2019 Vision Board

Better late than never, with the third generation of EcoLiving Property home from school for Martin Luther King Day we made our 2019 vision board a priority to do this morning.  MLK said it best with “Faith is taking the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

The intention behind doing a vision board is to put that intention into the universe and begin to manifest the things we are going to see through.  Even when we haven’t figuredimg_9890 out all of the action steps (this is the next part of the process) we begin to dream what we are going to create for the next 12 months.

It was important for me to include my eight year old in this process and help guide her in an important life lesson.  I had been noticing how negative her train of thought had become very recently and felt she may need some fun lessons to reinforce thinking positively.   As we cut our pictures for our collage and dreamed of our adventures in the next year we talked about the charge in our thoughts.  Our thoughts are powerful enough that when we think positive, we generate positive energy and the same is true for the opposite.

We added a couple of big goals and a few habits we will improve on, we surrounded our pictures with powerful words and hung it in a place where it will be a daily reminder of the vision we are creating for 2019.  This is going to be our best year yet!

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Planting Seeds

At the inception of EcoLiving Property, we aimed to have a positive impact on the properties we touched and the communities surrounding them.  We wanted to inspire others to follow our influence and see how homes can be renovated in a mindful way which reduces harm to the environment.  We knew with every project we would find ways to improve our own system; increase the sustainable ideas and decreasing the waste.  We knew we would face challenges and that others would doubt our ability to accomplish our goals.

What I failed to realize is the positive impact we would have within our own house and with the next generation EcoLiving home rehabber.  My daughter has absorbed so much of the business from how we preview a property and estimate repairs, to what products we use in our projects and how we market.  She can recite many of the things I tell to real estate agents, contractors and fellow investors about our business.  And she is excited about some day being responsible for her own project.  Now if she could differentiate between colors/patterns of her own preference and the preferences of the majority of buyers I would say she is about ready.

This knowledge and experience will give her financial security early in life by recognizing the value of real estate and understanding the business.  Even better, she identifies the desire to protect the environment.  I have no doubt my daughter will continue to improve our processes and share the positive influence until the environment will no longer need protection.  I’m just grateful to be planting the seeds.

What’s happened to Midtown Blue?

This project is about ready to be listed.  We are indescribably proud of the energy and effort we put into this property to maintain the integrity of this 100-year-old shirtwaist home.  It is in a fantastic location just a few blocks South of the coveted Union Hill neighborhood and will have an easy connection to hop onto the Kansas City Streetcar as the expansion continues down Main Street.  This property is ideal for anyone who wants the luxury of their own house with easy access to downtown Kansas City.

The renovation of this house was not an easy project to tackle, however, we wanted to stay true to our mission and make environmentally sound decisions.  This meant we took time to hold an estate sale to sell off then donate remaining belongings in the house rather than send everything to a landfill.  We replaced all the windows to reduce energy loss and ensured all the new appliances carried an energy star rating.  Instead of tearing out the interior down to the studs; we worked to preserve original lathe and plaster, trim and flooring where possible.  This reduced waste and also maintained the character and charm.

The following are some before and after pictures of some of the improvements.  If you would like to know more about this property you can text 1632 to (913)246-5566 

Livingroomb&aOne of the first tasks to this project was reinforcing the main beam in the basement of the house to ensure it will continue to be structurally sound for another century.  The house had a noticeable droop in the middle and walls were cracking and some doors were not level because of this.  Then, throughout the main floor we refinished the wood floors and trim.  We fixed the pocket door between the dining room and office and opened part of the wall between the kitchen and dining room.  We removed the drop ceiling and paneling, updated all of the electrical and added new light fixtures.

kitchenb&aBeyond opening the kitchen to the dining room, we also reduced the full bathroom to a powder room in order to add more cabinet and counter top space into the kitchen.  The new cabinets, counter tops, tile and paint compliment the classic design of the property.  It was important to us to maximize the kitchen design to include the most storage space as possible while not interfering with the back entrance to the house or basement door.  We overcame this challenge while still maintaining the big open feeling everyone desires in a kitchen.

officeb&aThe office is on the main floor with access from three doorways; the front hall, dining room pocket door or the kitchen.  It was also a victim of the drop ceiling and paneling.  We also had some damage to the wood floors in this room which was able to be remedied to blend.mastersuiteb&aOne of the greatest improvements to Midtown Blue is the addition of a master suite.  Fortunately this room already had a grand size walk in closet which we know is not always the case in houses built in this era.  Once the clutter was cleared we were able to construct a plan to open a doorway between two bedrooms to add an en suite bathroom.  The second bedroom (the blue room) also provided a stairway to finish the attic into livable space.  The master suite is stunning and we are slightly jealous of the future homeowner who will get to lay their head down here each night.

This house will hit the market very soon so if you or someone you know is interested in a fantastic midtown location with a house you can be confident is redeveloped with integrity reach out to EcoLiving Property.   If you would like to know more about this property you can text 1632 to (913)246-5566. 

Lessons in the Real Estate Market

The first house we bought this year took longer than expected to rehab. We overcame obstacle after obstacle like long distance trail runners, clawing and scratching our way to making things right.  It was important to us to complete this project with integrity and ensure it was solid, safe and beautiful inside and out.  We went above and beyond to improve the comfort and functionality of the house, even if it meant costing us more money in the end.  We ensured permits were used so the house would be properly inspected and we called in trustworthy sub-contractors to complete their own specialties. Throughout the project we stayed mindful of measures to improve the efficiency and re-purpose materials to be as environmentally friendly as possible.  I am proud to say we achieved what we aimed for, as you can tell from the listing photos.

Mirroring the challenges we overcame to rehab the property we are also facing obstacles in the real estate market.  It had been our goal to complete this rehab in the spring, assuming it would sell quickly in the hot spring market and be closed by early summer. Unfortunately due to so many complications, the construction delays meant we were set back from completion a few months.  By the time we were almost finished, we were over eager to have it sold and went ahead with listing prior to the final electrical touches being completed.  We disclosed the work yet to be finished and crossed our fingers buyers would understand.

Within two days of being “live” on MLS there had about a dozen showings and two offers – it was exactly the response we had planned for and were so thankful others were seeing the 828livingroombeauty in this property.  We were under contract by the weekend and looking forward to closing by mid-August.  During the inspection, we held our breath anticipating the report, knowing it is an inspectors job to find imperfections not to reassure buyers and encourage sales.

Sure enough, something had gone horribly wrong.  During the inspection the buying couple, realtor and inspector all smelled the aroma of burning on the main floor.  They canceled the contract.  I don’t blame them, it would have panicked me too if I had been in their shoes.  But from where I stood, it was beyond frustrating to have this burning smell occur on inspection day instead of any other day in the last six months.

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What the buyers were likely imagining behind the walls. (not an actual picture from the house.

Thank goodness we already had an electrician scheduled to work at the house the following week. We removed our listing from MLS in order to complete what was already planned and to find the source of the smell.  In hindsight we should have waited in the first place to list it until we knew for sure it is 100% ready, this lesson is just added to the 4,593 other lessons this house brought us.

It was necessary for the city shut down power to the house to complete the scheduled updates. Unfortunately the timing of this work synced with major power outages across Kansas City with storms and flooding rain.  Inspections and restoring power to the house took a painful and agonizing two weeks.  Finally with the power back on, the electrician was able to sniff out the source of the burning smell.  He found the issue in the master bedroom with the original light/fan.  While the fan was trying desperately to turn the blades, instead it was burning its motor and causing the frightening smell.  He was able to replace it the same day and the source of the burning smell was extinguished like the original contract.

Finally feeling confident in the completion of this project, we once again returned to live status on MLS.  Only this time we were without the big rush of “first day on the market” excitement.  In the last two weeks since we resumed showings, we have had steady traffic and received a lot of positive feedback.  There has been compliments about the finishes and various reasons why the property won’t work for certain buyers.  On a few occasions we heard the house was being considered between two and on those few occasions those buyers opted to make offers on their other choice based on square footage or location – things out of our control.  We know we will have buyers for this house who will love it and make it their home, so for now we wait.

This house brought so many lessons, including growing patience preparing for the real estate market. There are so many unique people in Kansas City and so many redevelopment companies.  Unfortunately, not everyone or every company is honest and knowledgable about what they are doing to their properties. Buying a house is typically the biggest investment anyone will ever make and because of this there are measures in place to help protect people and their decisions, like backing out of contracts. No one can take our word for the work we have done or what we plan to do before signing at the closing table.  We have to demonstrate the ethics and trustworthiness of our company and the houses we redevelop by making a good first impression, because with other houses on the market to compete with we may not get that opportunity again.

 

 

The Party House (828)

We purchased “The Party House” and got started working on demo in February of this year.  Even when we stripped it of it’s dance floor, 8 track shelf, castle-like entrance and bar; the name remained and the ‘fun’ of the party continued.  We had quite a few hurdles to overcome working on this property and felt triumphant to get it to a state we are proud of.  Beyond the success of a beautiful transformation and quick sale, we also had another priceless event to make this flip even more memorable.

The property is a ranch style house with three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs plus a full basement with an additional bathroom and two rooms which could be used as bedrooms.  It was a massive project to take on with some major obstacles not typical of every redevelopment project.  We wanted to keep some of the features the last owner had spent so much time and energy to personalize the home and add some of our own re-purposed materials.  One of the biggest challenges was managing how to change the not so functional spiral staircase into something unique to fit the character of the home.  Now the house is clean, warm and ready for the next owners to tailor to suit their needs.

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The new basement is bright and inviting, we had to use a few barrels from the old bar just for staging and the memory of how far this basement has come.  *Still a fun place for a party.*

After a rush of showings and a few offers within the first 48 hours on the market, our realtor called to say she had been contacted by one of the people who used to live in the house.  I was put in touch with Liz, the daughter of the former owners, who expressed her gratitude for someone buying and fixing up the home she loved so dearly.  We agreed to meet and show them how the house looks now.  Liz and her niece Jessica, who was also raised in the home, came to walk though last weekend.  It was an emotional trip down memory lane for them to see the changes and to appreciate seeing the house “brought back to life,” as Liz put it.

Liz recalled when her family moved from across the street in the 70’s and how important this neighborhood was to introduce both her and her sister to their husbands.  She FullSizeRender (1)remembered carrying bricks between the houses to construct the patio, how her dad put a giant freezer in the storage area and then built walls around it, and the hours spent on the pool table and entertaining in the basement.  She talked about where the original stairway to the basement was and how her dad “got a wild hair” to put in the spiral staircase in the middle of the entryway.  And she is looking forward to bringing home whiskey barrels from the bar as her own memento, as she remembered her dad’s dedication to making wine that everyone said tasted awful.  Jessica also had fond memories of the home and especially the bedroom in the corner where her name remained on the wall when we bought the house.  We had been calling the pink room “Jessica’s Room” all along.  She reported unfortunate memories of taking a few tumbles down the stairs when she was young.  And remembered dancing with her cousins on the dance floor and mimicking a champagne celebration by shaking up sprite, loving the sound and feeling of shoes sticking on the wooden floor.

It was extra validation of a job done well to hear from people who lived in and loved this home.  They adored the improvements of opening up the main level living area, adding a laundry room upstairs and brightening up the basement with a sliding glass door and removal of dark paneling.  They appreciated the original touches remaining in the house which blend in now with the fresh space.  Liz stated she believed her mother, who wasn’t able to keep the home and has since passed, would be so pleased to see what has become of her home.  It was an honor to have Liz and Jessica visit, hear their stories and to have them feel so happy about the effort we put into this renovation.  The business of flipping houses can be profitable and it’s the impact on people’s lives which is truly priceless.

Consistent Distractions

We take our job very seriously.  We have invested a lot of time and energy into learning our trade and understanding the business.  Naturally we love the design aspect, shopping, checking out properties, educating about creating a healthier earth and watching  home transform.  And it’s critical we understand the systems to doing things the right way and avoid unnecessary risk.  When it boils down to it, it’s crazy fun.

Life as a real estate investor means we live on the fly, how we spend our days often gets made up as we go.  The best scheduled plans can quickly get detoured when a potential deal needs to be accessed because offers are made quickly.  Part of the excitement of the business is the unpredictability and it can also be a source of frustration.  At times we have found ourselves distracted by the excitement and wasting time on the wrong tasks.

Because of the tendency to chase shiny things, we have begun to emphasize improving our systems to implement tasks and routines with flexibility.  This allows us to keep focused on structure while still allowing for unplanned events.  We time block when to work on marketing, communications, renovation tasks, analyzing deals, education and networking meetings.  We keep each other accountable for sticking to assigned tasks and staying focused.  Our business is more productive because of this method.

Keeping in mind the necessity of avoiding distractions, I stood in our construction zone making a mental note of all of the duties which would need to be worked on over the next few days.  Tile on the kitchen floor to be repaired, trim around the windows, installing appliances, paint etc.  I placed a phone call to the contractor to go over what I was seeing when outside the window I spotted a flash of white.  Grateful to have the major part of my conversation completed, my focus wavered from his words to narrow in on the bright spot across the street.  I darted to the window like a labrador retriever and there it was, a small furry ghost on the tree, the neighborhood albino squirrel.  Okay, so we are not perfect.  We can’t time block everything and may still chase ‘shiny things’ on occasion.

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Not the actual squirrel, you would stop to look too wouldn’t you?

Have you considered real estate?

With so many HGTV and DIY shows making flipping look easy, many people have the idea real estate investing is simple and fun.  Choosing design plans, shopping for features and creating something beautiful out of what once was ugly – yes some parts are pretty cool.

In general, the thought doesn’t actually motivate most individuals into action to buy a house and begin construction.  This, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.  Real estate is not as simple as it looks when trimmed into a 30 minute episode.  Unfortunately not all construction goes as planned, surprises can be hidden behind walls, permits can be stalled, and any number of things can go very, very wrong.  Experts who have invested in essential education, have systems for staying on time and on budget, and utilize a network of other seasoned investors can overcome these home nightmare obstacles without faltering.  For the beginner without knowledge about the process, these same obstacles can drive them to bankruptcy.

Okay I know this post started out scary, I promise there is an upside.

If you are a person who has an interest in real estate and realize you lack the time, energy or education necessary to take on a project there is still a way you can be involved and make money.  Redevelopment companies like, EcoLiving Property, grow business by building relationships with lenders who can fund the purchase and construction of a project.  The lender is given a first or second mortgage position to secure their legal interest, meaning the lender acts as the bank owning the property and collecting the interest.  Except you can earn double or more what a bank charges for interest on their mortgages.  The best part is, unlike your money in the bank or in the stock market, your investment is secured with the property and insured – no matter what could go wrong, you can’t lose money.

You may be wondering why wouldn’t we just get a mortgage loan from a bank, especially since the interest is cheaper.  The way our business works, we need to be able to purchase houses quickly and banks – to put it kindly – operate at their own pace.  Additionally, since the houses we purchase are distressed properties well below market value, banks cannot loan on properties without functioning kitchens and bathrooms.  Besides, we figure in the cost of paying our investor to our flips and we value their part in our business.

To review how the process works:

  1. EcoLiving Property finds an extremely undervalued property and presents you with the project.
  2. We borrow the funds from you to purchase and renovate the property.
  3. EcoLiving Property utilizes systems to complete an eco-friendly renovation staying on time and on budget.
  4. We list and sell the property.
  5. At the closing you’ll receive your principle plus interest payment.
  6. You can continue to invest in future projects and continue earning.

If this sounds like a more foolproof way to get involved in real estate investing, you’re correct!  However, we will not make money for just anyone.  We want to build investor relationships with those who have the same passion for our mission.  Our homes aren’t your typical flips, we aim to create green, energy efficient and clean home environments and hope you share this vision as well.   If you’re interested in hearing more, I’d love an opportunity to answer your questions.  Please give us a call.

 

Shopping and ReShopping

We will close on our first deal of the New Year next week and have eagerly begun design plans and purchasing for this renovation.  Our decision to start a home redevelopment company was simple.  The real and more important challenge became how to rehab homes to cleaner, greener living environments for the future families who would own them.  With each project we intend to take the care and thoughtfulness as if these were houses our families planned to move into.

Our passion for creating cleaner and greener homes comes from a deeply personal concern for human health and the health of the environment for future generations.  We, like many others, know how illness can devastate a person and their family.  Understanding the science of some diseases and the environmental factors which can cause them, drives us to be mindful of avoiding as many toxic chemicals as possible in our house flipping projects.  Again, we want to ensure the homes we create are environments we would feel confident about living in ourselves.

Yesterday was a productive day of shopping cabinets, counter tops, sinks and lighting fixtures.  We bought a few things to add to our stored items for this house and are beginning to see the design plans come together.  I like to actually have a visual of the items we are putting into each room while we continue shopping, so I started a spreadsheet with pictures of the items we have purchased so far.  I struggled to find a photo online for one of the vanity lights we bought and was disappointed when I did.  The light was listed for sale online with the following warning:

Prop 65 Warning

WARNING: This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.  

Upon further investigation…  This warning means a chemical material used to make this lighting fixture is included in the approximately 800 chemicals listed as hazardous to human health according to the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.  The list, determined by The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) and the California Environmental Protection Agency, summarizes naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects.  The companies can knowingly continue to use these materials as long as they notify the consumer with the Prop 65 label.

Now do we believe by using this vanity light you are asking for cancer? No.  Do we believe this company manufacturing the lights maliciously plan to make people ill?  No.  Is it possible that businesses ignore the health of consumers over the profit for the company? Perhaps.  And do we, as a business trying to be profitable, have to also ignore the health of consumers?  Absolutely not.

Unfortunately it will be impossible for us to eliminate ALL the harmful chemicals which are utilized in housing materials, however, we are committed to reducing as many as possible.  And for all of the progress we made in buying products for our newest renovation, you can consider us in need of one more new vanity light.

The Key is Patience

One of the most difficult things about buying homes to rehab is falling in love the with character and charm of an older home and have a deal not work out.  As business women it is imperative to make business decisions, make them without emotions and make choices only in regards to the numbers.  Unfortunately for us, we not only chose real estate redevelopment for our business because of the viability of our investments but for the love of houses.

We swoon for great architectural bones, we are giddy with colorful patterns and rich textures, we ooh and aah like new mothers for built-in cabinets, glass door knobs and detailed crown molding.  We don’t turn our nose up at puzzling layouts, moldy odors, and layers of outdated wallpaper.  We seize the opportunity to explore our own creativity, make it functional and develop a home.  We have passion in this process so it’s not exactly ‘non-emotional.’

This week we had to make the difficult decision to let go of a house we had under contract.  The house itself was in an ugly state and in desperate need of love and attention.  We saw through the years of wear and neglect, the sagging roof, cracked stucco, over-sized fireplace and outdated lighting.  We knew the combination of our design plans to update with eco-friendly products and energy-efficient materials would bring new life to this home.  We knew a future homeowner would be able to enter into a warm inviting space where they could truly appreciate the original features we could highlight.  We were enthusiastic about this project and desperately wanted to fulfill the vision we had for this house with infinite potential.

In the end, we recognized the numbers didn’t make sense.  No amount of love for the original wood floors would cover the cost of a brand new HVAC system, the charm of the glass doorknobs was not financial compensation for replacing the front porch and the character of the neighborhood would not pay for replacing the kitchen and bathrooms.  In redeveloping properties there are daily lessons and this single one we return to more than all the rest: The Key Is Patience.

There will be more homes with these features, this one was not meant for us, the numbers have to make sense.  We love our business and we have to show our business love by following the numbers first.