At it again (Townhouse #1)

Goodness, all these months and I never followed up on the Beach House posts! In the end, couldn’t have had a happier ending. We found some absolutely wonderful renters within a month. When we refinanced, the house had literally doubled in value. If you count equity, I actually ended up earning myself a respectable annual wage!

Of course towards the end of it I was swearing up and down that I would NEVER EVER DO THIS AGAIN. So then why … what…

1744 front

Oh dear. I seem to have gotten myself in a housely way again.

In my defense, this house – which I’ll call the Townhouse – couldn’t be more different from what the Beach House initially was. It is gorgeous inside.

1744 dining

A lovely open main floor with exposed brick. Three bedrooms, even though one is windowless.

1744 bed 1

Only one bathroom, but it’s already redone.

1744 bath 3

It’s in a really swanky area – a great, family-oriented neighborhood – with good rents and a huge park only 2 blocks away.

So, as Sofia said…. “What’s the catch? What’s wrong with this house? It’s already got a toilet that flushes! And heat!”

Well… technically, nothing. Except that because the house is so nice, we bought it at much closer to market value than I’m comfortable with (we were lucky to get it below-market at all, really). Considering it doesn’t offer private parking, multiple bathrooms, or a rooftop deck, renting it out as-is would barely cover the mortgage. It certainly wouldn’t leave much margin for repairs, or turnover vacancy, or replacing the HVAC and water heater, which are nearing the ends of their lifespans.

So how do we change that? We have to increase the value. And the place to do that…

basement to bedroom

The basement. It’s got potential – in places the ceilings are nearly 7′. But other places…

laundry level

I added that red line to show you how out of level the floors are. I don’t know why on earth they would have poured (actually it’s so roughly done it looks like it was shoveled/bucketed) the slab so poorly. It rises nearly 12″ in that back corner.

I had a ton of contractors come in and assess the cost of excavating it, lowering it all down to at least 7′ so we could get it finished and add square footage. One of them told me that he wondered if they had done it like that because that was where the stone foundations ended – and these houses were all built in the 1800s, so he could very well be right. It is clear that the basement wasn’t built as deep as it is now, that it was excavated out decades later. So when that happened, the owners may simply have excavated down to where the foundations stopped and decided that was good enough.

Which is bad news for us – it means there’s a good chance that if we excavated, we might end up having to construct underpinnings, a new drain field underneath it all, a sump pump system…. way too expensive.

So we’re going to have to do our best with what’s left.

basement to bedroom orig2

The floor looks level enough in the photo, but where I’m standing to take that shot the floor is about 3 to 4″ higher than the far edge of the far room. Not to mention that it’s not level side to side either; there’s a kind of wandering hump running down the middle that’s about 2 to 2.5″ higher than floor along the sides.

I think that area above can be turned into a cozy little tv or family room. I had wanted to put in a second bathroom down there, but unfortunately the configuration (or budget) just doesn’t easily allow it.

The already-existing rec room is a major plus though. I think we can turn this into a pretty little bedroom and rent the house out as a 4-bedroom, which would solve our problem neatly… we hope.

bedroom before 2

Plans in a later post!

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