Selling The Ravenna House // The Final Numbers: How We Made $460,000 in 5 Years


The Ravenna House closed last month and today we’re running through the final numbers. This house is a great example of our real estate model and while we’ve shared stories and photos from the renovation for years, we’ve never pulled back the curtain on the finances before. So today you’re finally getting the full picture on what exactly it is we do with a property and why. For those thinking about buying a home, taking on a renovation, or becoming landlords, we hope you take something away from this post that’s useful. Read on for how we made $460,000 on the Ravenna House in 5 years.

photo by Meghan Klein for the Grit and Polish

Four-hundred-and-sixty-thousand dollars is a TON of money. Especially considering the bulk of it was tax free (more on that in a moment). And we earned it all in just 5 years from a total investment of $60,000 including renovations, down payment, everything.

Before I dive into the numbers, I wanted to mention that Garrett and I are self-taught DIY-ers in renovation, real estate, and landlording. We fixed up the Ravenna House while working 9-5 jobs and raising our first son. We got our start in real estate with little more than a can-do attitude, helpful families, and visions of renovations dancing in our heads. Ha! While we’ve certainly been lucky along the way (scroll down to the takeaways section for more on that), we’ve also put in loads of hard work and been persistent. You can read more about our background here.

photos by Meghan Klein for the Grit and Polish

The Numbers

We bought the Ravenna House – a 1926 Tudor in Seattle – in 2013 and proceeded to renovate every square inch of the property. Our small family lived in the house for two years while fixing it up and then moved on to our next project and turned Ravenna into a rental. In September of 2018, just 1 month shy of the 5 year mark, we sold Ravenna and walked away with a big fat check. You can read a more detailed timeline of the investment below (including the unique way we financed this property), but first, let’s get to the numbers.

Sale Price $775,000

Net Rental Income (2.5 years) $70,000*


Purchase Price $270,000

Initial renovations $50,000

New Roof $7,700

Selling Preparations $2,000

Real estate fees (4%) $31,000

Excise Taxes (King County, WA) $13,800

Closing Expenses $3,231

Total Return $467,267**

* Rental income from ~2.5 years less expenses (mortgage, insurance, utilities, cleanings). 

** At some point while living in Ravenna, we took out a large HELOC against the equity we had built up, which we used to buy the Dexter House, and later the Farmhouse. We counted that expense against those later properties so you don’t see it here, but we did pay it off when we sold Ravenna.

photos by Meghan Klein for the Grit and Polish

Timeline and More Financial Details on Ravenna

There’s a lot to unpack in those numbers, so let’s run through some key moments:

  • Summer 2013: Have our first baby and finish a kitchen and bath remodel on the Bryant House
  • Received an inheritance and Cathy can’t help but look for a fixer upper (well she’s always looking for a fixer…).
  • Sept 2013, find a great opportunity 10 blocks away from Bryant House and it’s right in our sweet spot: built in 1926, ~900sqft 2 bed 1 bath in almost original condition, and an unfinished basement listed for $230k
  • The house smells like animal and has a very scary basement, rats in the attic, and a tiny kitchen with no place for a fridge or dishwasher. There is no heat source, the yard is a jungle, and the detached garage is literally falling down. Only cash offers are being accepted.
  • Our family pretty much thinks we’re crazy but are willing to loan us $210k and we come up with the rest of the cash to put an offer of $270k in. We’re one of 11 offers. The owner likes that we’re a family (the rest of the bids are from developers) and picks our offer even though it’s $16K under the highest bid. We pay $270k for Ravenna and close a couple of weeks later.
  • Weekends and evenings are now spent remodeling the main floor. We replace all the plumbing and electrical, bring gas to the property, add a new furnace, remove the oil tank in the backyard (we hire that out), gut the kitchen and open it up to the living room, renovate the bathroom, and refinish the original oak floors (we also hire that out).
  • After the main floor is done, we turn our attention to the basement and begin finishing the unfinished ~600sf into a family room, bedroom, laundry room and bathroom.
  • Six months after purchasing the home, the main-floor reno is complete and downstairs is framed and roughed-in. We use delayed financing (more on that below) to mortgage the property for $270k and payback family members. We created enough equity in the property with renovations that no cash downpayment is required.
  • After finishing the basement 8+ months after buying the home, we have the home appraised at $550k and apply for a HELOC. At this point, we’ve spent ~$50k in renovations to completely update the house, which is a return of about 460% on our cash investment [($550k-$270k-$50k)/$50k]. Not bad for a couple crazy love birds but it gets better…
  • We decide to use the HELOC to purchase another property and so 2 years after purchasing Ravenna, we move on to Dexter and turn Ravenna into a rental. Over the next ~2.5 years we net just over $70k in rental income.
  • Two months prior to our capital gain exclusion running out (more about that in the tax section below) we give Ravenna a new roof, a master bedroom refresh, and some staging before putting it on the market for $775,000 with Redfin. We receive a full-price, cash offer 5 days later.

photos by Cathy Poshusta

Why Most of our Profits are Tax Free

Our net rental profits from Ravenna were not tax free, but our sale profits are. Sellers are required to pay capital gains taxes on real estate profits to the tune of around 15%. But there’s an exemption for primary residences as long as you live in the home for 2 of the last 5 years. Our exemption was coming up in October of 2018 and that’s why we started to consider selling the home in the first place (you can read more about that here). If we had sold Ravenna after our 2-in-5 exclusion ran out we would have owed over $60,000 to the federal government.

What is Delayed Financing

We bought the Ravenna House for cash and then financed it within the first 6-months, a process called delayed financing. There are some specific requirements for delayed financing (you can read more about that here), but we love that it allows you to make an appealing cash offer and still finance quickly. Plus, if you’re doing renovations like we did on Ravenna, you can use the equity you’ve built in the property as the down payment so you limit the amount of cash you have tied up in the property.

TAKEAWAYS from the Ravenna House Sale

There are a lot of reasons why we believe we made so much money on Ravenna and we wanted to distill those today for anybody getting into real estate, renovating, and/or landloring.

Location // The Ravenna House is located in a desirable, close-in neighborhood of Seattle (called Ravenna). There are great schools here, parks, community centers, restaurants, and easy access to downtown. All that adds up to expensive home prices. And of course Seattle has had one of the hottest real estate markets in the nation for the past 5 years. Taking a step back and looking nationally, I have to say that this kind of profit would not likely have been possible outside of a few large urban centers, mostly located on the coasts. Of course there’s money to be made in residential real estate most everywhere, but just not as much. We were really lucky to have landed in Seattle, but we stayed for as long as we did in large part because we saw the income potential. It’s much easier to make money in a big city and retire to a small town and that’s what we did in 2016.

Timing // Buy Low, Sell High. We bought Ravenna in 2013, which was basically the low of the recession, and sold it in 2018, which feels near a high (at least for a bit). Timing is everything and we were lucky to have been able to buy a home in 2013 and even luckier that we were able to hold on to the property for as long as we wanted. If we had sold Ravenna after one or two or even three years we would not have made nearly as much money. We’re really partial to the buy-and-hold model.

Luck // We were luuuucky. The only reason we got this house to begin with was because the previous owner took a shine to us (more here). We probably, tipped fate a bit by submitting a heartfelt letter (with a picture of us and our newborn son standing on his front steps, which you can see at the bottom of this post), but even so, there’s an element of luck in everything…timing, being in Seattle, having family that could loan us cash. Lots of luck everywhere.

Fixer // buying a fixer is one of our core principles in real estate. If it doesn’t need work, we’re not interested. Sweat equity is our thing.

Make Smart Upgrades // Every dollar you have has the potential to make money for you. Here at the Grit and Polish we’re always talking about being financially-responsible with renovations, but what exactly does that mean? Well it means $460,000 payouts instead of a Pinterest dream kitchen. It means buying a second property (and eventually a 3rd and 4th…)  instead of putting $50,000 more into our beloved Wallingford house. We don’t talk a lot about the Wallingford House here on the Grit and Polish – mostly because we bought it long before I started this blog or got a good camera – but it’s our favorite Seattle property by a long shot. We would have enjoyed creating a second story master retreat and expanding the kitchen and living a block from the park on a quiet side street in Seattle’s best neighborhood (yes, best ;). But rather than retire at 34, we would have worked for decades longer. Rather than film an HGTV pilot and help our families and friends with renovations, we’d be dealing with commutes and spending every day in a cubicle. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad road to take (and if that’s your dream, more power to you!), it just wasn’t the road for us. We took the house hacking and early retirement road and we’re glad we did. The lesson here is be smart about the money you put into a property. Think about the return you’ll get on that money and if a renovation is worth delaying retirement for or skipping vacations or missing out on the fixer down the road. Every dollar you have has the potential to make money for you.

DIY // Do everything yourself that you possibly can. I even added the title “DIY real estate investing” to the pin-friendly images in this post because it’s been that important to our success. Doing it yourself saves a ton of money and gives you the opportunity to learn. We’ve become proficient DIY renovators, landlords, property maintainers, plumbers, framers, decorators, stagers, and lots more. I can’t begin to guess what DIY has saved us to date, but it’s certainly in the hundred of thousands.

Playing the Long Game // Garrett and I have always treated real estate as a long game. We are willing to delay the payout on a property for a very long time in favor of rental income. Not only did that make the difference between a small payout and a giant payout at Ravenna, but it meant we could retire at 34 and live off of our rental income. Of course I’m not saying to hold on to an income property that isn’t positive every month (we make sure our’s bring in at least 10%), but being patient can pay off. Real estate is considered a fairly safe investment that increases in value pretty reliably over time.

Those are all of our takeaways, but we’d love to hear any wisdom you may have. Or if you’re just starting out, are there any questions you have? Please add to the conversation in the comments below!

kitchen photo by Cathy Poshusta


Available here (more updates coming soon)

Related Posts

How to Sell a Home – What we did to Prepare Ravenna for Sale // Why we Decided to Sell One of Our Seattle Rentals // How we Saved $5k on Ravenna’s Roof // What to look for in your first home (House Hacking edition) // Our Story: Old Houses and Early Retirement //

photo by Robin, our first Redfin agent

photo by Cathy Poshusta


Ravenna House // Tips for Saving Money On a New Roof (We Saved $5k on ours!)


I hate spending money on roofs. They’re not pretty or exciting and they’re so expensive. But of course roofs keep you dry and warm so even I can admit, they’re worth every penny. We recently got a new roof installed at the Ravenna House and I wanted to share a few tips on the process, what it cost, and how we saved $5k on the whole deal.

These photos are of the new roof on the Ravenna House. While the previous roof was technically fine (no leaks, holes, or glaring problems), but it was at least 15 years old and looked it. We’re planning to sell this house next month so we didn’t want a kinda-old-but-technically-fine roof to keep us from getting top dollar (and yes, the mailbox will need to be addressed too ;). Read on for a few considerations we made and how we got the best deal on our new roof.

Tear Off vs Roof Overs (added layer)

‘Tear off’ means removing the existing roofing shingles down to the plywood underlayment. If you’re in a really old house that has never had a tear off, it’s possible your underlayment may be skip sheeting (1″x6″ boards laid down with gaps), which would need to be replaced as well. Different municipalities have different requirements for roofs, but in Seattle you’re allowed two layers of roofing before tear off is required. However, after talking to some roofers, we found out that most people choose to do a tear off with every new install, regardless how many layers of existing roofing they have. It’s more expensive that way, since tear-off is a big chunk of the labor expense. But on the plus side, tearing off provides a better warranty and is just considered nicer. We chose to do a tear off and start fresh with a new roof.

DIY-ing Part or All of your Roof

Garrett actually worked for a small roofing company the summer before college, and we’ve done tear off and roofing for our own homes in the past. But roofing is a task we avoid if at all possible. We’ve found that the extended contractor warranty is worth the small savings by installing your own roof. Plus roofing is just one of those renovation tasks that is no fun. We would consider doing the tear off ourselves to save on labor costs, but opted not to on this project.

Type of Roof

There are a few options for roofs. In an ideal world, we would have gotten cedar shake. But alas, we did not. I care so little for roofs, that I let Garrett pick out this asphalt shingle. I’m fine with it. There are quite a few other types of roofing material out there including rubber, metal, clay, slate, and Tesla solar tile! Premium-level architectural (also called dimensional) asphalt shingles are a trending product that provide more relief due to increased thickness. Here are a few items for thought when considering whether to upgrade from a basic material:

  • Likelihood of selling in the next 10-15 years?
  • Is a remodel (that will affect the roof) in the 10-year plan?
  • Are you in a region that experiences extreme weather (snow, wind, hail, heat etc.)?
  • What materials are comparable neighborhood houses using?

We would consider going with something longer lasting such as metal for a structure we had high certainty was going to be in our portfolio in 30 years. This just wasn’t the case here, hence the standard materials.

Shop Around

We got 10 estimates on this roof. Yes, ten! That seems excessive, but it turned out to be worth it every phone call.  The first bid came in at $13k for this small roof and that contractor would only accept the job if they got all of the work (i.e. we couldn’t do the tear-off ourselves to save money). The second bid came in at $6600 for a roof over. And all the other bids fell in-between those. We ended up selecting a bid for $7700. If we had gone with the first bid, we would have spent $5,000 more on this project. Yikes!

For the Ravenna House, Garrett selected a driftwood color to compliment the house colors, but generally I prefer something more monochromatic, like dark grey/charcoal. Do you guys have a favorite roofing color? Anyone gone with white? We’d love to hear any money-saving tips you have for getting a new roof.


Real Renovation Budgets // 3 Bathrooms Under $3000 from our Archives

Over the past handful of years, Garrett and I have renovated (and added) quite a few bathrooms in our old homes.  Not surprisingly, all of these bathrooms have been completed on a budget. Budget is a driving factor in everything we do because like most people, we have limited funds (duh), and because unlike most people, our homes are investments (as in they provide us with rental income). We rely on these homes for our livelihood – you can read more about that here – so the money we invest in them needs to equate to returns. And I should note that for us ‘returns’ means both higher rents and less maintenance/repairs/design-changes in the long run. So we’re not looking for the cheapest finishes, but we’re investing in good-quality, long-lasting, age-appropriate materials and beefing up the structure and systems of the home. And doing it all as inexpensively as possible.

With all of these bathroom remodels under our belts, I thought it would be fun to showcase a few and talk about what they cost us.

Dexter Bathroom

Budget: under $1000

Description: I don’t think you’ve seen this bathroom on the blog before, but it’s the main bathroom at the Dexter House. When we first bought the property, this room was the nicest space in the whole house, so we didn’t touch it during the renovation. But once everything else was renovated, this space felt kind of lackluster, so we did a budget-friendly refresh. We swapped out the sink and faucet, installed new wainscot, replaced the sconce, brought in a cabinet from elsewhere in the house, and painted everything. Then we gave the existing floors, tub, and tiles a good scrubbing and called it good.

Read more: money savings lessons from renovating old homes (on Apartment Therapy),

Porch House Powder Bathroom

Budget: $1,220

Description: this bathroom was a brand new addition to the Porch House. We stole 34sf from an adjacent bedroom and framed in this rectangular bathroom. We added paneling and wallpaper on the walls and installed a pedestal sink, faucet, sconce, and toilet.

Read more: Porch House powder bathroom, design, wallpaper ideas, reveal and sources, budget

Dexter Master Bathroom

Budget: $2,995

Description: this 36sf master bathroom at the Dexter House was originally the dining nook. We walled it off and added an entrance into the bedroom and then created this tiny, cute bathroom. We brought in a salvaged tub and sink, painted the floors and walls, and repurposed the existing storage.

Read more: master bathroom construction, reveal, budget


Inspiration for Sticking to your Renovation Budget and Being Generally Smart with Money

Last week we published our budget for the Porch House powder bathroom (you can see that here) and I wanted to get back to the topic of money today. For those of us who own and love old homes, there can be an interesting intersection where renovations and life finances meet. Like the saying goes, an old home can be a money pit if you’re not careful. Last year, Garrett and I shared our journey to *early retirement* (which is really more like *self-employment*) through renovations, house hacking, and rentals. And I’d like to keep that discussion going today.

Emily Netz Kitchen

via / design: Emily Netz / photos: Melissa Click Photography

Lately I’ve seen more talk about finances going on in the blog world – both in renovating (like Sarah’s post) and life (like Joanna’s post). So I wanted to share a few of my favorite blogs and Instagram accounts that keep budget in focus. These folks are doing inexpensive (and beautiful!) renovations, retiring early, and generally being smart with their limited funds. I love following them because I tend to be more responsible with our money when I see others doing the same. I think it’s easy to get accustomed to seeing $50k, Pinterest-perfect kitchens and feeling like we need one too (regardless of our home value or financial goals). But these folks help keep our dreams in check.

Emily Netz Sitting Room

via / design: Emily Netz / photos: Melissa Click Photography

Inspiration for budget renovations and generally being start with your money

@emilysuenetz /the Slow Flip Formula – Emily and her husband Jeffrey renovate old houses in Oklahoma with the most beautiful results (the pictures in this post are all from their last project!). I was first drawn to their beautiful interiors and cute kids, but stuck around because I loved their story. This post about their journey is more detailed, but basically Emily and Jeffrey buy fixers, move in, renovate them, and then sell them a couple of years later for a profit. They call it “slow-flipping” and they recently turned their process into a new business, the Slow Flip Formula. Check out their site for a free guide on buying homes for future profit. And check out more of their beautiful (budget-friendly) interiors on Emily’s Instagram page.

Newly Woodwards – Kim and her husband Ryan built their own home with cash, renovated others, and own rentals. They believe in making a home you love and can afford and I really appreciate their perspective. Basically these guys have their heads on straight! You can see what I mean in Kim’s ‘budget and money’ section (be sure to check out this post). In Kim’s relatable words: “It’s just plain easy to get sucked up in a black hole of “what we could do.” You visit a friend’s home with a $50,000 custom kitchen and can’t get it out of your head. You see marble floors on Pinterest and nothing else compares. You need it all. But, hold up, my friends. We need a roof over our heads. But we want the finer things.” Amen, sister.

Apartment Therapy – Apartment Therapy is full of beautiful house tours and enviable remodels, but it’s the real world budgets I love seeing the best, which you can see here. I’ve even written an article for them on 7 ways that Garrett and I save money on our renovations (you can see it here).

@jennasuedesign / blog – Jenna and her fiance just launched a new real estate business in Florida after traveling the world for the better part of a year, DreamStone, LLC (you can read more about that here). They’re looking at buy-and-hold properties (and just bought a 5-plex) plus flips and they’re going to vlog all about it. Jenna is an amazing designer in her own right (you’ll probably recognize this beautiful bathroom she did for the One Room Challenge) and I can’t wait to see how they balance beautiful design with the strict financials of real estate investing.

Mr. Money Mustache – So this blog has nothing to do with design, but it’s one of my all time favorites on money. Mr. Money Mustache is all about extreme frugality and he’ll make you look hard at your own consumption, spending, and waste. What you’ll find: case studies from those seeking financial freedom, household spending in a year (hint: it’s waaaay less than you are spending), and tips for spending less on all the things. Mostly, I like his voice and practical approach to money/life/being.

The Kitchn’s Financial Diet Column and Food Budget series – this site also has nothing to do with home decor, but did I mention that renovation budgetting is completely intertwined with everyday budgeting? Well it is. And Food budgets are some of the largest expenditures we make every month so keeping that in check can mean more money for renovations and home improvement. The real world food budgets are especially interesting!

The Frugalwoods – I first discovered the Frugalwoods about a year ago. They’re into financial independence and simple living, much like Mr. Money Mustache but on a large homestead in Vermont. You won’t find design inspiration here, but what I do love about these guys is their perspective (similar to Mr. Money Mustache) and that they share their monthly spending. It’s empowering to know how little money you could live on, even though most of us don’t.

Emily Netz Bathroom

via / design: Emily Netz / photos: Melissa Click Photography

There’s so much ground to cover when talking about money, old homes, design-forward renovations, and personal finances. So if you guys are interested, I’d love to make this a regular topic on the Grit and Polish.


Porch House // What the Powder Bathroom Cost + Budget Tips


The powder bathroom budget is part 5 of our Porch House powder bath series. You can read more here: designwhy we added a powder bathroom8 great wallpapers, and the reveal

Last week I showed you one of my all-time favorite renovations, the powder bathroom at the Porch House. This little space is a beautiful jewel box within this simple home, which was built in 1900, long before powder bathrooms were popular. It’s the finishes that set this room apart: bold wallpaper, brass accents, and board and batten painted in the warmest neutral. And I think it’s all just so pretty, but can you believe it was also done on a small budget?

The Grit and Polish - Porch Powder Bathroom sink 3 CLEAN

The finishes for this new bathroom rang in at just over $1200.  Here’s where the dollars went:

Powder Bathroom Finishes Budget

$480 wallpaper (2 rolls)

$100 board and batten materials

$50 paint

$225 pedestal sink

$64 faucet (from ebay)

$50 brass sconce

$150 toilet

$100 plumbing, caulk, misc

$0 framing/drywall/flooring (not included, see below)*

$1219 TOTAL

*framing, drywall, and flooring costs are not included in this budget since those costs are almost impossible to pull out of the whole-house renovation we completed at the same time as this bathroom. If you had to throw a dart at those materials costs, they’d be in the realm of $300-$500. Again, that’s materials only.

It’s also important to note that this bathroom is brand new to the house. We carved the space out of an existing bedroom. The powder bathroom is about 34sf. You can see the floor plan here.

Budgeting is an art form that not everyone possess and it’s so easy to spend a small fortune on renovating. So today I wanted to include a few insights and tips on how we kept the powder bathroom budget so low. These tips are relevant to any renovation and could help maximize your dollars on your next project.

Tips on How we got a High-End Look on a Budget

One // Splurge on one High Impact Item, Save on the Rest. In this room we splurged on the wallpaper, which is the single most defining design feature. The wallpaper range in at $480, which is over 1/3 of our overall materials budget for this space. But that was our only splurge.

Two // Inexpensive Wall Treatments that Look Expensive. We designed and built the board and batten wainscot in this room for $100. It’s constructed entirely of mdf trim, a little caulk, and some paint. And the finished product looks way more expensive than it actually cost.

Three // Plan Ahead! Planning ahead can save you a ton of money in shipping fees, rush order, sale prices, and it turns out extra rolls of wallpaper too. Before we got to work on the board and batten, we ran the numbers on the wallpaper’s pattern repeat, width, and length and figured out that if we brought the wainscot up to 5′ we’d only need two rolls of the expensive wallpaper. In the end there was hardly two feet of wallpaper to spare, but planning ahead saved us from spending another $240 in wallpaper.

Four // Search for second-hand, Refurbished, or Out-of-Box Items. We found the brass faucet, an out-of-box item, on Ebay. It rang in at a good half of what it would sell for new. And while we weren’t able to reuse an existing toilet or repurpose an old sink in this bathroom, we almost always do.

Five // Keep the Design Simple. This tip is pretty intuitive: having less things in your space means spending less money. Simple, minimal spaces simply cost less to build. We stuck with just the necessities in here and that went for paint colors too.  We used the same color on the trim and ceiling in here as we did through the main floor of the Porch House – C2 Vex and BM Simply White – so we didn’t need to buy extra paint. And bonus, the simple color palette helps the house flow from one room to the next, giving it that pulled-together feel.

Six // Inexpensive Art.  The single art print in this bathroom was a free download from one of my favorite blogs, the Faux Martha. I printed it at Costco and framed it in a Target frame for a total cost of under $15. Talk about budget! You can check out more inexpensive art ideas here.

Seven // Do the Work Yourself! You knew this one was coming. We’re big advocates of doing work ourselves because it saves money, teaches valuable skills, and controls the end product. Plus it can be hard to recoup your investment when you hire out entire projects, at least in a small-town real estate market like Ellensburg (Seattle is a whooole different ball game). And that may not be a huge deal for someone who plans to stay in the home forever and just really wants a pretty powder bathroom, but it is a huge deal for Garrett and I who tackled this renovation as an investment. I’m guessing if you asked a contractor to build this bathroom, you’d be looking at upwards of $10k in materials, design, and labor (plumber, electrician, general labor, wallpaper-er, etc), so doing all that ourselves saved a ton of money.

The Grit and Polish - Porch Powder Bathroom GW print 2

Porch House Powder Bathroom Sources:

You can find all the resources for this bathroom here.

Related posts:

Powder bath design // Why we added a powder bathroom // 8 great powder bathroom wallpapers // the Porch House powder bathroom reveal // Porch House floor plan // Porch House master suite // Ideas for Inexpensive art // A 36sf master bathroom // A 36sf master bathroom budget

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