Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sweat Equity - a surprisingly nice fragrance!

Originally uploaded by gimbler
So - where'd we go? What did we do? LOTS!

We refinanced our house for a sweeeet lower interest rate and learned while in the process that our house, in less than one year, had appreciated more than 30%!

:::: takes a bow :::

How did that happen, you might ask? With real estate values flat-lining or sinking across the nation? Well, for one thing we're in Pittsburgh - and Pittsburgh never experienced most of the "bubble" that was happening elsewhere. According to Citibank we're in a "neutral" zone. Yay Pittsburgh!

Now on to explain how we added value. You've already seen photos of what we did inside. Nothing really that major - switching out a sink, some light fixtures - replacing trim, painting, adding a 2nd floor laundry - patching holes. The usual "we bought a fixer-upper" stuff. And sadly most of it I think cost us more to do than the "return on investment" so far. But, that's okay cause it's our home, and we love living comfortably in it.

What really knocked the appraisers socks off and gave us a lot of bang for the buck was what we did outside. And comparatively it cost us very little. In fact I think in terms of equity we may have doubled to tripled what we spent. It has been a LOT of work, but oh so worth it - dollar-wise and enjoyment-wise.

When you last heard from us a bitter (to me!) Pittsburgh winter was coming to an end. Our yard was an inhospitable nightmare that I knew we couldn't ignore for another summer. So, the minute the sun came out so did we. And I'm sorry I didn't have time to talk about what I was doing while I was doing it, but I hope you'll understand that the work we were doing literally consumed every waking moment that we weren't sleeping or "working for the man" between April and July. (I've spent August just enjoying the fruits of our labor!)

First we knocked some stuff off of the ole New Years Resolution list and moved that silly hose bib. Then we tore all the rotting wood out from under the front porch and the off railings. (Tip: It's always more than you think!) Then my son and I scraped every square inch of peeling paint from the porch floor and repainted it. We hung a porch swing and I made some cushions for it. While I had the sewing machine out I made some cushions for the radiator bench. (It's awesome!) Found a rocking chair on Craigslist and another on clearance at Michael's crafts and painted them black to go with the new railings.

Replaced the rotted porch skirt with nice new lattice, and the board under the top step (that was home to about a million carpenter ants) with new wood and trim.

Had five yards of mulch and garden soil delivered and carried it up from the alley one bucket at a time in order to create a new flower bed.

Built not just one - not just two - but THREE decks! Okay - so one of them is really small - only 4' x 12' and might be considered by some to be part of a multi layer deck - but, not me. I built it separate and I want credit, dammit! lol

We put up a privacy fence along one side to block the neighbors chain-link fence and their pool. Who wants to sit on their new deck sweating their butt off staring longingly at the neighbors while they splash around? Not me, I assure you!

After learning that we could still hear them and that that was just as torturous we bought a little pool to cool off in from Target and honest to goodness I'm enjoying it as much (if not more!) than I did our in-ground 18 x36 from two houses ago.

It's tucked tastefully down a slope practically out of view and not taking up any of our precious little yard space. We have a HUGE parking area between the alley and the retaining wall and steps up to our yard and since we don't normally need to park like six cars it's a much better use of the space. It's like reclaimed! Woo Hoo!

Oh, and before I forget - about that "nice fragrance" - in addition to the swell new equity, and having a yard that feels like a mini-resort - it smells WONDERFUL out here. Especially the pretty flowers like the one in the pic above. It's some kind of African Gladiola (I'll have to look it up) and they've been blooming non-stop for the last eight weeks. Their fragrance is heavenly!

-Update -
Since I spent all afternoon uploading pictures maybe I oughta post a link, huh? If anyone is interested this is the entire history of the yard - from the first time we saw it in April of 07 through today.


Matt said...

It's about time! Now that you're not two doors down, I have only your blog to remind me of my time as a Yinzer...

We are in said...

Ha! I was just sending you an email! It's good to see you back at it - your blog is hysterical!

Kristin and Rob said...

It is nice to see some new posts. I actually live in Brookline and also own a Four Square. My blog is not all about my house, but some of it is. :)

I like the post about the shasta daisies; I might go check those out!!

Sandy said...

The yard looks amazing. Nice pool! Love the pergola. The flowers are beautiful. You sure have been busy!