There’s nothing more painful than making bad decisions with your own cash. Since buying my property in West Augustine last year the learning curve has been enormous. It’s not like I haven’t done a renovation before, but with this one dealing with two major renovations with both houses on property, and the remnants of 50 years of hoarding sprawling out over half an acre has maxed me out. It has been a game of mental toughness and a test of patience.
The main home needed structural repairs, termite treatment, painting and a full gut. The guest house needed upgrades, and then the was half an acre of hoarder remnants. Eight dumpsters were brought in to haul off all the trash and remnants of St Augustine’s red light district that only the locals seem to know about.
I thought it was about time to update you on the progress, or more valuable, the misfortunes I have encountered. Learn from my mistakes!
- SIZE OF PROPERTY, SCALE OF REHAB
The bigger the property you have the more it will cost to rehab. Trash removal definitely has a cost to it whether labor or dumpsters. For half an acre, I would say I’m just under $20K in hauling and trash removal at this point from what needed to be removed prior to renovation to the renovations themselves.
Solution: If you are considering properties to flip you may want to consider smaller lot sizes where the yard is not so vast and there is less to remove. Everything you see has a removal cost. Do not underestimate trash removal in hoarder homes.
- SOD MISTAKES, INVESTING IN LANDSCAPING
One thing I completely underestimated was the cost of landscaping. This serious lesson caused my project to stall while I sell another property.
Considering most of the flips I see, not much landscaping is involved. While plants and gardens can be left to the new homeowner, I think elevates the property to a point where buyers feel it is an established home.
The tropical landscape is something I have been considering and how to give the property a classic Florida feel. I am inspired by “Airbnb design” just because there are so many videos on it and so much to learn, even if you think your buyer will be seeking a primary home. The outdoor lifestyle is what many buyers want. It can be easy to forget the value that this can bring and emotional connection that buyers long for. But it all costs money!
Decks, splash pools, hot tubs, fire pits are not just for short term rentals. I am inspired and constantly thinking of what makes sense to add, even if I can’t do everything right away.
I also need to mention sod here. My freshly installed sod died. The installer blamed me for “overwatering”, and my pest guy says it arrived with a fungus. Nobody wants to take the blame and it turns out sod is finicky and sensitive. This was Pro Vista sod which I was told could handle the shaded area. Nobody likes to waste money and this was another painful lesson.
Solution: Budget for landscaping in the beginning and be generous. Get quality sod and follow the watering instructions. I was told 15 min each day for 14 days then no water. If you know how to handle it I am all ears as it has been such a disaster.
- CREATING PRIVACY, BLOCKING UNDESIRABLE AESTHETICS
This requires its own bullet point as I want to talk about fencing. This can be one of the biggest investments in your exterior but can be the most critical, especially in areas that are in transition or where you need to block the view of the neighbors.
In this neighborhood you’ll have no shortage of people stopping by to offer cheap fencing. Everyone knows a fencing guy and most of them cannot be trusted.
Another painful lesson: I am going to have to completely remove the fence built earlier this year as it has warped and bowed due to not enough screws and posts. The gates are a disaster. Never again.
To make matters worse, the neighbors fence blew down in a storm and their moldy and rusty mobile homes are now in full view. You can’t really host guests (tiny house is a short term rental) or get the most money on resale with a view like this.
I am now having to add a whole separate driveway into the jungle part of the property and add a fence where there was none before. These are things I could not have foreseen, however given the area, I can’t stress enough the need for a high fence to maintain a quality aesthetic.
Solution: Do not skimp on the fence and go with a reputable company that everyone knows. If the aesthetics are not good next door then go high to block it out.
- LUXURY OF TIME
Most people flipping homes never actually live in them. Living here for the past 6 months has given me the luxury of time and ability to see things I otherwise may not have.
I have now built out a front garden in front, previously a driveway. I moved the parking spot to the side of the house. When the tenant in the tiny house moved out I took the opportunity to renovate. I slowly have built a vision around what makes sense to change, update and what doesn’t.
Solution: Even if you can stay in the house during the renovation or a couple of weeks to test everything out I think it is worth it. From a sales perspective I will have no trouble speaking to what it offers and for a renovation perspective, I know what I need to do in order to get it on the market.
- KEEPING THE ORIGINAL STYLE
If you are doing a historic home, or even new construction based on an historic look, I’d recommend thinking through the porch and making repairs where needed. Maintaining the original style of the 1940s bungalow was important to me. One of the most important parts of the house is the porch. That’s why I opted to have the flooring rebuilt and to reimagine it as a living space. Taking a key element of the house and investing in it makes sense to me.
Solution: Consider what is special about the home and spend the money to repair it. For traditional St Augustine bungalows, you’ll want to invest in the porch.
On a positive note:
- Both homes on property are gorgeous inside and completely updated.
- The brand new construction homes across the road are now finished and help in making the curb appeal and view much better.
- I have so many vendors now that I know and trust, and those that I would not use again
- Sod and fencing lessons were painful but I only need to learn these lessons once
Previous articles about this renovation: