Posted by: Timothy Ellis (The Tim)

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

20 responses to “Poll: Owners: What was the first major home improvement project you completed after buying?”

  1. softwarengineer

    How About the Whole 1955 Bellevue House Insides, Including Wall Frames and New Electrical/Plumbing

    Much sweat equity even with hired skilled sub-contractors working for me [I was the quasi-contractor] too….paid off well in a couple months though. My back went out afterwards and the stress was HORRIFYING. I’ll never do it again.

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  2. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: softwarengineer @ 1 – We did that at our old place, but it was after the wife had owned it about 10 years, and we did use a general. We moved one support wall, so that had to be replaced with a beam above. Something I wouldn’t even consider doing myself.

    At our new place the first thing was exterior paint. It could have gone another couple of years, but I hate beige and was tired of looking at beige.

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  3. QASpin

    The joy of owning a 1916 home……No money for real renovation. Of course, buying at the peak of the market didn’t help

    within first 4 years of buying the place:
    1) Replaced wood roof gutters
    2) Removed knob and tube in attic
    3) Added insulation in attic
    4) Replaced main water line
    5) Added sewer cleanout
    6) Replaced electric hot water with tankless gas heater
    7) Cleaned up basement – closed holes in dry wall, removed unused heat ducting and added air return in entrance hall and 2 vents + return in basement, dry walled off closet area, painted, replaced carpet, added water and drain for washer / dryer so washer wouldn’t shake home apart during spin cycle in upstairs location
    8) Added Fence along boundary line with 1 neighbor
    9) Painted exterior trim

    New construction only from here on out!

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  4. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: QASpin @ 3 – I’d almost forgotten about wood gutters.

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  5. QASpin

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 4

    They look great when you buy the place and provide the authentic look. Then you go through the first winter cycle and the reality sets in…

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  6. Ira Sacharoff

    The first major improvement we did on this house was the kitchen, but that wasn’t the intent when we bought the place. We were just so taken with the large sunny yard and the cute staging that we just didn’t notice things, like the fact that the cabinets were so low that you couldn’t use the counter space beneath them.

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  7. Blurtman

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 6 – Never buy from dwarves.

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  8. Erik

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 6
    This is pretty hilarious. You come on here and talk about the best way to assess real estate value everyday. When it came down to it, you fell for the staging and the pretty green yard.

    As long as the cabinets aren’t already hitting the ceiling, it should be about a half hour to move them. I know a guy that could move them for about 50 bucks. I am sure you can figure out the painting part. He has been doing construction so long, he just eye balls it and hits it dead nuts every time.

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  9. Ira Sacharoff

    By Erik @ 8:

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 6
    This is pretty hilarious. You come on here and talk about the best way to assess real estate value everyday. When it came down to it, you fell for the staging and the pretty green yard.

    As long as the cabinets aren’t already hitting the ceiling, it should be about a half hour to move them. I know a guy that could move them for about 50 bucks. I am sure you can figure out the painting part. He has been doing construction so long, he just eye balls it and hits it dead nuts every time.

    This was 15 years ago, and the cabinets have been long moved. I’ve learned a lot since then. You can’t learn if you don’t make a few mistakes along the way.

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  10. Erik

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 9
    I would be surprised if you let much get past you these days. I was able to short sell my mistake, which I am sure was much greater than your mistake anyway. It would be pretty hilarious if Ira the real estate shark Sacharoff missed something.

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  11. Erik

    My first major improvement was all of the above. I flipped from project to project for years depending which amenity I was most in need of and how much money I had at the time. That 1906 house in e-rot sucked years of my life away.

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  12. Erik

    RE: QASpin @ 3
    I am sorry you have to go through that. Never again will I own a home that old unless I am a millionaire going into it or I don’t care about money anymore. Even if you are a construction expert, the materials are very costly. I replaced all my plumbing with copper and rewired my knob and tube with romex in about 2006 when copper was insanely high. I did all the work myself on both and still costed me thousands for those things. Luckily I used the money I refinanced to do the improvements and short sold it, so I walked away with nothing. It was a free learning experience I guess. The biggest lesson I learned was not to buy old houses in bad areas.

    I hate to break the bad news to you, but there is a lot more that can go wrong in old houses. At some point you will need to replace the entire sewer line, which will be costly and time consuming. Just replace all the incoming water pipes starting at the street and all the outgoing water until the sewer connects to the city main. Replace all the wiring and lift your outlets to the proper height and put everything in old work boxes. Do electrical and plumbing before you do insulation, paint, flooring or you are gonna regret it. The order you do things is the most important. I have said the order on here before and everyone just told me to pop off, but I will say it again because it will cost you way more if you don’t stick to it.

    Windows/doors, Electrical/plumbing, drywall/paint, flooring. Exterior can be worked on whenever. I would save it for last because it is expensive and it is better if your house is ugly than if you had to go without electrical or plumbing. If you are a real stickler for the order of your remodel, you will be successful. You could do the order per room, but that would be confusing and your remodel would take longer.

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  13. Mike

    A bathroom ended up going first – because it was also the laundry room. Somehow the previous owner put the cabinets in too low to lift the lid on the washing machine, so it had to be pulled out from the wall to use it. With half the room ripped up, it make sense to do the other half at the same time.

    Other than that, the first major project was the yard – removing the old deck, patios, walkways and fences and putting in new drainage.

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  14. ray pepper

    had to change the toilets…wife didn’t like the thought of strange asses on her toilet. no….changing the toilet seats was not enough….I tried that…..had to get the ENTIRE toilets in a box at Costco. Shes been happy ever since and rarely a bad bowel movement

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  15. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Erik @ 10
    I’m no shark. Teddy bear, maybe.

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  16. softwarengineer

    RE: Erik @ 8

    Yin and Yang

    You move the cupboards up too high, now you need a step stool to use the cupboards, even if you’re 6’+ tall. Shower heads built for midgets makes those hand held shower heads a necessary item too. The old bathroom sink/cabinets were built for 4′ humans too decades ago…and only one bathroom standard, yikes….

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  17. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: softwarengineer @ 16 – It’s okay. The federal government now has that covered.

    http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2014/HUDNo_14-068

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  18. redmondjp

    RE: softwarengineer @ 16

    Simple solution: shower head height extender – I have installed one and it works great:

    http://www.amazon.com/Shower-Arm-S-Style-Chrome/dp/B000MNJJ66

    While I’m at it, I’ll strongly recommend a curved shower curtain rod as well. It doesn’t seem like it would make that much difference, but perception is everything.

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  19. David B.

    Last place I owned every room except the living room / dining area had been vandalized with tacky remodeling, so every room except that one got de-modeled to something more like what it would have been when it was built in 1908. But the bathroom was far the worst and had the most work done on it, so I said bathroom.

    And it was worth it. Most folks commented on how lucky I was to find a place that hadn’t been modernized to death and was still in original period condition, which I took as the ultimate compliment for the work I had done.

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  20. ChristianW

    In this most recent place the plan was to do just the bathroom/laundry/doors/floors/millwork/paint/electrical/plumbing/lighting, then I figured that it made sence to just add in the full kitchen at the same time rather than living in an “almost renovated” home and starting another project later. It was a miserable 5 weeks, but in my opinion that’s better than letting things drag on like most people do with Reno projects.

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