You Beautiful Beast

Cottage East in summer 2017. Brick facade collapsing, roof in need of replacing, and windows broken and missing. The yard was an overgrown jungle in the back.

It has been so hard waiting for this. And now, the day has finally arrived. Cottage East has a new skin to go with those new windows!

The east side of the house in July 2017 – the wall was intact, but it was bulging. Collapse of the bricks on this side seemed imminent.

This old girl is nearly 125 years old. She’s older than the house I’m living in, which was built in 1899.

I wish I could say she’s had an easy life, but honestly, it has been one full of neglect and half fixes.

We pulled the bricks off of the sides ourselves. That 2×4 you see there came in handy. The bricks were merely a facade over a wood frame house. What a mess it was! That was a lot of bricks to clean up and move!

When we settled on the idea of installing vinyl siding, it was after examining each of our options.

Option #1: Put the bricks back onto the house.

When the west side wall of the house collapsed in a shower of bricks, breaking our fence and leaving piles of bricks just sitting on the side of the house, waiting to fall, we quickly realized it was a wood frame with a brick facade. This was just like Cottage West, except Cottage West’s brick facade had been cared for and reinforced with anchors at some point. Cottage East had not had the same luck. Putting the bricks back would have required a stonemason, and that would have been quite costly. Besides, the upper half of the house already had siding, so we decided it would be best to just tear it all off and cover it entirely with siding.

The east side of Cottage East just before the windows were installed.

Option #2: Put aluminum or wood siding on.

We hemmed and hawed about this for a while. Aluminum siding would have been wonderful, but when we called out the guys who did that kind of work, they took one look at Cottage East, with its partially collapsed brick wall and NEVER CONTACTED US BACK. Wood siding was not appealing to me since it meant being a future target for termites and also meant we would have to repaint regularly.

The windows nearly done…

Option #3: Put on vinyl siding, which might mean replacing it in 15-20 years.

I’m a big one for do it once and never again. My mom has vinyl siding on her house and has lived there for over 25 years. So far, so good. So that was the deciding factor for me, especially when it came to price and you know, an actual quote from someone.

A close-up of what the front eaves looked like after the older vinyl siding was stripped off. No wonder it had failed, it was put directly over the old fishscale siding!

We went with Sunshine Windows, who had also done our windows on Cottage East. A nice enough guy, and his price was $13,000 less than a quote from Champion Windows. For that much in savings, I ignored revisionist history and a love of all things “wall and Trump.”

Just don’t talk politics with him, or mention fences (which turned into a diatribe about how we need a wall) and you should be just fine.

After the fishscale siding was removed, you could see the remains of a chimney doing its best to come out (up to the right of the upstairs window). The guys installed 3/4″ insulation board as well.

And in my defense, I’ll say it again – I saved $13,000 by going with this contractor. For that kind of savings, yes, I’ll put up with a little revisionist history and pro-Trump leanings.

The back of the house needed plenty of plywood – this shot was taken before they had put anything in. As you can see, we still have plenty of bricks to turn into walkways!

The windows had arrived and were installed a few weeks ago and I was eager to see the siding come in. I had settled on a green that was close to the color of Cottage West since our neighbor who had bought the next house over and beaten me to a gorgeous shade of blue (I really like that blue and I’m really sad I didn’t have it to choose from but I did promise her I wouldn’t go with blue).

Siding on the lower front of the house as well as part of the west side. I tried to choose a color that matched Cottage West as much as possible.

Still, having both Cottages in this particular green color provided some connection between the two. Now, when I’m homing Airbnb guests in, I’ll just tell them “First green house on right” or “Second green house on right next to large brick house with wraparound porch” – nice and easy to direct.

The back and east side of Cottage East. In the distance you can see the Airstream, our other Airbnb project in progress.

Between that, and a lovely white fence along the front of our entire property (coming soon!), it will all look rather fabulous and welcoming.

Tearing off the old vinyl siding revealed the original fish scale siding beneath and boy, did it look beat up! Still, I wasn’t very surprised that the newer siding looked so bad. After all, they hadn’t even bothered pulling off the old siding, just nailed it up over the original fish scale. I talked with the owner and he assured me that they would take off the old stuff first before putting anything up.

And here she is. Done except for guttering. We will replace her small columns with bigger ones like we have on our house, removing the brick half columns. We will also paint the foundation white and all of the exterior doors white as well.

We did have to intervene at one point, because the crew that was there were working without the guy who did most of the translating. They started to cover up the old siding with the insulating boards and we told them “no” that it all needed to come off.

So that meant more than a day of extra work for them, most likely two. If it means that we have to pay more, so be it. I want the job done right.

The back porch. We will be clearing out all of the extra bricks, cleaning the yard, and eventually we will rebuild the back deck properly. As you can see, the back porch roof has been reinforced and wrapped in siding.

One piece that truly concerned me, as well as the foreman on the job, was the front porch. The porch was attached mainly to the bricks, which were now gone, and the gap in between the roof of the porch and the house was significant, at least 4-6 inches. The foreman kept saying, “I’m not sure what do with this porch” and I kept saying, “Talk to David” (the owner of the company). The owner was the one who talked me into taking the bricks off the front and back, so I figure it’s his problem to figure out how to stabilize the front porch.

After the 3rd rendition of “I’m not sure what to do with this porch” I looked at the foreman and said, “You’ve got me, I don’t do construction, I just pay the bills.”

The east side of Cottage East. Last year we laid these bricks down directly on the ground. We will pull them up, lay down paver base, and put the bricks back. Our neighbors are planning on installing a vinyl privacy fence on the property line. Hooray! A piece of fencing we no longer need to worry about!

Pretty soon after that I heard quite the bustle of activity. They were pulling off rotten wood off of the front porch and delving into the bowed and rotten ceiling – home to generations of squirrels and birds. Shredded newspaper and piles of old grass rained down with every board removed. The local squirrel population were undoubtedly pissed – goodbye winter home!

The view from our easternmost property line looking west towards our house. I hope to plant a nice tree in this triangle shaped front lawn. After we install the fence, I hope to landscape most of the front (no grass!) with a variety of heights of blooming plants and a solar-powered fountain. I’m leaning towards plants that are perennial and also more of the ones you will see in an English garden.

We still need to paint the portions of the front and back porch in white and also paint the foundation which is currently painted red. Once it is all done, it will look fabulous!

It is a labor of love. How do you make a difference? One little bit at a time. One flowering plant and painted door at a time. A walkway, a dream, a piece of garbage cleared from the path. Small steps, they lead to bigger steps and eventually to a dream realized.

We are still years away from being done. My body’s aches and pains remind me that this is work meant for 20 and 30 year olds, not a woman who will be 49 this year and has degenerative hip disease.

But that’s okay. I’ll take my time. A wheelbarrow full of bricks a day, 2-3 more feet of walkway laid each day, brush cleared and burned a little bit at a time.

Progress.

It is so worth it!

Behind the Scenes and Themes

To look at either Cottage West or Cottage East, you wouldn’t think that there was much going on. Outside, with the vestiges of winter still clinging to the vegetation, there is little to betray the massive amount of work that is either taking place, or will be soon underway.

Cottage West in warmer times (they are returning soon, and I’m looking forward to that!).

Cottage West

Inside, out of view, the gas pipes have been run. Next will be the plumbing, electrical and the HVAC.

After that contractor has finished, we will bring in the insulation guy and then we will get a drywall contractor to install our walls, ready for us to paint.

We also have a nice, solid steel door that will be installed off of the back porch.

Then we will handle the work of getting the painting done, the cabinets hung, and the rest of the work that it will take to make it into a welcoming oasis for visitors.

The Cottage East in its current state. We decided we will go ahead and pull the rest of the brick facade off and wrap it all in siding.

Cottage East

We had already put a new roof on, and now it is time for all new windows, siding, and guttering. We will also run a new electric box and install a burglar alarm to prevent any break-in issues.

The windows are going in next week, and the siding and guttering should follow quickly after that. By mid-April Cottage East should be looking spiffy, at least from the outside!

Themes

I’ve mentioned it before, but now I’m definitely going to go through with it! Cottage West will have a distinct eclectic, arts/crafts, and writing vibe. Bright, rich colors on the walls and furniture, plenty of books on a large bookshelf, and some unique artwork on the walls. It’s going to look GREAT!

When it comes to Cottage East, I’ve always felt like it had a lovely English cottage vibe to it. I’ll be adding “leading” to the new windows to give it an Old World feel, as well as dressing the interior in a palette of warm, muted colors.

Basement Studio Apartments

This is several years off, but we might also create two basement apartments that we can either rent out or Airbnb. Since both houses have separate, ground-level entrances to the basements, this could work out well.

Pictures coming soon!

Coming Soon – Cottage West!

Cottage West

Oh the wishing and the washing that has occurred over the past seven months since my last post!

In a nutshell, it goes something like this:

  • New Airbnb rules or not, we are going to at least try turning the cottages into an Airbnb and see how it goes.
  • Three units, not four – one of which will be a rental unit.
  • Work starts…now.

After qualifying for a home improvement loan through our local bank, which we will be signing on later in the week, we now have the funds to complete work on Cottage West and also see that the brickwork is fixed on Cottage East, along with new siding and windows installed by March or April at the latest.

We are currently gathering bids from contractors. By mid-summer, we should have Cottage West open and ready for occupancy. I hope to see Cottage East finished sometime in 2020, possibly later.

Cottage West will have just the one unit, the main floor and the attic above, available for guests. Once we finish out the main level and upstairs of Cottage East, I hope to install a basement apartment in that house as well, giving my dad the autonomy and modicum of independent living he is hoping for. He misses his independence, and I miss having a second bathroom and my front parlor!

The Cottage East in its current state. It has a new roof and the siding, brick work, and new windows will be installed this year.

We are still working on some issues with the Airstream and hope to have that available within the next month or two for rent through Airbnb. Stay tuned, I hope to post updates soon!

Phase One!

The full size bed goes here. Currently it serves as a staging area for the plumbing supplies.

A few weeks ago, I pressed the BUY button and ordered a long list of must have’s for the Airstream…

  • 10″ full size memory foam mattress
  • Nature’s Head composting toilet
  • fire extinguisher
  • dish set
  • smoke/carbon monoxide detector
  • electric space heater w/timer
  • tankless water heater
  • 100′ heated water hose

A nice double sink. Original to the Airstream, we did end up replacing the old faucet with this pretty little thing.

Thanks to the help of a truly talented friend, we know that the propane powered heater works and so does the stove. Hooray!

I still bought the space heater because the original heater works okay but not great, and winters can be cold, so…

My husband has purchased the PEX we need for the plumbing, and we will have just about everything we need to complete Phase One (turning the Airstream into an Airbnb)

I am beyond excited.

My husband removed the original toilet. We will put in a composting toilet which will free us from needing to use a black tank when on the road (or here).

There are cabinet doors to reinstall, everything needs a good cleaning, and in some cases, the wood may need refinishing or painting.

The fabulous vintage fridge is not functional, but that’s okay, we have a mini-fridge and the old fridge can be used as dry storage, a pantry of sorts.

The plan is to hook everything up, lay it all out, and even spend the night there in the camper before “opening for business.”

The little dining area will eventually double as a twin bed as well. We need to cut a piece of wood to be the table and attach it to the metal brackets and stand that can disassemble into a bed at night.

We moved as much as we could out, including a futon thing that was not going to cut it when it came to having Airbnb guests stay there. Instead, we now have a full-size memory foam mattress waiting for things to get a little further along before being unpacked.

The radio keeps us entertained while we work. I bought a CD of Greatest Hits of the 50s to add to the ambience.

I have returned to the idea that each of our Airbnb’s will have a theme. The Airstream was built in 1956, so we are embracing the idea of a 50s, vintage, pin-up look.

Cottage West will represent my love of art and books and have art pieces scattered through it, along with a large selection of books, including a homage to Kansas City’s rich history. The furniture and furnishings will be eclectic and bohemian with a bold use of color throughout the bungalow.

Cottage East will paint a picture of a cottage nestled in the English countryside, complete with all of the modern necessities. The gardens in the front and back will contain fountains, bricks, and plants that are evocative of an English cottage garden.

As we finish each project, we will have an Open House and invite our neighbors and friends to come see the property and hopefully share pictures and special pricing with their friends and family.

Progress might appear to be slow, or even nonexistent at times, but we move forward with the projects one step at a time. It’s a worthwhile endeavor and I am excited for the future!

She Dreams of Airstream…AGAIN

It has a couple of dings. We plan to buff it to a high shine once we have completed the necessary fixes. It is going to shine like new!

It was the simplest of questions that changed my direction. In early fall, my daughter asked, “Mom, could we all take a family vacation next year?” She had visited her grandparents in California for a week, and later, my husband was able to fly out to see his parents over a long four-day weekend. Me? Heck, I was stuck at home.

Her question bounced around in my head for a while as I reviewed our financial goals…

  1. Stabilize Cottage East – get it off of codes violations by installing siding, windows and fixing brickwork
  2. Finish renovating Cottage West and make it into two separate units – a studio in the basement, and a 2 bed, 1 bath bungalow on the main level
  3. Finish renovating Cottage East with the same setup as Cottage East – two separate units.
  4. Renovate the Airstream – use it to travel in on family vacations and Airbnb it when it was not on the road

I looked at our income flow, our savings, and the calendar I had it all plotted out on. It was going to be 4-5 years before the Airstream would have any work done to it. And my daughter, now age twelve, she would be sixteen or seventeen by the time we got the RV on the road.

Nope.

NOPE.

My dreams of us exploring the United States in our Airstream were going to be happening way too late. Kids grow up too fast!

As with most things, my plans change with questions like, “What if…?”

I asked myself, “What if I broke this RV project into three phases?”

  • Phase One: Make it Airbnb worthy
  • Phase Two: Make it roadworthy using the income from having it available on Airbnb
  • Phase Three: Bling it out like a mofo, make even more money on it, and explore the U.S.!

 

And after a few calculations I realized not only was it doable, but I had the funds NOW, funds that will be well invested in something that can also bring me income as soon as January or February.

  • Phase One: Make it Airbnb worthy and begin offering it on Airbnb. From what I can tell, we can earn around $75 per night on it. That price is lower than ANY of the Airstreams currently listed on Airbnb.
  • Phase Two: Make it roadworthy – it needs new tires, and we need someone with know-how to examine the RV’s support structure underneath. We also need to make alterations to my van in order to tow it safely.
  • Phase Three: Solar panels, smart tv, buffing the skin to a high shine, a covered deck outside the RV, and a large pond and waterfall near the firepit for ambiance. In place or on the go, it will look fantastic.

We started by pulling out the blah kitchen faucet, in order to replace it with this…

My husband removed all of the copper pipe, and it was a good thing too. In one spot, someone had drilled a screw right through one piece of pipe, and there were several tape-wrapped breaks in the line. We will replace it all with PEX.

We have a propane tankless water heater to buy and install. As well as a water pump in case we want to take it on the road and store water in a tank underneath the Airstream.

This little 3-in-1 breakfast station is sitting there waiting to be used…

And this arrived last week. I couldn’t wait to plug it in!

I’m going to take the 50s era theme and run with it. I found some fabulous fabric for the curtains as well as seat cushions or pillow covers. The project is challenging in areas, but it has the potential to be an excellent source of income and a great way for us to do some traveling through the United States. I’m so excited!

Then Again, Maybe?

I’m a rather decisive person – but that doesn’t mean that I won’t re-visit decisions and re-evaluate their worth.

And as my husband and I discussed the future front fence, we ran into a bit of a difference in opinion, which led to me questioning whether I really wanted to turn the two properties closest to us into rentals.

The daylilies are looking GREAT this year!

The Cottage West is at the end of our property – a wide open green space on the east side of our home. We have the Airstream parked in the back, plans to finish a large pond in the middle, a shady wildflower garden where a woodpile used to be, and a mini-orchard of fruit trees that are rapidly maturing. And as we discussed the idea of turning the basement of Cottage West into one rental, and the main floor and attic into another – we realized that it would mean that there would, once again, be people moving through our yard.

Our house in the distance (taken earlier this year)

As we discussed the placement of the front fence, we realized that, if we wanted the renters to stay out of our yard, we would have to run a fence down the side of Cottage West, effectively closing off access to our yard.

“I imagined it would be open and we would share the yard,” my husband said, staring at the schematics in my hands.

“Remember how antsy you got when we had our last party and the kids were all beating the crap out of our flowers?” I asked. “Imagine a renter’s child doing that EVERY DAY.”

My husband did not look happy.

Cottage West

And perhaps I’m off-base, but in my mind it makes a certain amount of sense. The kid gets familiar with the yard and thinks nothing of boundaries and futzing with the landlord’s part of things. Whereas with an Airbnb, parents tend to be more watchful, more respectful – they are visiting, not living there.

I could be wrong. Who knows?

But it did get me to thinking. What if we still did the four Airbnb’s in the two properties? I could craft my vision of the Cottage West as an art/writing retreat. I could install the fru-fru chandelier in the bathroom and lay the penny floor sealed with resin. I could furnish the rooms with comfortable, warm colors and create a house that I could comfortably live in myself when I grew old and didn’t want to traipse up and down stairs every day.

I could create that dream of an English countryside cottage with Cottage East. Install the lion’s head fountain, find enough bricks to create the backyard courtyard, and enchant guests with piles of flowers and overstuffed chairs.

And I still dream of that and smile at the thought of creating these beautiful oases here in the city.

So, we might be changing our minds. That’s the long and short of it.

I want to create beauty and be a good neighbor and property owner. One way or the other, rent or Airbnb, that’s the mission – create beauty, improve the neighborhood.

You First

No really, YOU first.

I arrived at my client cleaning today and sighed in relief as the blast of air conditioning hit my face.

I miss air conditioning.

I miss it a lot.

I mentioned my love of air conditioning to my client and she laughed and then asked me when we might get central air.

“Well, it goes like this…”

  • Stabilize Cottage East (fix the codes violations – 2018)
  • Finish Cottage West (2019-2020) and rent it out
  • Finish Cottage East (2020-2022) and rent it out
  • Replace the windows in our house so it is more energy efficient (2023)
  • Re-do the electrical in our house so it can handle central a/c (2024)
  • Install a/c (2025?)

When the dishwasher down at the rental house in Belton broke down, it was just a few months after my fancy pantsy “all the bells and whistles” dishwasher broke down, out of warranty of course. And when faced with the choice of fixing it, buying a whole new one, or just getting by in our own house, we have gone without.

I only miss the dishwasher when I’m feeling especially tired.

And while the dishwasher that our tenants received wasn’t a new one, it was a functioning one. I recently told my renter, “Let me know if it exhibits any problems and I’ll just get a new one, no use trying to limp along and fix it.”

I realize that going without central a/c or a dishwasher might seem odd to some, but my eyes are firmly on the goal of getting Cottage East and West up and running and ready to rent. And yes, both of them will have central a/c and dishwashers, long before I have it. The sooner they are finished, the sooner they can be occupied, and I have found coping strategies in the meanwhile.

I imagine that someday I will cave and get a dishwasher again. And I certainly dream about the day when I will have central a/c in my own house.

Meanwhile?

You get it first.

A New Vision

The Cottage East in its current state. It has a new roof and the siding, brick work, and new windows will be installed this year.

We roll with the punches around here. I think it is in my DNA, honestly.

And when the new rules for Airbnb properties in Kansas City came down, I decided for various reasons, that focusing on turning Cottage West and Cottage East into bed and breakfast properties was simply no longer viable. And frankly? Turning them into rentals is a far better option – it means less work on a daily basis – I won’t have to clean up after each visitor or re-stock supplies, or even furnish the properties. It also means less insurance cost – a rental house versus a house you have furnished with electronics, furniture and more garners a higher annual rate. And I wouldn’t have to cover utilities, as those are typically separate from the rent when renting out a house.

Cottage West in its current state. New roof, new windows – but the wiring and plumbing and walls are all waiting to be re-done. We have it down to the studs. Next year we focus on this after getting Cottage East’s exterior fixed up.

Savings, less work, and less turnover – what’s not to like?

And I woke up yesterday with an even bigger concept – two rental properties in each building, thereby giving us the possible income we had hoped for from Airbnb, but still with less work and less cost.

I’ll explain.

The lot next to Cottage West that we plan on paving from 10th Street to the back alley.

In both the Cottage East and the Cottage West there are basements. Both have these jenky stairs, especially Cottage East where you have to bend halfway over to avoid banging your head. I had decided to simply utilize the basements for our own needs, and remove interior access to them, but yesterday morning I thought, Why not set them up as a studio or one-bedroom basement apartments separate from the one upstairs, with their own electricity meters and then just pay for the water service?

I ran the idea past my husband, adding in the concept of our own house as well. We have a large, unfinished basement with dirt floors. It too could be turned into a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchenette. This could serve as an individual private space for my dad, or for our daughter when she wants more independence in her late teens or early 20s, as an income-generator, and in our later years, as a place for live-in help.

It might not look like it, but I’m winning the battle with the weeds. More and more perennial plants take the place of weeds in this little area in front of Cottage East. Eventually it will look much like the front yard of my house – all flowers!

Now, back to the Cottages for a moment. We figure it might be difficult to separate water hookups, so we could provide water as part of their rental contract up to a certain amount, once it goes over that amount it is divided equally among the total number of residents in a building and added to their rent. All of it would be clear in the rental contract and agreed upon by all tenants. The electricity can be separated by floor and an individual breaker installed on the main floor for one tenant, while the basement tenant had their own unit in the basement.

The back door to Cottage West’s basement. I’ll need to widen the path and install solid concrete steps leading up to it.

In Cottage West, the basement tenant could enter and leave via the backyard and our plan is to eventually pave a driveway from the front of our property on 10th Street all the way to the alleyway, creating parking for everyone in Cottage West.

I keep cultivating more and more perennials like this one.

In Cottage East, there will be an adjacent parking pad constructed off of the alleyway for both the main/upstairs tenants and the basement tenant which they can access by walking through the backyard gate.

This is off of the back alley, which dead-ends behind our house. It will be a perfect parking spot for our tenants and for us. I hope to see a driveway that can hold three parking spots.

So…more income, less work, off-street parking for tenants and us if we want it, and eventually a separate living space for my dad. In other words? A win on all counts.

By my figures, it will take a total of five years. Two years until Cottage West is complete, another one plus for Cottage East and about one year for our basement apartment.

The daylilies are looking GREAT this year!

I like to think (and plan) long term, folks. It also means we are not incurring new debt, while reducing and eliminating any remaining debt. An all-around win.

I’ll keep this site, and this blog, for now. I see it turning into a website that profiles The Cottages and any potential future holdings, so that potential tenants and our neighbors know exactly what to expect from these homes. Clean, safe, insulated and quality rental homes that will be a benefit to the neighborhood. After all, our future tenants will be our neighbors, we plan to choose wisely!

Thanks, But No Thanks

The Tyvek is in place on the west side.

I guess, when it really comes down to it, I’m a libertarian at heart.

Not entirely, but I really REALLY don’t like the legislation that was handed down by the city on Airbnb properties.

So much so that my focus has turned to renovating the two cottages into rental properties, not Airbnb properties.

A recent Kansas City Star article details the new regulations and one of them stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Off-site owners must secure the consent of 55 percent of adjacent property owners.”

In both cases, our land borders half of each property. So there’s 50% of the vote. But the other 5%? Well, that belongs to someone else – and on one side it is a mentally unhinged neighbor who thinks that everyone is out to get him, the other, a neighbor who wanted Cottage East for themselves.

In neither case do I feel I should have to ask my neighbor’s permission to operate a business out of a property that I own. If I choose to rent the houses out, they don’t get a say, so why an Airbnb property? It’s complete horseshit.

Thankfully we had not put in some really cool things – like the floor in the bathroom made with real pennies, custom built-ins in the transition between the living room and kitchen, or a cute (and delicate) chandelier in the bathroom. These would have been perfect for an Airbnb guest who wanted a unique experience here in KC, but it would not serve us well when dealing with renters. At some point, we might decide to sell the big house and retire to one of the smaller houses. At that point, we could customize the smaller house to meet our needs and desires.

I understand that these regulations are probably due to the fact that some folks running Airbnb’s were doing so in a negligent manner. They allowed ridiculous parties and pissed off their neighbors. Thanks, guys, you screwed us all and I hope that you are NOT grandfathered in. Otherwise, the folks who are real problems are still there and none of these measures make any difference at all – except to trip up those of us who truly wanted to make a difference in our own lives. And do so in a manner that was responsible and respectful of our neighbors and ourselves because we live here too.

Quite a change, eh? It’s hard to believe it is the same house!

So the new Airbnb regulations, combined with the complete inability to get funding on most of these two projects, has given me some time to think. And we have come up with the following plan…

  • Pay off current debt incurred through fixes to both cottages
  • Get Cottage East current on taxes (we inherited THREE years of back taxes and will have the last remnant paid off by March 30th)
  • No new debt (the exception to this would be siding which we would get under 0% financing and pay off before doing any other work)
  • Stabilize Cottage East (install siding and replace windows)
  • Finish Cottage West and rent out by August 2020
  • Finish Cottage East and rent out by January 2022

Yep, two and a half more years, minimum.

Combined, we have about $80k in renovations for the properties. Which is about what they are worth. This is why we can’t get home renovation loans – they aren’t worth enough on paper and we don’t have enough equity.

But the good news is this – once the cottages are done, they will be complete without any debt. And that’s huge. Free and clear, no debt, ready to make money. Eventually, after we have completed the other projects, we will turn our focus to renovating the 1956 Flying Cloud Airstream for our own uses. It will make a fantastic travel vehicle and allow us to tour the United States without having to worry about hotel rooms. I’m really looking forward to that. It might be years down the road, but eventually, we will take glamping to a whole new level!

So we will NOT be in the Airbnb business after all. But we will be renovating and then renting out Cottage West and Cottage East. And considering that we will live right next to both of them, just as we would have done with Airbnb, we will be very picky about who we have living there.

What does this mean for the status of this particular blog?

Well, folks, I think the writing on the wall is clear. No additional business for Northeast, no encouragement of the tourist industry, we are out of the game.

Last Push Before Winter

A brick path in the side yard between our house and Cottage East

Quiet = Work

I know I’ve been rather quiet since the roof was done on Cottage East. You might have thought that I wasn’t doing anything much.

And except for moving hundreds of bricks, here, there, and everywhere – aieeee, my aching back!

I’ve planted iris and daylilies on both sides of the path.

On a side note: I went in to see the chiropractor yesterday. “Oh yeah, I can see those muscles are tight in your middle and upper back,” he says, “Are you still moving bricks?” I tell him that I am. “Yep, that would do it.”

This path runs along the front of our house and I’ve widened it to a better walking width now.

My goals have changed from covering the entire backyard of Cottage East in bricks to simply creating paths wherever I need them. There were several reasons for this:

  1. The backyard of Cottage East is not level and I currently do not have the time or means to level it.
  2. The bricks needed to be moved right away – so instead of just making piles everywhere, I’m laying down pathways. Easier to walk on, less to mow, and if I want to do something different later, I can move them.
  3. Stacked bricks are attractive to others – I know I look at them with a certain level of acquisitiveness – and that just encourages ne’r do wells to come by and take some.

The view of the west side of Cottage East from my library window.

Last Push Before Winter

Once we pulled the brick facade off of the sides and put the roof on, we realized that some of the wood framing was badly rotted.

Of course it was. Murphy’s Law and all that.

They have removed the windows and are finishing out the openings, which will then be covered over with plywood and Tyvek until it is time to install the windows. This keeps it safe from intruders.

So we hired some contractors to come in, reinforce a structural part of the foundation (they raised floor about an inch), remove the rotting wood, install a concrete lip that directed rain away from the building, frame out the windows, cover the outside in OSB/plywood and wrap it in Tyvek.

The Tyvek is in place on the west side.

The finished the west side on Tuesday and are hard at work on the east side now.

Next year we hope to bring them back to install the windows and siding. That will stabilize the structure and get Codes off of our backs.

The large window header is in place. Later we can install three 30″ windows or some other combination of windows. Until then, the window opening will be covered over with the plywood and the Tyvek wrap. This will keep the house in good shape for winter.

Communication, Communication!

Speaking of the Codes Department – I’ve got the direct email of the guy who handles our area.

I try and keep him updated because I’ve found that he will work with us if we are forthright. The other day I sent him an email letting him know the roof had been replaced, the crumbling brick had been removed, and what our plans were for the rest of this year. I was honest with him and said, “That will be it until next spring/summer because financially we are tapped out until then.”

He sent me an email back thanking me and letting me know that he would come by, take some photos, and make sure we received extensions on the codes violations.

So much better than getting a summons to housing court, don’t you think?!

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