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Why you should own vs. rent

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When I first moved to Minneapolis back in 2007, I was fresh out of college and definitely not ready to own a home. So I found a cute little apartment in St. Paul just south of I-94 between the Lexington and Dale exits. The rent was $800.00 per month split two ways between myself and my roommate. The two bedroom, one bath, fully updated unit we were renting honestly seemed too good to be true for the price. So much so, that 6 months after moving in we received a notice that the building was in foreclosure and we had 30 days to move out. And there it began…the housing crash of ’07-’08.

Thankfully as a renter, the repercussions that most homeowners faced during that time minimally had an effect on me. Sure I got a pay-cut at work and I was forced to move out of my apartment on short notice, but I still had my job and supportive parents that helped me pay my rent for a few months. Years later I watched The Big Short with Steve Carell, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling, which brought so much more clarity to why the economy and housing market took such a big dip. Highly recommend seeing that movie if you haven’t.

Over the years after moving out of that place, I hopped from rental to rental. I lived in Uptown, St. Paul, Longfellow, Downtown Minneapolis and Northeast (where I currently live). My habits as a tenant during the first 6 years of living in the Twin Cities showed that I was destined to become a homeowner. Time and time again I’d leave apartments in better shape than before I moved in. I did yard work, planted gardens, etc. In one instance I actually styled and staged my apartment and sent my landlord photos so that she could advertise it on craigslist before I moved out. LOL

Why Buy?

A lot of people consider renting more desirable than owning, for plenty of different reasons. Millennials want flexibility and freedom to move on a moment’s notice, and those who were underwater and are finally recovered from the crash may still feel weary, as a couple of examples. I think it’s fair to say that homeownership may not be for everyone, and living outside your means is never a wise thing to do. But as someone who’s rented for 6 years and owned a home for 4, I’d like to explain why I think owning a home has more advantages than renting.

  1. Tax benefits: This is two fold – you can deduct your property taxes as well as your mortgage interest. Then, if you ever decide to sell your home and you’ve occupied it for two of the last five years than the gain is tax free. (Assuming the return is less than 250k (for singles) and 500k (for married couples filing jointly).
  2. It will pay off: Not only are you making a dent in your mortgage every month (kind of like a little savings account) but you’re also building equity. With rates as low as they’ve been, it’s a great time to get locked into a 30 year fixed mortgage that acts as a savings account. And on top of it all, your mortgage can’t increase over time like rent can.
  3. Freedom: Renting doesn’t give you the creative freedom owning a home does. If you’re a renter and you decide to paint your room and hang a few pictures on the wall, you could be forfeiting part of your security deposit. There’s a good chance too that your landlord won’t upkeep the property to the same standards you have.
  4. Second income stream: Lastly, homeownership gives you the opportunity to use your home to make money. Maybe you want to rent out your home for the Super Bowl or do Airbnb in your basement. These are all viable options that renters can’t take advantage of.
  5. Building community: Feeling invested in the neighborhood is more typical for homeowners because they tend to stay put in their home for longer periods of time than renters.

So there you have it. Those are my top 5 reasons. I’d like to add that I’ve taken advantage of all 5 of those points. I bought it at a low period in the market and it was a foreclosure, so the improvements that have been made will certainly pay off in the long run. I’m currently running an Airbnb in the half story of my home bringing in an extra $800-900 a month. I also have the BEST neighbors and absolutely love my neighborhood.

If you’re a renter and have a different opinion on owning a home please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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We’re back!

House By No Comments

We last left you (hopefully) in suspense of what happens next in our kitchen! But man what a crazy busy summer we’ve had (hence the 6 month fall-out on the blog). Between house projects, visiting friends and family in Iowa, selling baked goods at the NE farmer’s market and both acquiring new jobs, we just couldn’t find time to make our blog a priority.

But we’re BACK!!! And I really want to kick things off right where we left last time.

Kitchen work in progress part two!

Kitchen wall coming down

After we got that wall down, we decided we needed to do something with the back doorway trim. With layers and layers of paint we had two options. 1. Take it down and start over, or 2. strip it. At this point in the project, we were a little limited by the amount of tools we had on hand. Plus, we figured because the house was old and had settled it’d be easier to just strip the paint and work with what we had.  So we opted for stripping it.

stripping paint in doorway

safety mask stripping paint
stripping paint off trim

sanded doorway trim

painted doorway trim
Stripping paint is overrated. Seriously, it’s shitty work that always takes longer than you’d expect. Not only were we dealing with some pretty dangerous chemicals, we found ourselves repeating the process at least 4 times from so much paint build up. By the time we bought a gallon of stripper and put all the labor into it, it would have been cheaper just to start from scratch. Lesson learned.

After the woodwork was finished, we pulled everything behind the cabinets down to studs and painted the upper cabinets white. If you’ve ever done a kitchen remodel before you know at this point it’s HUSTLE MODE.  So, we both took a few days off work and spent the next 5 days getting everything ready for our plumber and electrician.

Cabinet prep

gutted kitchen

The black lower cabinets we talked about in our last post would go back exactly where they were. First we needed to rehang the uppers to their proper height from the lower cabinets. We also built a little bulkhead above the uppers. This would create a seamless transition between the white cabinets and the ceiling. Now that the wall was down, we decided to utilize the extra space and wrap the countertops to create a little seating area.  This also gave us an extra cabinet for storage space!

building kitchen island

After hanging drywall and getting the cabinets back in place the next step was to finish mudding in preparation for tile and countertops. Things were going so smoothly at this point we’d projected to have our kitchen finished in less than a few weeks. All that was left were countertops, plumbing, electrical and some flooring. Easy right?

In our next post we’ll share one of our first big mistakes! Stay tuned.

kitchen-mud

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Kitchen Work In Progress

DIY, House By No Comments

We had some big dreams for the kitchen remodel, and we went into this project with one major goal: to do as much of the work ourselves as possible. We knew going into it that we didn’t have the tools or know-how to pull it all off, but we also didn’t wanna just hire someone to transform our home while we were at the office, then crack a beer after all their hard work at the end of the day. That process tends to be a lot more expensive, and when you have personalities like ours, a lot less satisfying too. Plus, cracking a beer after you bust your ass all day feels pretty damn good. Lindsey and I really wanted to be as involved as possible, and for the things we didn’t yet know how to do, we had amazing backup in these guys:

Matt and John Bennett

That’s Lindsey’s brother Matt and her dad John. John’s a lifelong contractor who’s been doing some of Central Iowa’s best remodeling since he settled down there in the 80’s, and Matt’s fixing to follow in those footsteps, with some great work of his own already under his belt. We definitely owe these two a lot for their help on several parts of this job, so thanks again guys! Not only were they willing to drive four hours north to help out, but they brought some tools that we didn’t have and taught us a lot along the way. Next time we lay floor tile (hopefully those rad concrete ones Lindsey talked about here), it’s all ours to tackle. 🙂

Lower Cabinets

One of the first things we wanted to get underway in the remodel was the cabinets. I wanted to paint the lower cabinets while they were in place, and it made sense for me to do so way early on in the process for a few reasons. First, the lowers are quite a bit larger than the upper ones are, so maneuvering them around onto sawhorses while uninstalled would have been pretty cumbersome. Plus, we had junk flooring that we were gonna pull up later, junk countertops that were gonna come out, so on the off chance that I made a mistake spraying, I likely wasn’t going to mess up anything that mattered. Finally, we wanted to use the partially completed job as motivation to keep things going!

To get a really true black color, we used a primer that was tinted down to a dark gray which would allow the black to deepen, rather than having a bright white primer underneath it. For the finish coat, we diverged from paint that I’m familiar with (Sherwin Williams ProClassic) and went with a Benjamin Moore product (Aura). I’ve always been a little hesitant to change from a brand that I’m super familiar with and confident in, but we didn’t have a choice in this case. ProClassic isn’t made with a tint base that allows for super dark colors to be made, so we picked up the Aura. At the end of the day, I’m happy to say that I really couldn’t tell a difference when spraying, or with the results. Yay, Benjamin Moore!

Lindsey cleaning cabinets with a TSP substitute

Lindsey sanding cabinet doors

Just because we were going to be taking out the floor and countertops didn’t mean I wanted to jack them up and get paint all over them. We still wanted to live in as clean of a house as possible for the next several months. After some painstakingly detailed prep with tape, plastic and paper, we had the whole kitchen looking like a scene from Dexter and ready for primer. Around this time we also wiped all of the surfaces down with a TSP substitute to clean them, then took an 80 grit orbital sander over everything to rough up the surface so paint would stick. For really visible surfaces like the drawer fronts and doors, we made sure the sanding pad on the orbital was really well worn down when we hit those, to help avoid swirl marks in the finish that a fresh 80 grit pad can give you.

We got the primer on with little fanfare, and we were super excited to get all the doors and drawers painted with finish coat and see how the black looked. Initially we’d chosen Black Knight as the color they’d tint that Aura product to, and if you’re like me you think when you see it that it looks damn near pure black. Maybe not quite, but close. We found out after painting all eight doors and six drawers that that definitely wasn’t true. It looked like a weird blue-green-black that was not at all what we were going for. Thankfully the folks at the paint store were super gracious when we brought in the swatch and one of the doors, showing that the door looked way different from the swatch, and they replaced our gallon with another, this time in true solid black.

cabinet-white-uppers

cabinet-blue-lowers

cabinet-paint-blue

josh-painting-kitchen

 

kitchen-black-cabinets

Pretty spiffy, eh? Once we had these lower cabinets all black, we were even able to tolerate the boring, bowed formica countertops a little more easily. They still didn’t look good, but they looked better than they did against the light oak from before.

We found that kicking off the remodel by tackling the lower cabinets first really motivated us to keep it all rolling. We were so motivated, in fact, that we took hammers to the wall separating the kitchen and dining room a few days later…

Wall Demo, Part 1

Hammers and pry bars rule!

There wasn’t a lot of planning that went into us starting this part of the project off. We still weren’t certain whether or not the wall was load-bearing, but we knew that we couldn’t hack the dungeon-y dark dining room any longer. So on a random afternoon we hauled out a couple of pry bars, pulled off the trim on both sides, and went to town.

A few hundred pounds of plaster lighter, with kitchen light streaming in between the lath, we let the dust settle and realized we were definitely at the point of no return. And thank god. Even with limited view between the studs and lath, we could tell how much of a difference the change was going to make in the space. The dining room was twice as bright, which made that room feel way bigger. We could also envision ourselves entertaining friends, with all of us able to see each other and chat, instead of Lindsey and I hidden away in the kitchen like The Help.

Once we were all cleaned up from knocking out the plaster, we coordinated a time when Lindsey’s dad could come have a look-see and find out what our next steps needed to be going forward, and took a step back to have a breather.

Good news of the non-load-bearing variety, plus electrical rough-in and maybe even the upper cabinets & backsplash, next time! 🙂

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Kitchen Inspiration

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Last fall Josh and I tackled probably the biggest project yet – the kitchen. I’ve been dying to share the process and results with you since we started this blog. Before diving into the details, take a look at what we were working with:

kitchen-before-fullroom
kitchen-before-cabinets4

kitchen-before-cabinets3

kitchen-before-details

kitchen-before-burn

kitchen-before-cabinets

kitchen-before-wall

Honestly, things could have been WAY worse. The prior homeowners updated the kitchen probably back in the early 2000’s which was a win/lose for us. The big win was that the cabinets were in pretty good shape, minus some burn marks from improperly installed lights, so we decided to reuse them (Yay, environment!) and paint them to our taste. We were also really happy with the can lighting and ceiling wallpaper, which sort of looks like those vintage ceiling tiles. Literally everything else had to go – beige leaf tiles, laminate flooring/countertops, peach paint…see yah later! The wall dividing the dining room and kitchen also made the space feel really cramped. Opening it up would allow us to wrap the countertop, providing more seating with a couple of bar stools. Thankfully another HUGE win for us was discovering the wall between the dining room and kitchen wasn’t load bearing (initially we thought it was).

As we started making plans for the kitchen, we knew whatever we’d do needed to fit our home. One underlying goal we’ve had all along is to stay true to our house’s history. As a craftsman style built in 1917, our house came with some pretty great features. For example, all of the windows in the living room have original leaded glass, our dining room has a beautiful built-in hutch and the main level has original maple flooring throughout. The way we use our house today differs greatly from a family back in the early 1900’s but we want to honor  the work that went into this house. What does that mean exactly? Well for instance, we’ve decided not to paint our hutch. We also restored the maple flooring. And even though we’ve had some issues with our boiler and radiator heat, we really love the charm those big radiators have.

The Inspiration

A few years ago when Josh and I were out in LA visiting his brother Sam, we fell in love with the tile at Intelligentsia Coffee Shop. I instantly wanted to use the same tile in our kitchen, and after a little digging, I found that the manufacturer was Granada Tile. Here’s the original inspiration from Intelligentsia in LA:

inspiration-intelligentsia

With that in mind, I made a SUPER quick before & after mock-up to visualize the tiles and color palette.

Before and after mockup of kitchen remodel

If you check out the Granada site, make sure to play around with their custom tile tool. It gives you a live preview of the pattern as you select colors. Pretty neat!inspiration-granada-tile

Unfortunately, the concrete tile turned out to be too thick to allow for a smooth transition from hardwood to tile. Plus we wanted to put in a heated floor, which added another layer of complexity. These concrete beauties ended up not being the right ones for this kitchen job, but we’re hoping they’ll find a home somewhere in our house in the future.

Once I convinced myself life could still go on without those tiles, I pulled together some inspiration and we plowed ahead. In addition to finding the right flooring, another high priority on our list was Carrara marble countertops. And our passion for marble grew stronger and stronger as literally EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. told us not to get them. But one thing you should know about Josh and I is that we’re neat freaks. The kind of neat freaks that hang out on a Friday night to reorganize the tupperware cabinet or label our tool bins. So, we were totally up for the challenge of babying our light, porous, and precious countertops.

kitchen_inspirationAs you can see from the inspiration board, we really wanted a timeless, vintage kitchen — something that felt era appropriate but still had a clean, modern feel. To ground the room we chose to do dark lowers and white uppers. And as stated earlier, marble was in the plan all along. Subway tile was also kind of a no-brainer for budget reasons, and with this being our first time laying tile, we wanted to lay something simple that wouldn’t leave us pulling our hair out. So really, the only undecided detail was the floors. Untillllll we found this kitchen. We loved these floors so much we decided to use the same hex pattern, but we wanted to center it between our cabinets and act like a decorative runner. Early on we found knobs and pulls from Restoration Hardware that we just couldn’t resist. These pulls are legit and totally worth the investment. So much so that the knobs might actually weigh more than the cabinet door (which is a strange feeling). To break up the black and white we decided natural wooden accents like a fruit bowl or utensil holder would do the trick.

Okay, so I promise within the next few posts we’ll reveal the final result. But, we have some interesting challenges and mistakes we think you’ll enjoy hearing about first, so stay tuned. Josh is gonna talk next about the process and a couple of the mistakes we made, including setting all the final cabinets in place, only to learn we had an illegal plumbing set up that required us to take some of them back out and knock open a wall again. Fun times, and lesson learned: Always call the plumber FIRST.

Additional photo sources:  1  |  2  |  3

 

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