#9 New Rental Property – Which Countertop Should I Use?

I guess this is a big give-away of what we picked…

We’ve made some big progress in January including unboxing this butcher-block countertop. After careful consideration, I bought this 6 ft butcher block countertop from Lowes (shipped to our house). 

Here’s the deal:

Ultimately the purpose of rental property is going to be valued on it’s return on investment. So I started by listing out all types of countertops and their prices. 

The common countertop types are engineered quartz, granite, marble, butcher block (wood), laminate, stainless steel, concrete, tile. 

Consider the price for a 6ft long countertop for this project:

  • High: tile ($500 – with installation labor), granite ($625), quartz ($875),
  • Medium:  concrete ($562), marble ($500),
  • Low: laminate ($99), butcher block ($169), 

I would have to hire out for almost every single type of countertops except for butcher block. For stainless steel, surprisingly I found a slab of 6ft stainless steel for only $122 but I don’t think I can cut this and put a sink in it. Rather, it may have to be custom made. If you are installing a countertop that doesn’t require cutting, this might be a cheaper option.

I considered laminate but it’s hard for me to imagine it in the barn without it screaming ‘CHEAP!’ So ultimately we went with a butcher block. It seems to be the easiest and cheapest option for short-term rental properties.

If we are doing the main kitchen in our house, we would have outsourced this job and chose engineered quartz since they can virtually be any color you like and be maintenance-free. You never have to worry about spilling red wine on a white countertop again.  

Tali supervising the installation

Mr. Code Junkie clamped the countertop to the cabinets and screwed them in from the bottom up in the four corners of the countertop plus a few other spots in the middle. I’ll admit, it’s probably a pretty hacky way of securing the countertop and I’d definitely leave it to the professionals next time (if it’s something bigger). It would’ve been nice if we fully leveled the top of the cabinets with another set of shims/wood pieces before putting the countertop on, and wood glue all the places that come into contact with the cabinets.

Our local plumber who’s installing the sink cut the sinkhole for us (a 22″ x 25″ sink) as we do not have a circular saw to cut wood this thick.  He said it took quite a bit of struggle since he doesn’t usually do that. I then found a piece of bent jigsaw blade in the trash pile the next day. I guess he indeed had a hard time wrestling with the 3-inch solid wood countertop!

Here I am putting on a couple of layers of wipe-on mineral oil that I had laying around. Hopefully, there will be little to no prep-work at all on this countertop, so I am not concerned about the mineral oil being food-grade. But there is food-grade mineral oil for that purpose as well for people who use butcher block in their day-to-day kitchen. 

New Bathroom Vanity from Wayfair

Here’s the before/after bathroom install

Another update we have is this lovely Matsumoto 30″ bathroom vanity I found on Wayfair for $280. Since the barn bathroom doesn’t have a lot of natural light, I chose white and can add small colorful items later on. The blue and green colors of the vanity both look really sleek as well.

For some reason, Wayfair is now selling this 30″ vanity at $419.99 which is a LOT more expensive than when I purchased it. I’ve noticed this on Wayfair for a couple of items I bookmarked that the prices actually fluctuate quite a lot (a few hundred dollars). I kept a spreadsheet of all the items I intended to buy and their prices while waiting for the construction to be done which worked out well. I came upon a similar website with camelcamelcamel for Amazon; it is called zeporter for Wayfair to track prices of an item to make sure you buy at the cheapest time. You may want to track the prices for a month or two before pulling the trigger if it’s a big ticket item.

If you are not crunching for time, I would wait to see if they have “open-box” items on Wayfair which is usually $50 cheaper. See the example below.

Installing Floor and Door Trims

Before/After adding trim

My first attempt putting door trim on. I watched some youtube videos (here, here, and here) before starting on this endeavor. A couple of things I learned from watching these videos:

  1. Put door trim on before the floor trim.
  2. Leave about a 1/4 inch distance between the door jam and actual door trim.
  3. You can shave/chisel the drywall to make sure it’s flush with the door jam before nailing the trim.
  4. It’s easiest to do the trim AFTER flooring is done.

Getting the trim home was a bit of a journey. Since Home Depot sells trims in 12 feet lengths, there is no way it could fit in my tiny little Volkswagen hatchback even hanging out of the sunroof. I had to wait for a sunny day and my friend who has a truck to go and pick it up.

We started doing the trim around the entire room but haven’t finished yet. I borrowed my friend’s nailgun and this starts to come together quickly.

Pro tip: if you don’t have a luxurious friend who has a truck, Home Depot usually have 1-2 trucks they let you rent by the hour, and it’s about $25 for 2 hours. You can also get a truck from U-haul for about the same price. You will just have to go to U-haul to pick it up first then drive to Home Depot/Lowes.

Want to keep browsing our building projects and furniture upgrades? This archive is completely dedicated to them. 

#8 A Winter Wonderland and How to Winterize Your House

We had one of the biggest snowstorms in Arkansas and it is going to be -12 F (-24 C) tonight! The groundhog 2021 prediction did say it is another 4-6 weeks of winter, so I guess he’s right! We got a call from Mr. Code Junkie’s dad with step by step instructions on how to shut off the water/winterize to prepare for the cold. I imagine every dad in America is out there calling their kids today, “make sure you shut your water off or keep it dripping so the pipe doesn’t freeze!” 

This is when good insulation pays off. We set the temperature in the barn at 62 degrees with a mini-split running, but it feels warmer than the house where the thermostat is set at 66.

We have a spigot outside and a water shutoff that the plumber installed.  You can barely tell where the water shutoff is with all the snow. I was quite excited to have a legitimate excuse to go outside. Even though it’s FREEZING, the air seems fresh and crisp. The little paw prints were left by Tali (our princess-greyhound) who really doesn’t like cold. She would run outside, pee, then dash back in and act like it was such laborious work.

The water shutoff usually has a black plastic top with a little hole for you to turn and lift the cover to open. Thank god this cover isn’t frozen shut when we tried to open it.

This is what it looks like inside. My reflection coupled with the trees makes this look a lot deeper and sinister but it’s about a foot deep in the ground where you can reach your arm in and turn the white handle from perpendicular to the pipe (on) to a 90-degree (off). I have no idea how I first learned about this but I guess it comes with homeownership!

Once the water is shut off, you turn on the spigot to drain the remaining water from the pipes to prevent them from freezing then damage the pipe.

Our house and cars are covered in snow, as well as the little free library! My friends from Houston said their utility companies started a rolling blackout to shut off their power every 2 hours for 30 minutes to save energy for the hospitals. It is indeed an insane winter! We turned down the heat to 62 to conserve energy. We also found some thick blankets to stuff to the bottom of our doors to prevent draft cold air from coming into the house. 

What are some ways you winterize your house?

8 Things I Learned from Hosting an Airbnb Private Room

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Here’s what I’ve learned after 10 months of hosting a private room on Airbnb.

1. Start hosting without the room being perfect. 

Don’t wait for the perfect day, the perfect decorations, the amenities, or the perfect pictures to start hosting. You will add features, learn to adjust your boundaries along the way. 

One of my closest friends listed a private room on Airbnb in Dublin Ireland while we were both hiking in the mountains in Patagonia and she received booking requests within a day.

2. Don’t accept guests you don’t feel comfortable with. 

If there is some nagging feeling that makes you not want to accept that person, simply reject the Airbnb inquiry. This will NOT affect your host rating, which is different than cancelling on a confirmed booking reservation.

Here are some of my boundaries. These are all personal preferences and the assumptions I have made were based on experiences hosting for my local area (Northwest Arkansas).

  • Guests from the local area – There could be perfect reason why local guests need Airbnb. Everyone who is local that reached out to me was either looking for either did not understand Airbnb or wants one of those motels you pay by the hour. It also could jeopardize your own home privacy having locals knowing how to get into your house. I have searched Airbnb forums after having a bad experience with local guests and found it was a hard pass for most Airbnb hosts. 
  • Guests with children – I do not charge enough cleaning fees for children and I rent a private room. It would be too crowded to have a child in the room, and usually normal people who have children prefer the whole place to themselves instead of private rooms. This put it into question why the guest would want to stay in a private room as well.
  • long term rentals – Usually, I would like to keep the option of being able to only endure guests for a week, especially first time guests. I have made one exception to a guy booked my airbnb for a week at a time for 4 months. When he first proposed booking 2 months straight. I told him no, I would rather do a week at a time and see how it goes. It turned out that we got along well. He was a great repeat guest.

3. Set clear boundaries.

I don’t want to clean the kitchen after others. So cooking is off limits on my Airbnb. I contemplated this rule a lot when I listed the house. But as it turns out, people don’t care that much about cooking. Instead, I make recommendations to local delicious and affordable restaurants or groceries. Don’t half-hearted rent out something you don’t want to, because you will resent it later. Don’t be afraid of saying no, because this way you will attract the right people to your Airbnb.

4. Title of the Airbnb listing counts.

When I first started doing Airbnb, I didn’t have a lot of furniture, so I named it “The minimalist room.” To my own surprise, people love it! I received one review raving about the idea of minimalism.

Gradually throughout this year, I found that I love outdoorsy guests. Not just because they will be out all day, but also they are almost always VERY laid back, respectful, and quiet. Most of the time, they are so tired of their daily adventures, they will come right to bed! So I changed my title to “Rock Climbing and Mountain Biking Haven” which yielded good results so far. I am learning to be more outdoorsy myself so I have made numerous friends with similar hobbies (rock climbing and mountain biking, of course!).

One other thing I make sure to add in my title is how many bedrooms (if it is a private room) or if it is an entire place. Since I have a long title now, I can only add “1 br + bath” at the end. I find this helpful when I search Airbnbs to stay so I add them to my title now.

5. Have a dog!

When I first started Airbnb, I was worried people will be very annoyed with me having a dog. They may be allergic to dog hair. They may find dogs barking annoying. They may accidentally let my dog escape (I still fear this). As it turns out, a big portion of the people who stay at my Airbnb booked my place BECAUSE of my dog (I mean, can’t blame them because the Ice Queen is so cute). And research has shown, people are nicer to each other when there is a dog present. So if you have a dog and is contemplating on hosting Airbnb, wait no more!

6. Schedule the stays with breaks in between.

When I first started my Airbnb, there was a period of time where someone would check out in the morning, and someone else would be coming at 3pm. I have a full time job and I struggled to clean the sheets and towels for the next guests. Now I try to plan ahead the stays and block out days so I can have time to clean the rooms.

7. Airbnb prices are not always accurate.

In my area, Northwest Arkansas, Airbnb’s suggested price is too low. When that happens, it attracts people who are not my targeted audiences (aka people who wants a motel and doesn’t want to pay a lot of money). I found out by getting a lot of inquiries of guests who barely had a profile set, and just want to show up at my house for a night. 

I looked into the Airbnbs around me, and found comparable listings (similar bedrooms, similar area, similar style) and raised my price up to theirs, and the problem is solved.

8. Great photos = great guests.

  • Using the right camera – Taking photos with a real camera helps (as opposed to using a cell phone) because the cell phone lens is smaller and it will distort the architecture of the room. 
  • Let there be light – Choose a sunny day to take the photos. Open ALL curtains and turn on ALL lights. Having lights (natural or artificial) can make editing your photos SO MUCH easier.
  • Perfecting Photos – I spent a good chunk of my time taking photographs of my place and editing them. It took me a couple of tries to get the photos come out crisp and clean. There are many photos that I’ve realized later on that needed a makeover, such as, clutter on the desk, the toilet lid was open, the kitchen counter was not clean, the pillows on the bed looked saggy and sad, etc. I went back and adjusted them.