The house is sold; it never went on the market. Mounting pressures and growing negative energy from too many sources pushed me to accept an unsolicited offer from an opportunistic real estate agent that has had a front row seat to witness the physical work and high quality I put into the house. What started as “I have friends that would like to see your house” followed soon after with an offer that was insulting in its amount and delivery. It was presented as a “first and only” and a veiled attempt to explain why I should accept. Paraphrasing: Venus, a few months ago I would have told you to turn this offer down, but given what is happening in the economy, with interest rates, you should take this. It’s the best offer you’re going to get. I turned it down with no counter-offer stating I would not show it to anyone else until it was completely finished. I was fully aware that the Feds decision to increase interest rates to fight inflation was diminishing my buyer pool, but I still had belief that the quality of my work stood above the limited “flip” product inventory in the market and could yield a higher price.
A few days later the agent returned with another offer, $20,000 higher than the “first and only” and a whisper just between the agent and me that I could counter $5,000 higher. After talking with some friends, one in the real estate industry, I countered that offer $38,150 higher than their “first and only” and they accepted a selling price of $288,150, which may be the highest priced single-family home sold in Camp Washington. This project was doomed to loose money almost from the start. Overpaying for a house that was riddled with unseen and unexpected rot, insect infestation, mold, not to code electrical rough-in and a layout in the original roughed-in plumbing and HVAC that yielded all that work useless was the first hit. Supply chain issues; soaring cost for building material (2x4s doubled in cost from the first one I purchased to the last), impact of Covid-19, poor contractor selections, and my unwillingness to deter from the path of “restoration” vs “renovation” elevated my budget thousands above my original projections. I knew I had spent more than what the house would appraise for given its location in Camp Washington. I’m still tallying receipts, but the early results support my first flip was a financial flop with 100% of my labor donated.
The contract was written with these terms: “Inspection period of 5 days shall commence at complete of construction. Intent to proceed and ordering of appraisal shall commence 7 days post completion of inspection. Closing shall be 25 days post completion of construction.” That was not what I was given. Prior to signing I was told the buyer needed to be under contract in order to lock in their interest rate. After signing I was presented with information the buyer only had 30-days to close to maintain their interest rate. They wanted to close on November 4. I was still laying tile to allow my plumbers to return for my scheduled appointment in the last week of October to set fixtures and get final inspection. My electric final inspection hadn’t been scheduled at all. I physically could not meet that date, nor the subsequent date request of November 18. The pressure placed on me was insane and I was on the verge of backing out. I was finally in my “wheelhouse” of finish carpentry and tile work and I couldn’t enjoy the process of getting them complete due to the whip lashes being struck against my back. A late revision in the contract that increased my take-home and a new date of November 28 was given, so I stayed under contract.
The buyers were closing on the sell of their house on November 23 and wanted to complete my purchase on the same day. I thought what a wonderful Thanksgiving Day gift to myself, so I set sights on that date too. Tim Miller, a general contractor that I will talk about more in a future post, reworked his clients to provide me 11 days of his service and thanks to him I held an Open House on Sunday, November 20. I felt I earned the right to show family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors what I had accomplished after a year of hard labor. I was still hanging molding and my painters were still painting the Friday prior, so I didn’t post the announcement it was happening until the day before. The house was not 100% complete, but Ms. Inez was still absolutely stunning. About 30 people, including the future owners and their friends, stopped by. They seemed genuinely pleased and repeatedly said its beautiful, you do beautiful work, which I appreciated hearing. Judith from the Cincinnati Preservation Association took these pics for me.
I had a fairly heavy punch list to complete and needed to clean out my tools from the basement by the 23rd. Three weeks of 4-hours or less of sleep per night and further eroding any chance to be profitable by hiring help to be ready for the close and 2 hours before I was texted it would not happen due to issues with the buyer’s lender. The appraisal came in at $249,000 and it was being questioned. I had no wind under my sails to tackle the punch list after receiving the news. I finished installing the three third floor windows, so the house would be secure and I left the remaining list undone. I went home, collapsed into bed and got 6+ hours of sleep for the first time in months. I had already rented a U-Haul truck to move out my equipment and it sat in the backyard until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I did little work at the house on Thanksgiving Day, trying to make the most of a day I thought would be a celebration of a job well done.
Friday I started tackling the punch list. One major item I had not done was installing the shelves in the kitchen pantry. I planned to use the same melamine drilled boards I used in my pantry. This pantry is deeper than mine, so I decided to spend a little extra and get the 15.75 wide boards. Tom Milfeld installed my units, but I watched and learned. I knew only one side of a panel would hit a stud, so I purchased Hillman pop toggles, which is what Tom used. Only finished photos, but I screwed a 2×4, leveled, into studs of the back wall. This ensured both sides would be even and provided me a third hand. Next step was checking my wall for squareness. I remember this being a problem at my house, if the front and back of a panel aren’t close to alignment your shelf cuts will be off. The left side was very close, I would just need to shim the outer edge before adding the screws that would go into the stud. The right side was way off, so before I hung that panel I glued a 3/8″ strip of wood (that was the gap I measured) to the outer edge.
I rested a panel on the 2×4, pushing it tight to the rear corner and put my level on the edge to make sure it was close or on the mark to be straight. Once confirmed I drilled through 3 of the peg holes (top, middle, bottom) until I hit the drywall. That provided me the mark to anchor the pop toggle. The screws that came with the pack were not long enough, so I went to Ace Hardware in Clifton and bought six, 2.5″ screws. I put the panel back on the 2×4 and drove the screws through the drilled holes and into the pop toggle. Worked like a charm. I marked where the stud would hit on the outer edge and drilled pilot holes at the top, middle and bottom; then drove in Hillman, white headed, wood screws. All the shelves measured close to 31 1/4″ in the front and back, which means my checking the squareness was spot on. I taped my cut line before running the boards in my miter saw. I ran 3/4″ moulding on the sides to hide the shims and buildout. Less than an hour this project was done.
I needed to grout the gap between the tile and the transition moulding I had installed. It meant mixing three different batches as there was a different color of grout in each area impacted. I absolutely loved how those strips turned out. I had them custom made by Arts Woodworking & Manufacturing. The original plan was to use some of the pine flooring I had harvested from the house, but I had to ensure I had removed all the nails and I didn’t trust I had. They made them out of yellow pine, that I stained with Old World Masters Wiping Stain, color Early American (same stain I used on the handrail and pony wall top cap) that I bought from Oakley Paint and Glass. I then covered with two coats of polyurethane. They blend seamlessly into the original pine floors.
I put the knobs on my salvage doors. I, unfortuntely , splattered some of my cleaning solution from the doors on the walls in a few areas, so that added touch up painting to the punch list. Those were the most time consuming projects, so with them complete I started cleaning up the basement. My trash pile was larger than what I had told my trash hauler it would be. I knew he’d need to make two runs or bring a second trailer. I’ve had piles that big before and knew he’d charge more than what taking it to Rumpke myself would be. Since I had the U-Haul I made the decision to haul it myself. Doing that also gave me an opportunity to clean out my basement. It was 3am by the time I got everything loaded and unloaded into my basement and my trash loaded into the truck.
Rumpke is only open 8-11:30a on Saturday, so I hit the ground early as I had a lot of trash to load in that truck. I actually filled it completely. This project started with me making trash runs with my cousin Greg to Rumpke. It seemed a fitting end that I made the final Rumpke run by myself given I had done so much of the restoration work by myself. It would not be an exaggeration to say I did 80% or more of the construction related work as a solo act. I still shake my head in awe of what I accomplished.
Sunday I did my touch up painting and final clean, so that I can take the after pictures that matched the before pictures I had from the real estate listing when I bought the house. Roughly 15 months from my purchase date, Ms. Inez was complete. If asked what are my favorite parts of the restoration? Easy, restoring the original fascia (putting the corbels and rosettes back on the front), installing exact replicas of the original porch post, and the last minute decision to obtain skeleton keys for the front and bedroom doors, so the deadbolt portion of the mortise lock would work. All of those doors were in their original jambs with original strike plates. I asked the owner of Camp Washington Hardware if it were possible to find skeleton keys. He told me the only place that would have them is Hartke Hardware. I’ve been told about this place many times and have always wanted to stop in. Another jewel in the queen city. The front door lock has slots for two skeleton keys. He explained to me that the top slot was for the servant’s key. The functionality of that area could not be fixed, but the main deadbolt he was able to get working along with the two bedroom doors. Again in awe I even thought to make this happen.
I’ve already been asked if I would do another house. In the midst of the battle my answer was an emphatic NO. However meeting Tim Miller and having the opportunity to work with him changes that answer. He was the missing contractor link for this project. If I had met him at the start of this project the added stress of rising interest rates would never have come into play. My radar antenna is up for sure, but the economy needs to settle first.
So here is the moment you’ve been waiting for, before and after photos.
The front was a manual color match of vinyl siding used on the sides and back. The accent colors are the companion colors to Sherwin Williams’ closet match to the manual. Main trim is Modern White and accent trim is Aged White (corbels and window rosettes) and Subdued Sienna.
I played around with all the companion colors from the exterior colors and landed on Aesthetic White as my primary interior color. All the ceilings throughout the house and the walls in the living/dining rooms, hall , laundry, and closets are painted with this color. The trim is Pure White. Powder room is the exception where I pulled in the exterior colors as they matched the cool, clearance wallpaper I found.
I have kitchen envy and mine is pretty cool. The previous owner had roughed in a full bathroom with the toilet on the outside of the house in what is now all kitchen. The walls are Accessible Beige, trim Aesthetic White. The cabinetry manufacturer is Merillat and is made of maple. Dovetrail drawers and soft close. The wall units are finished in Chiffon and the island is Pecan. I’m adding designer to my resume. A trained professional could not have done this design better.
What was a middle bedroom I converted to a 2nd floor laundry room and master bath.
Master Bedroom with Ensuite
People that are familiar with my master know I like a nook project. I converted dead space into a linen closet and recessed an old dresser into a wall. I was able to do a similar project in this master. Both bedrooms are painted with Chelsea Gray on walls. Both bathroom walls are painted in Fleur de Sel. Aesthetic White for trim. The lights, shower and vanity fixtures are Miseno. I do not like the shower heads, spray is weak in my opinion. One light fixture arrived defective, I was sent wrong light as the replacement. The screws for mounting were soft and stripped easily. I would not use this brand again, so not going to bother adding the link.
The closet system in this room and master I got from Easyclosets.com. Very affordable and very easy to install. I would not hesitate to use this product again.
Third Floor Bedroom/Flex Space
Blue is my favorite color, so any project I do will have it placed somewhere. This is Aqua Verde, trim Aesthetic White.
Finally the basement. Nothing to scream home about, but it’s a dry basement for the most part. Will be great for storage with easy access thanks to the Bilco cellar door I installed. The owners should paint the walls with a water sealer paint. Now is the time to do that before the spring rains come again. The walls need to be completely dry to take that type of paint.
That’s it. Ms. Inez returned to her former glory. The closing happened on November 30 with a reduced appraisal value of $220,000. I’m going to look forward to writing the posts that led me to this ending. It will be nice to reflect upon all that I was able to accomplish. Restoring old houses is not what I’ve been trained to do, but I’m good at it. I’ve found purpose for existing in the two houses I’ve restored. They speak to me, guide me and give me a since of appreciation I don’t find in other aspects of my life. Plus, I need something to fill my evenings and weekends with, LOL.