Where to Begin?

So I’ve filled you in on the back story of how we stumbled into building a spec house, and you saw how demolition of the existing house got started a few weeks ago – now it’s time to catch you up on how we spent those weeks between purchasing the lot and getting ready to build.

From the very beginning, one of our biggest goals has been to make the best use possible of this incredible lot.  Ironically, the biggest problems we encountered were the very things that make this lot so awesome – (1) it’s huge, and (2) it’s on a corner.

survey-redacted

(our redacted survey)

Those two factors give us pretty big setbacks and two frontages (i.e., technically two front yards) – that double whammy reduces the buildable area of the property and, for awhile, caused us to spend a lot of time down “at the city,” talking to building and zoning consultants. Aren’t you jealous?

One of the issues that we’ve had with this lot are the setbacks and build lines. Setbacks are determined by the city and build lines are put into place by the original subdivision developer, but other than that they’re essentially the same thing – they are restrictions that state how much yard you have to have before you can build your house (like you have to have a 35 foot deep front yard, etc.). Make sense?

In our case, the original developer had the neighborhood platted with 40 foot front build lines and 20 foot side yard build lines. We were surprised when we got our property survey that the build lines were so restrictive, so Jason did some digging into an advance copy of the title documents and discovered that the build lines were amended in the 80s to be less restrictive and to allow homes to be built closer to the street – 30 feet in the front (instead of 40) and 10 feet on the side (instead of 20). Hurray, we were so excited!

But not so fast. The title company said that they wouldn’t insure those amended build lines (meaning that we couldn’t build on them) unless the property had been re-platted. We went down to the city and found out that, nope, the property had never been re-platted and those new build lines were nowhere to be found. So, we were back to 40 and 20 foot build lines.

Could we get the property re-platted ourselves? That was our first plan, and then we learned that it cost thousands of dollars and could take months. We were willing to spend the thousands of dollars in exchange for a larger backyard for this spec house, but we weren’t sure we could afford to lose months waiting for the property to be re-platted. Then, we spoke to another consultant who said that the process could take up to a year. A year? Heck no.

So, re-platting was out. The setbacks put in place by the city for our property are just 35 feet and 10 feet, better than the build lines originally put in place by the developer. So could we just follow those? We looked into applying for a variance, a two month process which, in theory, would allow the Board of Adjusters to consider our application and grant us a “variance” to the build lines and allow us to build on the less restrictive setbacks. That sounded like a great plan!

at the city

Then we learned that the Board of Adjusters doesn’t have the authority to change build lines – no one but the original developer can do that. Womp womp. However, the expert we were talking to said that there was another course of action we could take – we could have the property re-platted to remove the build lines, or re-platted to revise the build lines to 35 feet. While this approach could work, it had a lot of problems:

  1. our property technically has two front yards (what the heck?!?), so if we had the build lines removed or revised, they would automatically revert to 35 feet. That would be fine for our front yard, but our side yard (which, remember, is technically a front yard) would then have a more restrictive setback since the current build line is just 20 feet. That’s no good.
  2. once we had the 35 foot sideyard (i.e., frontyard) setback, we would have to apply for a variance to get it reduced to 20 feet like it is now. But what if that variance wasn’t granted and we had a 35 foot setback on the side? That would totally ruin our plans.
  3. and don’t forget that the whole replatting process could take up to a year! The expert said that best case scenario it would take 4-6 months, worst case is a year, and the average is 9 months. Then we would still have to go through the 2 month process for a variance. So, basically, we would still be dealing with this drama a year from now, when we should be selling the house.

Where are we now? After all that research and running around, we’re back to our 40 and 20 foot build lines. Luckily, we’ve worked with our architect to come up with a floor plan that will work with those build lines.

Whew!  Is your head spinning like mine?  And by the way, if you made it all the way to the end of this ridiculously long, almost entirely photo-free post, you deserve a pony.

Demolition

Demolition

So this is pretty much the weirdest feeling ever – I’m sitting here on the tailgate of my car, typing this, as the lot is being cleared so that we can build our first house.  Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe it!

Demolition

The record-breaking rains that we’ve had in Texas delayed this moment for weeks and weeks, but now everything is happening pretty quickly.

The house is gone and giant trucks have been hauling away the debris for the past two days (with another rain day mixed in there). There’s still a fair bit of stuff left to knock down, like some giant brick fences and the foundation, so all of this will probably be finished sometime early next week.

Demolition

Once the lot is totally cleared, a company is going to come in to do soil testing, where they drill down into the earth about 25 feet so that we know how stable the soil is here and we’ll know how we need to engineer the foundation for this particular piece of property.

Demolition

Then, a surveyor is coming through to take elevations of the lot. When FEMA redid the flood maps last year all of a sudden this lot fell within the new 100 year flood plain. Ugh. If we don’t do anything, then every owner of this house will have to carry flood insurance, and have the small risk of a possible flood at some point. Luckily, there’s something we can do – since we’re starting from scratch and building a new house, we can raise the structure a bit so that it’s out of the flood plain. Whew! I’ll go into that process a bit more once we get further into it.

Demolition

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week. Hopefully I’ll be back to regular posting with all of this fun stuff I have to share with you!

Spoiler Alert: We’re Building a House

You may have noticed that it’s been a little quiet around here lately.

But.  You guys.

Things are happening.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of what’s going on, here’s the quick back story – as you know, Jason and I have been flipping houses for 6 years now, and we’ve done 10 in all (not counting our own house and our two rentals).  We’ve learned a lot about construction, entrepreneurship, and real estate in general.  We’ve ridden the highs and lows of the real estate market, started a family, and moved into our 30’s.

We’ve always said that we’d like to build a house when the time is right, and maybe ultimately move from being flippers to builders.  That prospect has always seemed like kind of a phantom dream, one that you can catch a clear glimpse of from time to time but that just doesn’t seem quite real or attainable.  Maybe it’s one of those things that you talk about but never actually do.

But with the real estate market in Dallas picking up, it’s become harder and harder to find houses to flip – other investors are snapping up houses left and right, and homebuyers themselves are feeling comfortable buying fixer-uppers.  We are lucky to have found the houses that we did.

Back in February, Jason received an email from a wholesaler about an investment opportunity in another part of Dallas.  The house wasn’t quite what we’re used to working with – it was more expensive, more square footage, in a different neighborhood, and on a much larger lot.  Because of all that it wasn’t in our comfort zone, but after I ran some quick comps we decided to hop in the car to go scope it out.  Flips are hard to come by, so it was certainly worth our time to see if this house could be a contender for a renovation.

survey-redacted

Once we checked out the house, it was clear that the house was a disaster.  Not in the sense that it was completely falling down, but it had a terrible layout, bizarre construction, and had been neglected for a time.  We knew that we could sink hundreds of thousands into this house and it could still be terrible.  So, flipping it was out.

Then, Jason had a thought – could the lot alone be worth the asking price?

The idea terrified me.  The asking price was much more money than we normally spend – to be honest, it was more than we normally sell our finished flips for.

But, the neighborhood was killer, and the lot alone was worth the asking price.  Jason and I went back and forth – he is an entrepreneur to the bone and I’m very conservative, so we had some spirited discussions to say the least.

In the end, I knew Jason was right – we should buy the lot and build a house.  Get started on that dream of ours.  Jumping into home-building would be a scary prospect no matter when we did it, and this was a great opportunity.

So, we put in an offer below asking price and it was accepted.  We left for a ski trip that morning and scrambled to find a way to get the earnest money to the wholesaler (that was interesting), but it all worked out.

(Update: we are building this house as a spec house and plan to sell it when it’s completed – one day we hope to build our dream home, but not quite yet!)

We’ve owned the lot for exactly two months now.  I’ve been waiting for the “perfect time” to tell you what we’ve been up to but there hasn’t been one, and I’ve gotten tired of waiting.  :)  We have a lot of “behind the scenes” work to show for those two months, but we’ve yet to break ground.  To say we’re chomping at the bit would be an understatement!

at the city

So, that’s where we are right now.  I can’t wait to take you guys along on this wild ride!

Before + After – Our 9th Flip’s Exterior, Entry + Dining Room

Ready for the first batch of “afters” from our 9th flip?

I wish I could remember every little detail of this renovation so that I could give you guys a thorough play-by-play of everything that happened.  Unfortunately, most of the nitty gritty details have already fallen out of my head.  I hope these little recaps will suffice!

First up is the exterior.

Our 9th Flip - Before

The front of the house looks 80% the same, but the 20% that changed looks pretty good!

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

The biggest change was swapping out all of the old windows for new bronze windows.  It pained me to lose the leaded glass windows in the dining room and in the stairwell (to the right of the front door), but they just wouldn’t have looked right next to the new windows.

Here are the dining room windows as they were being delivered and then installed:

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

We also tiled the front porch with a slate tile, and ripped out the overgrown holly bush and replaced it with a few knockout roses.

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

Losing that bush made the front porch feel so much more open.  Oh, and I forgot!  We also added a new mahogany front door that looks pretty snazzy.

Here’s a better view of the slate tile as it was being installed:

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

Here’s the front porch all grouted and pretty:

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

The photo above shows the grout just after it was applied, and it dried a lot lighter, which you can see below.

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

The pic above is from closing day – it was a mad dash to get a few trades through for last minute fixes before all the paperwork was signed!

The backyard got a little love, too.  The brick wall around the patio was cute, but it was falling apart.

Our 9th Flip - Before

So, we knocked it down.  :)

Before + After - Our 9th Flip's Exterior, Entry + Dining Room

The patio was also cracked – we didn’t think we could spruce up the whole house and leave the patio looking a little less than fabulous, so we ripped it up.  :)

The concrete guys leveled everything out…

Before + After - Our 9th Flip's Exterior, Entry + Dining Room

…and put rebar in place to keep the new patio strong and crack-free.

Before + After - Our 9th Flip's Exterior, Entry + Dining Room

Seeing the new patio in place, I’m so glad we got rid of the old one!

Before + After - Our 9th Flip's Exterior, Entry + Dining Room

Inside the house, the changes and improvements continued.  The entryway was already a great size, but it was a bit on the dark side.

Our 9th Flip - Before

We painted everything a bright white which instantly brightened up the joint, as did the new Moravian star fixture which I’m a little obsessed with.

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

(We didn’t get professional photos of this house because it sold before we could list it – I wish we had!)

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

All of the tile got jackhammered up…

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

…so that we could replace it with hardwoods.  Doesn’t that just look crazy?

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

Along with the tile, the green stairs got the boot.

Our 9th Flip - Before

We added hardwood treads and risers…

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

…and the stairs instantly look a thousand times better!

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

The view from the dining room to the entryway improved, too.

Our 9th Flip - Before

The walls in the dining room were painted a light gray at the request of the new owners, and you’ve seen my favorite chandelier about a million times by now.  :)

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

While I love the chandelier, I will never love removing the little plastic sleeves off every.single.strand of shells.

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

For awhile, the dining room was the official “cabinet painting area”…

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

…but it looks a lot better now!

Entry, Dining Room, Exterior & Staircase - Our 9th Flip

Ignore that little sneak peek of the kitchen.  ;)

What do you think of the changes so far?

Our 9th Flip – “Before”

You might recall that we bought, renovated and sold our 9th flip during the insane summer of 2014 – I kind of thought that this house would never get blogged about.  Once the 10th flip got going there never seemed to be a great time to fill you in on this little gem.

But that all ends today!  Without further ado, here’s the “before” tour of our 9th flip!

Without a doubt, this house started out with the cutest driveup appeal of any house we’ve done.  I love those Tudor influences.

 Our 9th Flip - Before

The house is over 2,500 square feet with 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, and a great layout.  You enter the home through this large entryway, with a staircase leading upstairs on one side, the living room straight ahead, and the dining room on the other side.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Here’s the view from the dining room into the entryway.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Looking towards the front of the house…

Our 9th Flip - Before

…and into the kitchen from the dining room.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Look at this kitchen!  It’s huge, and already has a great layout.  And, although dated, it still looks pretty darn good.

Our 9th Flip - Before

There’s a giant breakfast area just behind the breakfast bar (there’s lots of breakfast going on here).

Our 9th Flip - Before

Just off the breakfast area is a little vestibule (so fancy) with a closet for brooms, etc. and then a little powder room.

Our 9th Flip - Before

I normally dislike having a bathroom close to a kitchen, but somehow the vestibule gives the bathroom some separation while still letting the bathroom be convenient to the rest of the house.  Or maybe I’m overthinking this.  ;)

Our 9th Flip - Before

Through the vestibule is the laundry room, and then the two-car attached garage.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Let’s head back to the breakfast room and check out the rest of the house.  You can access the sunken living room through either the entryway or the breakfast room (shown below):

Our 9th Flip - Before

Unfortunately I didn’t get pictures until after demolition started, hence the half-rolled up carpet.  This room is pretty dark, but I attribute that mainly to the wood paneling and the covered windows.

Our 9th Flip - Before

I really like the wall of bookshelves.  And I typically don’t go for sunken rooms, but somehow this works for me – maybe because it’s just a single step down to a single room?  Deep thoughts.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Here’s the view back to the breakfast room.

Our 9th Flip - Before

The backyard is  accessed through that open door in the photo above.  The yard is pretty large for this neighborhood, and has a great shade tree.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Back inside.  I somehow missed getting a picture of it, but there’s a little vestibule (this word is growing on me) just off the living room (opposite the breakfast room) that leads to the master bedroom and a guest bedroom.  I like that the bedrooms aren’t accessed directly off the living room – again, vestibules are fabulous for giving a “feeling” of privacy!

Where was I?

Oh yes.  The master bedroom.

It’s a big space that overlooks the backyard, and has a large, attached bathroom.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Hey hey, there’s the bathroom through those double doors.

Our 9th Flip - Before

See what I mean?  The vanity alone is huge!

Our 9th Flip - Before

There’s a second closet at one end of the bathroom…

Our 9th Flip - Before

…and at the other end there’s a door that leads to the toilet…

Our 9th Flip - Before

…and a 70s version of the current “tub in the shower” trend.

Our 9th Flip - Before

If you head back to the vestibule (admit it, it’s growing on you, too), there’s a big guest suite with the biggest closet I’ve ever seen.  This house has INSANE storage.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Here’s the little guest bath.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Back to the entryway.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Are you dying to head up these green stairs?

Our 9th Flip - Before

Ask and you shall receive.

It’s a hallway.  ;)

Our 9th Flip - Before

There’s a big bedroom at one end of the hallway…

Our 9th Flip - Before

…with a psychedelic jack ‘n jill bathroom…

Our 9th Flip - Before

Our 9th Flip - Before

…and a matching bedroom on the other side.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Head back downstairs and our tour is complete!

Our 9th Flip - Before

What do you guys think?  Did you think I was going to leave you in the dark about the 9th flip for all of eternity?

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