Lessons Learned

Reflecting on what we’ve worked on so far with our first foreclosure and adventures in renovation, here are some things I learned:

  • You will get a lot done in the beginning, and then it will wear you out to nothing, and then you will wonder how in the world you use to work on projects every day through the night while also working
  • Owning a house means less time for other things in life because you are cleaning it every weekend
  • Bugs/tiny spiders/medium spiders always seem to be able to come into your house from only God knows where…”But I put up all the trim and caulked this whole house!”
  • Paint changes everything
  • Google will help you figure out how to do pretty much anything yourself
  • Landscaping is hard to do yourself if you have an odd shaped yard and it’s overgrown with weeds and you can’t seem to win.
  • You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful space to live, sleep, and eat in.
  • One bathroom is very difficult to share with roommates/guests/strangers.  If possible, try to find a place with two bathrooms.  This doesn’t matter if you never plan on having roommates or strangers living in your home.

Nine Months Later

Progress So Far:

  • Kitchen renovation is done (photos coming soon)
  • Bathroom renovation is done
  • Dining area shelves are done
  • Bedrooms are painted
  • Baseboard and crown
  • New doors
  • New door handles
  • Electrical
  • Blinds
  • Programmable Thermostat
  • Dishwasher hookup
  • Crown molding in living room

Still Left To Do:

  • Paint awning
  • Finish the laundry room
  • Finish crown molding in office
  • Caulk guest room and office
  • Paint doors with a finish (they came primed white)
  • Paint molding in guest and office rooms
  • Outside landscaping/gardening/weed killing – ongoing since the spring, grass never came out – sod next year in the spring
  • Eventually fix gutter and soffits
  • Find a washer/dryer – I know, I’ve made it 9 months without one, bless my heart 😉 I was hoping I could hold out until Black Friday. But now that it’s almost here, I don’t want to spend the money on it.  Especially if I have other things I need to pay for.

Things that changed:

  • Since working on the house, I have lost the opportunity to buy Home Depot and Lowes gift cards at 7% off on PlasticJungle.  I think they got too big and now everyone keeps buying their inventory completely in less than a second that I’ve had no hope of buying them anymore.  Perfect example of a very important lesson to you all.  If you know of a great opportunity, limit how many people you tell.  In this example, I think it’s because they got broadcasted on TV networks/shows/the news, so game over.  Kind of like how you can never find free stuff at the grocery store anymore ever since the Extreme Couponing show made it known to everyone.  Unless you’re a housewife/husband and can get to the store first thing on Monday or what not.
  • Got my CPA license in the spring.
  • Bought backyard chickens; sold backyard chickens – would I do it again? Absolutely – when I’m a housewife.  Too busy in the winter to be feeding them warm water; and I certainly don’t want to pay for the electricity to have a water warmer out there all winter, especially since as a single girl I just CAN’T eat through all these fresh eggs.
  • Totally lost count of the total amount of money I have spent on renovations.  I don’t know when it fell apart, but I think I have way too much to add up at this point that I’m not even sure how to make sure I counted everything.  I would estimate that it’s definitely at least $10,000.  I need to replenish my cash before I work on anything else!

Four Months Later…

Four months have passed since we started renovating the house.  The winter was really mild so I only had to shovel snow once.  I was concerned that it would really suck without a garage or portico in the winter but I didn’t end up having a problem this year.

Progress So Far:

  • Kitchen renovation is done (photos coming soon)
  • Bathroom renovation is done
  • Dining area shelves are done
  • Bedrooms are painted
  • Baseboard and crown is basically everywhere except parts of the living room
  • New doors
  • New door handles

Still Left To Do:

  • Finish the laundry room
  • Electrical
  • Blinds (I will order them from http://www.blinds.com)
  • Programmable Thermostat
  • Dishwasher hookup
  • Crown molding in living room
  • Caulk
  • Paint moldings and doors with a finish (they came primed white)
  • Outside landscaping/gardening/weed killing (the yard needs some major TLC)

I totaled all my Plastic Jungle home depot and lowe’s card purchases, my appliance purchases, and my transactions directly at Home Depot and the total cost of all the renovation so far is $8,800.  I feel super broke right now.  Luckily $4,600 of that is on credit at 0% interest through this summer for some of it and through next summer for the others (floors, baseboards, quarter rounds, and appliances), so $4,200 is the cash that actually was spent.

Needless to say, living a double life is tiring!  I am so behind on other things like cleaning and cooking.  I’m tired because every weekend is spent hard at work and we haven’t had a rest in a long time.  I should also be getting my CPA license in the mail really soon because I got a message that my transcript was mailed out today.  I’m hoping for a great summer!

Vision: Improvements to Make


  • There is a strange plastic back splash in the bathroom on the walls and a very big red spot where someone started painting over the blue plastic tile with dark red paint in a large circular shape.  Take off this weird blue junk on the wall so the scary red is not there anymore.
  • Paint walls – there are weird hand prints
  • Tile and grout on the floor are black/brown.  Very disgusting.  Bleach and then lay a new layer of tile.  Go with the large 10 inch porcelain tiles that look like stone.
  • Take out weird vanity and home made weird side shelf and replace with a normal vanity with counter space.
  • Toilet is awful.  Put in new toilet.
  • Bleach shower tiles; bathtub and tiles are actually in great shape.
  • New shower faucets – Lower priority


  • Fix drywall hole
  • Get cabinets (they are not the kind I am okay with refinishing/painting
  • Leave a spot for a future dishwasher
  • Current counter top is very dirty and creme/brown
  • Possibly take out part of wall to extend one kitchen wall into laundry room area to be able to fit appliances
  • Extend kitchen into dinette area
  • Add kitchen flooring and into dinette area


  • Carpet is disgusting and have stains everywhere
  • Remove carpet; put in laminate flooring in hallway and living room

Cosmetic projects

Upgrades: Not Outbuilding Your Neighborhood

One restraint with making Little House a comfortable place to live is to make sure my improvements in addition to the purchase price don’t exceed the neighborhood and surrounding area.  Since it’s such a depressed area most of the home values are hovering around $40k to $50k.  In the future maybe this will go up; but for now, I have to make sure I don’t do anything too nice.  For example, building a garage is most likely not going to be a good financial move until house prices around there go up. It’s rare to not have a garage or a covered area at all so that puts Little House at a disadvantage.

Any improvements need to be functional improvements and not merely visual improvements.  If it ain’t broke, I can’t fix it.  Yet.  Since I will be wiped out after closing costs, I will have to take fixing this up slowly.   I have a project list in Excel, which I will later prioritize and sort in order of importance.  The bathroom sink area is disgusting so that is definitely at the top of the list.  The toilet is really bad so I am getting a new one.  The kitchen is pretty bad but it’s actually kind of functional. There is a hole in the dry wall and some cabinetry missing.  The floor is absolutely unsanitary and disgusting, so I will be removing the nasty carpet as one of the first projects.




Inspection: Success

Today was the inspection of Little House.  Everything seems okay.  A few minor issues that are easy to fix, nothing too major.  I had the contractor come out and look around so that he can quote me his pricing on labor for the kitchen and bathroom.  If he can do it pretty cheap, I would just ask him to do it.

It was difficult getting the utilities all turned on and in working order on short notice.  There was an electrical hitch so an electrician was called, but there really was no problem, so I had an extra expense of $60. I transferred the money for closing and it should be in my bank account in a couple days.  It’s quite sad to see all the hard earned and saved money empty out, but I have to remind myself that my security is not in money, but in God.  Even if I depleted my cash, I don’t need to lose my peace over it.  I have to pray and trust God that my needs will be met so that I don’t have to worry and fear job loss and other worst case scenarios my head will make up.

I called the city to ask when a permit was pulled for the roof on the home.  The lady on the phone told me what year a permit was pulled on the roof as well as the hot water heater.  I looked up the city’s website which had a great accessible record database so I was able to estimate my closing costs because I pulled the winter and summer property tax information.  I also found how much was owed on the water and sewage bill that the seller will have to pay at closing.  Water and sewer is attached to the property but other utilities like gas and electric are transferable to a specific person.

Some house facts:

  • 1996 Roof
  • 1996 Water Heater
  • 2006 Furnace
  • Fuse box min. 100 Amp
  • 1040 square feet
  • No garage
  • Slab
  • Ranch
  • 3 Bedrooms