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Old 01-16-2011, 05:42 PM  
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Default Do it or forget it?

I bought a home for $45,000 in St. Paul, MN a year ago. Keep in mind while that sounds like a great price this is a MAJOR fixer upper. A little about the house: Built in 1917 – OLD! I live on a great street. But the surrounding neighborhood is not somewhere you would want to live forever. Hey –it’s the cities. Its ok I guess but not the best. I think whoever comes to buy my home will be a first time homebuyer since the area is cheap and my home is very small (858 square feet downstairs). Probably someone single, newlyweds, or a young couple with a child or single person with a child. The main bed room is decent size. The other bedroom is very small – only a single bed, dresser and night stand could fit in it. Or it would be a great nursery. Right now I have a toddler bed, rocker, dresser and bookshelf and it fits perfectly. The living room reminds me of a standard apartment living room. What used to be a sun porch was turned into part of the living room to make it bigger….so it is like a separate area but part of it. Almost like a sitting area and nice place to get ready to go in the morning. The kitchen is a decent size but no room for a dishwasher to be added – which I really miss and know people like. The bathroom is so horribly small that only one person can be in it at a time. Unless you are me and a 3 year old. We can fit in just enough to give him a bath. Did I mention that it is PINK from top to bottom? Pink tub, toilet, sink, wall paper and tile all OVER. I want to vomit when I go in there. The mudroom is an ok size. I have my trash in there and a cedar chest for outside toys and the dog food and still plenty of room to come in and out. Since I have a boiler system there is no central air. I used window air conditioners. The garage is not really a garage. It is a wooden shed that is the size of a garage. I do not use it because the doors are like barn doors and falling off the hinges. I suppose if I fixed them I could park in it but it is all wood and the wood and roof are so old that when you are standing in it you can see cracks all over to outside. So it would be pointless to “keep my car dry” if it rained. I just use it to store my mower and snow blower etc. It is not worth fixing and needs to be torn down. I have a long driveway – made of grass. Yes, I said grass. Selling point of the house is the yard. I have a double lot. For some reason no one ever sold the lot behind me. I am the only one in town with this as most houses are stacked on top of each other here. Everyone comments on it when passing by and everyone wants to come over in the summer to swim and have bbqs. It really is fun.
Now, here is my question. There are many things I want to do to my home because I live here and want it to be nice. However, this is a transition home for me. I got divorced and am working my way up again. Therefore I am only going to live here about another 5 years. & if I absolutely have to if the market does not change. So I do not want to overdo it on fixing cosmetic things that won’t help sell or make a profit for me. So I need advice on what I should do. Again, I bought it for $45,000. My realtor told me if I just fix the major items in this market I could sell it for $70,000. I did this. I got a new roof, boiler, gutters, electrical and plumbing. My water heater is only 3 years old. I have a new washer (1 year old now) and the dryer is about 3 or 4 years old. Both work great! So that about covers the major problems. Now I am working on the cosmetic. I had to put vinyl in the kitchen/bathroom because the old tiles were coming up. Looks great. I also pulled the carpet from the bedrooms and living room and found GORGEOUS hard wood floors I refinished. Makes the house look a lot bigger!
So, there are 3 major things I can do. However, if you were buying my home would this turn around enough profit for me? I need to make at least $20,000 or so when I go to sell to buy another home. Or should I leave it as is since I won’t make that much profit out of my ideas:
1. Kitchen – New stove and fridge –both work but they are ugly and old. I also should redo my countertops and backsplash as it is coming apart.
2. Bathroom – buy a new toilet – AWHITE ONE! Mine is very old and has problems. New vanity and mirror/light set OR do I buy a pedestal sink to make the room bigger? I just hate those because there is no space to get ready on for make-up, blow dryer etc. And then have a professional paint the bathtub and tiles all over the room white.
3. This is the biggest project and would cost the most: I have an attic that is very “re-doable”. It is separated into 2 rooms and at one point someone tried to make it over but it looks like a 2 year old did it. I have a nice flat subfloor in one room but need a subfloor in the other room because the floors are so uneven. I ripped out the paneling (wood/fake 70’s hahaha) in the one room and need to rip out the …. Whatever it is they have up….it’s like cardboard almost in the other room. I need to do this because I have to get new installation because I have the new type of roof that vents from the top and has to have special installation. So I can do all that myself. I can also put down laminate sticky flooring which I already bought. I have done this before. What I will need done is have the entire upstairs (about another 800 feet) dry walled, mudded and taped. I can paint. I also need the stair area going up there dry walled. These rooms have slanted ceilings and are not tall enough to ever be legal bedrooms but would give me an office and my son a play room. Or for the next person whatever they want it to be.
So, do I leave well enough alone, paint the house (since this is a cheap way to spruce it up) myself, spend any of my money –I have little- on these projects? Will I get a return? If so which ones? Do I do them all or just one to get a return? What would you look for out of this and want most if you were buying my home? Please keep in mind that I can paint, rip out paneling and put down floors but the rest I have no idea, nor the time to do. I have a 3 year old and can’t be doing major house projects with him around. So this is not just about spending money on material. I would have to hire a contractor which is going to cost me more.

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Old 01-16-2011, 09:46 PM  
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Any toilet can be completly rebuilt for less then $20.00 plus the cost of a new seat and totaly DIY able. Or buy a new one for around $100.00. A vanity can be bought for $100.00 plus the cost of a new faucet and replaced with simple hand tools. A petistal uses a differant shut off height and needs a backer install behind the wall. A whole new preformed counter top with built in back splash for the kitchen can be bought for $170.00 or less. No ones going to care about the fride and stove there most likly going to own one or not like the ones you buy. A ridge vent at the peak of a roof is very common and there's no "special" insulation for it. It's fine to have the tub recoated but never the tiles. It will look like painted tile. Trying to finish room that the stairs are not even up to code will do nothing to add to the price. Often time it's possible to do some refraiming to gain the needed head room. With it being that low it may not be possible to get sheetrock and subflooring up there anyway. Install replacement windows if there the old style. You will save 25% at least on heating and cooling.

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Old 01-17-2011, 09:38 AM  
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Thanks Joe,
so you are saying if I do anything do the bathroom and kitchen 1st? More return for the money? I know the parts are cheap but I do not know how to do these things. Also, for the bathroom tile....can I re-tile OVER old tile?
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Old 01-19-2011, 05:19 AM  
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Very well pointed out joe! Totally agree with you
“You can always get someone to love you, even if you have to do it yourself
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Old 01-24-2011, 01:57 AM  
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I think you did well buying this house, you are probably saving a bundle on rent, and you bought it because it was cheep and clean enough to live in. That is why someone will buy it from you. This does not sound like the house that you could increase value by doing a bunch of work on, but you could use it to learn how to do things.
good luck
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Old 01-27-2011, 10:17 AM  
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My son & his wife bought a house like yours - in Nordeast - about a year ago. Big time fixer-upper. One of the problems they faced is just knowing where to start.

Based on what you've pointed out for possible projects, at this point I'd suggest the following:

1. Replace your counter-top & backsplash. Neither are very expensive, and the improvement will be huge.

2. Fix/replace your toilet and vanity, but reconsider having somebody paint your tub & tiles. That's not apt to work very well.

I doubt that hiring somebody to do major construction in your upstairs will be cost effective. You'll probably end up spending at least $8,000 - $10,000 to get it done right, and it doesn't sound like you have that much wriggle room in the house.

Some pictures would be helpful.

Good luck!

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