Friday, October 19, 2012

Vacation Home Investing—Part 4 Renovation Continues

The final secret of renovation. Unplanned construction will ruin your budget. What the inspector didn’t inspect rose up to bite me. One rainy spring morning, I drove onto the driveway, opened the gate, and discovered sinkholes in the gravel drive.  The drive goes over a creek and there were now deep sink holes down to the creek below.  Huge, dark, and deep sink holes.  Sink holes wide enough for a person to drop through into the black void below.  What could I do?  Panic set in.  I examined the holes. If I was careful, maybe I could drive the car across and miss DSCN0031the holes. I put my foot next to one. It held. I looked down and my mind envisioned a black hole sucking in anything that touched its edge. But I could see the creek next to the drive and knew it was only about 6 feet down. This was not a celestial vortex, merely a sink hole.

I contemplated backing my car and making a run for it. I’ve seen high speed chases in the movies where the  car jumps over a large obstacle in the road. Surely with sufficient momentum I could jump the holes. Then  reality surfaced.  I thought about what was even more likely to happen to me. Insufficient momentum would256Car_on_jump_Top_Gear_mini_winter_olympics leave my car stuck 67 miles from home. I could just see the wrecker pulling my car out with broken tie rod ends or some other major problem. And even if I did somehow make it across the creek, would I be trapped on the other side? Would my car get stuck on the way out when I was tired with night approaching? And what would my husband say? I was afraid he would say that the whole thing had been a mistake. So I left my car at the end of the drive and, in multiple trips, carried my paint cans, lamps, and tools  on foot up to the cabin for my day’s work.

When I left that day, I stopped at Shelley’s Nursery, a local nursery and landscape business and asked if they could repair the culvert damage. They could and would but they couldn’t get to it until mid summer when the creek would be down to a manageable level.  The estimate was for more than any single item or job I had planned but there was was nothing else I could do. I put my bathroom contractor on hold, put large deliveries on hold, and I tore things apart and ripped out carpet and painted and installed a security system and took care of all of the small things I could while I waited for summer and the dry season. I carried lamps and tables up the hill and carried trash back down. At least I had one working toilet and one working sink in two different bathrooms in addition to a refrigerator and microwave.

It was late July before the culvert was repaired and September before my contractor could get in and finish. I finally told my husband about the culvert the first time he saw the place in November. “How much did it cost?” he asked. “You don’t want to know,” I said. And he said nothing in response so I knew he really did not want to know.  That was the standard for all our renovation conversations. I would tell him about some problem and he would ask, “how much did it cost?” I would say, “you don’t want to know.” And there it would end.

Again, in September I experienced  “first picked bad contractor” rule all over again. My personal warning is that when I start “helping” the contractor by telling him things he ought to already know, I have picked a bad one. I have one other indicator. When the contractor tells me he doesn’t like what he’s doing, I know there is a problem. This one told me he did not like working indoors as he connected the pipes under the bathroom sink.

If I had more sense, I would have fired that contractor right away.  But somehow compassion (if that’s what it was) won out and I let him continue even after I discovered that he couldn’t figure out how to attach a drain pipe, didn’t know that bathroom electrical circuits aren’t rated for enough amps to run power tools, couldn’t correctly identify hot and cold water lines, didn’t know how to control drywall dust, failed to answer phone calls, and then failed to return one day, never to be seen again or heard from again.

I learned.  I learned that the best way to remove drywall dust is a rented carpet cleaner and plain water.  I learned not to use that contractor again.  I learned to find a different contractor by referral.  I learned and learned and learned.

My second contractor was competent albeit a little forgetful. But’s that’s OK because he laid the floor properly, fixed my electrical problems, and told me he wouldn’t do something I asked because it was unsafe and would lead to long-term problems. He was clean, competent and told me more than I needed to know. This is a contactor I can trust. And because he lives in the neighborhood, he tells me things about the area that I would not have learned otherwise. I expect to be able to provide him with many projects over the years to come.

Did you think I was finished with renovations when the floors were in and everything worked? I don’t think renovations ever cease! The word renovation means renew. So from the basics to make the cabin habitable to those less basic things which make it comfortable, they all bring newness to it. I try to make it better than new. One year the floors, this year the deck, range and dishwasher, another year the roof, and who knows what might be in store for the future!  (Well, I have had so much interest in renting my vacation house, I’m trying to buy another one, but who knew lake property would be so expensive!  Any investors out there?)

This is my last installment.  You can see the finished result on my Woods Hollow Cabin’s website.





Red car picture By Colrowe (Own work) [<a href="">CC-BY-SA-3.0</a>], <a href="">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

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