#6 Update on the Barn: Drywall

Lots of debris and tools!

We finally got some big progress on the barn – DRYWALL! Our handyman came all last week and put up all the drywall around the barn and mud the first coat for the drywall seam. 

For the drywall in the bathroom, we used this green mold-resistant drywall. The seams will be mudded twice and then it’ll be ready for prime & paint!

It was really hard to take photos while the scaffolding is up. We just need a few more days and another coat of the mudding and we shall have an almost-finished barn!

For reference, this is what the barn looked like without drywalls. It took us a lot of time and efforts to put in the wall insulation and find the right contractor for the roof insulation but we can totally tell the difference now when we are inside (see our post here)! Last week, for a few days the weather was in the upper 90s outside, while the barn still remained relatively cool. It really paid off that we put in R-39 on the roof! 

It’s fascinating that a few drywall pieces can make this much difference. What used to be just a structure with studs now looks almost livable! 

You can catch up on the entire tiny house renovation here. From when we bought it, to exterior fixes, window installations, plumbing, and concrete leveling.

Building Wealth One House at a Time by John Schaub

This book has much detailed and down-to-earth advice on how to buy income property/rental property. I love the beginning and the end of the book, but the middle section about seller financing was lacking some serious details for me to understand how it would all work out. Overall, I have learned a TON from this book. My notes below do not include seller financing, preforeclosure, and foreclosure. If you are interested in those areas, I recommend checking out his other book called Building Wealth Buying Foreclosures possibly borrowing from your local library (because these books are expensive!). Otherwise, read my notes below!

General advice on income properties:

  • Buy a house in the best neighborhood you can afford
  • Don’t buy corner lots
  • Don’t buy houses with extra frills: wallpaper, fancy trim, pool/hot tubs
  • Buy in a good school zone
  • Buy in a neighborhood that’s on the way up
  • Buy close to where you live and study the market

Strategies for surviving the market crash: 

  • Get your home paid for.
  • Use options to buy in a hot market: a contract that gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation to buy.
  • Avoid personal liability on dangerous debt: debt you can’t repay from the cash flow on the property that is security.
  • Limit your losses: if you own a losing property, cut your losses.
  • Renegotiate debt that you cannot pay

Cause and effect of cycles:

  • When rents are cheap relative to prices to buy, either rent will increase or selling prices will fall.
  • Construction cycle: smaller Homebuilders rely on banks for construction loans typically one year in length. When they can’t sell, they are under pressure to pay. You could buy houses at a bargain price in a down market by just paying off the construction loan.
  • Older neighborhoods where renters are being displaced by owner-occupants who buy and fix up a well-located but older home will increase in value. Look for this trend and houses that you can rent for a few years while the neighborhood improves. They often are a better investment than new neighborhoods.

Finding opportunities that others miss:

  • Empty houses
  • Houses that need work – especially in nicer neighborhoods
  • Out of town owners
  • Landlords who are not maintaining their property
  • For sale by owners
  • Letters to owners who may need to sell
  • Foreclosures

Ask questions to know what the other party wants

  • Are you the owner?
  • Where is the house?
  • How large is the house?
  • How large is the lot?
  • How old is the house?
  • Does the house need any work?
  • What school district is the house in?
  • What are the neighbors like?
  • How long have you owned the house?
  • Have you made any additions or remodeled?
  • Is the house listed with a realtor? If so, when does the listing expire?
  • Do you have a current appraisal? If so, how much?

Step 2 questions:

  • Sounds like a great house, why are you selling?
  • Can your existing loan be assumed?
  • What’s the balance on your loan now?
  • Are your payments current?
  • What will you do if you don’t sell? Is the owner moving away? When? The day they move, most owners are really ready to make a deal.
  • How long has your house been on the market?
  • How much did you pay for the house? (If the owner balks at this question, tell them you want to buy in a neighborhood that is appreciating. Ask if the house has appreciated since they bought it. You can point out that you can learn this info in the public records and would appreciate their time-saving assistance.
  • If you don’t sell the house, would you consider renting it? If the owner’s answer is yes, you may be able to buy it from him or her with a small down payment. The owner won’t get much down when he or she rents it.

Use your time wisely:

  • Ask questions on the phone. You will be surprised how much sellers will tell you
  • Rank motivation and potential profitability from 1 to 10. Use this to compare houses to decide priority.
  • Motivated seller: asking them questions like “are you ready to sell your house today?” Or “can you be out by this weekend?” To show you are interested in buying NOW.
  • before sitting down with seller, write down your strategy using figure 4.1

Knowing what a house is worth before you make an offer:

  • If you are buying on a street with many foreclosures or short sales, calculate your best offer, and then reduce it by 20%
  • pay no more than 10% down, pay no more than 10% interest, buy at least 10% under the market
  • 72/rate of return = years of a house that will double value
  • Buy properties that produce enough rent to pay the expenses and repay the loan
  • Buy properties that are relatively easy to manage and easy to sell
  • Borrow the longest term possible

Making an offer:

  • Let the seller make the first offer
  • Never never never try to think for the seller
  • Make your first offer an offer you know will make you money and see how she responds. If you decide you’d like to buy this house for about $175k, the seller wants 250k, offer 160k. If they make a big move in your direction, go up to 165k, then settle the difference at 175k. If they move to 245k, offer them 175k, with 10k down, balance payable at $1000 a month including 3% interest.
  • Don’t let the seller shop your offer (get you to bid with another buyer). Tell them you have two houses you like theirs better but if they don’t accept the offer by end of day, you will buy the other house.

Renting a house:

  • Spend the money to clean the whole house
  • Introduce yourself to the neighbors and ask them to keep an eye out for you. Tell them if there is a problem with the tenant you want to know about it and will do everything in your power to fix it.
  • Usually, a tenant can afford to pay between 30-40% of their income as rent.
  • Rather than charging a late penalty, give tenants a discount for paying on or before the first of the month. Pay on time and not call for maintenance to earn the discount.
  • Give tenant phone numbers to call for “emergencies” – 911, police, plumber (for leaks). Then have your weekend off.

#5: How I Built a Wooden Ladder to the Loft

We are in a little holding pattern right now on our barn renovation as we wait for our contractor to come back and finish the drywall. We finished the insulation in July and decided to build the ladder to the loft ourselves. It turned out to be very easy!

Here’s the video I followed to build the ladder. Shout out to this random very handy guy on YouTube that broke down the steps for making a ladder. 

I wrote out the materials I bought. I was able to get all of them from Lowe’s.

  • Speed Square $10(to make the ladder 75 degrees from the floor)
  • Timberlok screws $30 (I bought a box of 50 with the bits)
  • Power Tools $179 I have Makita and I absolutely love them
  • Lumber: 2x6x16 ~$25

One of my biggest hangups is that I don’t yet have a table saw (or any kind of wood cutting tools) and I rely heavily on Home Depot/Lowes to cut the wood for me. Here’s a step-by-step guide I followed to ensure I had a successful trip out of it.

So I asked the lovely associate working there to cut 4 blocks of 20 inches out of each 16 ft lumber, and I took the rest (about 9.5 ft) in my tiny car (sticking it out of the sunroof!) back to the barn. *Pro-tip: when cutting these steps, they don’t have to be exactly 20 inches, but they do need to be exactly the same length with each other. Once you cut the first piece, use this piece as a guideline for all other pieces that will help you build the ladder straight!

The hardest part is probably trying to screw all of the steps together which I followed the youtube guy’s suggestion but it’s a lot harder than it looks. In the end, I was able to get them semi-aligned with each other so that the steps are visually leveled. Next time, I think I’ll buy clamps like this to help align the steps before drilling and attaching the screws.

Alas, I climbed up this ladder and it didn’t collapse underneath me!

If you’d like to read more about my tiny barn building process, here are all the other articles. Happy building!

How I Saved $70 in Two Hours

My best friend Ms. Bakes-A-Lot came from Ireland to visit us this weekend and it was wonderful to get to spend time with her for 5 full days! On Saturday, she asked me what kind of pie I wanted her to cook while she was in town. Without hesitation, I said “TIRAMISU!” Granted that is not a pie, but she indulged me and agreed to teach me how to make tiramisu. 

So we went on a road trip to Walmart to shop for ingredients. While we were in the store, Ms. Bakes-A-Lot asks me if I had a mixer. Being the minimalist-wanna-be, I have eliminated almost everything in the kitchen that I don’t use daily. I said, “I have a fork?” Then added, “that’s what I use to scramble eggs,” as a justification that I do not need a mixer in my life.

Ms. Bakes-A-Lot sighed and said, “well, if you want tiramisu, we have to get a mixer; even a handheld one will do.”

Here’s a sneak-peak of the tiramisu bite we made.

So we went to the aisle where they sell mixers, and my eyes went to the biggest mixer there is–the KitchenAid. I told Ms. Bakes-A-Lot I have been making bread and lots of Chinese pork buns lately and I’d love to buy a mixer that can also make a dough. I’ve done my research for many moons now and couldn’t decide whether I wanted a KitchenAid or a Bosch Universal Plus dough mixer. I’ve been lusting over both of them but never pulled the trigger.

Ms. Bakes-A-Lot looked at the KitchenAid prices and she realized that it was on “rollback” (Walmart’s way of saying it’s on sale). She informed me that $199 is a great deal for a KitchenAid because they are usually close to $300! Sure enough, we googled KitchenAid and it is selling at $259.99 online.

Unfortunately, the Walmart we were in did not have a white KitchenAid and I had my heart set on it being white so it matches everything in my kitchen. So Ms. Bakes-A-Lot suggested that we go to a different Walmart 10 minutes away and try our luck. (We live in Walmart-ville here in Arkansas.) When we got to the next Walmart, it was a lot more crowded, and my hopes to find this white Kitchenaid on sale started to diminish. We walked to the kitchen gadget section, and to my surprise, there is a white KitchenAid! But it was marked at $259 while other KitchenAids were $199. After reading the tag, it seemed like the white color was still full price while other colors are on sale. We took a picture of the on-sale tag with the other colors and took the white KitchenAid to the checkout.

Ms. Bakes-A-Lot wisely profiled the checkout cashiers, and we picked the kindest looking person to stand in line for and it paid off! When the cashier rang up the KitchenAid, of course, it said $259 + tax on the screen. I asked the cashier if the price is right because I saw the tag said it was $199. She said, did you take a picture of the tag? So I showed her my picture (while patting myself on the back) and she did her little keystrokes and got a manager to approve the markdown. Off we go with my white KitchenAid! 

So the moral to the story is:

  1. You should never settle for just “good enough,” even in KitchenAid!
  2. Look for a cashier that’s easy to talk to and be nice to them.
  3. Take a picture of the price before going up to the register.

I am now also a proud owner of a lovely white KitchenAid and Mr. CodeJunkie is so excited for the doughs and pork buns I’ll be making!

This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick

  • How much I’d Recommend: 8/10
  • Date finished: 7/19/20
  • This is Where You Belong: recommend either borrow from the library or read my notes below

It is a lovely book full of ideas. I did not read through every single page. Behind every chapter, there is a list of activities you can do to feel more settled down and here they are below. I have also added some items I found helpful. I am never one to promote consumerism or spending money for the sake of some higher cause, so even though some of the tips below mentioned spending money, I’d say do the free stuff first and see how you feel 🙂

  1. Lace Up Your Sneakers
    • Follow the “1-mile solution” and walk / bike to all your errands under a mile
    • Explore unfamiliar parts of your town without a GPS.
    • Draw a map of your part of town and see how many details you can fill in
    • Sign up for a local walking tour
    • Switch to a walking or biking commute
    • If you’re moving soon, aim for a neighborhood with a high Walk Score.
    • Make your own Walk [your city] signs at WalkYourCity.org
  2. Buy Local
    • Find the one item that you can commit to buying from a locally owned business, then stick with it.
    • Before you decide that buying local costs too much, consider the unexpected benefits, like advice, free gift wrapping, or tie-in promos that support other local organizations.
    • Invest locally.
    • Other ones I can think of: buy local gifts when you visit friends/travel, and kind words to local shops always go a long way.
  3. Say Hi to Your Neighbors
    • Celebrate National Good Neighbor Day
    • Join a Newcomers Club
    • Meetup.com
    • Keep a spreadsheet of the people you meet on your block: names, kids preferences, where they work, what they do.
    • Welcome anyone who moves into a house that you can see from your front porch. At least say hi.
    • Eat a meal with your neighbors
    • Join your neighborhood association, your block club, or your HOA.
    • Offer to house-sit or pet-sit when neighbors go out of town.
    • Throw a block party.
    • Other things I do: share my home-grown vegetables, extra candy from Halloween, and other tools with my neighbors. Ask for help when you need it, people love to feel needed.
  4. Do Something Fun
    • What ten local sites, historic landmarks, tourist attractions, parks, museums, statues, or events can you show off to visitors?
    • Find out what’s going on in your town.
    • Asking people “where do you take visitors?”
    • Do the stuff your town is good at.
    • Annual festivals
    • Make your own asset map with Google’s My Maps to remind yourself of how much your town has to offer and to plan outings for yourself and visitors.
    • Show up.
    • Other things I do:
  5. Commune with Nature
    • Make a list of your town’s natural assets
    • Learn the names of the flora and fauna in your area
    • Find ways to do the outdoorsy things you love where you live
    • Invite friends for a hike
    • Go Geocaching or letterboxing
    • Pick up litter, buy low-energy fluorescent lightbulbs, recycling, air-dry laundry
    • Other things I recommend:
      • Find state parks to camp
      • Explore more interesting places to visit by scrolling through google maps
  6. Volunteer
    • Volunteer at a place you are passionate about, be it your church, local SPCA, women’s shelter
    • Check the city’s website for government volunteering
    • Perform random acts of kindness, either on a special day like your birthday or a day you’re bored. RandomActsofKindness.org lists dozens of ideas. TheBDayProject.com.
    • Donate – I donate to my local children’s shelter bc I am petite 🙂
    • Join or start a giving circle
    • Other things I thought about:
      • Donate locally (women’s shelter, children’s shelter, etc.) instead of to Salvation Army
      • Find free items to share on Facebook; they are called buy nothing [your city]
      • Volunteer to get your elderly neighbor’s groceries
      • Find the local chapter of AMillionCups.com to support local start-up businesses
  7. Eat Local Food
    • Try strEATing, the practice of turning an average street or public place into a quick, cheap social eatery.
    • Make dinner into a mini block party by eating on your front lawn
    • Find a place in your town to be a regular
    • Shop regularly at your farmer’s market or join a CSA. LocalHarvest.org keeps a database of them.
    • Try a one-week “25-mile challenge,” eating only foods grown within twenty-five miles of your house.
    • Plant a garden
    • Follow local restaurants on social media
  8. Get More Political
    • Follow your mayor and city councilors on social media
    • Figure out when your next election is and vote.
    • Join your local citizens’ academy
    • Keep up-to-date on what’s happening in local government (+ restaurants, volunteer opportunities, and a place attachment bonanza of additional information)
    • If you have coding skills, join a Code for America brigade where you live, or sign up for a one-off civic hackathon. HackForChange.org
    • Run for an elected town office
    • Download and use civic apps for your town
    • If there’s something in your place that’s driving you nuts – a pothole, a broken light-go on your city’s website and figure out who can help you get it fixed. If there is something in town you love, write about it too.
  9. Create Something
    • Find out what art events are happening in your neighborhood – concerts, dance shows, festivals, guys with guitars playing at the back of a coffee house on Friday night – and show up to as many as you can afford, even if it’s not typically your thing.
    • Throw a few bucks in the case whenever you see a busker in your town.
    • Gather friends for an adventure and make something silly and creative happen in your neighborhood. Write inspirational quotes on sidewalks, set up a good-luck stand, and pass out homemade fortunes, impromptu singing, dancing, and befriending.
    • Write a love letter to your town, explaining all the things you adore about it
    • Tour all public art in your town, including murals, statues, and sculptures. If there isn’t one, consider making a digital guide to them with an app like Tour Buddy.