Some day, heck maybe it will be today, I’ll sit back and wonder WHY I let codes violations bully me into spending money I should have spent on Cottage West getting it functional instead of just trying to make Codes happy.
After all, it is perfectly acceptable for the maniac down the street to have open gaping holes in his roof, for more than six years now. Any time a report is opened on him, it is magically closed again a few months later. Meanwhile, his house degrading, degrades the rest of the neighborhood. Worse, if it continues, it will cause so much damage to the structure that it won’t be able to be saved. It could collapse on him, even kill him, just because Codes goes after the people they think have money while ignoring those who they assume don’t.
Have I mentioned that we have tried to get him a new roof, for free, TWICE? And each time it has ended with him threatening the person who came to assess his house and see if he qualified for the program.
I’ll step off my soapbox, though, and concentrate on what I CAN change, and that is simply the properties we own, namely Cottage East and West, with our own home sandwiched in between.
As we put the finishing touches on Cottage West, we have one last step for Cottage East – installing a 200 amp box and running power to it, so that we can also install a burglar alarm.
This is important. With an alarm, and monitoring through Alarm Relay, we won’t have to worry about folks breaking into the property and stealing copper wire, doing drugs, or setting fire to the place. This happened to the quadplex behind us. They had just finished work on the electrical system and someone broke in and ended up starting a fire.
By the time someone noticed the smoke and called it in, the fire was going at a good clip. It caused significant damage AND the firemen had to hack through the roof. So now it needs a new roof.
Thanks to adding another window (it seemed like a good idea at the time), we couldn’t put the meter where we had planned (something about clearances, et cetera) unless we trenched from the pole to the house. So that extra window? It cost us an extra $2,500 in electrical work.
It’s stuff like this that catches you sideways and knocks you off-kilter.
I like to look at the positive side of things, though. So here it is. I don’t ever have to worry about tree branches in the back of Cottage East interfering with our electrical connection.
Oh, and I lied. There’s still ONE MORE THING TO DO this year. Build the back fence. So that folks stop cutting through the property and helping themselves to building supplies or trying to kick in our back door.
Between that and the long run of around 200 feet in the front we hope to install, we have so much fence to build!
They take work. They take sweat, pain, and time. So much time.
Sometimes, I feel as if I am running against a ticking clock. How long will my body last working this hard? I push it, harder than I should, and hope desperately that it is enough.
I imagine the day when I can finally, finally sit down and relax. Just a little bit.
Meanwhile, my dreams fill my mind with visions of secret places where flowers bloom, paths take you in unexpected directions, and my patch of urban life is filled with beautiful blooms and sun-dappled corners.
Walk with me, let me show you where we are at and where we hope to go…
I hope you have enjoyed a visual recap of our property. We have around an acre in total with three houses and their respective yards. We have been so lucky to be in the right place at the right time and get each of the properties to form a contiguous patch of land.
I look forward to showing you progress as we finish the work on Cottage West and officially open it this year for use as an Airbnb.
I hope that our visitors will enjoy the beauty of our land along with the Cottage West and spread the word far and wide. Historic Northeast Kansas City has its challenges, but it is home. I love living here!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
smoke/carbon monoxide detector
electric space heater w/timer
tankless water heater
100′ heated water hose
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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…
Stabilize Cottage East – get it off of codes violations by installing siding, windows and fixing brickwork
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
Finish renovating Cottage East with the same setup as Cottage East – two separate units.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!