From Woodland Heights with Love

Last week saw another closing.  This time in Woodland Heights- maybe my favorite Richmond neighborhood.

It was an old house.  A foreclosure.  The kind of place you dream about fixing up: a 1920’s house with a ton of space and even more character in a great location.  It was just begging for a young couple with a creative spirit to give it new life again.

Over the next 3 months or so, my friends are going to be repainting siding, refinishing floors, rebuilding the wonderful wrap-around porch, knocking down walls, creating an entirely new kitchen area, a new bath on the main floor, custom pantry and laundry room, new master bedroom with a totally new bath.  It is going to be a spectacular house in a few months.

Brian Ward, at Greenleaf Renovations, will be in charge of the renovation.  Old homes are his thing; he doesn’t build new ones (though I know enough about contracting to know that that would probably be a lot easier.)

“Given the existing housing stock, we think it is much more sustainable to take care of what we have and renovate it to suit our current and future needs.”

I can get behind that.

The other wonderful thing about this house is something that you will never be able to see by driving by: it’s tied to the dreams of a grandmother in Kyrgyzstan.

Click to learn more about this Kiva loan

Whenever clients of mine close on a house, I give a loan to somebody in the developing world.  You can learn why on the about page.  But the bottom line is what I think is a simple but powerful idea: what if, when you achieved your dream of home ownership, you made sure somebody else’s dream came along with it.

A sort of buddy system for dreams.

This house in Woodland Heights will be a source of financial stability over the coming years for a young family here in Richmond.

And in Kyrgyzstan, Mrs. Kanymetova, 63, (pictured in center) has requested the loan to purchase more sheep, which will breed and increase her flock size, which will be a source of financial stability for her and her family.

From Woodland Heights to Kyrgyzstan, I think the average person has the same dream: the opportunity for our hard work to provide our families with financial stability.

Freedom from worry.

And now, thanks to Kiva, another home in Richmond is tied to the dreams of another hard-working family in the developing world.

 

At the moment, Mrs. Kanymetova’s loan is still not fully funded.  Want to help her get her sheep?  Click on her picture to learn more about her loan and about how lending your money through Kiva works.

Click to join the RealRVA Lending Team.  We are simply a group of people who want to help struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries to succeed.



 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Week in Pictures

Last week was a crazy week of 2 blog posts a day, as I looked at the Top 10 Projects for Your Home.  If you are a Homeowner, these are the projects that are going to put the most money in your hands when you sell.  It’s worth a look.

But today, I’m thinking of Family, not Real Estate.

It was busy week over here.  Saturday saw the first good frost of the season.  The cold mornings are a comfort to my Michigan soul.

We found the perfect afternoon and spent it at Pocahontas State Park.  Peace sweeps over me like the shadows of tall trees as we enter the woods.  Playground in forest.  The kids are so happy whenever we go there.

I still think it’s a really cool thing to find a turtle in the wilderness.  A feral turtle, if you will.

We chat with the fellow for a while.

If you have kids, maybe this scenario sounds familiar;

We got some small stuffed farm animals from IKEA a few months ago.  The kids haven’t been too interested in them.  But one day last week, Sam is playing with them and he asks tells me, “Get the cow to talk, Daddy.”

So I do.

I don’t just give animals voices… I try to summon the essence of their being.  I decided that the white and brown cow was the persona of the Queen of England, trapped in a bovine body:  Over the top British old lady accent.  Easily shocked.  Refined sensibilities.  I named her Clarabelle.  The black cow is her husband, Reginald.

By all accounts, Clarabelle is far too much ‘woman’ for Reginald.  But they’ve been married for a long time, and they seem to have found their niche.

 Sam got his very first remote controlled car this week.  And it makes me a little bit sad to look at this picture.  He looks like a little boy.  A real live ‘kid’ and not just baby Sam getting bigger.

 

And as the cooler weather sets in, I spend my free time doing something that I love…

The garage is transformed into the Cedar and Salmon Workshop.

What’s the project, you ask?

Wooden play kitchens.  I put them up on Etsy this week and shipped my first one off to New York City.

Etsy is amazing if you think about it.

The implications of Etsy didn’t dawn on me until this week.

Think about this… Etsy might be the most effective yet quiet Occupy Wall Street movement around.

Why purchase from huge corporations when the people around you can create wonderful things?  In large part, Etsy makes it possible.

I just shipped a wooden play kitchen that I made in my workshop to a lady that I’ve never met in New York City.  I think an economics and/or sociology student could write an interesting paper dissecting the various levels of implication in that one interaction.

 


Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

The Top 10: Which Projects Can Actually Make Money

Roundup.

This week, we looked at the Top 10 Projects on the Cost vs. Value Report for Richmond, VA.  I think there’s more to learn from the list than just a list of 10 items.

First, take a look at the 6 highest ranking items:

  1. Entry Door Replacement
  2. Garage Door Replacement
  3. Basement Remodel
  4. Deck Addition
  5. Window Replacement (vinyl)
  6. Siding Replacement

With the exception of #3, they are all exterior projects.

The Takeaway: Don’t ignore the value of curb appeal when you sell your home.

Click for a great article on curb appeal tips from This Old House

 

 

 

#3 is a basement remodel.  After the top 6 exterior lineup, we follow up with a finished attic for #7.

The Takeaway: Increased (finished) sq. footage is one of the best ways to add value to your home.

 

 

 

Coming in at #’s 8 and 10, the minor/major kitchen remodel is not the silver bullet we usually think it is when you sell your home.

The Takeaway: In the current market, a lot of buyers are looking for a deal; a fixer upper.  I’ve seen a lot of sellers who throw in some granite counters and stainless steel appliances and think that it’s going to make every buyer swoon.

It won’t.  It doesn’t.

Buyers know that they’re paying for that granite and those appliances, and most of the time, they’d rather spend their money designing their own kitchen rather than have you do it.  A blank slate and a fair price is more attractive to buyers than some half-assed uninspired kitchen renovation.  Renovate your kitchen because you want to renovate it- not for a buyer.

Click for an article on 28 Thrifty Ways to Customize Your Kitchen

 

Here’s the last thing.  With the exception of project #1- a new entry door- none of these projects ended up putting money back into your pocket.  Check it out:

Job Description                        Job Cost                      Value Added                    Cost Recouped

  1. Entry Door                              $1098                               $1488                                 135.5%
  2. Garage Door                           $1178                                $1079                                 91.6%
  3. Basement Remodel             $57,627                          $45,757                             79.4%
  4. Deck Addition                       $9,916                              $7,670                               77.3%
  5. Windows (vinyl)                   $9,965                              $7,705                               77.3%
  6. Siding (vinyl)                         $10,347                           $7,917                               76.5%
  7. Finished Attic                        $45,591                           $33,921                             74.4%
  8. Minor Kitchen Remodel    $20,762                        $15,358                               74%
  9. Windows (wood)                   $10,873                         $8,011                                 73.7%
  10. Major Kitchen Remodel    $55,004                          $38,713                              70.4%

The Takeaway: Unless your cost recouped is over 100%, you are losing money.  That’s right.  Only one project of the top 10 meets that criteria.  In the current market, if you want to make money by doing improvements before you sell, you’ll have to do them yourself.  Doing it yourself means dramatically slashing your job costs, which means increasing your cost recouped.

 


Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Compass Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value Boosting Projects #9 & 10

We have come to the end of the Top 10 projects that get you the most money back for the money you put in.

Projects 9 and 10 are variations on projects we’ve already seen:

photo: thewindowshop.org

#9 is Wood Replacement Windows.

They boost the value of your home more than vinyl windows, but they cost more than vinyl.

According to the Cost vs Value Report for Richmond, VA

Wood replacement windows cost an average of $12,027 and will increase your home’s value by an average of $8,707.

Vinyl replacement windows will cost $11,066 increase the value by $7,920.

You get a better return on your money with vinyl windows.

Keep this in mind: If you own a newer home or you’re in a neighborhood that caps out below $250,000, wooden windows might be adding more value than your house can retain; you won’t get any more money than you would if you had vinyl.

If, on the other hand, you have an expensive or historic home, wood windows might be a more appropriate decision than vinyl.  Somewhere in the world a kitten dies every time a homeowner installs vinyl windows in their historic home just to save a few bucks.

 

#10 is the Major Kitchen Remodel.

photo: kitchendesigner.org

Like the minor kitchen remodel, but, you know… major.

It involves a complete overhaul.

  • New Wood Cabinets
  • New Countertops
  • New Island
  • New Sink and Faucet
  • New Appliances all around
  • New Custom Lighting
  • New Flooring
  • Painted Walls & Ceiling

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value Boosting Projects #8

Here’s the one we all thought was number one with a bullet:

photo: purestylehome.blogspot.com

 

The Kitchen Remodel

The minor kitchen remodel, actually.  The Cost vs. Value Report distinguishes a minor kitchen remodel from a major kitchen remodel.

Here’s what’s included in the minor remodel:

  • Keep existing cabinets but replace door and drawer fronts and and hardware.

 

photo: flickriver.com

  • Oven/cooktop upgrade to new energy efficient model

 

photo: helpful-kitchen-tips.com

  • Replace laminate counter tops

photo: concrete-countertops.org

 

 

 

 

This one is concrete.  One of my favorite countertop materials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • New upgraded sink and faucet

photo: greigedesign.blogspot.com

 

  • Replace/upgrade flooring

photo: houselogic.com

 

Hardwood is my personal favorite for kitchens.  I think a kitchen gives you a chance to be a bit more bold with your flooring than you would in the rest of your house, like with this dark stain.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value Boosting Projects #7

I’m doing 2 posts a day to go through the top 10 projects that get you the most return for your money. Remember- Real Estate markets are different in different cities and regions around the country. These top 10 projects are specific to Richmond, VA.

#7 is begins a shift from the exterior to the interior…

photo: bhg.com

 

A Finished Attic.

Storage space is nice, but living space is better.

Here is what you need to know about finishing your attic:

Follow the “Rule of 7’s.”  In most parts of the country, your attic will have to comply with these standards:

  • At least half of the ceiling space must be at least 7 ft high
  • and this area must be at least 7 feet wide
  • and 70 sq. feet.

Have an architect verify that the structure can handle a “living space” weight load.  Few unfinished attics were meant to be used as living space by the contractor who built the house.  The framing used in the house might not be sufficient to handle the increased weight of people + furniture.

If your attic framing isn’t able to handle a finished space weight load, it doesn’t mean that your dream of a finished attic is dead.  But it does mean that you’ll have to hire a contractor to reinforce the framing to ensure your attic structure is strong, safe, and up to code.

Trust me; you do not want to have a structural code issue when you sell your house.

For your Inspiration:

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

Create a focal point at the top of the stairway.  This floor to ceiling built-in makes a great first impression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have floor space that is too short for standing, turn it into storage space.

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

I thought this was a brilliant and interesting use of space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

Have some visitors that need to stop?

4 twin beds, end to end, up top.

(been reading a lot of Dr. Seuss to Sam lately)

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: bhg.com

 

 

The cozy attic retreat.  I love wood stoves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: shelterness.com

 

 

Create an awesome and interesting bathroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

 

Turn a safety necessity into a stunning focal point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

photo: thisoldhouse.com

 

 

 

And most importantly- whatever you do- DO NOT paint the sloping ceiling the same color as the walls.  It will make the room feel much smaller.  If it’s not perfectly vertical, consider it ceiling when it comes to paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top Value-Boosting Projects #6

The number 6 project on the Cost vs. Value Report is…

photo: Tom Silva will teach you how to do anything on thisoldhouse.com

Siding Replacement

Again, not the sexiest project out there.  But let’s look at the trend.  The highest ranked cost vs. value projects for you home have all been things that you can see from the outside.

Curb appeal.  The statistics back up what the psychologists say; first impressions make a huge difference.

When you look at at any given house from the outside, roughly 70% of what you are taking in is facade.  The brick or the siding or the stucco or whatever.

Blah siding is just kind of… blah.  It won’t make an impression.  BUT… not making an impression is itself a first impression.  You notice siding that sticks out.

photo: floridalifetimeimpact.com

 

photo: free-press-release.com

photo: art.com

 

Lots of different options.  Not every one is appropriate for every home.

photo: sunsethomerepair.com

photo: rickscolonialpainting.com

 

If your siding is paintable and it’s not heavily damaged, some new paint and a good color scheme might be all you need to get the same result at a fraction of the price.

 







 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value-Boosting Projects #5

Not unlike some people, the most boring project on the list just happens to be the most responsible one…

from superiorwindowsandsiding.com

Replacement Windows.

They increase energy efficiency and save you money over time, and buyers notice them when your house is on the market.  If you have a really old house with nightmare windows that are drafty and painted shut, this project could really pay off.

Buyers love seeing new windows and imagining all the money they will save.

Here’s the ironic thing: if you are really into saving money on energy efficient heating and cooling, you’ll want to check out other parts of a house long before you put in new windows.

Number 1 with a bullet is a well insulated attic/roof.  Heat rises.  Your new windows won’t be helping you out very much in your old house that is not well insulated- especially up top.

 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value-Boosting Projects (#4)

Hi Friends.  There is so much inspiration out there.  So many pictures and great ideas.  I’m doing 2 posts a day this week to fit them in, going through the top 10 Value Boosting  projects for your home.

#4 on the list of Cost vs. Value Projects for your Home is…

 

from thisoldhouse.com

A Deck Addition.

I took down one of the wall/railings of my 4 sided deck this summer and opened it up with a ten foot wide stairway.  It was a great decision.  Here is where the wall used to be:

Now we have a wide staircase that goes down into the back yard.  Not having one wall there and adding 10″ of length for the first stair gave the deck a much bigger feel.  Plus we have a new way to access our backyard.  It has totally changed the way we use the deck and shifted the focus of our yard from one side of the house to the other.

decks encourage sharing

 

Decks promote love between siblings

The other great thing about a deck project is that with a lot of DIYers successfully take on the project themselves, and that can save a whole lot of money.

This Old House is a great resource to the DIY spirit who is thinking about tacking a home improvement project.  Here they have a great article on things to consider before building your deck.

For your inspiration…

from thisoldhouse.com

from thisoldhouse.com

 

The fire pit deck…

from customoutdoorstructures.com

 

This has to be one of the coolest designs I’ve ever seen…

from sun-spaces.com

 
 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com

Top 10 Value-Boosting Projects (#3)

Number 3 on the list of top Value Boosting projects is…

The Finished Basement.  Oooohhhh.  Aaaaahhhh.

The finished basement is a way WAY bigger project than the previous 2.

The cost new front door and the new garage door both end up at around $1,200 each.  The average full basement remodel costs $64,000.

We are in the big leagues now.

Remember: This list is all about Cost vs. Value.  Projects are ranked in terms of ROI (return on investment); not the sheer number of dollars it will add to your home.

Now…For your inspiration, we have…

The cozy basement Family Room

The Basement Home Theater

Don Johnson once sneezed on this couch in scene from Miami Vice (no proof.  I’m just saying…)

The Basement Game Room

The Wine Cellar

The Basement Gym

The Basement Bar

The Basement Play Room

I married into a Finnish family, so the Basement Sauna cannot be ignored.

 

Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.
Contact: jaymcgee.kw@gmail.com


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