DIY Rental Properties

Kitchen Formation – Yes, Cabinet Pulls are a Big Deal

December 7, 2016

Hello friends,

Last night we put the final coat of poly on the kitchen floors, in preparation for putting the kitchen together today. So far, so good. We bought some white shaker cabinets a few weeks ago at Builder’s Material Outlet in Eagan, MN. They were left over from a job, so they were super affordable. Since we just needed a few pieces, this worked out great to save some money. We spent about $600 on cabinets, and I’m going to piece in some open shelving as well to save money and make the kitchen feel more open.

Anyways, we are just starting to put some of the cabinets in. This is one of those jobs that would be a hell of a lot easier in a new house with square floors and walls, but this is not a quick or easy project. Here’s a glimpse of the kitchen so far!

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Here’s a reminder of where the kitchen started.

Last time I was at Home Depot I picked up some cabinet pull options for the kitchen. Today I tried them out just to make sure I don’t need to order something different online. Well, I’m not a huge fan of any of these. Originally I was going for a sort of transitional look that embraced the vintage look of the unit. Well, it turned out more modern than I originally anticipated, so I think I need to look at some online options. My strategy for cabinet pulls is: buy a bunch and try them to see what works.

Here are some of the ones I bought from HD. I think the gold petal ones are actually super cool, just too girly for Eric and not the right look for this house.

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Anyways, back to the drawing board with pulls. I’m off to Pinterest to find some inspiration. So far, loving these options:

Matte black SQ1 cabinet pulls pulls1 pulls3pulls4


UPDATE: Just ordered these bad boys and I’m super excited because they are also super affordable!


More updates coming soon!

DIY Rental Properties

Sanding 100 year old maple floors …is my nightmare

December 5, 2016

We’ve been working hard for the last week on the duplex (while still doing our other jobs.) We probably spent between 3-8 hours each per day for the last week on the place, primarily getting the floors refinished. We rented a drum sander from a local shop that specializes in helping people refinish their own floors. We got a free lesson with the rental, which was nice since this was our first go at it.

However, the lesson took place on a nice, flat, new floor. Our floors…..didn’t go like that. Sanding floors usually consists of running a large drum sander over them at several different grits (working from gritty-er to less gritty to get to a smooth floor.) Well, getting the finish off was a bit of a nightmare. The floors are just really old…they are not perfectly level, they are an extremely hard wood (which is great but also difficult for refinishing,) they are covered with old finish, and they were all around just terrible to refinish. We first ran the drum sander over them and this was what we got. This step, ideally, gives you a bare floor meaning it would all look like bare maple. As you can see – this is not bare wood. We did a lot of experimenting, which I won’t get into, and spend a couple of days just trying to get to bare wood. We were exhausted, and nearly killed eachother.


This last pic is when we finally started to get most of the finish off, at about 10pm.

After finally getting all the old finish off we moved through the different grits till we finally got to a nice smooth floor. We then rented the buffer and buffed, sealed, and buffed again. They are certainly not perfect, but we are more than happy with the end result. My advice for anyone thinking of refinishing floors themselves: don’t. Just kidding…kind of. I would actually happily take on a nice 50s home or place with level looking floors, no gaps, etc. Or a softer wood than maple. All around, we hit a ton of challenges and I’d hesitate to do it myself again. Complaining over- HOW great do these look now?! I’m actually kind of sad that our rental property has beautiful maple floors and we will probably not be that lucky in our own home, but oh well.

Here is the finished product!! They are wonderful.


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In other news…..

We worked on the kitchen floor which wasn’t in good shape and had to be partially torn up. Weirdly, the kitchen was about half destroyed maple and half oak. Since the oak was in really nice shape, we found some matching oak and feathered it in. We then stained just the kitchen (I’d never touch the beautiful maple!) a very dark gray/almost black to cover all of the stains and blend the two portions of the kitchen floor together. You can see the color variations below. I also chose this color because I can’t stand when floors are almost the same but don’t quite match, so I wanted it to be dramatically different than the maple in the other rooms.


Anyway, here it is so far! Adding a coat of polyurethane today and then soon we will be ready for cabinets!




That’s all for now! We put in an offer on a house that we are waiting to hear back on, but I’m not going to jinx it. Let’s just say if we get it, lots of blogging ahead!







Decorating DIY Rental Properties

Teal Sliding Door

November 23, 2016

The duplex lower unit is coming along slowly but surely. We’ve been spending time between the duplex and the cabin, working on both, so its not coming together as quickly as we’d like – but we’re working on our patience. This past weekend was a ton of work, mainly spent replacing a very rotten subfloor in part of the kitchen, but we also had some fun parts – like installing this teal sliding door. This was not an easy one to convince Eric to do, he thought I was a crazy person when I told him that I wanted one bright teal door in a house of all white and grey. Now that its up, I caught him taking pictures and snaps, so I’m pretty sure he’s on board.

So this is the door to one of the two bedrooms in the unit. The old door was broken in two places, so it needed to be replaced. Since homes built in the early 1900s dont make it easy to just swap things out due to odd shapes and sizes, I decided to get creative. I’ve learned that finding a “standard” sized door in an old house is highly unlikely. Rather than cutting into the plaster and reframing a new door, I thought we’d try a sliding door. Eric found this awesomely inexpensive (yet good quality) track on Amazon for only 60$. Using a sliding door also just meant that as long as the door slab is a decent amount larger than the opening, there wouldn’t be any cutting needed. We went with an inexpensive pine slab door right off the shelf from Menards. I was tempted to get a custom order door with a more modern shape for just a bit more, but this was in stock so we went with it.

I used a brush and a 4″ roller to paint the door teal. I like to use brushes to get in the crevices but rollers are much easier for getting an even coat. To me it seems like the brush just moves the paint around and doesn’t cover as well. Since it was nice out I set up in the back yard.


Next step was to hang the track. Since we were hanging it on plaster and wanted to make sure it had enough support, we ended up adding a 1″ thick piece of pine that we screwed to the wall to hang the track on. I just painted it white to match the wall so it would blend in. This step was surprisingly easy, and we did it after a couple glasses of wine, so trust me- it couldn’t have been that hard.



The directions told us the height to hang the track, which was just under 2 inches above the height of the door. Then we attached the brackets to the door, and added the stoppers to each end so the door doesn’t go off the track. The last thing was just adding a handle. This doesn’t come in most kits, so I just found one at Home Depot that is often used on fence doors, and it works great!


Here is it! Ignore the gross dirty floors which I can’t WAIT to refinish. My pup refused to get out of the photo, and, well he’s adorable so you get him and the door. I love how it turned out and it slides really nicely and feels sturdy. Plus we already had a possible future tenant tour the place and they were so excited about the door and how the style was coming together, so I feel at least a little validated in my crazy design choices!


In case you missed it here was my brief inspiration board for the unit.


This week we are taking time to relax, take care of ourselves, indulge in way too much thanksgiving food, and spend time with our lovely families. Back to work next week. We are almost ready to sand the floors, which I’m dying to do. We’ve been sleeping in the dirty back bedroom, which really makes you appreciate the simple things like COUCHES! For real, I can’t WAIT to have a couch there. The bathroom is also almost done, more to come soon 🙂


Decorating DIY Rental Properties Thrifty Finds

Duplex progress

November 1, 2016

^^ Here’s some of my plan/inspiration, most of which we are still in the process of executing right now!

It’s starting to come along! We got all the demo done, and the dining and living room painted. I also painted all of the trim because it was in super rough shape. I’m usually not a fan of painting the old beautiful trim, but this would’ve been way too difficult to refinish. Also, I’m doing sort of a modern meets old school. I wanted white walls and white trim. The doors are going to be a charcoal grey, and I’m adding in a pop of color on one door.





We are getting some estimates on refinishing the hardwoods and fixing the drywall where needed. Depending on how they come back, we may do one or both ourselves to stay within budget.

There are some spots we definitely need to patch the wood, so we went to Bauer Brothers salvage store in NE mpls to get some matching old maple. If you haven’t been, BB is a giant, multi floor warehouse FULL of old shit. Doors, sinks, radiators, woodwork, chandelier, etc. it’s awesome, but also very overwhelming. Definitely going to patch the wood floor before it all gets refinished, so it should blend okay.


imageimageWhile at BB, I also spotted a 28″ door to snag for the bathroom. The old door was broken and we wanted to flip the hinge. Since old houses have weird door sizes, sometimes a salvage door is the only inexpensive way to get the right size.

Last stop of the day was Home Depot for one slab door to use for my slider. I would’ve gotten a salvage one from BB, but I couldn’t find the right size for a reasonable price.

More to come soon!


DIY Rental Properties

Lower Duplex Unit

October 28, 2016

The last property we purchased in the college rental area is a duplex. This was by far our biggest project and by far the most rough property we’ve tackled.

Last summer we took on two big projects – the upper unit and the exterior.

We’ve been sort of putting off the lower unit because a. its in seriously rough shape and we just didnt have the energy and b. we had an awesome, super laid back tenant who we really didn’t want to kick out.

Anyway, with the cabinets literally falling off the wall, the bathroom ceiling caving in, and the nastiest carpet I’ve ever seen, it was time. Our tenant was awesome about it and understood that the unit needed work, so he gracefully agreed to leave after 60 days (per lease terms.)


The kitchen had some real ugly wall covering over the plaster that we ripped off. Some of the plaster came with it, which will need to be patched and skimcoated.

img_0003 img_0004 img_0005 img_0006 The front porch = our current dumpster until we get one.img_0008


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Here we go! So far, we’ve ripped up all the carpet and sheet vinyl only to find beautiful wood floors throughout the unit. This is a huge win, except that we now have to spend hours… days pulling up the tiny staples from the floor before we can refinish it. Not complaining, just not looking forward to it. The only other thing we are salvaging is the beautiful built-ins from the kitchen. The kitchen is admittedly going to be a little awkward, but I really can’t see getting rid of them.


More to come soon! We are pulling staples all weekend (FUN!) and then we are getting estimates on fixing the walls, refinishing the hardwood, and paint.


Cabin #2 (still unnamed) cabins Decorating DIY Rental Properties Thrifty Finds

Lake Rock Stone Hearth

August 17, 2016

Hey friends! I’m trying to get caught up on posting about all of the fun stuff we’ve been doing at the new cabin. This will be a two part post because I’m re-doing the whole fireplace surround and this is just one part of it. Anyways, once we got the wood floors in I couldn’t stop thinking about how dated the tile and brick looked. It just looks like a dated old house, instead of an awesome rustic cabin. I love old things, don’t get me wrong, but this was just….not working.

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I had already started breaking up the tile a bit when I took this photo, but you get the idea. The flesh colored tile and brick…the brass doors, ugh. None of it is working. So I’m learning lessons from the past and I’m taking on one piece of this at a time, starting with the hearth (AKA the part on the floor in front of the fireplace.)

I used a pry bar and a hammer to break up and lift away the tile. Didn’t take too long, maybe 20 mins. In hindsight I would mask off the areas around it if you have anything that could get damaged. Also – WEAR SAFETY GLASSES, and shoes! Tiny sharks fly around, so seriously, wear safety glasses so you don’t have it flying at your eyes. Also shoes so you don’t get a sliver in your foot. I say both of these things from learning the hard way……so don’t do what I did.

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Next step – find a new tile. I went to the store and found some cool stone patterns that I loved, but everything I was looking at was like $10/sq ft. Trying to be thrifty, I decided to use…rocks! From my yard. They are free, and it could work, right? I have no idea what I’m doing here, but I figured if I found rocks that were flat-ish and tried to keep them under like .75 inches thick, maybe I could use them in place of tile or stone. I laid them out to get a visual of what it would look like done and also make sure I had collected enough. This is me….foraging…using a laundry basket to collect rocks in.

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I decided to go about this whole thing as if I was tiling, and planned to use a thinset base and come back to fill in the gaps with a dark gray grout. If you’ve never tiled before, this may sound like a lot to learn, but it’s really not that bad. Ideally, you’d lay a base before laying tile of cement backer board or at least plywood to keep the tile from cracking, but since I know no one will be walking on this area I’m tiling right onto the subfloor (not recommended, yeah yeah.) I mixed up about half of the thinset as directed on the bag, and using a trowel I spread a layer about .75 inches thick on the entire area. You can definitely do this in chunks if you have a bigger area, and I would if I had it to do over – I ended up sort of frantically placing the stones before the thinset dried at the end.

[Still locating photo of this step]

Fun part! I pre-sorted my rocks into big, medium and small. I did this to make sure I had them spread out size wise. I pushed them into the thinset a little or a lot, depending on how thick they were. Ideally they’d make a fairly even surface, but that didn’t really happen. Once I had the big ones laid, I went onto the medium, and so on. I fit them in sort of like a puzzle, but you could really do a lot of different patterns if you wanted, like a gradation of color, patterns, etc?? I’d also be interested to try this with one general size of stones of all one color. So many possibilities, my friends.

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Starting to place the rocks…

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It is definitely not perfect, but I kind of love it. I literally brought the outdoors in. My favorite part about it is that these actually came from our yard and lake. Locally sourced material 😀

I was planning to grout between these, but I need to decide if that’s going to work. I may just mix up some extra thinset and put it in a plastic bag, cut a hole in the corner and squeeze it in the cracks to fill them in a bit more. Thoughts??? I don’t know, either way, I need to wait for this to cure, so I can’t do anything yet!

Next step….fireplace. NO clue what I’m doing there yet. Same thing? Skimcoat with gray? Paint it? HELP!





Cabin #2 (still unnamed) cabins Decorating DIY Rental Properties Thrifty Finds

Bathroom Vanity

August 17, 2016

Getting around to posting about our custom bathroom vanity! So here’s the scoop. Bathroom vanities are expensive. You can get super cheap ones for ~200 but they are generally made of particle board, and particle board in a steamy bathroom? Not a great combo. We’ve had a few cheap ones over the years, and they just don’t hold up. Anyways, I prefer solid wood any day, but the good looking vanities that are also good quality are upwards of 500 dollars (and go way up from there.) I did one awhile back for the first cabin bathroom as well, and it was really pretty easy, so decided to modify it slightly and build my own again.

Materials needed:

  • copper sink (I bought mine at Menards but they also sell them on Amazon)
  • 4 6ft 2x4s (plain old construction lumber)
  • 1 8ft 1×6 (for the slats on the shelf)
  • 18 x 36 edge glued wood top
  • sink faucet – I got one of the least expensive ones from Menards
  • wood screws

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I started by building the base. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t plan this out well. I did, however measure the old vanity and planned to make it the same width so the plumbing would line up.

First I made 2 boxes out of the 2x4s. Then I cut the 1×6 into 4 pieces that were the same depth as the box and hand nailed them on. Here you can see me laying them out.

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I forgot to take a photo of this, but then I cut 4 2x4s for the legs at 30 inches, and attached my two boxes. The top box I placed at the end of the 2x4s, and the bottom box with slats about 6 inches off the floor for the shelf.

Next step – cutting out the sink hole. The sink came with a cardboard jig for me to trace, so I just made sure I had enough space for my faucet and placed it in the center of the vanity top. I cut out the oval using a jigsaw. You can see I used the old vanity to prop it up.

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As you can see I drilled a couple holes with the drill to get a starting spot.

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Dropped the sink in.

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Then I placed the top on the base and realized my giant mistake. I based my top measurements on the boxes I built, and forgot to figure in the 2x4s I added for the front legs. I found a piece of scrap cedar and decided to improvise. FAIL. Oh well, I kinda like it. Here I’m test fitting it to make sure it will work. I attached the top using trim screws so they would sort of disappear. You could easily add some wood putty, but this is sort of a rustic look so I didn’t even bother covering up the holes.

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Then, the fun part. Staining. I mixed these two stain colors together, because I thought it would look pretty and because I only had a little bit of each left. The red mahogany is just a little too red for me, so the walnut tones it down and makes it more red-brown. Yes- you can mix stain, but just make sure to mix enough so you have some extra in case you need it for touch ups.


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Here it is stained! The final steps were installing the faucet and then (finally) installing it in the bathroom and hooking up the drain line. I will post more pics once the bathroom is all done. Love how it turned out and the whole thing took me under 2 hours.

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Cabin #2 (still unnamed) cabins DIY Rental Properties

Cabin Projects – Upstairs Floor

August 15, 2016

It’s been awhile! We’ve been busy renovating the new cabin. So far we’ve:
1. ripped out all of the carpet in the 2 upstairs bedrooms and laid pine flooring (that’s what I’ll cover in this post)
2. ripped up the living and dining room carpet and laid pine flooring
3. laid new flooring in the bathroom and built and installed a new vanity. also replaced bathroom mirror and light fixture.

We’ve also done some landscaping including taking out some trees and cleaned up the yard.

Here are some photos of the first big project we did, the upstairs floor.

Upstairs bedrooms: We used pine construction lumber for the floors. Yes, I realize how many people would frown on this because pine is a “soft wood” and will easily get beat up. I called many places asking for pine flooring and got lots of lectures. I actually started lying and just saying I wanted it for my walls. The reality is, we can’t afford a better wood AND I wanted the wood to look old, so I’m okay with it getting beat up and re-staining it someday. Also, the next cheapest real wood floor product I found was over $3.50/sq ft just for the wood– and I didn’t even like them. These floors cost about $1.4o/sq ft finished, including stain, finish coat, and the nails. The plan was to sand the edges and beat up the floors as we put them in so they look rustic. We used 1 x 6 “quality” boards, which is sort of like the middle grade of lumber, which means they’ve done some intentional selection and the boards are (hopefully) not extremely warped and don’t have huge knots or blemishes. However, that isn’t really the case. I went through the entire pile they had at Menard’s hand selecting which ones to buy, judging by the look of the board, checking for warping, and large blemishes or cracks.

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So we started installing. I laid out a few rows just to see what it would look like. When installing, we went with a random pattern, so I just made sure that it looked staggered and cut each row to fit. We decided to face nail the boards using “cut nails” to add to the rustic look and also to attach them.

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Making progress while Roscoe naps…

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There were a few tricky cuts we needed the jigsaw for, but for the most part it was just straight cuts. By some miracle, both rooms ended on a full width board, so we didn’t need to rip any pieces down length wise to fit.

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Next: time to beat up the floor. We used a sock full of nuts and bolts and also threw rocks and a pipe wrench around to make dents and marks in the floor.

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Time to stain! We used Ipswitch Pine stain, to blend with the walls. I love a darker floor, but having had one prior, they always look SO dirty, so I went with a medium darkness this time. 2016-07-11 21.08.30

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All done! I love how they turned out. I’ll post some pics once we get the rooms all decorated and put back together, but here they are for now!

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Cabin #2 (still unnamed) cabins

We finally bought a (different) cabin!

June 9, 2016

Long time no post- I know! Per usual, we’ve been crazy busy since the last house closed, but I have a big update to make. We are finally buying a (different) cabin tomorrow!

Just to recap, about a month and a half ago we sold our home in Roseville, MN and decided to buy another cabin property to live in for the summer and get ready to make another VRBO rental. Since we sold the prior house, we have been living in one of Eric’s rental units (he had tenants who wanted to get out of their one year lease early, so it worked out well for us to live here for a bit until we closed on the next property.)

Since then, we got an accepted offer on a cute aframe cabin right on the water in Brainerd, MN. The cabin was 3 season and we planned to do a conventional rehab loan to turn the property into a 4 season dwelling so we could take out a 30 year loan on the place. Some newly learned knowledge I gained from this predicament – 3 season dwellings are VERY difficult to finance.

Basically, the options to finance a 3 season property, from my understanding are:

  1. a home equity line of credit (generally a 15 yr loan)
  2. an ARM loan (not something I’m personally comfortable with, and also generally 15 yr loan)
  3. A balloon loan which is essentially a line of credit to fix the place and then it comes due after a year and you refinance into a regular loan
  4. A rehab loan where the buyer would need to plan to turn the property into a 4 season dwelling.

We chose the rehab loan, and then spent about a month of calling/harassing contractors to get us bids to add a furnace, replace windows, and add insulation. Not only did we need bids formatted a very particular way, but we also needed them to fill out a giant packet of information. This was a HUGE headache, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. My overall opinion from attempting to do a rehab loan: do not do it unless you are not on a timeline, be mentally prepared for the giant headache to follow, and use a general contractor if you can rather than individual contractors.

Anyways, back to our story. Long story short, the appraisal on the Brainerd cabin came back low and the sellers weren’t willing to budge.

Essentially, they were asking us to stick to our offer price and would not let it go for the appraised value, or even meet us halfway. We even came up with a cash offer (due to the loan being such a pain) thanks to a temporary loan from an investor, but they refused. Not wanting to be under water on the place, and honestly just at our breaking point with the situation and loan, we regretfully walked away from this unique property. In the end, we felt the sellers were being unreasonable and just decided to let it go. I have mixed feelings on appraisals, especially for a very non-traditional property as it is nearly impossible to find comps, BUT my decision was made thinking about the trouble we may run into if we needed to sell someday. If the property can’t appraise, even if some could argue that the “cool factor” makes it worth more, and I tend to agree, you’ll have a hell of a time selling it for more than that number. I am very sad, but I will continue to track the property and still have hope we could buy it in the future if it doesn’t sell this spring. Cabins don’t sell as fast as regular city homes. So you’re saying there’s a chance? …I hope so!

Since that fell apart, we found and got an accepted offer on a different cabin in Comstock, WI – near Turtle Lake.

 And, guess what, it’s on the SAME lake as our other VRBO rental, Little Bear Lodge! We are so excited, and we close TOMORROW! So cabin life begins, finally.

A bit about the property. It’s on the opposite side of the lake as LBL. 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom. Big unfinished basement where we plan to make a sweet game room. Funky architecture with a big vaulted ceiling in the main living space. It needs some love and decorating and minor reno, but overall we love it. Screened porches for life, can’t wait to nap out on that bad boy. We also got a pontoon and paddleboat with the purchase, so I’m anxiously awaiting a celebration booze cruise tomorrow evening post move. More pics to come as we move in tomorrow!!



Rental Properties

Sign on the dotted line…..800,000,000 times

April 28, 2016

Today was my pre-signing for our Roseville house closing. We decided to set up a pre-sign because I have a conflict on the house closing day. Normally, I’d go, but I was able to do this work around and assign my realtor as power of attorney instead. This means he will basically show up to closing in my place, and sign anything that was missed in the pre-sign if needed. House closings are not the worst thing in the world – usually there is good coffee, cookies, and some form of candy. They also always have some sort of cheesy branded souvenirs for you to take with you. Today I got glasses cleaner. Last time was an ice scraper. Wooohoooo!

Anyways, outside of that it’s a whole lot of “reading” and signing. I say “reading” because unless you’re crazy, you’re going to be basically skimming and signing. You are assigned a closing agent a week or so prior to closing, and they are in charge of getting your documents ready and walking you through them at the closing. You’ll receive your closing statement prior to closing, typically the day before, so you have time to review it as well. The biggest thing to review is the numbers. Making sure the water bill, property taxes, closing fees, etc are in line. You’re transitioning your property over, so everything is prorated. Keep that in mind especially if you’re selling, because you can get a refund! Don’t hesitate to ask questions, it’s their job to explain how this works. I’m not a spreadsheet person, so I usually sit down with Eric prior to closing and make him run through it with me, but your closing agent can do the same thing.

They almost always have everything right, but don’t zone out TOO much during all of the signatures. Today we caught an error- they didn’t have that there was a sealed well on our property. Whether this would ever matter or not, who knows, but it’s good to have it right so it doesn’t come back to bite you later.

800,000,000 signatures later, the Roseville house is sold. I won’t actually get the funds until the official closing on Friday, but it’s basically a done deal. It’s a relief to be all moved out and done with it! Eric bought us champagne to celebrate, so I’m currently drinking a grapefruit mimosa 😀

That’s all for now!