Hi all. I feel like I need to formally introduce myself. My name is Emily Bowser, henceforth called “Bowser” as to not confuse anyone! I am a stylist and a creative producer here at EHD, and I’ve been lurking for almost three years now. I first came on as an assistant stylist on a project by project basis around the same time I bought this hunk of junk income property you’re about to hear allllll about. I clearly remember having to leave in the middle of a shoot to deal with one of the many “the sky is falling down” moments while renovating. Emily was very understanding and I was really trying not to cry at work (something I do more openly now, ha). The past three years have been a whirlwind, I figured out what I wanted to do when I grow up and pretended to already be grown up and bought a house at basically the exact same time. The reason you haven’t seen me doing Makeover Takeover is that I’ve been financially and emotionally in reno recovery (keep reading). During this trauma, I would have given anything to have someone give me real actual numbers, timelines and facts surrounding the insanity that is the Los Angeles real estate world, someone who would make me feel less crazy and less alone. If you’re looking for that person, or you just REALLY like to look inside of someone’s private financial dealings (same, same), you’ve come to the right place. Sh*t is about to get REAL.
Sara recently wrote a lovely and informative post about buying a house in LA. What follows is my slightly different path of being wildly more naive and frankly, reckless, but that pretty much describes the difference between Sara and me anyway :). Mine is a tale of TWO houses (because being reckless with one wasn’t quite interesting enough for me). That’s right, I willingly bought two unlivable houses (on one lot) for $22,000 down, zero savings, in Los Angeles, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of work that needed to be done and I’m still alive (and live in one!) today. I’m getting ahead of myself though, read on for the whole story…
Buying a house in LA: Is that even possible?
Good question. Yes. It is. You’re about to hear all kinds of crazy things. Numbers and decisions that don’t really make sense—BUT—I want to say this right at the beginning, the purpose behind me writing this isn’t just a warning (although it’s not NOT that), it’s more an “if I can do it, you CAN do it, too. And maybe you should, but maybe also you shouldn’t?” What you need is information, and then you need to know yourself (or selves) and make a decision based on your gut (is it obvious I’m a 9 on the enneagram yet?)
A tiny bit of my history.
My husband Andrew and I have been together for a long time. I’m throwing in that little fact because honestly, you should be in a good place relationally if you are buying a house with anyone. We started dating in 2000, married and moved to LA in 2009 (he would want me to note he moved here in 2007 ::insert eyeroll::) and decided to start “looking” for a house in early 2016 at the urging of my wonderful and entrepreneurial grandmother and supportive parents. This somewhat surprised me because my dad is also my CPA and he knew our financial situation very intimately. Regardless, I didn’t think it was possible and their excitement about it made me start looking into it and ultimately have laser focus until the deed was done.
We wanted to own for all the obvious reasons but mainly: 1. the stability of a mortgage in an increasingly expensive city and 2. as people who came into adulthood during the recession, a way to invest and make some money as quickly as possible (retirement who? what?). Los Angeles is known to be a fairly safe housing market, if only you can get into it. Specifically, income properties do well because when house prices flatline here, rent generally goes up. This is the first of a few disheartening things you will hear me say in this post. “Capitalism! It’s great if it works for you; let me show you how!!”
FHA loans and investment properties, a somewhat educated layman’s guide.
My research brought me to a 2-hour phone conversation with a mortgage broker after going to exactly one open house and falling in love and moving in in my mind (first of many times, turns out). What I learned is this: you can barely have any money at all and qualify for a loan IF you have good to great credit and a few years of showing that you’re bringing in decent money. You don’t have to save that money per se, you just have to make it, keep your debt low, and pay things on time.
At the time of applying for a loan, we had to use our 2015 tax returns. Luckily, in 2015, I had a full-time job. Ironically, by the time I was applying, I had quit the job but they did not care SO tip #1: have a full-time job the year before you want to buy a house and then promptly quit because finding a house is about to become your full-time job (I’m joking). My husband also had a salaried job for a few years. In 2015, our gross income was $120,000. At this rate, you’re going to know my social security number by the end of this post…KEEP READING.
Obvious decision #1: FHA Loan
In Los Angeles, in order to have a conventional loan with an income property, you have to put down 25% (20% for a single-family home). I don’t think I saw one house sell for under $600,000 in my year of looking. 25% of $600,000 is ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. Also, your $600,000 home is probably a POS and needs work. I found out that with an FHA loan, I could put down as little as 3.5%. That was more our speed. We could handle a little bit of a higher mortgage payment because of mortgage insurance, what I was not going to have any time soon is $150,000+ sitting in a bank account.
Obvious decision #2: Income Property
A $600,000+ FHA loan breaks down to about $4,000/mo (including taxes and mortgage insurance). I technically qualified for a loan this large but I knew the reality of paying twice as much as I had been paying for rent was insane. Just because you “qualify” doesn’t mean you can “afford” (read and repeat). You need to take your lifestyle, comfort level and the city you live in into consideration when making a decision this large. I was okay with paying a little more than we were renting, but I knew anything over $700 more/month was going to get uncomfortable fast. I needed help paying my mortgage. Enter: The Income Property.
Here’s a quick low-down on why this was an option for us (and can be for you):
When you buy an income property, they take the rent you will make into consideration and think of it as a part of your projected income, therefore making your overall loan you can take out larger OR if you stay on the lower end of “what you can afford,” it makes your loan less risky.
For example: at the time of buying our house, we “qualified” for a max $630,000 mortgage if we were buying a single-family home. Depending on the income property we looked at, that number shot up, sometimes over $200,000 more. Here’s how that breaks down in a real-life scenario:
- There was a triplex (2 two bedrooms, 1 one bedroom) on the market for $830,000 in the neighborhood of Atwater Village. Two of the units (the two bedrooms) were occupied and already bringing in $3,700 combined (way under market value at the time but nothing to scoff at either). $3,700 x 12 = $44,400. That number gets added to our projected income: $120,000 + 44,400 = $164,400! It’s like having a third person in our marriage that is bringing in $$ (isn’t that what we all want/need??). Also, an $830,000 FHA mortgage at the time was around $5,700/mo.
- Factoring in the rents we would be getting upon moving in, that means we would only have to come up with $2,000/mo, so the mortgage company was comfortable that we would be able to handle the responsibility of the monthly mortgage. The somewhat tricky part of this is that each and every property was different so the mortgage company would have to input all of the information each time depending on the number of units, if they were occupied, how much rent was either coming in or projected to come in, etc. etc. and sometimes made the process a little slower. In general, I knew if I looked at places in the $650,000-730,000 range for duplexes (or two-on-a-lot) I was pretty safe to assume I could make an offer if I wanted to.
Reality check: Buying with an FHA loan in 2016 in Los Angeles.
On paper, it made sense. We qualified for a decent loan because we make okay money monthly and don’t have any big expenses (ah, the good ole days) but the reality of being in such a competitive market without cash was NOT an easy one. I’m happy to talk about the process of looking for an FHA income property in the comments, but let’s CliffsNotes this thing so we can get to the actual buying of the house/income property:
- Assemble a supportive and reputable team. When you don’t have cash, you need to look legit. Make sure your people are LEGIT.
- Competition is an obvious hinderance. Expect it. The lower end of the market is the most competitive and income properties are flipper territory in LA. We lost out on many houses because we didn’t come in $100,000 over asking with all cash. There is hope: there are still people out there that want to sell to actual people.
- Trying to buy a house is (at least) a part time job. If I wasn’t filling paperwork, I was dropping everything to look at whatever house came on the market that was in the general area I wanted to be in, within $500,000 (RARE) – $800,000, and was an income property of any type even if they weren’t zoned as such (think Airbnb opportunities). I saw a lot of places by myself and would take Andrew later if they were worth looking at because he had a normal day job. I even made an offer on a house when he was out of town and he had only seen crappy iPhone pics. It took seeing the places as soon as possible, before the weekend open houses, so that you could get ahead of the crowd.
- Income properties sometimes (almost always) come with people living in them and no, you cannot raise their rent if the house was built before 1978 (which is most of LA). This fact SHOCKS people. I saw so few properties that came vacant that I think I could count them on one hand. We have intense renting laws to protect people from being displaced. This being the case, you have to consider when buying a property: Are you cool if they never leave? Can you get a good enough price that you can afford to pay for them to leave (around $30,000 in most cases and yes, that is a thing and all renters in LA should know it)? If you don’t have the cash, can you negotiate the sellers paying for them to leave? Are you a horrible person that’s displacing people? Maybe don’t buy that one then? AND FINALLY
- Expect heartache. We put in a lot of offers. Some were long shots we didn’t expect to get but others hit a little closer to home (pun intended). Home buying is emotional and it should be, you’re looking for your home, if you didn’t care that would be weirder.
Found the house!
I was in a bad place emotionally when I first saw our house. I was alone, again, looking at an overpriced dump. We walked through and it smelled weird, they didn’t even try to clean it up, the ENTIRE lot was concrete, THE ENTIRE 5,000+ SQ FOOT LOT. Trees popped out of holes just big enough to fit their trunks through, “How are they even alive??” I think as I walk from the front house to the back house. My negativity was so dense that I barely heard my realtor explain that the back unit tenants are in the process of moving out, so it may be a bit in flux and different from the pictures online.
The thing about seeing a house when it’s furnished is that you don’t see how they have maneuvered all the furniture to cover the holes in the floor because of termite infestation (which it turns out was the case with the front unit). The back unit had less furniture which you would think would make it look bigger but instead just showed more of its flaws. I left feeling blah. We’d “never have enough cash to do what needed to be done to that property,” I tell my husband on the phone (in retrospect the most truthful statement I’ve ever uttered). However, a few short hours later, my mortgage broker is convincing me on the phone that I should really consider this property…I was shocked! He assured me that because the house was on the lower end of my budget that I could then most likely get a renovation loan tacked onto my mortgage. It is surprising even to me, now, even after knowing myself for 35 years, how quickly I can become optimistic about almost anything.
The house is a two-on-a-lot fixer for $600,000, in a good investment neighborhood in the east side of LA. Both units are 2 bedrooms, the front unit is a little bigger at less than 900 square feet and the back unit is under 700. The way the lot is set up, there is a front unit, a small backyard and then the back unit with its own small (gated) outdoor space. I liked the idea of separate spaces with no shared walls, a luxury I had not enjoyed since I lived with my parents. There were also 2 one-car garages and with the spaces not being huge, it was a big plus to have storage space.
A barely educated layman’s guide to buying a house with an FHA + renovation loan (somewhat, but not totally, successfully).
This is how I remember everything working (read: maybe consult an actual professional and fact check me). First, you make an offer on the house and they accept. That’s kind of important. Then you spend the next five months of your life doing nothing but sending random people your personal financial information, signing papers, meeting 1 million different contractors and inspectors, paying them money, appeasing angry sellers by giving them extra money to help pay their mortgage because the process has gone on way too long, send more financial information because the initial ones are out of date, do that three more times, find out while on the toilet that your sellers put the house back on Redfin (illegally), angry cry in the aisles of Target on the phone with your broker, give them MORE money, eventually sign more papers and then you own the house.
I wish I were joking.
The slightly more official/told in plain English process is this:
- Find a contractor (this is a blog post in and of itself) and walk through with them and explain your renovation plans. They will give you an estimate of projected work to be done (about how much it will cost you).
- The appraiser will calculate how much value will be added and based on that, how much projected rent you can get in the area you live in and come up with a new appraised value of the house.
- Based on the appraisal, your mortgage company will decide how much of a renovation loan you can afford and it gets tacked onto your mortgage.
Sounds simple right? It was the most not simple, frustrating experience of my life. The appraisal you receive for the reno loan is NOT the same as the one you have done at the beginning of the buying process, the one that says “the offer you made on this house either matches or doesn’t match what it is worth.” That appraisal came back just fine. They wanted $600,000, we offered $600,000, the appraisal came back at $600,000. We were moving and grooving, everyone was happy! We started all the inspections and I found a contractor, all that takes awhile in and of itself. Later, when the second appraisal (different guy) came in, the one described in the above paragraph, THAT is the one that screwed us.
Buying in an up-and-coming area, I understood as a renter in LA, that I would be able to fix up the back unit and rent for at least $2,000. There was parking, a storage space, no shared walls, 2 bedrooms, private outdoor space and I was fully renovating it and adding a dishwasher, washer and dryer. Our appraiser said I would never get over $1,300/mo in my area and his opinion was that if I bought this house for $600,000 and put the $100,000 of renovations into it, it would be worth…$600,000. You may be asking yourself, “HOW IS THAT @#(*&@# POSSIBLE??” Same. Saaaaaaame. He would not reconsider his appraisal even after my realtor worked hard to get him rent comps in the area.
This is where my life started unraveling and maybe a different (smarter?) person would have walked away. I would like to say it was “too late” because I had spent thousands (I had) and countless hours (I had) but it actually was really just this: I had set my mind to the thing and this house was mine. I have no one but myself to blame for what transpired after the moment I decided to push through…and it really was ME. You may be able to tell by the way I’ve written this, but my husband was along for the ride on this one.
Life: “Emily, NO.”
During the phone call when my mortgage broker convinced me that this fixer would be worth it because of the reno loan, he was assuming an extra $100,000 or close to it, would be possible. After the bad appraisal and the back and forth, that dropped…a lot. For reasons that I still don’t fully understand, I didn’t know until I WAS SIGNING FINAL ESCROW PAPERS that my reno loan was only for $38,000. There was a miscommunication that I am going to go ahead and take responsibility for, but that was a lot lower than what I thought I had agreed to. Everything took forever and then went SO fast the last few days. I was convinced I just wasn’t understanding all the paperwork when I saw “$38,000” on the page. If you haven’t done it, you can’t imagine the amount of signing you do on closing day. It was just me, my husband, a notary, and my cat in a carrier (long story) in my husband’s office at 10 pm (also long story). I tried calling someone, anyone, to get some answers. No one answered, it was late! Here is the craziest thing: I SIGNED THE PAPERS ANYWAY. I told you, laser focus, only myself to blame.
Buying a lemon: How it’s possible and why you maybe should(n’t?) do it and how to (kinda) avoid complete and total financial ruin.
Alright, whether or not I should have been in this situation, this was the situation I was in the morning after I woke up from that fateful evening in my husband’s office: In mid October 2016, we bought a house for $600,000, our reno loan was for $38,000 for a combined $638,000. I received my first mortgage statement 10/27 (not due until 12/1) and here is the breakdown:
- Principal: $863.26
- Interest: $2,219.13
- Escrow (for taxes and insurance): $1,174.74
- Monthly Payment: $4,257.13
My interest rate was 4.25%. Small note here that about a year later, they lowered my monthly payment by about $85 (to $4,171.60) because they realized they were charging me too much for taxes and insurance.
The money we put down, combined with the money we spent while in escrow on inspections, etc., and the money we needed to pay the whole mortgage until February when renters were able to move in, was literally all the money we had in the world. Smart to start homeownership with literally no cushion? Obviously not. I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, but I had some help from a loan from my family (LOAN, not gift). I realize this is a very privileged situation but I want to be completely honest because I wish I had been able to read how this all really goes down for real people who aren’t very rich themselves (or maybe very smart). We bought the house and had a $40,000 personal loan on top of the $38,000 reno loan. $78,000 to renovate 1,400-ish square feet. Easy peasy?
Finally, the renovation.
I found a contractor I loved during the process prior to finalizing the sale for the reno loan. He was there during all the drama and was steady and encouraging during the process and ultimately what convinced me I could make this happen despite the loan coming in very low. My contractor assured me that he could do what needed to be done in a few months with the cash I had and that afterward, my house would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars more and I could refinance, pull the cash out and reimburse him for any additional work and reimburse my family the $40,000 I owed them. The math made sense to me. I bought a house for $600,000 and would put $100,000 in. The comps said that my house would be worth $800,000+ when it was all over. Refinancing is a legit and very good work-around but it does take a VERY strong stomach for risk, a patient contractor, and in the end, was not as easy as it sounded coming from him. Will I ever learn? All signs point to NO.
Something new came up every day that cost thousands of dollars. Every. Single. Day. Every wall (and some floors) were opened and the house was exposed for what it was: a total and complete lemon. Turns out a random guy built both structures in 1930 with no oversight and it showed. It looked like I built the house. I don’t know how to build a house but upon seeing the innards of mine, I was pretty sure that this was not it. Everything was “Mickey Mouse” (contractor’s words—still not sure of the origin but pretty sure of the connotation). It would be easier to list the things I didn’t have to touch. The only things I can think of is that we initially didn’t do anything to the yard (front or back), the front steps still need to be redone (look near collapsing), and we didn’t replace the sewage line from the front house to the street (which I’m just waiting to burst) although I did replace the one from the back house to the front house ($6,000).
On a positive note: I know my house pretty well. I learned a lot. It now feels relatively safe and sound with hopefully no other big ticket things for awhile (besides the sewage line…all the crossed fingers and toes). I’m pretty positive I have a better grasp on what things actually cost and can say with reasonable confidence that if/when I ever get to the front yard/stairs/sewage situation, I will need to somehow come up with $50,000, not the $30,000 I’ve been estimated. I can also say with reasonable confidence that this will not happen for YEARS.
THE BAD NEWS: They say that you should be ready for a 20-30% increase from the projected renovation cost. Mine was more than 100% more. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. By the end of the initial construction, just to get the house livable, we’d given my contractor around $100,000 and owed him around $80,000. I ended up having to ask for an additional $40,000 from my family and give him any money we made just to have enough so that my contractor could finish the work. In fact, that continued, every extra cent we made for the next year and a half that didn’t go directly to life bills, went to my contractor. A thousand here, a couple thousand there. Hello credit card debt. Goodbye Christmas bonuses.
THE GOOD NEWS: By February of 2017, we were able to move into the front unit (we had been locked in one of the back unit bedrooms for months with our cats) and rent out the back unit for guess how much?? $2,000/mo! I am, by the way, in the end always right and everyone should listen to me. Our monthly situation was not bad. We were paying nominally more than we were as renters and we owned (by the skin of our teeth) our house. On top of this, the neighborhood was getting fancier, bars were going in, prices were going up and realtors were starting to leave notes on my door. There was a triplex on our street that sold for 1.4 MILLION one year after we lived there. It wasn’t exactly a comp, but 1.4 million is a lot of money. There are two studio apartments in that complex, which they rent out for $1,800/mo each.
THE OTHER BAD NEWS: Turns out, you can’t really refinance right away, almost no one will do it before you’ve owned the house for a year. My contractor, probably because he felt bad about giving me an estimate SO FAR from the actual, was very patient. Andrew and I flirted with financial ruin, increasing debt and no savings making our credit take a nosedive and therefore became harder candidates for refinance. My more cautious and concerned friend, Lauren, who talked to me practically every day and may be the only reason I remained sane, literally Googled “how to get out of financial ruin” for me while I mused about how I was ever supposed to get refinanced in my condition.
A little while after we finished construction (March-ish 2017, we had an appraisal done of both properties. It came back okay, $750,000. It was definitely less than we could have sold it for, but it was also proof that the house was worth what we had put into it at the time. However, the company who gave us our initial loan denied us and said to come back in another year. We did. They said to come back the following year.
Meanwhile, in the spring of 2018, disaster strikes! The front house has some foundation movement that is NOT normal. We had done a good amount of work to it but it turns out the retaining wall along the back of house was completely deteriorating from all the rain we had in late 2016, early 2017. More work needs to be done. An additional $20,000 to be exact. Debt went from bad to worse but the contractor gets the job done anyway. I realize around this point that my contractor is in a catch-22. If he ever wants to receive the money I owe him, it is in his best interest to make sure the house stays standing and that I don’t go into bankruptcy. This is slightly unsettling as a human being but also somewhat comforting? Like, maybe it’s harder for my life to completely fall apart than I initially thought? It started to feel like a refi was never going to happen. I set up a payment plan with my contractor which was basically paying him $1,000/mo for the rest of my life which he wasn’t stoked on but willing to settle for because it was better than nothing. It definitely was making our month-to-month rough and not helping us improve our credit so that we could refinance.
Refi at last.
A couple of things happened before the refi: I had a real estate agent cold call me in the summer of 2018 while I was in Portland working with the EHD team (how he got my number, I don’t want to know). He asked if he could come see our house because he had some interested buyers. I tried to get off the phone with him by just stating the obvious “oh, sorry, no, my house isn’t for sale” and he asked me “how much would you need for it to be for sale?” I humored him, “honestly, I’m pretty in the pits with this house and in order for me to pay my debts and still make enough to buy another house, probably over 1M” to which he replied, “I don’t think that will be a problem”. I made an appt for him to come by and see the house when I was back in town. I was just curious (and desperately wanted my financial woes to be OVER).
A few weeks later, I had that appt, he was from a reputable company and was obviously excited about the property because of the income property. Turns out most LA people want something just like this for the obvious reasons of offsetting their mortgage but want it to be finished, like mine (kinda) was. He wanted me to list at $950,000 to start a bidding war. He said if I could deliver the back unit empty, he was sure we’d end up selling for 1.1M+. I was delighted that he felt this way but wanted another opinion. I had my realtor, Keely, who I bought the house with, come over. She didn’t disagree with the assessment of the house, however (and this is a BIG however), she told me I should try to keep it. I was in a good situation and getting another house probably would mean I would have to move further out. In her opinion, this was just proof that I made the right decision and should wait (a very nice thing to hear after almost 2 years of flirting with financial ruin). PRO TIP: if the person who could make money off you selling is saying don’t sell, probably don’t. The truth was, we didn’t want to sell. Despite all the stress, I was invested, quite literally, but it was tempting. I could pay everyone off and still make $200,000. That is A LOT of money.
A couple weeks after all of this, we had been talking through the pros and cons of selling daily, a mortgage/refi company called me. This time, even though I had never heard of them, I humored them and explained the whole situation. They expedited me and seemed very excited about the prospect of making it happen. It was a whirlwind. Maybe it was the raising housing prices? It certainly was NOT my credit score, which was hovering in the mid- to low-600s. However, we were making more money than we were before (although it didn’t feel like it). Our gross income was $150,000 now.
In October of 2018, TWO years almost exactly after buying the house, we were approved for a refi, pending an appraisal (my least favorite word up to the point in history) of $850,000. My realtor was SO helpful during this time. Keep in mind that she is NOT being paid for this—she made a folder of comps and a list of what we had invested for the appraiser and then came for the actual appointment and walked through the houses with him. Lauren and I were FREAKING OUT. I scrubbed my house top to bottom, I made cookies so my house would smell good, at the last minute, I put on a Bob Dylan record. An actual record on an actual record player. This is my favorite detail because the appraiser LOVED IT. He was so impressed with my music taste and the fact that I was young but listened to records. We hammed it up and I TRULY BELIEVE IT AFFECTED THE OUTCOME. Call me crazy or call me ALWAYS RIGHT (eventually).
On November 19, 2018, the appraisal came through: $870,000. SIDE NOTE: appraisals are always less than they should be I guess?? Doesn’t matter, it was official, I would receive $100,000—ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS—in my bank account by Thanksgiving. I’m rich for exactly one day. The next day, I write a $80,000 check to my contractor and pay off some credit cards.
January 2019: I write my contractor a $20,000 check for more surprise foundation work, this time for the back house.
February 2019: my husband is let go from his job. IT. NEVER. ENDS.
New Loan (as of July 2019): $735,668.67
- Principal: $976.62
- Interest: $2,835.39
- Escrow (for taxes and insurance): $2,835.39
- Current Payment: $5,096.72
My monthly payment goes up $925.12, my interest rate goes up to 4.625%
In the end, worth it. I can handle monthly expenses. What I can’t afford: $100,000 of debt hanging over my head. As of the time I’m writing this, I’ve put about $230,000 into my house(s). $130,000 more than projected. This includes all labor and materials. About $100,000 of that is just the teeny tiny back house. 686 square feet. Would I have been better tearing it all down and starting new? Probably. Hindsight is 20/20 I guess. However, in the 29 months of renting the back house, I’ve made $61,000 in rental income. At this rate, only a few more years and it will have paid for itself.
Bad news: I still owe my family money and I am literally in the process of setting up an insurance policy in my name in case I die so they get reimbursed. It’s agreed that now that I’m only slightly in financial ruin, that I will start paying them in monthly installments. Good news: I added 2 mini-splits to the back house in January (just threw it in with the foundation work, why not??) and charge $2,500/mo now. “You’ll never get more than $1,300”?? #$*&#*$!!!
Emotional breakdown (as in breaking down my emotions, not having a breakdown): Clearly, I’m not a risk-averse person. I sign very important and expensive papers I barely understand. I mean, writing that sentence out is crazy even to me. I can’t even justify my actions. However, I don’t regret it. Even now, after a couple of seemingly impossible years, constantly working, (still) just getting by, still with no savings to speak of, still owing people money and with the risk of having to carry a $5,100/mo mortgage if things went sideways with a backhouse tenant? I guess I have a strong stomach for it. It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. I’m an optimistic person. Things will work out because things generally do (with hard work and a certain amount of first world, middle-class privilege). I thought that before all of this and the fact that I still believe it is either a testament to its truth or to my insanity, or maybe a bit of both.
Stay tuned for “How I Managed to Spend $100,000 in Renovations on 686 Square Feet and Lived to Tell the Story” where I break down reno costs, what I would have done differently looking back, and what I still am happy with.