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 figured 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!
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.
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 beauty 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.
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.
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.
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.