Finding a great deal while on a tight budget

On a tight budget and looking for a deal? Here’s how I found some of my best deals.

The Habitat for Humanity Restore

This is by far my favorite! The Restore is a place were people can donate their unneeded building supplies, items they’ve taken out during a remodel, or just things they don’t need anymore. It’s kind of like Goodwill for remodelers.

The money raised supports Habitat for Humanity. It saves items being tossed into a land fill. And, you get things cheap. Literally, EVERYBODY WINS! 

Lucky for us there’s one near my day job and one near my home. There’s also two more within driving distance. We found some amazing tile for our backsplash there. You know those sheets at the big box stores that go for around $14 a square foot? Well we found them for $3!!! We also found subway tile for 20 cents a tile. Yup, 20 cents.  And I found this $250 raincoat shower head for $20!

Auctions

My second favorite is auctions! In our neighboring town there’s a monthly liquidators auction. They have everything, and I mean everything. Tools, flooring, doors, faucets, lighting, vanities, bathtubs, gas grills, dog crates, hammocks, cabinets. I could go on. BUT, pay attention here, BUT THERE’S A 15% BUYER’S PREMIUM attached to each sale. That means, whatever you buy, add 15% to the price. So, something that you get for $10 is going to cost you $11.50 plus tax. Your $100 item will cost you $115 plus tax. So, shop around and know the price of things before you go. Not all auctions have buyer’s premiums.

Online garage sales, marketplaces, apps

A lot of communities have online garage sale pages on Facebook. I know of at least four in my small community alone, and that doesn’t include all the towns in my county.  Facebook’s Marketplace is another place to look.

I’ve also found items on the app OfferUp which sells things locally. On there people list what they’d like to have for the item and you can either pay full price or offer them less. Sometimes they’ll deal, sometimes they won’t.




Shop the big box stores

I hate to say it, but shopping the big box stores can save you money. I know, I hate them too. But sometimes you can’t beat the prices. Often they will price match and then give you additional money off. At least one of them will offer you 5% off if you use their card.  But make sure you PAY THE CARD OFF when it’s due or you’ll be paying MORE! If you’re doing a flip, you can do 6 months or 12 months same as cash.

Don’t just shop the circulars, go into the stores. You’ll find things on clearance that are not advertised. Also, sign up for their rewards programs. They will often send you coupons. And sometimes you’ll find coupons in your junk mail.

Oh, and you can bring your dog.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount

You’d be surprised at how much autonomy clerks have at some stores. Don’t be afraid to ask for money off, especially if you’re buying in bulk, buying the display model or if the only one they have left is a little damaged.




Ask around

Ask your friends and family if you they know anyone selling what you’re looking for. Put it out there on social media. You’d be surprised by the results. I was talking to the woman who sold us our house about a week before the closing. I mentioned that we were going to a big box store and buy a vanity to replace the one in the master bath. I’d seen one on sale the day before and they only had a couple left. She told me of a local store that was having a huge sale the following weekend. This is a store that typically doesn’t sell vanities and was a very rare deal. We went over there that day and talked to the sales man who made us a great deal, in advance of the sale! I mean, we got a $300 vanity for $75!  It’s going to look amazing in the new bathroom! And it came with the sink!

Your turn

Tell me how you find your deals on home improvement items.




9 Tips for removing wallpaper

I’m going to say it. I hate wallpaper. It’s too permanent for my tastes. It’s hard to put on, it’s hard to take off. It dates a house after just a few years. The flipper house has two whole rooms of wallpaper. The dining room and family room. And the people who put it up were very good at it! Here’s my tips for removing wallpaper.

1 Buy a scoring tool. This tool is used to put tiny cuts into the paper so when you apply the water, steam, or chemical to the outside it can get between the paper and the wall to loosen the paper. We’ve had the red one, made by Zinsser, for about a dozen years. And it still works great! Now, we haven’t used it every year but we’ve used it about half a dozen times and it’s still cutting like new.

The orange one, made by WP Chomp, we bought for this job. It lasted about three swirls around. It was junk. We returned it. Spend the extra 12 cents and go with the Zinsser.

2 Buy a scraper. Previously I used a putty knife because I’m so cheap. This week the Mister went behind my back and bought a scraper. And boy am I glad he did. It had a more ergonomic handle than my old putty knife and my hands were very thankful.

3 Rent a steamer. I thought we could get by without one, remember, I’m a cheap skate. But I’m so glad we got our hands on one. It made our work go so much faster! To save on the time we had it, we used it just to get the outside layer off. Be careful with the steamer, follow all the directions carefully. It gets very HOT. I know, Mr. Obvious. 

4 Skip the chemicals and make your own remover solution. I mix hot water and cheap fabric softner together and put it in a spray bottle. I’ve seen some posts that use vinegar. Spray an area, wait about 4-5 minutes, then spray the next area and scrap the first area. Repeat. The recipe I use varies. Usually it’s 1:1 fabric softner and water. As I start to run out of softner the ratio shifts and it still works.



5 Use a drop cloth. Live and learn, you can see we didn’t. We left the tack strips in because we plan to install carpet in this room. It made a huge mess, and this picture was taken after I swept up!

6 Protect your trim. If you don’t cover it, be sure to wipe it down as you work. The water or chemicals can ruin it.

7 Protect yourself. One of my besties was over helping me and she took one look at the walls and said, “you have to wear rubber gloves.” Our walls are heavily tobacco stained. She sited a recent case of a man who was restoring a bar and ended up in the hospital with nicotine poisoning. She’s a doc so it wasn’t some fake news story she read somewhere. It was legit.

8 Speaking of besties. Ask your friends for help. It’s always more fun working with a team than alone. And believe it or not, pealing wallpaper can be somewhat soothing.




9 Gotta have the tunes playing. The old CD player filled the rooms with Michael Martin Murphey’s Cowboy Songs; Mary Mary’s The Sound; Don Henley’s Building the Perfect Beast; and a mix tape featuring old school Newsboys our son made for me. I ventured away from memory lane for a bit to treat my ears to some new AA Sound of the Saints. That’s an incredible record! Their title track features images from their trip to Haiti. It just touches my heart so much. I love and miss our Haitian family.  Perhaps I’ll more about that another time.

What tip did I leave out? I’d love to hear from you!





 

 

I have a confession to make.

I remove wallpaper like I mow my lawn.

We have an awesomely big, zero-turn radius riding mower. It literally cut our mowing time in half when we bought it however many years ago. It’s wide, so it cuts a lot of grass at a time, and it’s fast, so you, well, you get to go fast! My personality is that I don’t do things slow, I go fast.

I’d rather barrel race than pleasure ride.  

I’d rather wakeboard than kayak.

I’d rather snorkel than sunbathe. 

I’d rather TobyMac than Hillsong.

The fast isn’t the issue, the issue is the wide. With a wide mower is it’s hard to take care of the tight spots or get close to the edges. For example, it doesn’t fit between the tree and the fence on both sides of our yard. And, it doesn’t do well around the frame that holds up our bench swing. So, I just do the middle and leave the edging to the Mister.


I found myself doing the same thing with the wallpaper removal. I was fine taking down the big middle parts, but those tight spaces between the window trim and the ceiling? Forget it. And don’t even talk to me about the space between the security system and the door frame. No way. I haven’t broken the news to the Mister yet. But I’m sure in, his heart of hearts, he already knows he’ll have to do the wallpaper edges for me. I’m thankful he’s a patient man. Bless his heart.

Now it’s your turn, which would you rather?

Coming soon: Tips for wallpaper removal.

Ew, what’s that smell?

Pet urine, that’s what. It’s a good thing this blog isn’t Scratch ‘n’ Sniff, just sayin’.

The last family that lived in the flipper wasn’t, how do I put this politely?, um, they weren’t good about putting Rover and Spot out to do their business. Thankfully the seller ripped out most of the carpets before we bought it, but the smell still lingered.

So, first things first, cover the subfloors with Kilz. After covering the family and dining rooms with a good layer of the magical solution, the smell in the house got so much better. It was a big area, here’s a before picture.

I know what you’re thinking, we must keep that sexy wallpaper!

As you can see, it’s a big area and the house immediately smelled so much better! I was thinking, “maybe that’s the only place we have to worry about.” Um, no. When we walked into the kitchen, it smelled like we were walking into a kennel. Ugh.

We had to do something about the kitchen. Pronto! Stat! Fast! Now!

It had this fantastic laminate tile, at least I think it’s laminate, it might be vinyl, here, see for yourself.

I asked the Mister if we could do the kitchen floor next. I’d need him to help me get that tile up and out of there.

He said, “no, we have a master plan, it will have to wait.” So, wait I did, for FOUR WHOLE DAYS! Then, while the Mister was in the back of the house working on his custom-tiled, master shower, featuring Italian tile, I tossed our plan out the window. I had to get that nasty floor out of the kitchen.

Armed with my mask, a box cutter and a crowbar I pushed play on the CD player and the air filled with vintage Audio Adrenaline. Underdog was one of my first Christian records and is still one of my favorites. But I digress. Squirrel!

Anyway, while he was distracted, I went to work on that floor. Surely the smell couldn’t get any worse.




After I pulled the first two tiles up I couldn’t believe my eyes and nose. The smell got worse. The linoleum underneath was wet! Wet with pet urine! How long had that been trapped in there? Did I mention it was still wet? Ew, yuck, gag!

I was praying the urine hadn’t found a way through to the subfloor and those prayers were answered, whomever installed it did a great job! Our subfloors were safe from the damaging effects of the urine.

Removing the tiles and tearing up the linoleum was hard work but I persevered and I got most of it up. And, the Mister didn’t blink an eye when I enlisted him to help carry out the discarded floor. I think he knew I might not follow all the rules. Bless his heart.




7 Tips to buying a home without a realtor

I’m just going to say it, buying a home without a realtor is risky business. But if you must, here’s some tips that I found helped with the process.

Top 7 tips to buying a FSBO property:

1. Get it in writing. I can’t stress this enough. Your lender should be able to provide you with a purchase agreement. Go over it closely, fill out every field, leave nothing blank and spell out everything (i.e. it must appraise, it must pass inspection, etc.). This is your opportunity to negotiate everything. If you have questions about an area on the agreement, ask your lender or consult a real estate attorney.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The great thing about a realtor is they can do all the negotiating for you. They can offer a lower price, they can tell the buyer you don’t like their carpet or wallpaper and ask for replacement money, they can address that weird smell coming from the back bedroom. When you’re FSBO, you must do all of that yourself. Put on your big girl or boy pants and just address it. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no.

3. Keep excellent records. Save a folder of all the communication and paperwork between you and the seller, you and the lender, you and the title company, etc. You will likely need to refer to one or more of them again. I saved one on my desktop so when my lender said, “I need the insurance document.” I could send it again. Yes, I said again. Expect to send them documents more than once. There are so many, I’m not surprised they get lost. If you’re old school and are faxing the documents, get a pocket folder to keep them in.




4. Don’t skip the inspection. This is vital. You need to know what you’re getting into. You may find the most beautiful home, in your price range, but you may not want it if the foundation is crumbling, if it’s infested by termites or the electrical is bad. Don’t trust Uncle Ralph to give it “a good once-over,” hire a professional.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Stay in touch with your lender and your seller. You may need to help coordinate the inspection, the appraisal and any contractor quotes you want done. Texting may be fine, others may prefer a phone call. This is not the time to be shy. See number 2.




6. Use a reputable title company. If you’re getting a mortgage your lender will be able to recommend someone one. If you’re paying cash call a local realtor and ask who they recommend. Title work is something you don’t want to mess around with, it can wreak havoc if not done right. Hire someone local if possible.

7. Make sure you have an “out” if the property doesn’t appraise. A lender won’t lend over the appraised value. To protect yourself, include an out in your purchase agreement if the property doesn’t appraise.

I’d love to hear from you. What tips do you have when buying a FSBO property?




It all started when he got bored… Part II

 

Editor’s note: To see Part I of this story click on “It all started when he got bored” in the archive.

Crazy right?? Buying a house from some stranger on Facebook didn’t seem like a good idea. I mean, we’ve all heard stories of people being lured into a dangerous situation by a stranger online, clears throat, Craigslist. It’s not like I could meet this person in the parking lot of the local Chick-fil-a to make the exchange.

But it looked like too good of a deal to pass up. Wait, could that be another red flag? Maybe. So, I did what any self-respecting cyber-sleuth would do. I Facebook stalked the seller. Afterall, we live in a small community, surely we had a friend or two in common. Low and behold, we had 10 mutual friends! And, wait for it, two of them are in our small group! If you’ve ever been in a small group you know how close you get to these people. I mean, when you meet weekly to study the Bible, you start to really do life together and a family is created. So, I reached out to one of them. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hey, do you know So-and-So”?

Bible study friend: “Yes, why?”

Me: “Well, they listed this house on Facebook and I’m thinking about buying it. But don’t want to get kidnapped and killed when I go look at it.”

Bible study friend: “That’s one of my BFFs.”

Me: “U R kidding me!!!!”

Bible study friend: “I promise, you won’t get kidnapped and killed.”

We set a time to have a look at it and in the mean time my Bible study friend contacted her BFF and had her send us the inspection report! What? How does that even happen? The inspection report shared the good, the bad and the ugly.

During the walk through we saw, and smelled, some of the ugly. It would require a lot of elbow grease, some renovating and help from a contactor.

Now, to figure out how to do all the paperwork and negotiating without our beloved realtor friend Jill.