Before + After – Our 9th Flip’s Kitchen

Hey guys! It was so fun sharing the first “after” tour of our 9th flip with you before we took a little detour into house building.  Now I’d love to give you a few more peeks into this great house.  Next up . . . the kitchen!

9th Flip - Kitchen After

In truth, there was nothing “wrong” with the original kitchen – the layout was awesome, it had white cabinets, and it was a really good size. But . . . its age was starting to show, and a lot of the details were dated.

Our 9th Flip - Before

Since they layout was already working really well, we kept it basically the same, with the exception of trading out the double ovens and cook top for a freestanding range.

9th Flip - Kitchen After

I’m going to fill you in on three little tricks I used in this kitchen that always go a long way towards making any kitchen feel brighter, larger and of-this-century:

(1) removing the furrdown above the cabinets and taking the cabinets to the ceiling

(2) taking the backsplash tile to the ceiling in at least one area

(3) adding a few recessed lights

9th Flip - Kitchen After

Works like a charm!!

9th Flip - Kitchen After

This kitchen is definitely a classic “white” kitchen, with white painted cabinets, a subway tile backsplash, a last minute switcheroo to a Caesarstone countertop in Frosty Carina.  We originally planned to install carrera marble counters but the couple purchasing the home was concerned (and not without reason) about potential staining and maintenance issues down the road with such a delicate stone.  The Frosty Carina was a great alternative!

Frosty Carina Caesarstone

The image above from the Caesarstone website is a decent representation of what Frosty Carina looks like in person, although it’s reading a bit more beige onscreen than it does in real life.  It’s white with subtle gray veining and is manufactured to resemble carrera marble.

9th Flip - Kitchen After

Just off the kitchen is a great little breakfast nook…

Our 9th Flip - Before

…with a built-in hutch.

Our 9th Flip - Before

With just a little tweaking (and a lot of wallpaper removal!), the breakfast nook has become the perfect place for casual family meals.

9th Flip - Kitchen After

Through that little vestibule that you see in the photo above is a powder room straight ahead and the laundry room to the left (which then leads to the attached garage).  Here’s how the powder room looked before…

Our 9th Flip - Before

…and here it is now.

9th Flip - Kitchen After

Sorry for the sub-par photo, it’s a small, window-less room that’s really hard to photograph!

I always think it’s fun to see how completely insane things look while the “before” is becoming the “after,” so here are a few in-progress shots from the renovation.

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

9th Flip Kitchen - During Construction

Things always look worse before they look better, right?

9th Flip - Kitchen After

P.S. I wish I had better photos of this house, but since it was never listed for sale we didn’t get around to having professional photos taken.  Mistake!

Form Survey

I’m quickly realizing that not all aspects of building a house are riveting.  Or, at least, certain aspects that are riveting to me may not actually be riveting to other people.  :)

Today’s post probably falls into that category – but to Jason and me, it’s so exciting!

We got word that the form survey had been completed today – which means that a surveyor went out to the lot and put pins and flags to mark out the foundation of the spec house we’ll be building.  (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Form Survey

I realize the photo really doesn’t give you a sense of what’s going on, but basically there’s a sea of stakes and orange flags that outline the entire foundation – it was super thrilling to walk the lot and get a sense of how the house will lay out.

Form Survey

Scratch that – Jason and I were super thrilled, our 3 year old was not impressed. :)

Form Survey

It’s crazy that not too long ago this clean, flat lot looked like this:

Demolition

Hopefully more big changes are coming soon!

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!

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