Roselawn Kitchen

The few weeks after we brought our daughter home from the hospital and moved into our new house we put the final touches on the kitchen in 1/2 of the duplex we own.  Basically, we finished what had been an extremely long project just in time for our new Tenants to move in.  The transformation was pretty dramatic, but unfortunately we have no before shots just a halfway started shot, some in progress shots and the finals.  Anyway, take a look:

Not bad for our first kitchen.

What's in a Name?

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailApparently people don’t like when you leave them hanging. Everybody wants to know what the meaning is behind Delilah’s name. Sort of funny given that it’s not that dramatic of a meaning but it’s still fun and makes for a good story.

There’s actually a few meanings:

  1. We sort of had a theme song for our honeymoon in Hawaii. Literally every time we got in the car we’d hear Hey there Delilah by the Plain White T’s and we even used it in one of our Honeymoon slideshows. Delilah isn’t named after the song, but her name is inspired by it. We were thinking up names when we heard the song and both fell in love.
  2. The lilac bush we planted a week after we bought our old house (on Roselawn ave) never flowered until this spring. We were even ready to tear it out this year if it didn’t. A shortened version of Delilah is Lila which can be translated to Lilac in several languages. Kinda cool right?
  3. Along the same lines as the Lilac bush but not as cool… she was born during the Lilac Festival so now she has a Festival every year just for her.

And what everyone’s been waiting for… Some more pictures from Little Lila’s first few days of life:

The Rental vs Ownership Lifestyle Choice

Authors Note: This post is in response to Mint’s latest article The Renter’s Manifesto which makes a pretty good argument for renting

Some people like to say

Renting is throwing your money away.  At the end of your lease you have nothing to show for it.

I’m sorry, but I need to disagree.  Not only does renting not throw your money away (you’re getting a place to LIVE remember?) but it’s also cheaper than buying in a lot of scenarios.  You may not be building equity, but what can you do with that extra 300 or more per month?  That’s right… build LIQUID equity.

You’d have a hard time convincing me that a Single Family Home is a good investment.  To me owning a house is nothing more than a LifeStyle choice. If it were a purely financial decision there would be a lot fewer home owners.

However; owning a rental unit is 100% different from owning a house.  It’s an investment.  We made that investment a few years ago, and it’s paying off.

Some numbers:

When we were renting we were paying $715 out of pocket per month.  That’s it.  Stupidly, we didn’t have renters insurance, so there’s $25-50/month we should have been paying that we weren’t.   So really… $740/mo

When we bought the house that dropped to about $600 out of pocket per month.  Add on about 75/mo for insurance (for the whole house) and you’re now at $675/mo.  Then there’s maintenance.  We’ve done a lot, to both sides.  new kitchen, lots of new drywall/paint/cleaning/etc.  My records show somewhere in the neighborhood of $2-300/month amortized across the life of our residency.  Now we’re up to $975/month without even trying.

Those are the hard numbers, now the soft:

When we bought the house we put a 10% down payment on it so we had a decent (not huge, and certainly not useful) amount of equity right away.  This put us in a good situation with the principle, however our interest rate was at 7.25% only .25% above the average and we could have gotten better, but it would have increased the bottom line on the house.  The previous owner gave us a hell of a deal (by my accounts at least a 10% discount off the true market value of the home) because we didn’t involve any realtors or banks.

4 years later and we just completed a refinance.  This hurt, a LOT.  but it was also one of the best decisions we’ve made.  It took us from 7.25% to 5% flat but it cost us about 3 years.  It’ll take us 3 years to recoup the cost of the refinance.  That’s ok though, because we’re in it for the long haul.

Now we’re down to about 775/mo out of pocket and we’re not done.

We just bought a single family house because our family is growing and we’re running out of room (remember that I said it’s a life style choice).  That and because now we can finally treat the rental property more like a business instead of an extension of our home.  I expect maintenance costs to shrink dramatically as a result.

If you look at our current out of pocket monthly expenses… it’s almost a no brainer to buy a duplex as a starter home.  I recommend it to every one I know that’s looking for a house.  As long as you’re a little handy and can deal with the tenants calling you in the middle of the night to tell you the pilot light is out… you’re owning for next to nothing.  Yes our out of pocket is more than what it was when we were renting, but there’s a few factors there:

  1. It’s not that much different.  $775 vs $715? 60 bucks and you have the freedom to do whatever you want?
  2. We’ve done a LOT to our house.  $300/mo is way more than necessary and I hope to bring that down in the coming months.  New drywall, new roof, new kitchen… have all been done.
  3. Equity.  While it will cost us 3 years to recoup the cost of the refinance, in those 3 years we’ll not only make that money back, but also pay all that money down on the principle and more essentially getting a 200% ROI.
  4. Going along with Equity… Increased home value.  Our house has increased in value about another 12% since we bought it (remember that we bought it at around 10-12% below market value at the time of purchase) and we’re only paying 60/month more than we were when renting.  Right now we have over 30% equity in our house and more than half of that is being built up by the tenants NOT us.

Buying a single home though…

Just remember that it’s a LifeStyle choice, not a financial one.  If it was a financial one, you already know the answer, it’s going to cost you more for the same quality of home and location…   Financial decisions are all about getting the most for your money which isn’t the case with a house, unless you consider the lifestyle ‘more’.

Oh and one more thing to add…  If someone is renting a house to you, it’s costing them less to own it than they’re charging you, otherwise they’d be pretty dumb.  However; they’ve probably owned it for years and years, which pretty much wipes away the initial cost of ownership.  Closing costs Suck and eat a huge amount of your equity up right away. Just food for thought.

House Officially Refinanced

We’re a fan of big wins, and refinancing our Mortgage has probably been one of our biggest.  It’ll take about 4 years to recoup the costs of refinancing by what we’re saving monthly but overall the savings are huge.  We’ll be saving over $60k in interest over the course of the loan.

It was a bumpy ride but we learned a lot along the way.  Mostly, that NY sucks and banks are thieves.

  • A Refinance is no different than an original mortgage.  It’s treated exactly the same.  Almost as if your buying the house from yourself and you have to pay all the fees.
  • Monroe County charges a totally unreasonable Mortgage Tax
  • Title insurance doesn’t make any sense.  It’s good for the life of the property but you have to pay it again when you refinance.  No refund, no discount.
  • Banks charge outrageous fees.
    • Loan Origination Fees
    • Commitment Fees
    • Application Fees
  • Bank require you to pay their lawyer fees on top of all the fees they charge you to begin with.

Lots of fun huh?  Good thing it’ll be worth it in the end.

Felix the Rabbit

Our yard seems to be a breeding ground this spring. We’ve had everything from baby robins to baby rabbits. The baby robins showed up last weekend (completely expected, their nest has been in our garage for a few weeks/months now). Had I noticed the nest getting built It wouldn’t have lasted long (birds cause a mess) but I didn’t so we were graced with the presence of at least 2 baby robins. Rachel and I saw them both make it out and into the wild. Our garage is now safe from the birds, thank god!

felix-in-grassThursday while trimming the grass around the various bushes Rachel found a nest of rabbits.  They were all huddled in a hole in the grass around a young lilac bush she planted last year.  All of the rabbits hopped away and hid under the bushes next to the house.

When I got home that night Rachel wanted to show me, so we went outside and found Felix.  Rachel has a tendency to name random animals we see, like charlie the squirrel in the Grand Canyon and now Felix the baby rabbit.  There have been countless others, but their names escape me.

All the rabbits were gone (read: hiding) except for Felix.  In fact, he seemed quite friendly, and even allowed us to pick him up and hold him for a bit.  I’ve had pet rabbits before and usually they fall into one of two categories:

  1. schizophrenic – running and hopping everywhere and generally trying to get away.
  2. terrified – huddled down and not moving, basically pretending to be a stone.

felix-in-handAt first Felix seemed to fit into the second category.  However; the longer we held him he seemed to become comfortable and even curious, sniffing and moving around a bit.

While it was fun to play with him a bit, we thought it best to get him back to his mother, so we put him under the bush next to the house (where we knew the rest of them including the mother had gone) and he hopped inside and disappeared.

We’ve seen baby rabbits every day since then, but we don’t think we’ve seen Felix again yet, all the markings have been different and the ones we’ve seen have run away as fast as you can see them.

Normally I wouldn’t like rabbits, but we only have a small flower garden to worry about so it’ll be fine.  Also the bush that they’re calling home for now is scheduled for removal very shortly.  I assume once it’s gone they’ll vacate the premises.  Until then we’re happy to share our home with Felix the rabbit.

Clean Slate

Ok so… we’ve tried word press before and never kept it up. This was basically because we tried to be retro-active in posting a bunch of stuff about what we had already done and it was overbearing. We’ve tried blogger but to no avail… Hopefully we can get this site going. We’ll use it as a place for people to know what Rachel and I are up to.

For those of you who don’t know Rachel and I bought a house (duplex) 6 months ago or so. Well… we’ve learned some things since then. Quite a lot in fact.

  1. It’s true what they say. You never really are done. when we bought the house we only had a few things in mind. Since then the list has grown daily
  2. No project is really as small or as easy as you think it is.
  3. You dont really have time anymore.
  4. Old houses are full of surprises.
  5. Insurance companies suck.
  6. Water can cause a lot of trouble.

on to that last one for a second and then i’ll end our first post…

A little less than a month ago we had a pipe break in our ceiling. Wow what a pain. It happened while we were both at work and conveniently enough the only day in months that i’ve forgotten my cell phone. Our tenants came home to about 4″ of water in the basement. They went through some hurdles and finally ended up calling the fire department who promptly came and took care of the problem. This does NOT end our problems however. Since then we’ve pretty much not had a dining room. We’ve got a cracked floor joist, drywall and pipes to replace, flooring to put down electric to run etc etc.

Anyway… that’s all for now. Rachel and I are off for dinner and a movie.