“I own another house, too.”
It was 2012 and Cowboy and I had just started dating. We were in that shiny and new phase of our relationship where absolutely everything about the other person is fascinating. He could have told me he had a hangnail and I would have asked to hear more about it. And meant it.
So when I first learned about his little rental property in a local small town just 20 minutes down the Interstate I was impressed. In my mind he was a real go getter. A real estate mogul on a modest scale.
Oh, I’m sure he told me the facts but when you’re in love? All words a person says add up to wonderful. And my brain was either in full on infatuation mode or turned off completely. Because I heard “quaint rental property with second income potential”. I did not hear “dump that I should really unload and a financial nightmare.” Nope. Didn’t get that. Not at all.
Before we were married we drove by the house once. And Cowboy drove kind of fast when we did. (Should have been my first clue!) I saw enough to see an A frame in pretty rough shape. But peeling paint can be fixed, right?
And so began, the story of The Flip House. And a yearlong adventure during our first year of marriage that we probably could have done without. But it happened. And it is quite the story. Let me tell you.
We never intended to flip this house. We actually just wanted to sell it to the renters. They’d lived in it for five years and it was always Cowboy’s intention to sell it to them. He had no interest in being a landlord and the entire situation has just kind of sort of accidentally happened. He’d actually been living in that house but gotten a job that required him to move. And so an acquaintance of his agreed to rent it. He had a wife, two kids and a dog and wasn’t in the right kind of financial shape to buy a home. Could he rent it for a year and buy it when he got back on his feet?
“Of course!”, was my Cowboy’s big-hearted reply.
Five years, three more kids and four dogs later that family (of now seven) was still living in this rental property (and not consistently paying their rent either). Although I’m not sure you could call it living. For when Cowboy and I stepped into that humble little house one cold winter day a few months after our wedding to discuss the terms of the sale (the first time he’d been in the house in five years) what greeted us on the other side of that peeling paint was not only bad news that they’d bought another house and were moving out, but that they were leaving us with a property that had been utterly destroyed.
Among the crying children, barking dogs and stench was a stairwell that was mysteriously missing its carpet (and railing!), a kitchen with cupboard doors either hanging off or gone, and two toilets so stained by orange mold that they had clearly not been cleaned in five years. Our realtor was with us and the look of horror on her face at the filth and conditions couldn’t have been any worse had she been walking through a murder scene.
Cowboy whispered to me, “It did not look like this when I lived here.”
I was speechless.
Fast forward two months and here we sat. Two newlyweds with a piece of property that was not worth anything in its current state. “Babe, I think they used this built in drawer for a litter box. Yep. Here’s a terd.”
We’d run the numbers and although the mortgage Cowboy had was minuscule, according to the comps, if this place was in decent shape we could sell it for a profit. But our realtor was brutally honest. “Guys, I can’t even sell this dump for what you owe. It is the most horrifying disaster I have ever seen. You’ll lose money. There’s no way.”
And so it was decided. We’d “fix it up”. After all, Cowboy is handy dandy. Some carpet here, paint there, a little bleach for the smell and we should be in business. It will be fun!
I want to go back in time and slap ourselves. So does Cowboy. But? We didn’t. Instead, we headed to the home improvement store and started spending money like maniacs. And Cowboy spent every single weekend at that place. Every. Single. One.
At first the timeline was 3 months. Then it was 6. In total, 9 months of our lives was spent focused on this project that continued to balloon and balloon.
The plumbing all needs to be replaced. The roof is shot. The siding? Yeah, forget painting. Need to buy all new. But we didn’t give up. Neither of us are quitters. And we’re not afraid of hard work. And so we painted the walls, paid the money, hired friends, sacrificed our weekends, ripped out, rebuilt, scrubbed down and built up.
Here are some before pictures of the house when we started this journey (this is after we cleaned out all the debris that the renters had left behind).
It really is amazing to think we even looked at this and thought we could take this on, isn’t it? Well. We did. And here she is mid stream:
The grout in the kitchen on the tiled counter tops just needed to be replaced. Cowboy did a great job! I said, “Now THIS counter top I would make a sandwich on!” when he was finished.
I used Annie Sloan Duck Egg Blue and Antique White on the Knotty Pine cabinets in the kitchen to bring some interest into this knotty pine cave. Cowboy also installed a new sink and faucet. I removed the cabinet doors above the sink to create a display hutch and painted the inside Duck Egg Blue for contrast. The end result was pretty striking. Here is the kitchen after staging and brand new appliances:
I don’t have any pictures of the bedrooms upstairs before. I think we were so traumatized we weren’t even focusing on documenting! But this particular room had pet urine stained carpets and was painted pink with purple trim. Cowboy refinished the original wide plank pine flooring (which can be done with several coats of poly on them to harden them). It turned out spectacularly!
And, just because I mentioned the toilets previously – yes, they were thrown out and replaced with new. Here’s a pic Cowboy sent me to let me know that the toilet situation had been . . . relieved!
And last but not least, the main living and dining area of the house is the most spectacular transformation. I spent a few days staging it and it was so nice when we finished that our own children seriously suggested that we just move in.
The pine floors are my favorite feature. In just a few days, Cowboy was able to refinish these 110 year old floors. The consistent flooring throughout made the space feel so much larger, not to mention the original high ceilings were exposed. Cowboy did have to sheet rock them as the plaster and lath were destroyed. I found an easy crown molding idea on Pinterest that he made happen by placing a few boards at the ceiling. Painted white, it looks like they have always been there. When I staged the home, I did my curtain panel trick and mounted the bars at the ceiling for the illusion of space. The light colored curtains also make the space feel bright and spacious.
Last but not least, the house has curb appeal when it was finished as well. All new siding and a new roof really breathed life into this lady.
Along the path we really didn’t cut any corners. We figured, if you’re going to do so something this big -do it right. So we did. Every little detail was attended to. I chose finishes that I would like for my own home, even down to the exterior lighting and the house numbers.
We sold the flip house a few months after listing it to a sweet young couple just starting out. Mrs. Buyer cried at closing she was so happy.
And Cowboy and I cried. It was over. We did it!
Looking back, even though this experience was horrible at moments — (we got in a lot of fights along the way, don’t kid yourself! Who wouldn’t? I remember standing in the kitchen at one point on a massive commercial sized container of paint freaking out. Cowboy having his own freak out fit back. Paint was flying around. Good lord. We were not remotely prepared to tackle the emotional aspect of this project.) — it truly does rank as one of our top ten positive life experiences in the end. Crazy as that sounds.
To not only see a project this massive all the way through, but to literally take something so abandoned, forgotten and neglected and give it a second chance? We cannot express the life altering lesson that this house taught us.
For as Socrates so wisely advised, “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but building the new.”
And so that is what we did. We took the old – and made it new again.
May our experience inspire you to rebuild the neglected and abandoned in your own life – focus, discipline and faith – it can, and will, make all things new again.
Peace, Joy and Blessings,
“By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established” — Proverbs 24:3