Woodland Heights Renovation

Just over a month ago, I helped Christof and Megan buy an amazing house in Woodland Heights.  Now they are in the middle of doing what many of us dream about: a diamond in the rough foreclosure, a great neighborhood, and major renovation plans.

Click on photo to learn how this house also provided sheep for a family in Kyrgyzstan

I asked Christof about the process of going through a major renovation.  Here, he shares his answers and unveils the master plan for the house.

Christof & Megan with their incredibly cute and well-behaved daughter

MeWhat was it about this house that made you decide to buy it over all the other houses for sale in Richmond?

Christof: This house had, by far, the most character per dollar of any house we saw during our house-hunting process. Also, the curved wraparound porch, and beautiful old Sycamore were selling factors.

 

MeTell us about the process of re-designing so many aspects of the house… Why did you decide to add the bathroom downstairs and change the floorplan the way you did?  What were your priorities (maximize space/resale value/personal needs/historic integrity)?

Christof: The rationale for introducing a powder room in the center of the ground floor was a necessary, balancing, response to our decision to take out the old, full bath next to the kitchen. It didn’t make much sense for us to have a full bath on the first floor anyway, it needed tons of work, and we wanted space for a pantry… so we pulled it out.

 

Original Floor Plan

Renovation Floor Plan

Floor plans shown above are courtesy of Brian Ward, general contractor on this project and owner of Greenleaf Renovations.

Christof: Our priorities all along have fairly focused on livability. So many people view their homes through the lens of resale value. We’re not taking that approach. We knew we wanted a walk-in pantry, open kitchen, large island, and smooth flow from the living room through the dining room to the kitchen. Our secondary concern was historical integrity. We’ve purchased old pine lumber to replace any holes in the wood floor, used reclaimed wood for as much framing as possible, and decided to restore the porch to its original glory with a railing and spindles to recapture some of the romance of the original Victorian look.

 

 

Me: What have been some of the biggest challenges to this point?

Christof: Some of the biggest challenges have been getting the yard in order. The huge Sycamore and surrounding vegetation cost a lot more to handle than we thought. But, on the other hand, now that they’re all trimmed up it’s much more exciting and beautifying than we expected so it all evens out.

 

MeWhat part of the house are you most excited about?

Christof: The most exciting part of the house right now is the kitchen. It looks like it’s just going to be awesome.  There are three additional areas that keep our minds spinning at night. The first is the possibility of fully restoring the wraparound porch. This has the potential to add value to the home and make the home much more useable for entertaining. Secondly, we are excited about the possibility of adding a second-floor balcony off of the guest bedroom/study. This is definitely one of those “aim for the moon” concepts right now, but it’s still within the realms of possibility and so… we keep dreaming. Third thing would be the “loft” – aka attic. We would like to finish it off and are preparing the space for additional work after we move in.

 

Great attic space just waiting to turn into living space

New Master Bedroom closet framed out

 

If you are thinking of buying or selling your Woodland Heights/Westover Hills home, contact me!  I live in the neighborhood… know it, love it, and I’m excited to help you with all things Real Estate.

Keep visiting the blog for more updates on the progress of this home in the coming weeks!

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

10 Holiday Craft Ideas

It’s that time of year where adults get out their crayons and don their smocks.  Holidays awaken the arts & crafts soul in all of us.

 

Yesterday, we took a walk in Forest Hill Park and collected some choice leaves.  This morning, Sam made an autumn leaf, waxpaper and crayon… thingy.

 

 

 

 

If you’re in an arts and craftsy mood for the holidays, check out these ideas from around the web (Click on any picture for the full link.)

 

Step It Up

Tie bundles of bare tree and winterberry branches to the spindles in your staircase for an autumnal look. After Thanksgiving, tie pine boughs to the branches with pretty velvetribbon, and wire Christmas ornaments around the velvet ribbon for extra color.

 

Twinkling Vases

Tiny bulbs create a striking modern display when placed in frosted cylindrical vases. Wrap ribbon around the bottoms of the vases and affix with double-sided tape. Loosely coil a single strand of lights in each vase, and then send the plug end over the back lip of the vase and run it behind so it’s hidden.

 

Card Garlands

The season’s first greeting cards, arriving weeks before the family tree goes up, are enough to stir most people’s decorative impulses. This year, festoon mirrors with Lametta tinsel and use the sparkly wire to display your collection of cheerful tidings. Under the garlands, nestled in compotes, ribbon-lined candy pouches make sweet, simple party favors.

 

Mini Christmas Tree Door Decoration

Turn the traditional Christmas wreath on its head with a handmade container for a live tree. Make a pouch by sewing the sides of a folded piece of burlap or a similarly styled dish towel. Wrap damp cheesecloth around the roots of a small sapling and place the tree into a plastic bag. Tie a few holiday-hue ribbons around the bag and attach bells or ornamentswith hot glue or thread.

 

Make-at-Home Simple Snow Globes

Oversize glass containers and vases offer a great see-through way to display holiday colors. Start with a large tray and a few jars and containers in various sizes. Plantevergreen saplings (we used Golden cypress) in several of the containers and cover the soil with faux snow. For contrast, pile another jar or two with red fruits — apples, pomegranates, or cherries — or red ornaments. Place the collection in front of a window, at an entry, or as a centerpiece for your holiday table.

 

Welcoming Doorknob Decoration

This fun holiday door decoration will welcome guests with the festive scent of evergreen and a friendly message. Fold over the top of a wideburlap ribbon and cut a slit through both layers to slide over a doorknob. Use adhesive letters to spell out a message and use wire to attach bits of evergreen and pinecones.

Editor’s Tip: Create a handful of these door accents in just an hour or two — just change the message on each one and use them on guest bedroom doors or the front door.

 

Winter Branch Chandelier

Stand back and marvel at your beautiful handmade and eco-friendly chandelier. Happy Holidays!!

 

Mini Evergreen Shelf Decorations

Planted inside transferware bowls, a series of baby Norfolk Island pines brighten up a mantel. The idea also works for shelves, bookcases, or tabletops. Choose bowls in complementary colors or plain white, whichever best suits your existing holiday decor color scheme. Cover the dirt with nuts and acorns or with a collection of mini ornaments.
Indulge in a little holiday nostalgia by displaying vintage Christmas postcards in classic frames. Cards, from $6 each;ikea.com

 

 

Ornamental birch bark makes a handsome wrap for glassed-in candles. Peel it into thin, pliable sheets, trim to fit, and hot-glue to the candle cup. Bark, about $20 for three 12-inch-square sheets; birchbarkstore.com. Pillar, $20;yankeecandle.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

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


HOPE International