Our Engagement Story

My grandmother would have been 100 years old on Saturday, and I know her spirit was there, shining through the clouds as Lucas got on one knee and asked me to marry him as the sun set over Rio de Janeiro. This trip suddenly has a whole new meaning.

Screen-Shot-2017-04-15-at-6.26.32-PM

I was finishing up my post about our second week in Brazil, but after the announcement, I can’t leave you hanging! I’ll be back soon with our regularly scheduled content.

We had returned from the south coast of Brazil for two more nights in Rio before heading up north to Salvador, and after a quiet week of relaxing on the beach we were ready for something a bit more lively.

IMG_6293

Our new hostel was known for its parties, and we booked $11 beds in a shared dorm. A complete 180° from every previous hostel, this one was packed with folks (who spoke English) and we quickly made friends with our French and Swedish roommates. It was a Friday night which meant street party in Lapa—our second time going, but it was even more crowded this week as there was no rain.

No details needed, but it was easily the most memorable night of our trip and one that will be hard to beat.

IMG_0096

Feeling quite groggy the next morning after lack of sleep, we were determined to spend our last day visiting Christ the Redeemer and watching the sun set at Arpoador rock.

IMG_0088

After a long and confusing bus ride/transfer service, we finally arrived at Cristo Redentor. Tip: never go on a Saturday during good weather after a week of rain, especially the day before Easter (especially if you have claustrophobia).

IMG_9142

It was a zoo, and we were herded like cattle to the viewing platform, fighting our way to the edge to try and get a photo each time the clouds cleared. It took about 2 hours to get these photos, but very worth it. And the ever changing mix of blue sky and clouds swirling around Christ—magical.

IMG_9135IMG_6287IMG_9140

By the time we got our photos a few hours later than planned, we had to rush to Copacabana before the sun set. The metro dropped us off just in time and the sky began to change colors as we ran down the boardwalk towards the rock. Just before the end of the beach, Lucas stopped me and told me to wait there while he grabbed something. Thinking nothing of it, I paused to take a quick video, and a few minutes later we were back on the run.

We climbed past the crowd to the back of the rock, where I found a clearing to set my camera down to record a time lapse of the sunset (or so I thought). Making sure we were visible in the frame, Lucas turned me towards him, said that we had made some amazing memories together so far and we’re about to make so many more, and kneeled down with a ring. I was legitimately shocked, to the point of asking him if this was real (several times). The crowd took notice and began to clap, and of course I said yes and spent the next five minutes trying to comprehend what had just happened.

IMG_9160-2

Sidenote: Funny(ish) story… an hour before the proposal, Lucas realized he had lost the ring (as in, not misplaced it or left it in the hostel, but it was gone forever somewhere in the streets of Rio). Needing a Plan B quick, he bought one off a street vendor along the beach for $3 as we were rushing to catch the sunset—hence the reason he told me to stop and wait there.

IMG_0090

We both agree it actually worked out for the better though, because now we get to go find one together on this trip, and the story behind it is much better than the jewel itself. I’ve heard Brazil is known for their gemstones so I can’t wait to find the one 😉

Back to the story. After the initial shock wore off, it was pure elation as we found an all you can eat Brazilian BBQ, splurged on a fancy dinner and stuffed ourselves with steak and caipirinhas.

IMG_6299

That night we ditched our sweaty hostel dorm and stayed in a hotel across the street, enjoying our first hot shower and uninterrupted night of sleep in a week.

As I write this now from 30,000 feet in the air, I’m looking to my left at a beautiful man fast asleep, tears welling up as it hits me that I get to wake up to him forever. Memorizing the markings on his tanned skin, smell of his hair, color of his lips and the shape of his hands so I’ll never forget what our love was like in the beginning. Wishing I could freeze this moment and equally anticipating growing old together. These are the best days of our lives…

IMG_9145-2

More stories from Brazil on the way.

73c1d-signature


Panama City & Rio de Janeiro

I’ve decided to document this trip in a daily diary entry style—sharing bits and pieces of our experiences and observations along the way, accompanied by photos and video vlogs. Some entries will be shorter than others or combined into multiple days, but this seems like the best way to go about organizing the memories that will be made over the next year.

I hope you’ll enjoy following along, perhaps learn more about these places and even feel as if you’re there, experiencing it all with us. We’ve just booked our flight to Peru for April 23rd, so after three weeks in Brazil I’ll post the first video vlog (there’s some amazing shots already, and I can’t wait to share that with you!) In the meantime, you can follow our photos on instagram at #JandLtraveltheworld.

For now, let’s kick off this crazy seven month adventure with our first week abroad…

Day 1: Panama City, Panama

After arriving at 5:45 am on a red eye which I could not fall asleep on, we made our way to the Copa airport lounge where I chugged three cappuccinos and watched the sunrise. The condensation forming on the windows was a welcoming sight—after months of a cold and dry San Francisco climate, we were ready for the tropical air.

An uber dropped us off at the Mercado de Mariscos, which is the famous local market where fishing boats dock and serve their catches of the day in an alleyway lined with ceviche cafes. It was 9am on a Sunday and nothing was open, so we continued to the streets of Casco Viejo.

IMG_8736

Downtown Panama City is something else—much more impressive than I had expected. From the Cinta Costera, you get an unobstructed view of the sprawling skyline, packed with modern skyscrapers and unique architecture, reminiscent of a Miami waterfront view.

IMG_8720

It’s a stark contrast to the 17th century world heritage site of Casco Viejo, a charming peninsula of narrow cobblestone roads lined with Spanish style buildings mixed with squares, statues and abandoned ruins. It was nearly deserted as we wandered through the streets, already sweating from the humidity.

IMG_8738

An older gentleman approached us on the street and we followed him around the town—stopping in a hole in the wall café for lunch, and exploring the outskirts where the locals reside as he gave us insight into the history and culture.

IMG_8731

By this time, the fish market had finally opened and was more lively, with ceviche bars surrounding the perimeter and waiters desperately trying to pull you in. We found the only table next to a giant fan and a few minutes later we were eating spoonfuls of fresh ceviche from a styrofoam cup and sipping Panama’s national beer. Just as quick as it had begun, we were back on a plane en route to Brazil.

Day 2: Central Rio de Janeiro

After checking into our hostel at 3am and sleeping for the first time in 30 hours, we wandered the streets of our new temporary home.

The smell of churrasco (Brazilian bbq) led us to a small, bar counter style local spot and we scanned the menu for any familiar words. Even with our basic knowledge of Spanish, Portuguese is completely foreign to us (apparently the Google translate app is just as confused). We pointed to a “combination meal for two” along with an agua, assuming that could be nothing else other than water. Instead we were handed a soda bottle that said “H2O” and was most definitely some form of Sprite.

 

IMG_6051

Minutes later, a giant plate of green rice and French fries was placed on the counter. Then a plate of what appeared to be chunks of egg coated in flour. Then a bowl of beans, a bowl of salsa, and finally, a platter of steak, chicken, sausage, onions and peppers. Normally I clean my plate, but we didn’t even make a dent in this feast that could have easily fed four football players. First impression of Rio: Brazilians like to eat.

IMG_6032

The rest of the day was spent digesting our food and figuring out the public bus system to get to Sugarloaf Mountain so we could watch the sun set over the city. We made it to the cable car ticket booth with an hour to spare, paid 80 reais each and glided up to the first peak, in awe of the breathtaking scenery below. It was our first real view of the city, and it was quite something to witness in person.

IMG_8755

We boarded the second cable car up to the highest peak, and squeezed our way in through the crowds to grab a front row seat of the light show. From the top there’s a 360 degree view—from the city center to Cristo Redentor, to the beaches of Ipanema and islands off the coast. Sunbeams highlighted the favelas on the cliffs and the sky turned shades of deep pink and purple. Helicopters and birds hovered above us as small mass of clouds formed at the base of the Christ in the distance, and the crowd clapped as the sun dipped below the horizon.

IMG_8770

IMG_8786

IMG_8785

It could have been the ending scene from a movie, and I was so glad to have been able to capture those shots (video to come!)

IMG_8787

IMG_8778

Feeling energized from what we’d just witnessed, we arrived back at our hostel ready to experience Rio’s infamous nightlife scene. After meeting other travelers from different parts of the world, we ended up in an uber with a Norwegian couple, on our way to a neighborhood known for the biggest parties. We ordered four caipirinhas—a potent Brazilian staple made with pure sugarcane liquor, sugar and lime—from a guy on the street who had been there for 20 years.

Soon after we found ourselves dancing the night away to a random mix of salsa, Shakira, rap, the Macarena, and American oldies. The people were just as diverse as the music, and we ended up closing the bar down with our new friends and great memories for our first night in Rio.

IMG_8799

Day 3-4: Central Rio de Janeiro

The next two days in central Rio were filled with exploring the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, sampling the local cuisine and learning about its’ long history.

We hiked up winding cobblestone streets through Santa Teresa, past colorful doors and painted walls. The area was quiet and calm, with shady trees and city views along the way—reminiscent of the San Francisco streets I frequently walked through.

IMG_6061

From there we entered the Parque de Ruinas, I tried my first of many Brazilian açaís, and took in 360 degree views from the top balcony.

IMG_6054 IMG_8811

A free walking tour brought us to the Escadaria Selarón—an iconic Rio landmark of colorfully tiled steps. We passed by street vendors selling everything from VHS tapes to staplers, dish racks to naked baby dolls sprawled out on blankets on the sidewalk.

IMG_6075

LapaSteps

Even more common than street vendors are confectioneries. Brazilians love their bread and sweets, and as a sugar addict, it’s both a blessing and a curse. For breakfast we’d walk to a local café and choose a handful of mysterious stuffed and fried breaded treats, savoring each bite as we guessed what was inside. Fortunately, we’re averaging 5-10 miles on foot each day to balance out the influx of carbs and sugar (at least that’s our reasoning).

IMG_6107

Walking through Rio is a feast for the eyes. The walls are covered in bright murals and graffiti—but the graffiti there is welcomed and a defining feature of the city. Each building is different, with interesting architecture and beautiful carved doors in every shape, size and color. Even the sidewalks are works of art with mosaic tiles laid in unique patterns which vary by neighborhood.

IMG_6027

On a quiet Tuesday night, we sat on a romantic terrace surrounded by trees and string lights, sipped fancy cocktails and dined on the best meal we’d had in Rio. Later, a bartender exhibition rolled through and we watched and cheered as they performed tricks, spinning and throwing cups as they mixed the ingredients together. Our first few nights in Rio were relatively quiet, but the weekend is when it really comes alive.

Day 5-7: Copacabana & Ipanema

By Thursday we had relocated to Copacabana to check out Rio’s picturesque beaches. The waters of Copacabana beach were a bit rough, so we walked to the neighboring Ipanema, on a wavy mosaic sidewalk past the rows of bars, food stands and vendors. A local pointed us in the direction of food (fortunately, the word for food is the same in Spanish and Portuguese) where we bought empanadas and rented an umbrella.

IMG_6079

Our white skin made it clear we were tourists on a beach filled with rows of dark Brazilian bodies. People watching is the best in foreign countries—especially on one of the world’s most famous beaches. My favorite character was the Portuguese speaking, blue bearded hippie cowboy, drinking liquor out of a wine glass behind us and preaching to bystanders—if only we understood a word he was saying.

IMG_6081

After getting our fill of sun and açaí bowls, we made our way to Arpoador Rock to watch the sunset. This small peninsula divides Copacabana and Ipanema beaches and attracts locals and tourists alike. It’s the perfect spot to sip a cheap caipirinha and take in the views as the sun dips below the horizon and the city begins to glow.

IMG_8871

IMG_8881

Our hostel threw a barbecue party Friday night, where we joined a crowd of mostly locals and other South Americans, and were able to practice our Spanish with new Argentinian friends. Later we went to the famous Lapa neighborhood, home of Rio’s biggest nightlife scene. The rain began to pick up but that didn’t stop hundreds of partygoers from hopping from bar to bar and gathering in the streets. We found cheap fruity caipirinhas and met a Danish girl who introduced us to her group of friends as we wandered the streets, ducking into bars and dancing along the way. By this point it was pouring outside, but we welcomed the cool rain on our sweaty sunburned skin.

IMG_6105

The backpacking scene is quite different in South America than Southeast Asia. As English speakers, we’re in the minority so it’s not as easy to make friends (thankfully we have each other!)

IMG_8875

One night we hopped around to random hostels and joined a group for a big party on the street, filled with hundreds of locals socializing as Brazilian music played from the bars. There we met a couple girls from New York, and we all ended up at an outdoor night club at the base of a horse racing track. The crowd was lively and filled with nationalities from around the world. We danced with Argentinians and sang with Australians and cuddled with friendly cats. The dance floor was surrounded by straw huts where we escaped to enjoy the quiet solitude—an illuminated Christ the Redeemer visible in the distance with the lagoon and city lights below. This city is truly something special to experience.

IMG_8767

Next up: the island paradise of Ilha Grande…

73c1d-signature

 


Our Story

As we settle into our first temporary home in Rio, overwhelmed by all of the kind comments and messages left after the announcement, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on our journey and what led us to this point (click to watch):

Our Story

Since meeting in Vietnam 18 months ago during our own solo backpacking trips, it feels as though we have come full circle, now embarking on this new adventure together. My one regret is not having any video from those life changing months, but this time around I’m making it a priority.

This video is the first of our travel series as we explore the sights, cities and people over the next several months. I still plan to blog and take photos, but I’m also hoping to capture our story in a different way—one that can take you on this journey with us so you can feel as if you’re part of the experience.

Thanks to instagram and snapchat, I’m able to easily share these moments much more frequently, so make sure to follow me there for daily updates in between the posts/vlogs!

Thank you again for being along for the ride. It means a lot to us to know we have so much support from friends all around the world.

More to come from Rio,

73c1d-signature


A New Adventure Begins

On August 14th, 2015, I published a post that changed the course of this blog and the direction of my life forever.

In two days I’ll be on a plane to Asia and life will never be the same … I bought a one way ticket to Bangkok to leave this life behind and start over.”

JennaBackpack

Today’s announcement is strangely similar, yet different in so many ways.

In two days, I’ll be on a plane to South America with a one way ticket to Rio. But this time I’ll have someone by my side… and this trip is not about starting over—it’s about the start of our own great adventure, together.

IMG_6494

When I returned home from Asia to sell my house, I never thought I’d stay. I couldn’t wait to get back to a nomadic lifestyle, waking up to new places and people every day. But there was someone I had met along the way who would change those plans.

Lucas was moving to San Francisco to settle down, and as difficult as the decision was to stay with him in California, I knew I’d never be able to walk away from this connection we had.

IMG_2408

That connection grew into love, and the beginning of a life together in the city. He found a great career, and I decided to fully pursue real estate with the purchase of my first flip.

Screen-Shot-2017-03-28-at-7.56.50-AM

But there was something missing. A void had been left in the absence of travel, and it was growing by the day. A piece of me was gone, and nothing could replace it. I couldn’t look at those old photos, relive the memories or even talk about my time abroad without mourning the loss of the path I didn’t take.

IMG_9578

Some part of Lucas felt the same, and he was also re-evaluating his career path and life plans.

After many long conversations, we both knew what we needed to do.

plane

It was because of a risk we both took in 2015—him leaving his career to backpack overseas for several months and me walking away from a marriage to do the same—that ended up being the best decision of our lives, and the one that brought us together. There was no hesitation, it was time to make that same decision again.

IMG_7283

A couple months ago, Lucas quit his job and a we booked a flight to Rio, where we’ll begin our backpacking trip through South America and Europe for the next seven months.

Just as we each did during our own travels throughout Southeast Asia, we have very little booked or planned because it’s all about the journey, not the destination. We’ll follow our internal compass and let our encounters lead the way.

IMG_9380

At the end of this year, we plan to return home for the holidays before packing up and moving to Florida in January. We’ll settle in Tampa/St. Petersburg and start our own real estate company, investing through rehabbing, selling and renting homes. We’ve both put a lot of time and thought into this decision and are prepared to fully commit ourselves to this business.

Screen-Shot-2017-03-28-at-8.19.50-AM

That leads us to the future of this blog. I can’t make any promises about what to expect over the next several months while we’re traveling, but I can say that I will focus on raising the bar for my videos/vlogging (the next one is coming soon!)

There will still be blog updates, but they may not be as lengthy as they were during my last travels—it’s tough to predict right now. Lucas has also shown interest in contributing with his own posts from time to time, coming from a different perspective of transitioning from the corporate world to self employment, which some of you may be able to relate to.

12191446_10100591186504548_2813605224273042443_n

I know many of you only read this blog for the home décor content, and I understand if you
decide to check out until that resumes next January—I’m expecting it to come back bigger than ever once there are two of us working at it full time! But for those of you who stuck around and enjoyed following my first solo journey, there’s a lot more where that came from. And it’s never going away, as we have both vowed to make travel a priority for the rest of our lives.

GOPR1060

There are still many unknowns ahead, but we’ve learned that is where the magic happens… in following your heart and letting the universe guide you to where you’re meant to be. Each day is precious and tomorrow is not guaranteed, so there’s no time to waste.

IMG_9427

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all—and our adventure begins now.

73c1d-signature


Giveaway Week: Lowe’s

We’re ending Giveaway Week with a store that has practically become my second home during this renovation…

lowes.com1_

 

I’ve been a loyal Lowe’s customer for years, since I bought my very first power tool. They were part of the early days as I stumbled my way through DIY projects in the Florida house, moved onto my first full kitchen renovation, and I used them for nearly everything in this cottage flip. From the the cabinets, counters, tile, sink, faucet and appliances in the kitchen

IMG_7887

To the brick pavers in the laundry and bathroom

IMG_7938

The dining room chandelier and floors…

IMG_7747

The lanterns and adirondack chairs, and of course all of the landscaping, paint, wood and supplies for my DIY projects (both interior and exterior)…

IMG_8051

No matter what space I’m renovating, they’re always the first place I look to. And lucky for you, they’re also generous because I’ve got a $250 gift card to give away!

prizegrab-lowes-200Enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget below (use one or more of the options for as many entries as you’d like). It’s open to international residents, and the giveaway period ends at 11:59pm next Sunday, March 26th (the winner will be emailed the following day, March 27th).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to everyone!

Next week I’m dropping some big news that will answer the question of “What’s next?”… things are about to change in a big way, and you won’t want to miss this announcement 😉

73c1d-signature


Giveaway Week: Wayfair

Today is Day 4 of Giveaway Week, and it’s one you all know and love!

Wayfair

Those of you who follow my blog already know what a huge Wayfair fan I am, and that you can find their products in nearly every room in the cottage flip. They brought the personality to the bedrooms with unique and affordable items—you just can’t beat that combination.

I could be here all night listing off all my finds, but here are some of my favorites from the flip. The bedding, chandelier, lamps and mirror in Bedroom 1. Sigh.

IMG_8112

IMG_8067

These ridiculously affordable glass sconces (that I bought 5 of)—and classic gold round mirror:

IMG_7951

This show stopping patterned tile (and chandelier, sink, and shower faucet set):

IMG_5868

The sweet floral bedding in Bedroom 4:

IMG_8320

Actually, all of their bedding. These flannel sheets were perfect for Bedroom 2:

IMG_8207

There selection is huge and always changing, so I spend more time browsing Wayfair than probably anywhere else when putting together room designs. And one of you are about to do the same because Wayfair is giving away $250 in store credit to a lucky reader!

Enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget below (use one or more of the options for as many entries as you’d like). The giveaway period ends at 11:59pm next Sunday, March 26th, and the winner will be emailed the following day (March 27th).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all, and stay tuned for the last giveaway tomorrow!

73c1d-signature


Giveaway Week: Maison Blanche Paint Company

We’re halfway through the Giveaway Week, and today’s sponsor is one I always get asked about, as I’ve used it in so many DIY projects both in the past and in this house…

maison blanche paint company

 

Maison Blanche Paint Company has created a line of everything from vintage furniture paint, to waxes, to gels, varnishes, stencils and beyond.

img_2147

I swear by their paint, wax and varnish, and finally got a chance to try out their organza shimmer gel which I used to turn plain white clawfoot tub feet into oil rubbed bronze beauties:

img_2242

And give this wood table a unique copper effect:

IMG_7807

I’ve used their paint and wax to transform two clawfoot tubs:

IMG_7960

Remember this one from the One Room Challenge?

IMG_65162

In that same bathroom, an old buffet was transformed into a weathered wood vanity:

IMG_6533

And multiple products were used when we built the custom vanity in the upstairs bathroom:

IMG_7972

And let’s not forget the antique kitchen table…

IMG_7857

And the stenciled wall in the laundry room:

IMG_7621

I could go on all day! Maison Blanche is the only product line I use for my furniture makeovers, and for good reason—this stuff is the best. It’s not available everywhere in stores so I’m especially excited to be able to offer a prize of five products of your choice, delivered right to your door!

img_2152

A little goes a long way, so the lucky winner will be in furniture makeover heaven for quite a while.

All you have to do is enter using the Rafflecopter widget below (use one or more of the options for as many entries as you’d like). The giveaway period ends at 11:59pm next Sunday, March 26th, and the winner will be emailed the following day (March 27th).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all, and stay tuned for another great giveaway tomorrow!

73c1d-signature


Giveaway Week: The Summery Umbrella

It’s Day 2 of Giveaway Week, and this next sponsor is no stranger to my blog!

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 9.36.53 AM

You’ve seen the fun custom sign at the entrance of the cottage flip…

IMG_8021

And in the foyer…

IMG_7897

And the customizable barn wood frames that I’ve used with my own prints…

d0234-img_5175

And of course, the oversized chalkboard that I find a place for in every house…

IMG_7884

I’m in love with all of them, and LZ (the girl behind The Summery Umbrella) is super talented and can bring any of your rustic barn wood visions to life. (For the crafty DIY folks, she also just released an ebook sharing all her secrets on how to get started making signs of your own!)

il_fullxfull.1122687580_ojon

LZ has graciously offered up one of her custom signs (worth over $150) to one lucky winner. You can grab the same “Paradise in the Pines” design that was brought to life from our collaboration, or have her create your own custom 24×24” sign that’s a perfect fit for your space.

IMG_8024

Enter to win using the Rafflecopter widget below (use one or more of the options for as many entries as you’d like). The giveaway period ends at 11:59pm next Sunday, March 26th, and the winner will be emailed the following day (March 27th).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all, and stay tuned for another great giveaway tomorrow!

73c1d-signature


Giveaway Week: Jenna Sue Design Shop

Welcome to the ­­­­final week of the #cottagehouseflip series, where we’re wrapping up with five days of giveaways! Each day I’ve lined up some pretty awesome prizes from brands and shops who were a big part of this renovation, and now you’ll get the chance to score them for yourself!

To kick off the festivities, today’s prize comes from a shop very near and dear to my heart…

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 3.06.51 PM

Yep, it’s my own print shop! Some of you may have never noticed the “Shop” link at the top of this page, but I opened my art print business around the same time as the blog began six years ago. In fact, it’s still my “full time” job—in between flipping houses, blogging, & creating photo/video content.

Screen Shot 2017-03-18 at 3.05.45 PM

My prints have appeared in each of my homes throughout the years… you may remember the city maps in my Florida house:

8300b-img_8159

Or these Home & Address prints in the foyer:

IMG_6390 IMG_6383

And there’s the popular Roman Numerals design:

26296-photo1 53a10-img_5458

And another favorite, the script quote:

89764-img_5433-2

And a recent big seller has been the photo to sketch art, which is currently displayed in the cottage flip:

IMG_8204

From wedding vows, to personalized children’s art, there’s a ton to choose from for any occasion, and it’s all customizable. One lucky winner will receive $100 in shop credit (international friends too!).

7dba2-img_0556

Simply enter using the Rafflecopter widget below (use one or more of the options for as many entries as you’d like). The giveaway period ends at 11:59pm next Sunday, March 26th, and the winner will be emailed the following day (March 27th).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to all, and stay tuned for another great giveaway tomorrow!

6147d-signature


Budget Breakdown: Cottage House Flip

Today I’m here to answer the burning question you’ve all been wondering… just how much did this Cottage House Flip cost?

IMG_7983

I spoke about the purchase price, remodeling plans and estimated budget in the Cottage House Flip Kickoff post back in October, so it’s interesting to go back and see how accurate my predictions were. Turns out, there were a few unexpected surprises, both good and bad. This is my experience, and the lessons learned.

IMG_7887

While I am so glad to have gone through this process and don’t regret it for a second, I certainly wouldn’t repeat this situation again. The situation being buying a house at a not so steep discount in a very small/buyer specific market that’s 3+ hours from home just before winter. At the time, it really was the best option for me and I was aware of the drawbacks, but decided it was worth it anyway. And it was.

IMG_8051

But now that I’ve paid my dues, I’m going to be much pickier with what I choose to take on. This is a several month process that can easily consume your life, and you don’t want to be miserable each day or dread even having to think about it.

With that said, let’s talk about the costs involved.

IMG_7747

The purchase price was $170k, and my estimated rehab budget, not including seller closing costs, was around $93k—and I said I’d be happy if I stayed under $100k.

Fortunately, I had a very big advantage with a storage unit full of furniture/decor from my old house, the sellers that left all of their existing furniture, and brand partnerships who provided most of the rest (which I was not expecting!)

IMG_8112

These factors combined made my decor/staging/materials expenses almost nothing. It has been such a blessing to be in this position and I do not take for granted how insanely lucky I am.

On the other end of that, though, are crazy high labor expenses. Which brings me to a very important lesson learned: hire one contractor for everything. 

IMG_7967

I started off with a bad contractor who not only cost me a few weeks, but I had to pay another contractor to fix the damage he had caused. Make sure to have a signed contract with a clear timeline before any work begins.

IMG_8451

To save money, I had a separate electrician, plumber/tile guy, demo team and painter lined up, which became difficult to schedule around my general contractor’s team since everything had to be done in order and communication is so hugely important. I ended up paying twice for several jobs that needed to be redone. Never again.

IMG_7621

Apart from those rookie mistakes, there were unknown factors out of my control like dry rot in the back of the house and electric circuits that needed to be rewired. And then there were last minute decisions on things like add a concrete landing pad and wall with built in shelving under the house to create a mud room, pouring gravel along the sides and front of the house, recaulking every wall and ceiling board downstairs, and many other cosmetic extras that weren’t necessary but I wanted to go the extra mile to make things perfect. You’ve got to step up your game a little when Country Living is coming to shoot.

IMG_7743

In the end, there were so many extra line items that were added to the original estimate that I was simply billed hourly every week and impossible to separate it out by each individual job, so unfortunately I can’t break it down as much as I’d like.

My electrician total came to $4k ($1k more than my original estimate) while interior painting was $2700—around $1k less than budgeted, but he left without finishing and I had to pay to have it completed.

IMG_8162

My plumbing and tile installation total clocked in at $4200, but that was only for the upstairs bathroom, laundry room and half of the downstairs bathroom. The rest was part of my general contractor total and probably ended up in the same $4-$5k range.

The demo/hauling expenses weren’t quite as bad—around $500 for carpet and furniture removal and a few other miscellaneous things, but there was a good portion also built into my general contractor bill. Probably another thousand or so.

IMG_7895

The biggest single labor expense was redoing the foundation and siding on the front of the house, which came in at around $15k. A few unexpected items were $1100 to replace damaged ceiling boards in the kitchen, $3k for the exterior deck ceiling, and $2600 to repair the back deck dry rot.

All in all, the main labor & materials cost (not including the electrician, demo, interior paint and plumbing/tile work mentioned above) came to a whopping $80k (from an original estimate of $44k, yikes!)

Fortunately, I was able to cut way back on the staging costs by using as much as I could from storage. I also picked up new items at the Restore, thrift stores, Ebay and Ikea, and those came in at under $1500. It pays to bargain hunt! And bonus, I’m taking a lot of it with me for the next house 🙂

IMG_7818

And then there’s the operating expenses. Taxes and escrow fees came in at $2500, plus another $1900 for property insurance, $3700 in utilities and an estimated $1700 in private loan interest. Total monthly carrying costs from here on out are in the $600-$700 range.

That brings the final grand total to $102,248. Not too far from the original budget! Keep in mind, this isn’t exactly your typical flipping model with so much of the focus on custom details, higher end finishes and staging. The labor costs weren’t out of the ordinary and should be an eye opener for those looking into rehabbing an older house, or who care about the small details.

IMG_8340

Every house is very different, and has its own set of challenges and benefits. If your main goal was to turn a profit, it wouldn’t make sense to buy a quirky 6 bedroom vacation home in a tiny village in the woods (which is why it sat on the market for a very long time before I found it—no one else would touch it).

The house is currently on the market at $325k. There have been a few interested parties but we haven’t made a deal yet. There aren’t a lot of homes in the area (nor people looking, especially at this time of year) so it’s just going to take time to find the right family who is the perfect fit.

IMG_8421

I’d love to hang onto this home forever—have friends & family over for weekend getaways, use it as an AirBnB, pass it down through generations. That would be my dream! But I need the capital to continue to rehab (all of my money is tied up in this one).

Thankfully, even after closing costs (which is expected to be around $20k) I’ll still walk away with more than my original investment. It won’t be a home run, as expected, but the sense of accomplishment, the growth and opportunities that have come out of this are worth more.

IMG_7858

I hope this post has been insightful for anyone else going through their own flip or rehab, considering it or just curious about the specifics behind it. There really is so much involved and it’s a lot for one person to manage at once. I’m beyond thankful for my amazingly helpful and supportive family & friends and contractors who went above and beyond. Couldn’t have done it without any of them. It truly takes a village!

As this post is published, I’ve just arrived in Florida for two weeks of weddings, bridal showers and soaking up some sun on the beach. I have a pretty big announcement when I come back. It’s going to change this blog in a major way… so you won’t want to miss it 😉

But before that—next week is Giveaway Week! I’m so excited to have some amazing shops and brands on board who were a big part of this renovation, and now you’ll have a chance to get in on some of the action. Stay tuned for Monday!

73c1d-signature