Monthly Archives: August 2016

My Historic Money Pit

This week marks our one year anniversary of moving to Astoria, Oregon. We bought an amazing example of Craftsman architecture with a spectacular view of the Columbia River. I’ve shared in detail about manifesting our dream home, and in many ways, it still feels like a fairy tale.

Yet, now that we’ve been living here for a year, it’s time to share about the “money pit” side of the story. While I still am in awe of our beautiful home, the realities of how much this house is going to cost us sunk in this past winter. Like the feeling of living in a money pit. It’s not quite as bad as the exaggerated 80’s movie, but it’s certainly more than we ever bargained for. While the house is cosmetically gorgeous, virtually all of the mechanicals are in desperate needs of repair/replacement.

That feeling has sunk into my stomach ever since we returned from an aloha-filled trip to Hawaii only to find combined sewer overflow flooding our basement. To be honest, this wasn’t the first time, we had a smaller flood within weeks of moving in, with our first big storm.

We had been “lucky” for several months not to deal with it, and in the mean time had spent several weekends getting the basement ready to rent out, thinking that it was an occasional issue that we could deal with. Yet, this last time it proved more than I could manage. Instead of spending hours and hours mopping up and ripping out the carpet, I called a restoration cleaner to deal with the “Level 3 contamination.” In the process, they also tore out the trim and first two feet of drywall, and what previously looked like a cute studio is now torn to shit. Between the plumber and the cleaners, I know we’re in for over six thousand, plus needing to repair the walls and flooring. I was crossing my fingers that this could be paid by our insurance, but now it appears that it isn’t covered.

Here’s the list of expenses that we’ve paid since moving in:

  • Basement “restoration” to clean up the flood: $6,203.04 plus interest.
  • Roof – Replaced the original hundred year old cedar shake roof, plus $3,600 to fix the garage enough to put a new roof on it, I’m frankly glad there wasn’t more rot: $34,024.35
  • Gutters with screens– A necessity in Astoria: $8,348
  • Appliances – Every appliance except the microwave had issues within few weeks of moving in, so we now have new fridge, dishwasher, stove, microwave, and washer/dryer: $4,225.17
  • Bedrooms painted – It technically wasn’t urgent, but needed to be done to feel like home. We did “splurge” on Benjamin Moore’s eco-friendly : $1,000 labor, $404 paint
  • Tree work – Maybe this wasn’t a must, but we had the trees pruned and cabled, soon after one limb nearly dropped on our van. It did buy us an amazing view: $6,075
  • Electrician – We actually need a whole lot more done, but this was just to get the stove installed: $119
  • Plumber – Our first plumbing call after the first CSO incident: $257.59
  • Misc. DIY fixes: $8

Total to date: $60,664.15

Here’s a list of the work we can’t afford yet:

  • New furnaces and water heaters – the house is so big that it needs two of each and the current ones are over thirty years old.
  • Insulation and weatherization – aside from great storm windows, the house leaks like a sieve.
  • Fix basement walls and floors – this frustrating because it feels like a temporary fix
  • New sewer line – The kicker is that the previous owner told us that she paid was a sewer scope that came up fine, we wasted money on a lawyer trying to see if we had any recourse.
  • New toilets – we’ve had chronic leaks – the upstairs toilet flooded to the main level Christmas – now the main level toilet is completely plugged – the basement toilet is a hideous black.
  • Fix main upstairs shower tile – this was leaking and now a “band-aide” fix of putting unmatched tile just in the basin is going to cost us
  • Fix slanting back stairs – It feels like you’re about to go off a diving board
  • New garage door – the current one is rotten and has visible holes

And our “wish list”:

  • Blinds in our bedroom
  • Built in dining nook in kitchen
  • Bathroom flooring to remove ugly carpet…

Now these lists aren’t including all the miscellaneous things that really ought to be fixed, notably the foundation needs to be replaced for the price of at least $150-200k.

The only saving grace is that we are working to refinance and the house appraised at $500k, after buying the housing for $350k just last year, so at least our $60k hasn’t gone entirely down a money pit.  

And on a completely unrelated, but not so unrelated note – all our family is safe and healthy, no disasters have befallen our family, like getting fired for reporting sexual harassment, and the kids are doing fine at school.

Unbelievably, I still love our home and am happy we bought it, even if it is a labor of love.

Peace,

Darcy

Tips to Create an Engaging AirBnB Listing

Listing your place on AirBnB is a pretty straightforward process, and you don’t need to be very tech savvy. However, an engaging listing is essential to attracting your ideal guests. Asking yourself a few key questions will make the listing flow and attract the guests you want. Take a moment to ask yourself:

  • Who is your ideal guest? Do you want just couples? Or is your place naturally set up for families? Would you prefer to meet tourists or friends/family of locals?
  • What is unique about your place? AirBnB guest aren’t looking for a bland boring hotel room. They want to stay in places with character that reflects the local culture.
  • What’s attractive about your neighborhood? Guests are looking to you to learn about the local attractions like restaurants, and want to know that there are interesting things to explore that they wouldn’t find by booking a room downtown.

Here are my top 8 tips for creating an effective and engaging listing:

  1. Create a personalized listing. Guests want to know a little about you in order to feel comfortable with booking your place and sleeping in your bed. Make sure to post your favorite travel pic (guests too…we hosts want to know what you look like!) and tell guests about why you’re hosting. Many guests respect the fact that you want to save up for a big trip or need to replace your roof (like us!).
  2. Speak to your ideal guests. Now that you know who you want to attract, speak to them. If you know foodies would love the local farmer’s market and restaurants, compel them to visit.
  3. Use your title wisely. You only have a short title to catch people’s attention. Make sure to have key search words that will get the attention of potential guests. Our current title is “Transit/Kid-friendly Yard/Patio). Initially I included something about the skyline view, but decided that even though we have a decent skyline view that guests would want to stay at our place more because it’s close to all sorts of transit than because they can see the Portland hills (plus, our view isn’t the best in town).
  4. Be completely honest. AirBnB is built on honesty and trust. Be forthright about any negative quirks your place might have. As long as you are upfront about any issues, your guests will likely be willing to overlook some typical imperfections (like at our place not all of the old windows open up, and we use fans instead of AC).
  5. Take great photos. The cliche is true, pictures do say a thousand words. Make sure they are taken in great light and with minimal clutter.
  6. Create a Welcome Book. You can create a great “guide book” through AirBnB online. It’s super easy to plug in your favorite restaurants and give a quick review to give your guests and idea of the places they can visit in your neighborhood. Our guests have really appreciated this. We combined this with a “Welcome Book” that includes info about our neighborhood and the basic house rules. Plus, it helps cut down on your back and forth communication with guests…our first several guests wanted to know several basics, like how to get to the streetcar two blocks away, and it was obvious that we needed to give our guests a little orientation.
  7. Keep your calendar up-to-date. With our location so close to downtown, we’ve been booked literally every weekend that we’ve make available to guests. But it’s a bummer to have to turn folks down because your place isn’t available. So, make it easy on both of you and make sure to keep your calendar current. With that in mind, our initial strategy was to keep three weeks in August open, knowing that we would only take a vacation for two weeks. In the end I had to turn down the guests who wanted to stay as we were returning home.
  8. Review your guests. While this step happens after your initial listing, it is essential to your first impression with potential guests. Sometimes you won’t have too many details to give, but if your guests left your place in great shape, make sure to give them a great review. We’ve been very lucky with all but one group (who seemed to use our place for a fraternity reunion…leaving us with three cases of beer and three huge bottles of booze…I don’t want to know how much they drank over the long weekend! I’ll share more in my “Lesson Learned” post).

I hope this helps get you started on your AirBnB hosting journey…let me know if you have any tips of your own or more questions.

Happy hosting!

Darcy