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Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Right Height for Hanging Artwork in Your Home

This weekend I broke down and did something around the house that I'd been meaning to do for some time: I re-hung every single piece of artwork the proper height.



When we moved in, there was still renovation work going on in the apartment. The paintings arrived by moving van and my immediate goal was just to get them up on the walls and away from foot traffic as soon as possible for their own protection.

We didn't even measure, we just eyeballed the nails and hammered and hung.

Now that things have settled down, the position of all the paintings was starting to really bug me. They were almost all hung far too high on the wall.

Before:



After:

Before:



After:



Before:




After:




Before:



After





Before:



After:



There's a lot of advice out there on the interwebz about how high to hang pictures. Galleries and art museums it is said have the 57-centered rule of thumb.

That is, the exact center of the piece of artwork should be 57" from the ground, or perfect viewing height.  And if you walk into a gallery, you will notice that all the artwork is centered. You can imagine in your mind's eye a clothes line running along the wall and you will see that it bisects each painting in its exact center.

The overall affect is very harmonious. The perfection of 57" though is up for debate. Some say it is approximately the right viewing height for a person standing and looking at the artwork (approximates, because people come in all heights).

So, how does this apply to paintings in a home? Well, not everyone will be standing and viewing. That's for certain. Many of your guests will be seated at times. Also, in a home, you will have to take into account nearby furnishings. For example, you wouldn't want a painting hanging behind a bookcase.

But even in a home, you will get the same harmonious "gallery" affect by centering all of your artwork equidistant from the floor. It doesn't have to be 57". Find a constant, and stick with it.  I chose a 60" for my home - mostly because it makes the math easier. But also because our ceilings are higher than the average 8 feet, at 103".

So, let's take a look at that math. How do you find the right height to hang a particular painting?

Measure the height of your artwork. Say, it is 34" high.

Divide by 2 to get the midpoint. 34/2=17".

Now add 60.

17+60=77.

The top of this particular artwork in our example should measure 77 inches from the floor.

But you are not done.

Look at the back of your painting and adjust for hanging method. Is your painting suspended on picture wire? Measure how much slack to the top. Is it a wood-framed canvas that will hang from the wood frame on the back. Measure the thickness of the wood frome.

Subtract this amount from your 77".

It's a lot of work, and I'm still filling old nail holes. But I think you can really see the difference. Do you?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Restoring Luster to Mid-Century Wood Furniture



One of my favorite antiquing finds since we've moved into our home is the little mid-century console table in the foyer that I found at Beall and Bell in Greenport, a go-to for their great eye and edited selection of mid-century furniture.

After a year, the wood was starting to lose some of it's luster.  I had heard about Feed-n-Wax from bloggers like HouseTweaking, so I decided to give it a try.

It's an easy application with a soft cloth. It smells really nice going on - like oranges and honey. And almost immediately you see results. Here it is about halfway done.





And now, completely finished.




For so little elbow grease, it is a fairly dramatic result.  I was inspired to try it on the wood frame on this sketch we have in the office.



It has some sun damage on the left and a major scratch on the bottom of the frame as well as some smaller nicks on the right.





Feed-n-Wax didn't fix the scratches, but it definitely made an overall improvement on even this yard-sale find.




I'm inspired enough that I'm game to try another product in the same line called Restore-A-Finish on the library table in our living room.


It has lots of little dings and scratches to the sides and top. So, more on that to come!

Note: This is not a sponsored product review. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Savvy Renovator Flips Towers Wreck in Jackson Heights?

Photo: RedFin.com

This week a listing for a  900 sq ft 2 BR in the Towers for $515k caught my eye. Back in September  the same unit on the first floor sold for $230k. Why the almost $300k price differential? It was a wreck, indeed, as the side-by-side photos below show.

The recent listing caused a flurry of speculation in the Jackson Heights Life forum. Did someone "flip" that wreck? And brought up a good question: can you "flip" a co-op apartment in Jackson Heights?

No, you can't; not in the conventional sense. In the conventional sense a "flip" is bought and sold quickly and sometimes, not even renovated. In the heady days of the real estate bubble in Northern California where big tech salaries and low inventory were inflating the housing market - still are, in fact - a savvy flipper who got in first with an all cash offer could turn around and put the home back on the market for more money a few days later without even touching it with a paint brush. And that is where the term flip came into the recent "home show" vernacular (though its been around for as long as property has been bought and sold).

In New York City, several realities make flipping impossible. 1. Most residential real estate in NYC takes the form of a co-op, in which you are buying shares in a corporation that is governed by a board.  2. The paper work and approval process that it takes to buy a co-op apartment takes at least 3 months from contract to close, sometimes longer. 3. Generally the buyer has to make promises (both to the board and the bank) that he/she intends to live in the apartment as their primary residence. There are a few exceptions and some boards allow pied-a-terres which are "second homes in the city" that often the adult children of the buyers may live in. But for the most part, you see, quick turnaround is not possible. 4. In addition, most co-ops impose a "flip tax" on the seller that takes a portion of the profit on their sale, sometimes up to 50% in Jackson Heights.

So, not so easy to quickly buy and sell an apartment in NYC and turn a quick profit.

The Towers 2BR that sold for $230k last year would more accurately be called a "fixer upper" or a "handyman" special or in more refined circles a home in "estate condition" (think Gray Gardens). And as a renovator, those are all terms that catch my eye. Because I know that few perspective buyers are willing to take on a renovation of that magnitude, so competition for that property will not be high. And this puts you in the position of having a below market value offer accepted. But I don't look for just any fixer upper. I look for one that is a good value.

How do you know a good value? Often by looking at other apartments in the exact same "line" that sold for market price.

That wreck in the Towers was just the kind of property I look for, and looking at the two units side by side will show you why.

Living Room:


After: NY Times | Before: RedFin

Dining Room:

After: NY Times | Before: RedFin

Kitchen:

After: NY Times | Before: RedFin

Bathroom 1:

After: NY Times | Before: RedFin

Bathroom 2:

After: NY Times | Before: RedFin

Bedroom 1:

After: NY Times | Before: RedFin

Though the "wreck" looked like a "money pit", the renovation probably wasn't all that bad. Consider that The Towers is a very well-kept building in good financial standing with a strong co-op board. The building would have a solid foundation, a well maintained roof, and mechanicals in good working order. There were probably not serious structural issues behind the walls. The hardwood floors looked in excellent condition. There remained some incredible period fixtures in the bathrooms. You were probably looking at some framing and wallboard to close up weird openings, plaster and skim coating, electrical upgrades, regrouting and reglazing two bathrooms, and a full-scale kitchen build.

Given the difference in purchase price for the wreck and the asking price for the nicely kept version, you can see that renovating the wreck would have more than paid for itself twice over.



The Towers is one of the premier prewar co-ops in Jackson Heights. Most of the layouts are what are called "classic seven" - living room, formal dining room, 3 "formal" bedrooms plus a tiny bedroom that was called the "maid's room" which had it's own small bathroom plus two more full baths, one in the "master bedroom". These 2BRs were created back during The Depression, when even buildings like the Towers fell on hard times and had to split up some apartments into smaller apartments. That makes them a great investment now.

What's the convential wisdom? Better to own the smallest house on the most beautiful block? In Jackson Heights that might translate into better to own the smallest apartment in the most beautiful building. Especially given the grand scale of the rooms and some of the architectural detail.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Our White Kitchen Makeover for Under $3,000

Lower Cabs, Benjamin Moore, Ivory White; Upper Cabs, Behr Color-Match, Kraftmaid Canvas

Right after we closed on the purchase of our home, a 1946 apartment in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York, we immediately embarked on a gut renovation of the bathroom, which was in dire shape.

A bathroom renovation of that magnitude - taking walls down to the studs, floors down to the beams - will run you about $20k-$30k these days. So, I knew there wasn't going to be a whole lot of budget left over to upgrade the kitchen. I had to get creative and focus on the things that could be most easily and most economically fixed.

They might not be the things you'd think they'd be. Here's a look at it "before":

Kitchen - Before

In Praise of White Appliances

Do the white appliances jump out at you? Well, I'm okay with them. While I'm by no means one of those alarmists predicting the demise of stainless steel, I also don't feel that every kitchen must have it. In some kitchens, especially those in houses built before 1970, white appliances look right at home. I think they look great with blue cabinetry. And in my opinion, they look spectacular with cream cabinets and butcher block counter tops. That's what we have at the cottage, and I love it:




But the bare wood cabinets in our new home were not doing us any favors.  In fact, those builder grade wood cabinets were what I objected to most - that, and the loud peach granite. My personal tastes run to slate or polished concrete. But even something as economical and simple as butcher block would have been more welcome to me than this granite.

However, granite is what we'd got and it is an expensive and durable stone. I was determined to try to make this peachy granite work.

Painting the cabinets white was the first thing that crossed my mind when I viewed this kitchen. Painting cabinets takes a lot of sweat and elbow grease, though. And when all's said and done, would it even work? And were these cabinets even worth salvaging?

I was not and I'm still not a fan of the cabinetry style. The doors are a partial overlay style, which means the framing, with the T-bar coming down between where the doors meet, prohibits efficient use of interior space. We actually have to turn some plates sideways to get them in. Dumb.

But they are solidly built and in almost-new condition. (They still had sawdust in them when we moved in.) What I really disliked was the shortness. At 30" high, they fell so very short of the ceiling, leaving a good 15" of wasted space above that just looked... wrong. Too bad the previous owners hadn't sprung for longer cabinets. But I felt certain I could remedy this by adding a second row above in a similar style and painting them to match.

I wasn't even going to try to match the cabinet style of the two rows. I couldn't bring myself to spend money on more of something I disliked so much. Instead, I ordered the new cabinets with glass front doors, so that the slight variation in style would not be so obvious. But also because it's just nice to have some glass front doors in a white kitchen, to break up the block of white, to reflect light, and to display some of our nicer stemware and crockery and give some pops of color. I mean, I would not want glass doors on my pantry cabinets, displaying all my cans of plum tomatoes. But up high like that, I thought they would look great. And maybe someday when I get around to it, I'll run some puck lights in them.

Painting the Existing Cabinets White

At first I was going for a pure white with just a touch of cream. So after removing the doors, washing and sanding, vacuuming and tack-clothing, I laid on two coats of Benjamin Moore Semi-Gloss in Ivory White. And when I was finished, they looked great.

Here are some progress shots of them with two coats of BM Ivory White:



Already they looked so much better!

It was only after we got the new glass-front uppers that I realized BM Ivory was too white against the new Kraftmaid Canvas cabinets. So, off came the hardware and down came the doors again to be sanded and vacuumed and tack clothed once more, and given a third coat, this time of Behr Plus, color-matched to the Kraftmaid canvas cabinets. Then up they went again, including another round of adjusting the doors to hang evenly and replacing all the hardware.

If you want to see more progress shots of the sanding, vacuuming (90% of painting is vacuuming), and painting, see this post: Painting Cabinets to Match Kraftmaid Canvas Color.

Next Stop: Cream Subway Tile

There's almost no better deal in the renovation world than subway tile. Classic, timeless, inexpensive. Replacing the pinky travertine-look backsplash with Daltile 3x6 field tiles in almond in a traditional brickwork pattern did more than any other change we made to bring our loud peach granite down a notch.

Here are some progress shots of the tiling. You'll see that I tiled right over the existing tile. Yes, you can do that!




While I was at Home Depot picking up the subway tile and grout, I picked up a quart of Glidden flat paint from their Martha Stewart collection in Spanish Olive. It's a green with a lot of yellow in it, so it complements the undertones in the creams and the peachy granite. Eliminating the beige wall color was the final touch to taking this kitchen from boring beige to dreamy white - all for under $3,000.


Kitchen - After
I should say "dreamy whites". If you look closely at the photo above, you can see the variation in color in the upper and lower cabs. On the lowers we kept the BM Ivory White. The uppers are color matched to Kraftmaid canvas color of the new glass front cabs, which is a creamier white with more yellow in it. The paint desk at Home Depot mixed the Behr paint to match a sample door.

You'll also see that we replaced the shoddy plastic chrome-look faucet with the real thing, a simple chrome Delta Trisinic faucet. And we added a towel rack to the sink front.

We got lucky with our timing on this project, and our contractor who was cutting tiles for the bathroom loaned us his tile cutter, saving us the cost of renting one. And wow, was that an experience. His was like the Cadillac of tile cutters!

So I put the unspent tool rental funds toward this indoor/outdoor runner from Dash & Albert instead. It pulls together the ivory cabinets and the green wall color perfectly, don't you think? And hides that pinky-beige floor tile until I decide what to do with it. Inspired by Domestic Imperfections, I may actually paint over these floor tiles.  On the other hand, I heard from a neighbor that there are hardwood floors somewhere beneath that tile. Can you believe that? Someone covered hardwood floors with tile?

That's a project for another day!

Source List & Price Breakdown for Our Kitchen Makeover

Kraftmaid Cabinets, Canvas Doors, Home Depot: $2,100
Delta Trisinic Faucet, HomeClick.com: $250
Bygel Rail, IKEA, $2.99
Benjamin Moore Ivory White Semi Gloss, 1 qt., Schatz, Steinway Street: $15
Behr Custom Color Semi Gloss, color matched to Kraftmaid Canvas, Home Depot: $15
Glidden, Martha Stewart Collection, Spanish Olive, 1qt., Home Depot: $13 (discontinued)
Daltile 3x5, Almond, Home Depot: $35/case (covers 12 sq ft.)
Custom Building Products Grout, Non-Sanded, Linen, Home Depot: $13.87
Spacers, 250-pack, Home Depot: $2.97
GE Silicone for Kitchens & Baths, Home Depot: 3/$6.50 ea.
Striped Runner, Dash & Albert: $125
Paint brush, Rollers, pan liners, Home Depot: $20 (I have a lot of paint supplies on hand.)
Tile Cutter: $0. (We lucked out and the bathroom contractor loaned us his!)




Monday, January 5, 2015

Beveled Tile - The Problem With Finishing Corners



It's been almost a year since we closed on the purchase of this home, and about 9 months since our bathroom renovation was completed. I haven't wanted to dwell on the bad moments and near misses (and there were several!) just luxuriate in the deep soaking tub.

But before amnesia completely takes over, I want to share some information about beveled tile that caused us a near catastrophe. Perhaps someone out there right now planning your bathroom reno will stumble across this bit of information and be able to act upon it in the planning phase while you have all your options open. Or maybe you are right in the middle of dealing with this very issue and this information might help.

Back in April of 2014, at the very moment when my marble-tub vision was starting to come to fruition, we hit a snag with the tile that could have been a show stopper.

When you are a homeowner planning your renovation, one of the common ways to blow your timeline and incur additional costs is to have something go wrong with your product order. Avoid Order and Delivery Hiccups, says Sweeten blog, and they are so right. Tile can take weeks to get in, especially if you have special order pieces.

Early on when I was placing my tile order, while I was deciding between ordering from a premium tile line like Waterworks that offers special finishing pieces or going with simple field tile from Metro Tile, it was the special pieces that I was concerned about. I was absolutely willing to splurge on Waterworks tile if it was necessary to get the look I wanted. But my contractor did not think it necessary at the time. And that was good news to my budget. 


The splurges in my bathroom were going to be the marble surround and deck for the tub and the handcrafted floor tiles from Heath Ceramics. So I was happy not to take a hit on the wall tile. The wall tile was a simple white beveled field tile and in the shower a standard charcoal gray subway tile both from Metro Tile. 

I am hi-lo like that.

When it came to the bath, I was willing to splurge on the tile if fancy corners and bullnoses were going to be needed. But just as happy to hear it wasn't going to be needed.

This was a teaching moment as they say, for myself and perhaps it will be to others out there. A case where the homeowner - me, I - should have had confidence in my gut feeling. I didn't go into this project blind - I thoroughly researched every aspect of my renovation. I recalled questions on Houzz about how to deal with the positive corners. My gut told me that beveled edges were going to need special treatment. And my gut was right.

The positive corners turned out to be a problem.


While my contractor had experience with beveled tile for a kitchen backsplash, he had never done a whole bathroom with beveled field tile. He assumed  he could finish the corners the way he usually did with subway tile, by beveling the back on his cuts, which gives a nice clean point to the edges.

But it turned out that doesn't work for beveled tile. Even when you cut the tiles on a bevel at the back, the front edges go all wavy gravy where the corners meet, due to the front bevels.

So, what to do?

I hit the interwebz to do some research and I learned that some designers confront the problem of positive corners by using beveled 3x3s. Henry said this absolutely could work. So, I called my local mom and pop store Tiles by Kia to see if the Metro line I had ordered from them carried beveled 3x3s. And sadly, the verdict was no.

Searching the web, I found beveled 3x3s in a line also called Metro by a company called Luxe Tile. And they Fedexed samples in three different whites.

If you have ever tried to match whites from different product lines, you would not believe the variation. It's astounding! And not something you want to be dealing with mid-project with your timeline hanging in the balance.

It could have been a disaster.

Unbelievably, though, one of the samples turned out to be okay for our needs.


I sau okay; it was not a perfect match. There's an almost imperceptible difference, with the 3x3s just a tiny bit more pink, as you might notice in the last photo. But because they are on the corner, I tell myself it could probably be mistaken for shadow. Certainly no one has ever commented on it if they've noticed.



But I know it's there.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Roller Blinds - The Perfect Midcentury Window Treatment


DBA Blinds
"Simple roller blinds in a white setting become part of the architecture. In a room with a series of same-size windows, roller blinds lined up at the same height appeal to those of us who appreciate precision." - Remodelista

Amen to that, sister!

Christine Chang Hanway got it right in her article Remodeling 101: Simple Roller Blinds.

Before we even closed on the purchase of our midcentury apartment, when the renovation was just a gleam in my iPad, I spent many hours poring over Houzz and Pinterest for inspiration. This living room in a Greenwich Village penthouse, designed by Amy Lau, was an enduring source of inspiration. And even though my own living room ended up looking nothing at all like it, the combination of midcentury modern and contemporary modern mixed kept me focused on a "feeling" that I wanted my home to have. And that feeling guided my choices in fixtures every step of the way.

Amy Lau Designs
The window treatments really make this room, don't you think? I learned from reading Amy Lau's comments on Houzz that the curtain fabric shown in this picture was designed by textile artist Judy Ross. And I keep that bit of info tucked away for future renovations. Because my current living room isn't having it. And that's not really surprising when you consider that this apartment was built in 1946.

Midcentury architects did not think living spaces should have window treatments. They felt textiles detract from the pristine nature of the architecture. The window boxes in our home are unadorned of wood trim even, and this does add an austere symmetry to the rooms that draws attention to the spare lines of the walls and ceiling soffits. The rooms have a geometric grace that I am reluctant to disrupt, even with a fabric I love as much as Judy Ross's.

Midcentury architects, however, did not consider how much the large expanses of glass they loved so much would let in sunshine - and heat. We live on the top floor of a 6 story building overlooking the rooftops of neighboring two-story tudor homes. There's no builidng facing us or blocking our light. We don't have to worry about privacy, day or night, but we do need light blockers during the day. Though most of our windows have a eastern exposure, the light in the morning can be blinding and in summer the heat grows stifling before noon. Clearly we would need shades.

If you have non-standard size windows like we do, custom window treatments can cost upwards of $400 per window. And that is what led me to hack the Enje: Ikea Hack: Cutting the Enje Roller Blinds to Fit Your Windows.


I had installed Enje before, when I lived in Ross's apartment in Sunnyside prior to our moving here. I love the spareness, the lack of cord, and the smooth spring loaded mechanicals. Even the plastic pull on the aluminum rails is good-looking. They have the look and hand feel of a much more expensive product. And did I mention the price? $18-$35, depending on the size.

A great deal for an apartment dweller who doesn't want to invest in expensive window treatments. But even as a homeowner who might spring for a more luxurious line, I didn't see anything out there that I liked better.

The only problem: The sizes.

Enje come in a standard 64" length and variable widths of 23", 30", 32", 34", 36", 38" and 48". While most of our windows are standard 34" wide windows, the "bay" in the master bedroom has these 18" wide side windows.


And in the bathroom, a 17" wide window.


The smallest size the Enje is available in is 23" wide. But they can be easily hacked. The roller and rail are aluminum, which can be cut with a standard hack saw. The mesh can be removed from the roller and cut with a sewing scissors, then glued and stapled back onto the roller and rails.

I've done this for three of our windows. You'd never know they aren't custom made:




If you would like to hack the Enje, see my step by step instructions:

Ikea Hack: Cutting the Enje Roller Blinds to Fit Your Windows.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Renovate for Free: Reduce the Cost of Your Renovation to $0

Our $0 renovation
T'is the season for resolutions. Is improving your home on your list for 2015? How about saving money? What if you could do both? And reduce the cost of your renovation to $0. 

No, I'm not talking home equity loan. 

And this isn't going to be a post about scouring the interwebz for the best deal on fixtures. Or how to find upcycled goods at salvage yards. Or even how to cut your contractor costs by doing some DIY yourself. (Though, I can readily get behind any one or all of those things.)

This is about something very real that you don't hear too much about in the home blogs. 

If I were to add up the cost of the renovations to our new home - contractor fees, materials, and fixtures - it totals more than $40k. But it didn't cost us a cent.

Wa-wa-what what?  

Here's how we did it...

It starts with seeking out a home that's sound but cosmetically challenged and using its untapped value to renovate it to your taste. In finance-speak I guess this is called something like "instant equity" but I prefer to think of it as getting my dream renovation on someone else's dime.

1. (Optional) If you are selling the home you are leaving, sell it FSBO and pocket the equity as well as the agent fees to invest in your next home. I call this step optional, because even a first time buyer can find a diamond in the rough. But I do need to mention it, because the more money you can put down on your new home, the more negotiating power you will have when it comes time to make an offer. This is especially true if you live in a hot real estate market like ours in New York City.

My FSBO apartment in Carroll Gardens

FSBO means for sale by owner and it may seem a scary proposition - especially if you are me and one of your favorite real estate blogs Curbed.com starts to question your ability to sell FSBO and get your asking price

Curbed's qualms on my behalf were, as it turned out, unfounded. I stay abreast of real estate in my area. For a long time I paid for a StreetEasy.com Insider membership (though, now that the site was sold I can't vouch for it). This gave me true market comps and closing prices. So I knew that I was in a hot market and how to price my sale. I also do digital marketing for a living so I knew where and how to list my home online. And my design eye as a Renov8or helped me stage my home to sell. 

We received multiple bids the first week at the asking price and the winning bidder waived contingencies. This was the brass ring - almost as good as an all cash offer. It meant that when the appraisal came in below the asking price, as I was very certain it would (bank appraisers often lag the market), the buyer would not have an out or a chance to renegotiate the sale price.

2. Scout out the next real estate frontier. I was, sadly, priced out of my suddenly "hip" neighborhood in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It happens. And when it does, you move onto the next frontier. I didn't have to do a lot of research to find my next hood. I'm pretty much always perusing real estate sites - in the way I guess some women shop for shoes. Or some men, guitars. (I'm not being sexist, just saying: I heart houses!) Brownstoner.com covered my move as a “trendsetter” among Brooklyn bloggers moving to Queens.

But the real trendsetters actually arrived in Jackson Heights years ahead of me, snapping up pre-war classic sixes for less than I paid for our 2 Bedroom midcentury. I don't feel we're on the tail end of this wave, however. I look around me at our local green market on Sunday and see a familiar tribe of displaced Brooklynites all here for the same reason - large, well-designed homes at a still-affordable price - and I'm certain more will follow.

3. Find a home that's under-valued. If you see an apartment you like, research the building's sales history and other units in the same line or other comps in the neighborhood using sites like StreetEasy.com and see if you can find a comparable home for less. I actually first saw and fell in love with an apartment two floors below us that had exactly the same layout as ours but an asking price way more than we wanted to spend. StreetEasy.com revealed ours on the top floor was already in contract for about $50k less. And you know that caught my eye! Top floor, less money? What's wrong with it?

Other buyers who are not Renov8ors have the opposite approach. Some will pay more for a home that's "turn key" or in "move-in" condition. The New York Times "The Hunt" actually featured our home and a couple who rejected it in favor of the more expensive version that I first saw.  Here's what the NY Times had to say about our home's cosmetic issues that turned off these (and other) buyers. 


This home had some eye sores, but I could see the potential

If you missed the reference, ours is the one that had an ugly "wall of mirrors".   :-)

That article made my day! Because by the time the story went to press that wall of mirrors had already been turned into the loveliest wall of books you can imagine, thanks to an inexpensive Ikea Hack that cost about $800. Seven Billy Bookcases + height extenders + trim = Wall of Bookcases. The irony was not lost on Brownstoner: A Renovation for a Wall of Mirrors.

4. Stalk properties in contract - they may fall through.  I fell in love with the more expensive apartment, so I stalked the less expensive version that needed a renovation. It was in contract, but I continued to watch its progress in my Open House alerts each week. And, just on the off chance, I reached out to the agent, expressing my interest and asking her to contact me should her contract fall through. And that is exactly what happened!

It is especially rewarding to find a property you love where a previous contract has fallen through. A home languishing weeks on the market can create an opportunity for you to make a below-market offer. 

This home had been on the market well over six months and the owners had already moved into their new home. This, coupled with cosmetic defects, positioned us to make an offer well below the asking price. What we brought to the table was sound finances that were guaranteed to pass co-op board approval plus the ability to move quickly.


Where we reinvested our instant equity
5. Invest your "instant equity" in your renovation. The difference between our purchase price and the assessed value of our home at closing gave us instant equity that more than covered our renovation. Were we to sell tomorrow, we would get our renovation money back and more. 

And we got a home renovated to our taste. We didn't pay for someone else's renovation; someone else paid for ours. That's Renov8or Gold!

See House Tour.