’m taking full advantage!
It was hard to narrow this list down to 10—I could go on all day about everything I’m obsessing over! A few more things I’m loving right now are brass, mixed metals, natural wood tones, black and white, vintage oriental rugs, antique furniture, carved wood anything, wallpaper, and minimalist fireplace mantels.
And just for fun, here are a few colors that are high on my list for 2018…
Woodlawn Colonial Gray is the accent color I used all throughout the Cottage House Flip. It took a lot of trial and error to find that perfect shade of pale gray, so I’m sticking with what works! I also used Dark Kettle Black on all of the doors, and it was the richest black I could find. I loved the results!
Tender Shell is an interesting one—a photo of a subtle pinkish-taupe door caught my eye the other day, and I can’t get it out of my head. This color would be fun on a piece of furniture or an accent somewhere.
I’m all about the sage greens this year, both dark and light. I haven’t tried these two colors out in person yet, but will be experimenting with that soon!
I’ve also been on the hunt for a pale mushroom gray, just like the cabinets from DeVol kitchens I posted under #6 above, and Brown Buzz looks like it could be a worthy candidate. I want to try these on kitchen cabinets myself, or any piece of furniture, perhaps even walls.
If you’ve used any colors that are a close match to any of the ones listed above, please let me know! It’s always helpful to see results from others first.
Whew… how’s that novel for my first design related post in forever? I’m finally able to let out some of that pent up inspiration over the past 10 months! This is just the beginning, my friends.
Coming up next, the debut of our new vlog! We’ve kept the camera rolling these past few weeks as we packed up & moved from California to Florida, and officially launched our real estate business here in Tampa. There’s so much to talk about! In the meantime, you can catch me over on instagram & facebook and stay in the loop about everything. Make sure you’re following my 2018 Pinterest board for more design inspiration, and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you’ll be the first to know when our vlog goes live later this week! <3
As promised after my recent announcement about our new company, today is the debut of our very first vlog! Click to watch:
This past week has been a complete whirlwind (how has it only been 7 days since we landed in Florida?!) and it's just the beginning.
On top of unpacking, getting situated, 16 hour days filled with calls and meetings and paperwork—we're aRead More »
There's nothing like being taken out of your natural habitat and exposed to incredible design from all over the world to re-energize your batteries. After spending most of last year immersed in cultures I'd only dreamed about—from ancient Greek civilizations to the Renaissance masters to iconic Asian temples, you can bet I took a ton of notes and inspiration back withRead More »
Hello from Tampa, Florida! The three of us (including our kitty, Susie) survived yesterday's long travel day and are settling in to our new temporary home. Our car and belongings are still en route so we’ll be living out of backpacks and on an air mattress for a little while—but of course we’re used to that :)
Earlier this year I mentioned our big plans to travel aRead More »
As we ring in the new year, I can't let 2017 go without pausing to reflect on the incredible journey it was for us. I spent endless hours documenting our experiences—through words, photos and video, and over the last month I've sorted through it all to create the highlight reel. Here is Our Year:
In 2017, we left our lives behind in California to see the world. OveRead More »
Since finishing up the Cottage House Flip this past February, I haven't been able to work on a single house project in nine months—the longest break from DIY/rehabbing since I bought my first home in 2008!
Fortunately, my parents took on a project of their own during this time and I think it turned out pretty amazing—so amazing that I just had to share it with you Read More »
After documenting our travels on this blog since April, it's time for the final trip post! If you missed last weeks' big recap (including best/worst places and a total cost breakdown), make sure to get caught up here.
I've made videos/vlogs for most of the countries we visited both as a creative outlet, and a way to preserve richer memories—beyond words and still pRead More »
Now that we've been home for a couple weeks and have had a chance to settle back in to a a new "normal", it's time to recap our 240-day trip around the world.
We're covering the highs, the lows, and even revealing exactly how much everything cost! Without further ado, here's what we came up with...
Top 3 Places
This question is almost impossible to answer bRead More »
Day 225-228: Jaipur
The sky in northern India is a deep shade of ivory.
At 5pm, a red sun is extinguished by the thick layer of pollution far above the horizon, signaling the days end.
No one seems to notice, and time never slows down for the billions living in India, in a perpetual frenzy to get wherever they’re going.
We left Pushkar by public bus—a bumpy foRead More »
As I press publish on this post, we’re on a plane back home to the states—for good! Our trip has finally come to an end (I’ll talk more about my feelings on this later) but I still have a few more posts coming your way to recap the final days.
Now that it’s all over, our visit to Sri Lanka feels like ages ago. We spent a week there in late October, just before arriviRead More »
Day 216-220: Kochi, India
They say you either love India or you hate it.
It’s a place of opposites—a constant battle of extremes struggling to stay in balance. Chaos and peace, beauty and filth, life and death—all weaved together to form the fabric of a vibrant culture. Each day I feel like I'm walking the fine line between a nightmare and a dream.
India is thRead More »
After abandoning our plans to make a video for Morocco (thanks to the whole drone debacle), in a spur of the moment one night in Tangier, we instead pressed Record on our phone. That first clip turned into hundreds over the next two weeks, and we wound up with a new documentary style vlog—something we've never done before (click to watch):
I was still able to mRead More »
Day 209: Colombo, Sri Lanka
Getting to Sri Lanka from Morocco was no simple task—from the moment we left our riad in Marrakech it would be another 43 hours until we stepped inside our hostel in Colombo.
The travel process began with an overnight train to Tangier, a half day at the airport followed by a flight to Spain, another layover followed by a redeye to DelhiRead More »
Day 201: Merzouga Desert, Morocco
Six days into our Moroccan adventure, we were ready to escape the bustle of the city and venture out to the edge of the Sahara.
We arranged a three day, two night desert excursion with a final destination of Marrakech.
A van picked us up from our riad at dawn and we loaded our bags, not sure what to expect from this "tour". No oRead More »
Day 194-195: Tangier, Morocco
There are some places in this world that you fall in love with immediately—a paradise you never want to leave. Somewhere that slides right into your comfort zone and makes you feel safe and at peace.
Then there are others that humble you, reminding you of how fortunate and privileged you are to have the freedom to live any life you chooRead More »
After a hectic week in Morocco, I finally had a chance to sit down and sort through our footage from Switzerland. You've seen the photos, and those were just a small preview of the magic captured from the sky.
This video is a shorter and simpler than previous formats, as we only had a week to spend and a handful of locations to shoot. It's entirely 4k drone footageRead More »
Day 183-186: Munich, Germany
After a ten hour bus ride from Croatia, we arrived in Munich and experienced our first taste of the madness that is Oktoberfest.
I'm not much of a beer drinker, but this event is one of those bucket list items and something Lucas had been wanting to do for years. A few friends from back home flew out to join us, which made it thaRead More »
Day 166-168: Dubrovnik, Croatia
Boarding a plane to leave Greece was probably our most difficult goodbye yet, but once in the air, we're always excited and ready to embrace the new culture of the next country. Croatia was our next destination, with Dubrovnik as the first stop.
Known for being Kings Landing in the Game of Thrones TV show, the city is a quite a sighRead More »