Author Archives: Darcy Cronin

About Darcy Cronin

I'm a Mother/Coach/Blogger/Business Adventurer from Portland OR. My family consists of my Hubby of 12 years, our 8yo Kieran, 5yo Makenna, and 1yo Teagan. I love dreaming about a better future, and making it happen.

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.

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

Peace,

Darcy

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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. If you decide to host, please use our Airbnb host referral link.

Happy hosting!

Darcy

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Family-friendly Budget Template

Try our Family Budget Template

Just as my twin sister, Miel, disentangles her finances from her recent divorce, I feel like I’m starting from scratch again with our budget.

After my family bought our dream house and Hubby got his dream job, now it’s my job to create a new budget. In hindsight I know that I should have done this months ago, but I was too busy unpacking, settling in, paying contractors, and celebrating the holidays. Now nearly six months after our move, I am finally ready to create our new family budget.

The good news is that I have an awesome budget template to start from…it’s actually one that Miel helped me create for this blog five years ago. We made the budget template specifically for families and all the expenses that come with them. It’s also easy to personalize our budget template. It’s nice to see that it’s still as valid and important of a tool.

I know that my family will benefit from the time and energy that I put into creating and consistently updating our budget. When I’ve been really “good” at updating it, we’ve been able to save more quickly than I ever imagined.

Truthfully, it’s been a source of tension lately, since we don’t have a current calculation of our exact monthly bills, which changed a fair amount when we moved. We also spent a toooon of money on home repairs when we first moved in, which I’ll save for another post soon.

Yet, I know that I also have mixed feelings, not wanting to focus on our lack of money and to plan for things that our current budget doesn’t actually allow for. That’s where I think gratitude comes in, and by acknowledging how you are currently providing for your family makes a difference. To put things in perspective, I was in the grocery store when I overheard a Dad saying to his son how he had to work for an hour to earn $10, enough to buy a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. Even when money might seem tight, I know that practicing gratitude helps me feel abundant.

Have you used our budget template? Do you update it daily, weekly or monthly?

Happy budgeting!

Darcy

PS I’m going to post a Google Doc version for everyone else who has moved their finances to the cloud, like me.

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Manifesting My Dream Home


Manifesting our dream home has taken us 15 years, but only because we had to believe in our dream before it came true…then it happened very quickly.

Early in our relationship, Hubby and I went to two parties at beautiful Craftsman homes (at his professor’s and a fundraiser…not exactly grad school housing ;-). All these years later, I remember the feeling of falling in love with the spectacular woodwork and charming details. I vividly remember looking at each other with the earnest hope that we would some day be able to live in such an amazing home. Now we do. My jaw still drops into a gaping smile when I pass my own threshold. (Check out my virtual home tour…it really doesn’t do the place justice with the narrow lens, but it gives you an idea).

I shared recently about how I manifested our first dream homes, but it’s been truly amazing to manifest our current home. It feels like nothing short of a miracle, but I know that it happened because I was methodical in my manifesting and took action to make it a reality. It’s similar to what I’ve read in books like Notes from the Universe, but these are my personal notes.

1)  Daydream from a place of security, rather than scarcity. I loved our home in inner NE Portland, and at the time when we moved in six years ago, I honestly couldn’t have imagined any place better suited for our growing family. Yet, after we had grown by two daughters, it came to mind that there would come a day when a one shower would be a challenge (and yes, I do think about how many people don’t even have plumbing or amazing water flowing from the tap, but I don’t recommend focusing on this too much while manifesting, unless you are ready and willing to manifest some real world change…so far, I’ve mostly left that job to my twin sister ;-). My point is that I came to the decision that we should move from a place of pondering the possibilities and building faith, rather than panic and doubt.

2) As soon I/we had make up my mind that we should move, I also declared my love for our home. Feeling the abundance is the best way to create more. When we shared our plans with our kids, I made a point to let the kids know that we should still feel blessed to live in our home. Our home would still make a lovely home for someone else and that stage of their lives. I made a point of mentally thanking and blessing our home as we steadily prepared it for sale.

3) From that place of feeling secure and blessed, I moved to expressing my gratitude. I made a full list of all the things I love(d) about our San Rafael home:

  • Charming & historic (1904 Farmhouse Victorian built by a former city councilor)
  • Beautiful and flowing layout (every inch of the space was well planned and spacious)
  • Nice size, big enough but not too big
  • Close-in in location – next to streetcar/MAX/bus, walkable to the Pearl and downtown
  • Shops and restaurants nearby…more every year
  • Huge backyard, shed, sand pit & fire pit, nice patio
  • Front and back porches
  • 3 bedrooms upstairs
  • Colorful and cheery
  • High ceilings and nice light

4) Next, I enlisted my family to write a list together of all the things we wanted in a home (I would hate to manifest something that didn’t work for all of us!) The trick with manifesting is to dream big and write a very detailed list (or visual collage if you want to get creative).

So, our family wrote out a “Wish List to the Universe.”

  • Historic charm, modern updates
  • Chimney for Santa & cozy fires, with a beautiful mantle
  • Space for an outdoor fire pit
  • 4 bedrooms (Kieran requested that his be “wide open for a queen bed”)
  • 2 bathroom, one with a bath tub, one with a nice tiled shower
  • Lots of light, lovely colors
  • Tall ceilings
  • Front porch
  • Room for picnic table, BBQ, hammock, garden pots and growing veggies
  • Finished basement – room for ping pong and playing
  • Close to the park, Miel, school, restaurants and shops
  • Insulated and efficient
  • Beautiful and peaceful
  • No need to fix much or remodel (I actually added the word “much” in the line after, thinking to myself that I couldn’t imagine being able to afford a house that wouldn’t need any work…now I wish that I hadn’t added that caveat…)

5) Immediately after coming up with our gratitude and wish lists, we came up with a list of actions we would need to take in order to sell our home. Everything from hire a real estate agent to stage our home. We prioritized what we needed to get done with a time line of about six tasks each month and a five month timeline to get our house ready for sell. We had made a similar list when selling our first home and with both where able to pace ourselves while somewhat smaller tasks while reaching a pretty huge goal. We posted this five month timeline on our refrigerator and checked off at least a task week until suddenly we had reached our initial goal of putting our place on the market by Memorial Day. The only radical change in our plan was that Kevin was offered his dream job in Astoria in early May, so we took a road trip to find our dream home. Yet, I know that his job offer wasn’t a fluke, but fate, manifesting our deepest dreams. The fact that we were able to sell our home in just a weekend for $51k above asking may seem like just a lucky market, but it was really a combination between believing in our dream home and taking consistent action.

Have you ever intentionally visualized and manifested your home?

Cheers!

Darcy

Owning a Vacation Rental is Hard Work

Olivia Beach ClanWe’ve been so busy managing our Olivia Beach Camp Cabins (check out our new website!) that we’ve barely written about running our family business, even though it obviously impacts our family finances.

Sometimes when I tell people that I manage our beach cabins for my “day job,” I get this sense that they think it’s an easy job. It’s mostly a fun and flexible job, but it’s also a LOT of work. We are still happy to own our family beach cabins, but the daily reality of owning a vacation rental has been way more hands-on, and sometimes challenging, than we ever anticipated.

So, there’s a lot of backstory to share:

  • Kevin and I had always had the dream of owning a beach house. We set up an account dedicated to saving toward a beach house, even though we never actually saved much.
  • Miel and I had become inspired by tiny affordable cabins, and drafted a project plan before we ever had a penny to invest in it.
  • We received a family inheritance nearly four years ago after our father had passed away. We wanted to invest our inheritance in a legacy project that would benefit our whole family for generations to come.
  • We tried our best to do our due diligence before building the beach cabins (although I wish we had read this article about how expensive vacation rentals can actually  be), but our initial projections did not match our actual expenses. Utilities, Jacuzzi maintenance, and HOA dues are far more than we ever budgeted for (more on that very soon…).
  • We also chose to go with an ambitious 15 year mortgage. The good news is that the cabins will be fully paid by the time we turn fifty, but it makes cash flow situation tight today.
  • In hindsight, I think Miel and I had two different intentions when investing. I wanted a place to put my money so that I would invest instead of waste it on immediate family “needs.” Miel wanted to invest the bare minimum, and then be able to continue investing elsewhere. I realized recently that I had intended to continue invest money into the cabins for the first five years, but Miel had thought we would be breaking even financially by now.
  • Fast forward three years into business, and we’ve learned a lot.
  • A year ago we took over the full-time management of the cabins. In the first month of managing them, Miel brought in more money that the rental management agency had earned us from January-July…and that was with fall bookings. (Although this fall has been comparatively quite for guests and we’ve decided to bring our winter rates back down).
  • Owning a family business is a LOT of work. We are workaholics enough that we usually don’t mind working overtime, but getting interrupted at dinner by guests can take it’s toll. I realized that we need to find a better balance when our son recently didn’t want to go to the cabins, because he didn’t want to be “put to work” (On the last trip Miel took our kids and worked on the landscaping, laying 33 bags of mulch, plus extra projects…so I can kind of see why he was reluctant). Guests may think every is just fine when they arrive, but all we see are projects that need to get done…some maintenance, but mostly final tweaks to finalize our vision. Last time we were there for three days and managed a fifteen trip to the beach, but even with all work, we are grateful for our visits.
  • Communication is key, especially when you live with your business partners. Our experience has shown us that you need to have a balance when talking business with family. It’s not healthy to constantly talk about business matters, but you don’t want to forget important updates or ignore hard discussions. We have a family business meeting at least quarterly, and Miel and I are checking in at least weekly. We are continually looking for ways to improve our business systems, and good communication is essential.

I’ll be posting more very soon about our current financial realities, but I felt like I needed to share more of the backstory first.

What are the realities of living your dream?

Darcy (and Miel)

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