Sunday, March 30, 2008


I expected to have a little rest after I got through the open house March 16.

Instead, I had the first offer delivered FOUR HOURS after the open house.

I have a new respect for real estate agents after as I juggled offers, people and appointments for the next week. I have no idea how they do this for more than one house at a time.

I ended up with three offers at full list price of $118,000.

The accepted offer: $120,000, with me covering $2,000 of her closing expenses.

The sales process was another endorsement of the flipping software I used, Flipper's & Rehabber's Cash Flow Analyzer.

I was able to plug in numbers for each offer to calculate the overall financial impact, including taxes.

The buyer's offer put her $110 more than the competition.

So what about that sour housing market you keep hearing about?

1) Omaha's market is not nearly as rough as the national pictures.

2) All of the serious buyers were renters who had no home to sell.

3) The house was priced right.

How I priced it:

Know your neighborhood. I keep my eye on house prices and sales through the Omaha World-Herald's Friday and Sunday home sections and go to open houses. Nothing came on the market in this neighborhood in this price range since I started renovating last summer.

Get the comps. Real estate agents will do a free market analysis and give you the comparable home sales.

Visit the competition. I hit a few open houses and began scouring listings for homes $100,000 to $120,000 in other old neighborhoods at the beginning of the year. After seeing what was on the market, I knew my well-finished interior and new kitchen would stand out.

Splurge carefully. I decided to go overbudget and buy stainless steel appliances for $500 more than I had planned. It seemed to be a huge hit with buyers.

Price it a little low. I got this advice from some flipper book along the way. The carrying costs on the house are about $750-$900 a month depending on the utilities. Why price it higher and have it sit?


SOLD! Only six days on the market

Historic charmer with hilltop view
and updates in the right places

1315 S. 8th St.


View Map

  • Incredible hilltop view in Little Italy neighborhood south of Old Market
  • Gorgeous new kitchen with maple cabinets, tile backsplash and stainless-steel appliances
  • Charming new bath that looks original
  • Freshly refinished wood floors throughout house
  • Original woodwork and restored copper doorknobs
  • Walk-in closets in both upstairs bedrooms
  • Interior renovation featured on 2008 Restore Omaha historic home tour

Convenient location

Room to add more value

  • Walkout basement with 8-foot ceilings perfect for future finishing
  • Expand back deck to highlight incredible view
  • New $200,000+ townhomes down the hill make this a hot neighborhood with rising values (The Towns, Giovanna Rows)

The basics

  • 1,386 square feet
  • Three-plus bedrooms, one bath
  • New furnace
  • Central air
  • New plumbing
  • Roof replaced 2002
  • Built in 1903

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Open house results

Sunday's open house was a raging success -- such a success I'm just finding time to write about it now.

I didn't keep track of the number of people who came through -- maybe 20 or 30 potential buyers, sometimes flanked with a pod of friend or relative advisers.

At least three couples called from the open house to summon parents to come look. Three generations of women came from one family -- grandmother, mother, daughter.

A friend who got my e-mail ad called his wife, who called her sister, who called her son and fiancee, who called her parents -- and the two families met for the first time at my flip.

Curious neighbors and former residents wanted a peek after seeing the newspaper ad.

A man who used to live up the street said his family referred to Grace University next door as the babysitters' castle because babysitters magically appeared from the stately brick building. I thought, that's funny, I've heard that before -- then I realized I used to work with his son, who told me the same story several years ago.

Several potential buyers had looked at downtown or Little Italy condos but were hesitant of them because of the limited square footage for the price. I targeted this crowd with an ad in the condo/townhome section of the Omaha World-Herald, saying "Restored 3bed 1bath house in Little Italy, way less than new townhome price."

Four potential buyers already have been back for second visits.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Advertising results

I did a new advertising attempt each day Wed-Sun before the open house and included the blog address in each one.

I then tracked blog hits from Nebraska computers using Google Analytics, a surprisingly simple process that provides detailed daily reports on site usage, to get a sense of what advertising worked.

Before this, daily blog visits ranged from 18-35 a day.

Wednesday: E-mail to about 100 co-workers in Omaha and Lincoln
80 visits, 78% newcomers, 4:10 average time on site

Thursday: E-mail to about 40 friends, neighbors and acquaintances, e-mail to about 180 people from a Young Professionals Summit I attended
242 visits, 87% newcomers, 1:36 average time on site

Friday: Ad in Home section of Omaha World-Herald and on newspaper web site,
73 visits, 72% newcomers, 2:45 average time on site

Saturday: Ad on Craig's List
76 visits, 77% newcomers, 3: 54 average time on site

Sunday: Ad in Sunday real estate section of Omaha World-Herald, open house
70 visits, 60% newcomers, 4:17 average time on site

Monday, post-open house
96 visits, 60% new visits, 3:58 average time on site

I had at least one person at the open house through each advertising method. Not bad for the minor expense: $60 on ads and $60 on fliers and signs.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Money shot

View from back porch at 7:40 a.m. March 16,

day of first open house

Saturday, March 15, 2008

History of the 'hood

The flip Little Italy was settled by Italian immigrants who worked for the railroad. (See Neighborhood history) Hints of the ethnic past continue.

Orsi's Italian Bakery still cooks up killer pizza, garlic bread and cannoli. The Santa Lucia Hall (festival video) and Sons of Italy still stand.

At the last neighborhood association meeting, two guys at my table whipped through a list of all the Italian cobblers and shoe-repairmen and where their shops used to be. At least one remains -- Louie at Philips Shoe Repair, 1234 S. 13th St., will make your shoes look brand-new and you get to enjoy the thwap-thwap-thwap sounds of an old-fashioned shoe shop.

Neighbors tell you, well, they've lived in this house for 20 years, then they'll point down the street at the one they lived in the previous 20. Here on Eighth Street, three houses have adult children who lived at home to take care of their parents.

The family who owned the flip, the Ucens, had the house for 90 years. "Aunt June" lived there for something like 55 years. Her husband worked at the Bohemian Cafe and the old Glass Front bar.

The man who owned my house, Mr. Becic, lived here for 40-plus years. At Olsen Bake Shop (which makes perfect, old-school bakery cookies), owner Mel said Mr. Becic came in every Saturday for a dozen doughnuts and sometimes brought her a jar of garlic from his garden.

More on the 'hood:

Before/after slideshow

For newcomers, here's the story behind Little Italy gem:

I live next door. My neighbor, a charming little old lady who was in her 90s, passed away.

The house was decent in the areas she used. All the main floor walls were mint green, indicated a 1950s or 1960s-era paint job. The kitchen and bath were updated in the 1980s in a golden yellow and brown scheme (although the kitchen sink remained in a 1950s metal cabinet).

The upstairs had serious plaster damage and hadn't been frequented by humans for years.

The house had been in the Ucen family for 90 years, so each batch of relatives left behind a pile of possessions until the house was entirely full.

I bought the house with the agreement that I finish packing and donate the remaining household goods you see in the pictures. 80 boxes worth plus furniture -- that's after the family filled a dumpster and had sales for four days.

I handled the demo, landscaping, plaster repair and painting myself. See Contractors I like for who I used for the rest.

Six months later, I'm nearly ready to sell -- a little more detail work and basement painting and I'm done! Whew!

More before and afters:

This Old House before and after photo galleries

Friday, March 14, 2008

Preserving the past

I've saved little vintage pieces from the renovation for the new homeowner.

Framed vintage linoleum from master closet

Fruit crate segment with handwritten name of family who owned the house for 90 years

It had been nailed to the old coal room walls.

Framed wallpaper remnants from stairway

1966 Chianti in a bottle shaped like a cat's body

Unfortunately, the creepy glass cat's head stopper was missing.

Someone is drinking a slug of this after the house sells.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Even better basement

The basement looks a little more livable every day ...

I found a new friend when I went to buy another gallon of Drylok:

A masonry brush.

It's the size of a handbroom with soft bristles to get in bumpy concrete.

Too bad I didn't find it before last weekend.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vertical painting

I got to paint while standing up today, which is far more comfortable, and finished the basement stairwell and staircase.

This khaki color on the stairs also will be on the basement floor. I thought it was a little more cozy than the traditional battleship gray you see on basement floors.

Although this shade is called "Rattler's Den." Why would I want to imagine a snake when color-coordinating a room?

Basement paint job

Sunday was another day of painting, this time alone.

I thought, pfft, it's just the floor in a wide open space, this'll go fast. HA HA HA

I was using Drylok, a waterproofing paint, to seal out occasional dampness.

This stuff is thick, reminding me of beaten egg whites.

Drylok at the soft peak stage

I marked off the areas with fresh concrete patches, which need to cure before being painted.

It looked like the crime scene from a midget massacre, little chalk outlines scattered about.

The floor ripples like Nebraska's rolling hillside. The concrete consistency varies from place to place.

Tony from Thrasher Basement inspected the place when I bought it and said that's normal for a 100-year-old basement. Homeowners poured concrete themselves one wheelbarrow at a time. I'm going to call it an "authentic rustic basement."

But the rough floor made painting a pain. The Drylok overwhelmed the paint roller, making it so swollen it became pointless.

I spent all afternoon on my hands and knees, painting about a third of the floor with a brush.

I actually have blisters on my hands from painting. My knees are pink from being pressed against the concrete floor.

And I have another coat before I'm done ... sigh ...

The weekend tally:
  • 170 pounds of concrete
  • 14 gallons of paint
  • 1 injured back (Brit -- who learned he is not capable of carrying two 60-pound bags of concrete on his shoulders)
  • 1 tired girl

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hidden "treasure"

While painting the top edge of the basement wall, I noticed a corner of fabric that I couldn't pull down. What kind of treasure was up between the floor joists?

I didn't have a flashlight handy, so I stuck my digital camera between the joists and took a pic.
We have homemade insulation created from ...

A bag of straw

A torn Wrangler jacket

A pile of clothes

Using a digital camera to peer into hard-to-reach places is a trick I picked up from a Minneapolis houseblog, American Four-Square Renewal, which used it to find an obstruction during a plumbing project.

This Old House discussion boards is having lively chat called Buried Treasure: Find anything interesting during your last move or demo?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Better basement

The basement had a serious creep factor at the beginning.

The old coal room still stood, even though the old coal-fired furnace was long gone.

Underneath layers of junk, newspapers and boards, I discovered a four-foot wide hole in the cement floor inside the room.

One theory: the floor broke gradually over time from loads of coal being dumped in through a chute. Another theory: This is Satan's lair.

After coal room walls removed

I ripped out the homemade walls last summer to open up the space. Now I'm trying to do a simple cleanup of the place.

I haven't found any leaks, but the basement has been damp in a few spots, particularly after a rain. I am painting the walls and floor with Drylok waterproofing paint to seal out dampness before a coat of latex paint.

Today's painting made just a bit of a difference.

The top coat of latex was a mishmash -- I've been picking up cream, white and taupe paint at Under the Sink, the city's household hazardous waste facility, which gives away paint, wallpaper remover and other items that other people donate.

I swirled four gallons together for a nice cream color we decided to call French Vanilla.

Big thanks to Dad for coming down to help today!

With a hand from Dad and boyfriend Brit, we got the basement cleaned and the walls painted with Drylok and the finish coat today. We're exhausted, but we're another step ahead.

Tomorrow: The basement floor

Monday, March 3, 2008


The flip was a big hit on the Restore Omaha tour yesterday. What a great way to be showered with praise by others who love old homes.

More than 70 people came by -- not bad considering what a miserably windy day it was.

The surprise for me: People were absolutely nutballs over the kitchen. I mean, I think it's nice, but I heard people gasp, gush, ooh and ahh. Awesome.

The questions I got most often:

Is the bathroom floor original?


I don't remember where I got the idea, but I remember paying attention to bathroom flooring in Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and Rejuvenation catalogs and This Old House magazine for ideas.

My co-worker, Brenda, said one reason it looks original is that the tile edges are squared. New tile tends to have a graduated edge.

I found the tile on sale online. Blair from Howling Dog Construction installed it.

For more on the bathroom floor, see previous posts:

Tile that makes you smile
Renovation story problems for links to online tile stores

Who refinished the yellow pine floors?

Rains Wood Floors. See Contractors I like.

Is the master bedroom wainscoting original?


I wanted to do something a little different than the standard beadboard. Again, I found pics in Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware catalogs. I showed them to Blair, and he went from there.

These pictures don't adequately show his detailed carpentry work. The wainscoting molding coordinates with the original window molding and serves as a picture rail (they are also wide enough to set a beer on. A little Woodchuck cider makes the painting go faster. :).

What's left to do?

Paint the basement and small items such as finish painting closets, install doorbell, install fire alarms, etc. I hope to be done in two weeks.

How much are you asking?


Three visitors said it's a steal at that price, but hopefully, that's a sign that it will sell easily.