Our house sits on a 15,000 square foot lot in such a way that adding on to the structure shouldn’t be too big of a deal. Here’s a quick picture from our backyard for reference…

You see how much space there is on the left side of our house, that big grassy area that runs by the white picket fence.

Call me crazy, but I feel like the gods above are practically begging us to spend \$100,000 and add some square footage to our abode.

There is enough yard there we should be able add about 700-800sqft of living space.

“But Ninja, why do you need more living space?” -you guys

Introducing the Additional Dwelling Unit (AKA a mother-in-law):

As many of you know, prior to buying our house, Girl Ninja and I rented a mother-in-law unit above a million dollar home. It was a tiny one bedroom, but had awesome finishes and a view of Puget Sound. Check out how dope the main house was (the staircase running up the right side of the house went to our front door)…

We paid \$1,200/mo (utilities included) to live there. Since our landlord paid cash for his house, he literally had no housing costs. That’s right, our rent completely covered his property taxes and utility expenses. We stayed there for two years and loved every minute of it.

The plan:

If we could add a small, attached, two bedroom apartment (about 800 sqft) to our house for about \$100,000 (works out to \$125 per sqft), I can’t think of a reason why we shouldn’t. The math seems to work in our favor.

The math:

Let’s assume Girl Ninja and I pay \$30,000 from savings, and borrow \$70,000 at 6% on a 30 year term. Our housing payment would increase by about \$513 in this scenario, increasing our total PITI obligation to about \$2,200/mo.

Since Girl Ninja and I looked at renting in our current neighborhood two years ago, we have an idea where rent prices are, although they’ve probably gone up a bit.

We should fetch between \$1,200 to \$1,500 a month in rental income from this place.

(leaving us with only a \$800 house payment).

Do you get what that means!?

We would be profiting \$700/month minimum right off the bat. What’s more, rent prices over time would increase but our payment wouldn’t.

And don’t forget, the extra bedrooms and bathrooms would increase the overall value of our property. Booya for this idea not being a sunk cost.

Passive income is very attractive and lord knows I need to start diversifying outside of my retirement funds. This seems like the most reasonable way to do both.

I can rent out 800sqft of our house (while we live in the other 1900sqft) and have over half of our house payment paid by someone else.

Is this not the financial stars aligning before my very eyes?

Someone with knowledge shed some light on the situation. Is this a pretty awesome idea? Or am I totally overlooking something?

side note: Our current roommate/friend is paying us \$400/month to live in a small 10ft by 13ft room in our basement (she has full access to our house).

I love mixing business and friendships.

When Girl Ninja and I decided to begin the house hunting process a year ago, we were in kind of an awkward position. We had met with a Redfin agent, our landlord introduced us to one of his employees who was also a realtor, and then one of our good friends worked in Real Estate. We knew the general rule of thumb is that people shouldn’t mix business with pleasure, or in other words, we shouldn’t hire a friend to be our realtor.

Well we did and we couldn’t be happier with the decision. In fact, since he was a personal friend it almost seemed like he DIDN’T want us to buy a house. Each place we walked through he would give us a laundry list of reasons why he thought we should pass on it. It was really nice knowing we had someone looking out for our best interest, and not necessarily his wallet.

Hiring friends seems to be a trend of mine.

Two weeks ago I hired a high school friend to do \$350 worth of electrical work on our place. He ran power from our house out to our car port and installed three floodlights and an outdoor outlet. I had an electrician I found on Yelp come out and give me a bid on the work, and when my buddy said he would do it for the same price, it seemed like a no brainer.

Go with the friend.

Yesterday we had \$1,200 worth of yard work done. A bunch of wood chipping, a huge 60 foot Fir tree taken down, and three trees high limbed to 50 ft. I’m so pleased with the company we ended up going with, but even still, I wish I knew someone personally that I could have hired to do the work.

On a side note, look at how OPEN our backyard looks now! Booya for no more claustrophobia…

before…

after (obviously there is still some work that needs to be done like laying grass seed)…

I guess I think about things like this:

I’m going to spend X dollars on Y project so why not hire someone I can trust? Not to mention the fact that I can put dollars in a friend’s pocket instead of a strangers. Win, win!

I guess until I get burned, I’ll continue to hire friends and acquaintances for projects around the home that I can’t do myself. Until then I’m happy to hand over my benjamins to my besties.

Murdering plants and taking bad deals.

Our house sits on a lush 0.35 acre property just outside of Seattle. Getting a nice chunk of land was important to us me as we were house hunting. The obvious downside of a good-sized backyard?  Yard work. Check out our little plot of land….

It was clear when we bought the property that the owners had let mother nature run her course and that the surrounding shrubbery was choking off the useable yard space. Especially when you compare it to how the backyard looked a few years ago (following picture stolen off the FB page of the previous owner)…

This last week, a buddy of mine and I spent six hours with a 30 foot ladder and a ten foot pole saw limbing every tree, branch, and bush we could get to.

WE WERE MURDERING PLANTS!

The fruits of our labor are pictured below…

We were left with a massive pile of branches. A pile so big, I could no longer rent a 27′ Uhaul to dump them as I originally hoped. I was going to need to pay a company to come and remove the debris.

I hopped on Yelp and called one of the higher rated Tree Service companies in my city to come out and give me an estimate. That afternoon I had a guy show up, walk around the property and quoted me \$1,000 for chipping and haul away service. I asked him how soon he could get to work and he promised they’d start bright and early the next morning.

I shook his hand and we had a deal.

The next morning comes and I set my handy-dandy security system up (facing our front yard) so I could check in on the work they were doing while I was away. But every time I checked in on the property, the workers were nowhere to be found. They didn’t end up arriving until 1pm, 20 minutes after I made it back home.

I was livid.

Before they could even park their truck I went outside and met with my contact, told him I was extremely frustrated that he wasn’t on site in the morning as promised, and said I was going to look for a different company to work with. (side note: he told me he was late because traffic court went longer than expected)

I fired him.

I’ve never fired anyone before. It was pretty awkward, but also kinda liberating.

That afternoon I had another company come out and give me a bid for the same work. Get this, their bid came in at \$490. That’s 50% less what Mr. Sketchball was going to charge me!

I was so glad I got a second quote, and feel way better about this new company, but I’m also angry with myself for not automatically getting a few bids before I chose a company to work with.

I’m realizing I’m either dumb or impatient as I literally did this same thing a month ago with our kitchen counters; Agreed to work with a company, and then said no thanks the next day after realizing we were getting screwed.

Take it from me, ALWAYS GET A SECOND QUOTE when it comes to any type of home service or project. I’ve learned this the hard way twice now, hopefully there wont be a third time.

I got a few questions…

1) Have you used Yelp for hiring out contracting work before? Is it reliable? I feel burned.

2) You ever fired someone before?

3) You ever agreed to a bad deal before?

I bought a security system that isn’t a ripoff.

We were over at a friend’s house a few weeks ago, and after he gave us a tour of his home he asked Girl Ninja and I a weird question. He said “Do you want to see your entrance to our home?”

I had no idea what he was talking about so I said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

He pulled out his iPhone, opened up an app, and played back video of us approaching his front porch and knocking on their front door. Unbeknownst to us, he has a security camera that films his front porch. Creepy and awesome.

Being the tech nerd I am, I was intrigued and began asking him a billion questions about it. That night, I went home and bought myself a Dropcam.

***Note: I want to make sure it’s clear this is not a sponsored post. I’m just pumped about this discovery and want to share it with you all.***

Girl Ninja has been pestering me about a home security system since we moved in. I hate the idea of a home security system. We know a ton of people who have them, but have not heard one story where they have actually been useful. Heard too many stories about alarms going off (and cops being called) because of a cat in the garage, a family member forgot the security code, or an electrical issue. Couple that knowledge with the fact that I’m a cheapskate and you can understand why I was hesitant to get a security system.

Dropcam, however, seems like the perfect solution for someone like myself. I want to give my wife peace of mind, but keep as much money as possible in our pockets.

We hopped on Amazon and bought the camera for \$135, now \$149. It’s wifi enabled and after two minutes of set-up, it was ready to be used. We put it in our living room, looking out a window on to our front porch. Here’s a sreenshot of our camera’s point of view…

Dropcam is awesome for a few reasons. I’ll list them in bullet point form…

• It takes HD video.
• The Dropcam app allows you to pull up the live (or archived) feed from your phone, tablet, or computer at any time.
• You can choose to receive notifications anytime the camera senses motion, noise, or both.
• For \$99 a year, you can add 7 days of cloud storage. Meaning you can play back 7 days of footage at any time. Significantly cheaper than the \$20/mo security system plans.
• The camera has both a speaker and a microphone, meaning it can also be used as a Baby Monitor. You could also communicate to someone who is in the process of robbing your house, via the camera speaker, that you have called the police and have video of their face.
• You can buy multiple Dropcams and place them anywhere you want.
• It has night vision, which works surprisingly well.
• It’s significantly cheaper than any big box security system and there is no contract.
• You get video of the dudes robbing your house. EVIDENCE!!!!

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of our Dropcam. We’ve used it to check in on Nova while we’ve been out (making sure she isn’t barking or chewing at her crate). We love getting notifications when we are out that motion has been detected, pulling up the feed quickly on our phone, and being able to make sure everything was all good.

For \$135 it’s the perfect home security system for us. We’ll probably buy a second one this summer and use it as a Baby Monitor knowing that a few years from now it can become a second home security camera.

I’ve asked our insurance agent to check with our homeowners policy to see if this is considered a legitimate security system in hopes that it will lower our homeowners insurance policy. Haven’t heard back yet, but if it does, that would be reason enough for anyone to buy it.

Anyone else have a Dropcam? What measures do you take to protect your home?

If you’re like me and interested in buying the Dropcam after my little review, I’m including an Amazon Affiliate link below to it. Meaning, I’ll make a small commission off your purchase, but you can totally just go to Amazon on your own and pay the same price if you don’t want me to get a piece of the pie 😉

p.s. Here’s the security footage of our stupid neighbors cat triggering a motion alert…

Real Estate Commissions Are An Absolute Joke

Girl Ninja and I were personal friends with our real estate agent. He has led Young Life with us for the last couple years and he’s a great dude. In fact, we had him over for dinner just the other night so we could show him all the changes we’ve made to our house since we bought it.

The dude is awesome and we love him to death, but I’m not quite convinced realtors in general are worth the 3% commission they receive.

We paid \$357,000 for our house. That means our buddy made \$10,000 when we bought our house (he doesn’t have to split his commission). I estimate we spent a total of 40 hours interacting with him over the course of the six months it took us to find our first home. This works out to about \$250/hour.

My parents also decided to buy a new home shortly after we did. They used my friend, and within three weeks of searching, they found themselves a new home. That’s another \$10,000 in our friend’s pocket. Oh, and did I mention my parents are about to sell their previous home, so he will make another \$5,000 to \$10,000 when that happens from them.

From just my family alone, our realtor will have made more than Girl Ninja makes all year as a kindergarten teacher.

That seems crazy to me.

I mean, our buddy is a GREAT realtor. The best. That’s why we used him and this should not be taken as a knock against him. It’s not.

I just don’t think realtor commissions are justified.

Think about it like this. Say Girl Ninja and I decided to buy a \$100,000 house. Our realtor would have provided us the same service he did for our current house, but only made \$3,000 from the commissions. Fortunately for him, we bout 3.5 times that amount. The amount of work he put in would have been the same regardless of our purchase price, but he charges us \$7,500 more if we buy a \$\$350,000 house.

Why is this not pissing off more people?

What seems logical to me is a fee for service model. Where I agree to pay \$100 each time my realtor shows me a house – regardless of if I buy it or not, and a \$2,000  bonus if I buy a house he has shown me. This seems much more fair. He gets paid every time he provides me a service (showing me houses or helping me purchase one). And I get to potentially save thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars.

Why the crap do we agree to pay commissions based off the purchase price of the home?! Who thought this was a good idea? And more importantly, why do we continue to allow it!

I’m starting to think I got in to the wrong industry.

We almost lost \$5,000.

Now that I’m back from Europe, and the holidays have passed, Girl Ninja and I are full steam ahead in making our 1930’s cottage more homey. On Saturday I spent a solid hour with an electrician getting quotes on everything from, running electricity out to our carport, repairing damaged outlets, and adding recessed lighting from Hinkley Lighting. I was surprised to learn electric work is nowhere near as expensive as I would have anticipated. Quartz countertops, however, are a different beast.

If you recall, back in October Girl Ninja and I sanded, primed, and painted our kitchen cabinets. Here are some pictures of the process…

With the cabinets looking all purdy, it seemed only logical to explore the world of countertops. Full disclosure: There is nothing really wrong with our countertops. They are basic white tile and in pretty good shape for their age.

Although our current counters are okay, we really want Quartz countertops in our kitchen. Maybe something like this

or this

Yesterday we had an appointment with a counter guy.

We spent an hour or so discussing color, edging, amount of speckle, sink mounting, etc. He took measurements of our counter space and at the end of the appointment gave us a quote.\$5,000 for our 50/sqft of counter space.

At this point I knew two things.

1. I loved the thought of having quartz countertops.
2. I hated the idea of spending \$5,000 on quartz countertops.

Like the sucker that I am, I gave the green light. We signed some paperwork, gave a 50% deposit, and have our counters scheduled to be installed a month from now.

After the counter guy left, Girl Ninja and I spent some time talking things through. She asked me how I felt, I asked her how she felt.

Neither of us could really describe our feelings.

Late last night we had an impromptu family meeting on our full-sized bed (any other couples still sleeping on a full?). We talked through the pros and cons of updating our counters.

As we made our lists we both came to the same conclusion; as nice as new counters would be, we don’t need them.

Every other decision we’ve made on the house has been a no-brainer; new windows, new carpet, updating cabinetry, painting literally every wall and ceiling. For each of those projects we knew exactly what we wanted and never, not even for a second, wavered.

This counter situation was a different story. Neither of us could shake the uneasy feeling we had after signing the contract.

According to the document, we have to notify the company (by mail) within 72 hours if we want to cancel the contract and receive a full refund of our deposit.

Today I plan to do just that.

We totally let ourselves get caught up in the sales pitch. Don’t get me wrong, quartz countertops are likely in our future, but for now the tile will have to do. At least until we know exactly what it is we want, and get a few more bids to make sure we are getting the best deal.

You ever had buyers remorse immediately after buying something or signing a contract? Did you stick with the purchase, or renege like us?

It’s official, people hate our house.

As you know I’m cooped up in a tiny hotel, in the middle of nowhere Netherlands, for six weeks. Girl Ninja, is back in Seattle, holding down the fort.

This last weekend she was a trooper and decided to conquer the gnarly task of leaf blowing our driveway. She spent the better part of an hour tackling all sorts of leaf and pine needle debris. About two-thirds of the way through the chore, GN noticed our across-the-street neighbor was making her way over for a visit.

Now we don’t know much about this neighbor except that she is old, retired, and has lived in the neighborhood for 20+ years. During the course of their 10 minute conversation, Girl Ninja learned one more thing about this lady.

She’s rude.

Even though the neighbor initiated the conversation, Girl Ninja didn’t feel like the lady had much to say. Naturally, GN starting sharing some of the house projects we had tackled.

That’s when things got awkward.

As GN was sharing about our mini kitchen remodel, the woman cut her off and said, “I was shocked when the house sold. I don’t know why any one would buy it. I mean, it’s only got one bathroom.”

Girl Ninja gave an awkward laugh and tried to explain that it’s just the two of us and we’ve always only had one bathroom so that wasn’t really a big deal to us. The lady wasn’t having it and continued to argue her point, telling Girl Ninja our house was essentially a bad investment.

Understandably, Girl Ninja was frustrated. She said she almost started to cry because she just felt like the lady was going out of her way to be harsh. I did my best to comfort Girl Ninja on the phone, but I could tell she was totally bummed.

What Grandma Jerkbag doesn’t know is that literally every house we considered buying had just one bathroom. It comes with the territory of wanting to buy a Pacific Northwest 83-year-old home.

Besides, it’s not like Girl Ninja and I poop at the exact same time. In fact, Girl Ninja doesn’t poop at all. Remember,  she is a girl and according to SCIENCE, Girls are incapable of pooping.

I get where the old lady is coming from. I mean, she lives in a 1970’s split level. Girl Ninja and I would never buy a split level. We don’t like the layouts. We also had no desire to buy new construction. Or a house with a sub 5,000 sqft lot. Or a house with a formal living room.

That doesn’t make any of those things bad. They just weren’t our style.

I’m not mad that this lady hates the fact that we have only one bathroom, I’m mad that she felt the need to go out of her way to make that fact known. I can only hope she felt justified in her actions because of this meme that was recently posted to MANteresting….

You ever dealt with someone who went out of their way to make you feel bad about a decision you made?