THE CUTER TUDOR - Before and After!

This is officially my second before and after post I've written for our flip houses - our second flip house - but I guarantee that the Cuter Tudor was not your typical second child. Hah! This is the home where we approached a totally different style of home and said HECK YEAH WE CAN DO THIS. And we DID IT! I'm so proud of this tiny little cute house, and simultaneously, so, so exhausted. And OH - we are also already UNDER CONTRACT (after 3 days on the market!) so this definitely feels so rewarding already!

Let me walk back a little bit in time and tell you how this gem came to be ours! My friend Grace is also a real estate investor, and had seen this house and passed on it. (It's funny because I also saw another house and passed on it - she ended up buying it and did things with it that I never could have imagined! We laugh about it but we really believe some houses are YOURS the second you see them. It's a gut feeling!) Anyway Grace called me when I was feeling so anxious that our previous home hadn't sold (when you have a house on the market, time seems to go by SO SLOWLY), and she informed me that I needed a project home to take my mind off of our house on the market. She was totally right, of course. I drove down and saw it that day, and I fell in love with it - plywood front door and all.

This was absolutely the roughest house we had ever decided to tackle. Both our lender and investor were hesitant - for good reasons! But I was passionate about this house from Day 1, and this neighborhood I'm convinced is the next big development area (it's near the state capitol buildings in Phoenix). I saw the vision though and I wanted to bring some fresh life back to these old bones.

Okay - let's walk inside. :)

Every room was SCARY. Smelly. TERRIFYING. Baffling. Here were a couple of redeeming factors I saw:

  • The built-ins in the living room
  • The natural light
  • END OF LIST

Not even the original wood floors underneath the urine-soaked laminate flooring were redeemable. Everything had to go. Parts of the floor were even missing where tweakers had come and removed the flooring to get to the copper pipe. Unreal. But here she is today:

The styling vision for this one came VERY quickly as soon as I found the moss green Embrace chairs from Article. Before those chairs hit me like a Mack truck (in the BEST way), I wasn't sure which direction to take the decor for this one. But I loved the deep green of these chairs, the velvet, and the soft lines (reminiscent of a more traditional style) combined with the sleek and modern legs, and I figured it was the perfect direction to take the whole design - combination of traditional, modern, earthy, and unexpected. They set the tone for the rest of the house as soon as you walk in the door (and they're crazy comfortable - It feels like getting hugged when you sit in them). I know that redoing the house is the point of the post, but for me, the end design of it was so essential to making renovation decisions, because it almost felt like having a client in mind, and it made final decisions on hardware and fixtures so much easier. A cohesive and staged house sells so much faster! But more on staging later!

The front bedroom didn't require much work besides the essentials - new flooring, new windows, etc., but it actually had a weird door that led to the front porch, which didn't feel very safe. The old function of two front doors was to allow the breeze to flow freely through the old homes before air conditioning was a thing, but since we here in Phoenix like our modern conveniences of AC, we felt like removing that door and making a usable wall was a better call.

You might have noticed those little concrete side tables (there's one in the living room as well) but my handy and very handsome husband Josh made them! They're light as a feather and super cool, too. I believe he also has a tutorial on how to make them still available on A Beautiful Mess!

The bathroom was by far the scariest part to tackle. It felt scary even walking in there for fear the floor would collapse.

Man, I gotta say - how good are those big black hex tiles? We originally bought them for the bathroom of our last home, but found we needed smaller tile in the shower floor for risk of slipping and falling (grout provides traction. See? These are the weird things you never think about until you purchase the wrong thing).

Also I'm thinking I should probably revisit this photo taken by my friend Constance Higley:

Okay - now the master bedroom is what really stumped us, admittedly!

The floor was missing in parts, the closet was impossibly small. It had an extra attached "room" which was really just a closed-in porch that was pieced together. We decided to take that extra room and make a large closet and master bath, and a little hallway nook for plants, reading, yoga, whatever!

It's compact but it makes a big impression, right? The Godsey upholstered bed frame we got from AllModern (similar one here for a lower budget) - it's my favorite upholstered bed frame I've ever seen, and I knew it needed some side tables, but didn't want it to feel cluttered, so we chose the clear acrylic stacking tables from AllModern (they're on sale right now!!) to give the illusion of more space! They're not tricks - they're ILLUSIONS.

Anyway thanks for sticking with me through this huge commitment of a post!! I'm so pumped on how this turned out and don't worry - I'll be sharing more on my staging and sources soon!! Huge thanks to Article and AllModern for generously providing pieces for staging this home - though this post is sponsored, all opinions are honest and my own! -Sarah

Build your own Wall Garden!

Hey friends! I'm so excited to share with you a big project I've been working on with TruGreen! We've put our heads together and come up with some ideas on boosting your home's curb appeal, and the BEST part is that all of these are even renter-friendly!

Today I'm sharing how to build a wall garden. You can do this to create some vertical interest in your front yard, to add a little privacy, so many things! You could even put your home address on this wall, perch it in your front yard, and stick a solar spotlight on it. The options to customize this idea are endless!

Here's a little video where I walk you through how to make your own. Just so you know, as I'm not even power tool-savvy, if I can do this, then anybody can do this!

I love partnering with TruGreen on these because they are all about Living Life OUTSIDE! This would even be a fun project to get kids involved in - have them pot the plants, pick out plants, and even water them. Right?

Here are the supplies you will need to get started:

  • 2 Posts, 7 slats of wood (the dimensions of this can be variable based on where you want to place yours, and what size you'd like! Ours was 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide.)
  • Drill and screws
  • Tape measure and pencil (measuring equal distances between slats if you're detail-oriented!)
  • Self-watering plastic pots
  • S-hooks
  • Potting soil and plants (mix them up! We lovingly referred to our categories of plants as thrillers, fillers, and spillers.)

I chose to sand and stain my wood for a darker, more walnut finish, but you can use unfinished wood or even paint it to match your house trim. Up to you!

Be sure and watch the video for the whole process, but I promise you - it's so easy! Maybe an afternoon of work, tops.

Required: FACE OF CONCENTRATION.

Required: FACE OF CONCENTRATION.

Lay your posts on the ground and line up your slats on the posts. Make sure they are equidistant from each other - you can eyeball it if you trust yourself, or use a tape measure and pencil if you trust math more than your eyes. Hah!

Screw in your slats to the posts. Guys for real - if I can do this, anyone can! This part takes maybe 5 minutes and after this step, your wall is DONE. It's so easy that it won't even mess up your manicure. This is a guarantee - I mean, look at my nails! These nails don't lie.

Time to prepare our pots to hang before we plant our little plants!

Choosing a drill bit slightly bigger than your S-hooks that you purchased, drill a hole in each pot fairly close to the top of the pot, so that your S-hook will fit properly. Don't worry if you mess up and have to re-drill another hole! Plants will easily hide this!

Transfer your plants to your pots, and put their "good sides" opposite of your hole. For example, if you have a vine or something trailing (aka "spillers!"), it's best to have it spilling over the front when it's hanging.

Now thread your S-hooks through the holes on your pots and they are ready to hang.

And you're done! Time for a nice iced fancy iced tea to sit back and enjoy your handiwork! So how would you do this differently? How would you customize this to your home? Skinnier slats would create a more modern look, and wider slats would enhance the barnwood / shiplap craze we're seeing a lot of.

I'm excited to show you a couple more ways to boost your curb appeal of your home or apartment in the next couple months! Be sure and follow TruGreen's Instagram page for a lot more ideas on how to live life outside!

This post was created in partnership with TruGreen, but all thoughts and ideas are my own! Thanks for supporting the companies that support us!

The Messy Business of Flipping Houses

So, I've been going back and forth on whether or not I should write a post like this, but I've finally decided to delve into writing a little bit about the less photogenic side of house flipping: the stressful things that go on behind the scenes. And I'll be honest, I'm still gonna hold back a little bit, because I'm afraid of sounding extra whiny or something. Keep in mind that OVERALL, I absolutely love this path that I've chosen! The good parts are worth enduring the bad days and the obstacles. But I also don't want to portray this whole thing as a perfect dream life, because no dream is perfect. It's just the nature of real life, right? Just because I am living and following my dream doesn't mean it's easy, but the passion I have for creating beautiful homes gives me the strength to trudge through the hard things.

Let's start it off easy: phone calls. Contracts. Documents. Business. Adult stuff.

So first of all, as an investor buying a home in really awful condition, the process is so much different than buying a home the traditional way. The homes we find typically aren't on MLS - they are offered through wholesalers who buy houses at auction, and then try to independently (and quickly) find a buyer so they can make a quick profit off of the houses without doing anything to them. Often times, when you find a house you like from a wholesaler, if it's a GOOD house, you're going to be up against a bunch of other investors to snag it quickly. With our first house, we had to decide if we wanted it within an hour. WITHIN THAT HOUR, you have to be on the phone with your hard money lender (I'll get to that in a sec) and investors to make sure everyone's on the same page, and giving you the okay to buy it.  You then deliver a little earnest money to the title company to secure it once the wholesaler sends over the contract. This is a VERY fast process, requires a LOT of phone calls, going to the property, taking photos, drawing up rough plans, talking to your contractor, wiring money, etc. All in the timespan of a couple of hours. 

As an introvert who avoids the phone at all costs, this is extremely difficult for me. Hah! The weeks when we buy houses are incredibly stressful. Adding to the difficulty is just maintaining normal life with the kids - dropoff and pickups at school, naptimes, errands. It would be a lot easier if we paid for a sitter, which might happen down the road, but I do love being present in their lives, and I love the idea that our kids will grow up seeing their parents involved in their lives, and running businesses at the same time. Josh and I do a lot of switching off days with the kids so each other can work, and I couldn't do this without him, I have to say. :)

Okay - so let's talk about hard money loans! These are a great way to buy a house quickly and easily, but they're also quite expensive and take away from your final profit. Basically, it's a loan that doesn't require the extensive paperwork, and enables you to close quickly (typically in one week) but they require around 20% down, and not only are the interest rates high (ranging from 12-15% and up) but EACH MONTH your payments are interest ONLY. So in simple terms - every month, you make a payment to your hard money lender, and the amount you owe on the loan never changes. It's pure profit to them. This is why when you see house flippers on TV say they need to finish the flip as fast as possible, it's because every month that your house isn't done, every month that it sits on the market - it's a couple thousand dollars out of your pocket. OUCH. Right? (For example - our first house we've had since May, and since we decided to DIY the majority of the renovation without considering that time=money, it's now been on our hands for 9 months. We pay over $2200 a month in interest on it. Do that math. File it under: things we learned the hard way because we are stubborn and cheap and it turns out we did it the MOST expensive way possible.)

Okay so when you're buying a house, most of that stuff is expected. Let's talk a little about the unexpected stuff that comes up!

I think I remember posting either on Instagram or in my Instagram Stories that when we bought our Cuter Tudor house, I showed up early on the day that demo was supposed to start and found a group of homeless people living in the back! In retrospect it was probably dangerous to go there by myself but thankfully they were very nice and we talked for awhile. I let them know that they were free to stay on the property if they would help us keep tweakers and squatters away. We talked for awhile and planned to meet that night so we could bring them some food and stuff, but later that night, they had gone. We heard from a neighbor that they were on meth or something, and most likely got paranoid that we were going to turn them in. To be honest I was bummed they were gone, even though it was a weird unforeseen thing! It felt like we had made neighborhood allies. Also it goes to show you how naive I am about talking to people who are on drugs and having NO IDEA that they're super high. Hah!

Speaking of neighbors, that's one thing that you don't really think about affecting your renovation! We've had an *interesting* conflict with a very special neighbor, which I won't go into a lot of detail about. But I will say that ultimately we resolved it, and it always pays to kill them with kindness. And also, if they have a lot of pets, give them pet treats. They'll LOVE it. But it was incredibly stressful UNTIL it got resolved, and I'm horrible about confrontation / dealing with unhappy people. But it's just one aspect of house flipping that you don't really think about when you sign onto it! We've also had to deal with city codes about resolving issues that previous owners ignored / were fined for. It's pretty scary to buy a house and then all of a sudden start getting very official letters from the city and calls from codes workers about something that needs to be resolved that you had no idea about. But again, you just take it one step at a time and do everything the right way! It's a lot more responsibility than you expect to take on.

I also want to post sometime about EVERYTHING we did wrong on our first house, and why we had to make those mistakes, and what we are learning from it. Because although we are in escrow, we keep having little set backs that take more time (meaning more money we are paying out in our hard money payments) and ultimately, we aren't going to make any money off of this house. And that is REALLY HARD and embarrassing to admit. I cried a lot. I feel like a failure. 8 months of work with nothing to show for it but some pretty photos. But it hit me - every great success story starts off with a huge failure. Right? I HATE failing. Most of the times I won't even start something unless I am 100% sure I will succeed. I'm not a huge risk taker. But in analyzing this whole thing, we concluded that the only thing we did wrong was do everything ourselves, which made us pay SO much money in hard money payments. So now, we hire a contractor and a crew who move super fast. Lesson learned! And on the positive side - it's an education that we didn't have to pay any money for.

I want to be really transparent in this, because my beautiful house flipping mentor Grace was really transparent to me in getting started. I don't want to portray myself as an expert - we are still just house flipping babies. We're getting our sea legs here. Thanks for joining us in our huge learning curve!