Tacoma Converted Garage // A Proper Introduction + How to house hack like a single lady


We’ve been working on the Tacoma Converted Garage project for 5 months now (including this dining nook makeover), and we’ll be spending lots more time over there this Fall. So I thought it was time to do a proper introduction to the project here on the blog.

Tacoma Converted Garage // from our dining nook makeover with Metrie

About the Property and the House Hack

The Tacoma Converted Garage is the third unit of a victorian triplex in Tacoma, 30 miles of Seattle. While I wish Garrett and I owned this old beauty (1890s…swoon), alas, we do not. But it is in the family. Garrett’s sister, Naysa, bought this triplex back in 2015 and moved into the third unit (aka the converted garage) while renting out the apartments in the main house. There’s a lot to unpack about this property so let’s get to it.

How to House Hack Like a Single Lady

This was Naysa’s first home purchase and she made it as a single woman. I wanted to point that out because what Garrett and I do is always about ‘we’ and ‘us’ but there are single people taking on just as much and they’re doing it with only two hands. I’m immensely impressed by this (as an identical twin, doing things by myself is far from my comfort zone) and can only imagine how daunting it is to buy, renovate, and rent out a home by oneself. Naysa is fearless and awesome and a total #rolemodel.

Second, Naysa has taken on ALL of the landlord duties herself. Or, I should say, landlady duties. Of course Naysa has a mentor in her brother who’s just a phone call away, but Naysa has become a landlady in her own right. She advertises vacancies, writes leases, maintains the property, and deals with the finances on her own.

Also of note, this property is in a great neighborhood of Tacoma and Naysa probably couldn’t have afforded a home in here without the added benefit of rental income. Speaking of rental income, Tacoma has seen a healthy increase in rents over the past 3 years and Naysa’s renters (in the main house) now pay the mortgage for the entire property. This is the goal of house hacking and Naysa has nailed it. Also, apparently house hacking runs in our family 😉

The Story Behind the House Hack (aka $150,000 in Student Loan Debt)

While house hacking was a necessity for Garrett and I, Naysa’s back story is a little different. Naysa went to school for 8 years to become a veterinarian and came out of college with $150,000 in student loans. Her student loan payment is a huge monthly burden on her budget. So when it came time to buy a home, she looked for a property that could help with her finances. In the end, this triplex made it possible for her to pay down her loans and own a home in an awesome neighborhood. Impressive for anyone, this feat is especially notable for a single lady coming out of college with six figures of debt.

One more note: we’ve never shared someone else’s house hacking journey before but I think there’s a lot of value in it. So we asked Naysa if we could share her story on the blog in hopes that other’s can get something from it.

Tacoma Converted Garage renovation // Cathy, Garrett, and Naysa

Now back to the renovation…

The #TacomaConvertedGarage Renovation

The original finishes in the garage apartment were rough to say the least. It’s unclear when the garage was converted into an apartment, but regardless, it needed renovated again. This year, Naysa finally pulled the trigger. And because life is always throwing curveballs, Naysa got a new job in Ellensburg shortly after starting on the plans. Ha! Renovating now requires a commute, but on the plus side, Naysa now lives near us and coaches our son’s soccer team (did I mention how awesome Naysa is…?!).

Unfortunately I didn’t get any shots of the Tacoma Converted Garage before demo began, but these at least should give you a feel for the architecture and flow of the space. And if you get queasy just looking at rough spaces, scroll ahead for the floor plan and design board.

Like I said, it was rough.

Floorplans and Design Boards

Every square inch of this unit is being renovated. Not only are we gutting the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry space, but the entire unit is getting new electrical, plumbing, and heating. We’re opening up the kitchen and living spaces and carving out a second bedroom from a defunct corner. Here is the ‘before’  floorplan:

And here’s what the floorplan looks like after framing:

As far as the design, we’re working with the existing industrial, modern vibe and bringing in a bit of the Grit and Polish aestethic. That means bright whites, timeless appeal, and natural materials. We’ll be keeping as many of the original character-rich elements as possible: concrete floors, tongue-and-grove walls, wood beams and posts, and sloped ceilings. Bella (our intern from the Spring who  graduated and took a full-time job…miss you, Bella!) put together design boards for Naysa’s, and I’m including them below. A couple elements have evolved (and surely more still will), but the overall look and feel is spot on.

What’s Next

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that we’ve been working on the Tacoma Converted Garage for the better part of 5 months now and believe it or not, we’ve accomplished a few things: demo, electrical rough-in and service change, framing, drywall, plumbing rough-in, dining nook makeover, and the original concrete floors were polished. And now we’re to the fun part – putting the place back together! We’ll be bringing you guys along as we wrap up this space over the next few months.

First up: the built-in hood vent that Garrett crafted this weekend (we have a DIY tutorial coming later this week!). Can’t wait to see this unit take shape!

Related Posts

Dining nook picture frame molding how-to // Vintage Industrial dining nook reveal


We Rented Out Our Home for 5 Weekends This Summer And Here’s How It Went (and What we Earned)


This summer, we rented out our home for 5 weekend stays (plus one 6-day stay) on Airbnb and Homeaway. I shared why we were doing that here and our first experience with HomeAway here (and some tips for you to rent your own home out here), but I wanted to share a recap now that we’re wrapping up our summer rentals. Read on for pros and cons from our experience.



Probably the best part about renting out our home for short stays are the earnings. This summer, we took home just shy of $6,000 at the Farmhouse and have another $2,500 in bookings coming our way later in the Fall. That’s $8,500 in total! I like to call these funds ‘fun money’ since it’s not part of our monthly budgeting, and we plan to use this haul for a family adventure in Europe later this year. And while we’re away, we’ll be booking more stays at the Farmhouse to subsidize even more travel or reno projects or paying down our mortgage or saving for college or…well you get the point. It’s a winning cycle!

Clean House

While the money is great, there’s nothing like walking into your insanely clean home after it’s been rented out for the weekend. Ahhhhhh. A clean home is good for the soul. Even if it takes our kids approximately 30 minutes to have stuff everywhere, the homecoming is worth it’s weight in gold!

It got us Out

I’m definitely a homebody (although my husband is much less so) and it’s easy for me to say ‘let’s just stay home this weekend’. But renting out our home ensured that I would plan camping trips and family visits throughout the summer. While this summer ended up being a little busier than I would have liked, none of us regretted the extra time spent with family and friends while camping, exploring, and making memories.

Sharing with Others

In a world that can often feel isolated, it was nice to share our home with others. Many of our guests left us notes detailing what they loved about our home and their stay. And it was immensely satisfying to read about our home through other people’s memorable experiences. Sharing can just feel good, you know?



My biggest con to renting out our primary residence was scheduling. With our Seattle Airbnb’s in full swing this summer, the extra bookings at our Farmhouse had my head swimming with the buzz of it all. There was always a house to clean, a message to send, and a special request to coordinate. We’ll be making some adjustments to our rental work load in the future (in fact, we’re gearing up to sell one of our rentals right now!), but not at the Farmhouse. We plan to continue renting out our Farmhouse a bit every year, at least for the forceable future (you can read why that is here).


While coming home to a clean home is one of my biggest PROs for renting out our primary residence, it’s also one of the biggest CONs. Our home is 2800sf and takes a looong time to tiddy and clean. The first time it took us forever and every time after that it’s taken us a little less time, but still forever. Quite honestly, we would never clean that extensively just for ourselves.


Room sources available here

Similar posts

3 Reasons to rent out your home for a weekend // How to prepare your home for a weekend rental // Our first experience using HomeAway


House Hacking // What to Look for in Your First House

Over the past 10 years, Garrett and I have purchased 6 homes on our journey to become landlords, house-hackers, and early-retires. But we started out like many 20-somethings back in 2008, buying our first home in Seattle to build our life around.

the Dexter House renovation // front of house

The Wallingford House was an 1000sf fixer with 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and all of my heart. We bought the house for $445,000 and with only $12,000 down, our mortgage was over $3,000 a month. Eeek! Honestly, we had no business buying a home that expensive (and, in fact, that’s the most we’ve ever paid for a home). We had no cash reserves, no room in the budget for saving, and zero financial foresight. I’m pretty sure we even borrowed part of that $12,000 from our parents. But despite our ignorance, there were a few reasons why that home turned out to be a smart buy for us.

So today, with the benefit of hindsight from 10 years of purchasing, renovating, and renting out houses for financial gain, I wanted to share 7 things we would look for in a first home. Let’s pretend Garrett and I are first time homebuyers again, but this time with knowledge of house hacking and financial independence. This is the list we’d give our real estate agent of ‘must haves’. For reference, this list is specific to our experience, which is in a major urban city (Seattle) with high demand for rentals and a quickly-appreciating real estate market.

the Dexter House // adding back door

One // Fixer

Finding a home that needs work is number one on our list. We’re elbow-grease kind of folks and renovating can add equity into the property. Increasing the value of the house allows the owners to resell it for a profit, rent it out for increased monthly income, and/or refinance for better loan terms. In fact, that’s exactly what we did at the Wallingford House. After renovating the home and adding 2 more bedrooms and a bathroom, we increased the value enough to qualify for a standard 80/20 mortgage, which allowed us to remove the mortgage insurance, and eventually rent the home out. Like Thomas Edison said, opportunity comes “dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

Two // Price

Lots of financial-savvy people will tell you to buy a home that’s worth only half of what the bank qualifies you for. And while that’s smart advice, Garrett and I have never followed it. Ever since we started looking at homes as investments, we’ve used two rules of thumbs to determine what we’ll pay for a home. First, we have to rent out the home for the cost of the mortgage payment (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance). This is a safety net that means if things don’t go as planned (like for instance, a recession hits) we’re not losing our shirts every month. Second, we want the projected, post-renovation annual rent to be greater than 10% of the cash we have into the property. For example, if we bought a home for $300,000 and put $60,000 down and spent another $40,000 on renovations, we’d have $100,000 cash invested in the property. We’d have to net $833/month after expenses to make $10,000 per year or 10% on that cash, which would make the rent upwards of $2500/month. There are lots of other rules of thumb out there (I like the 1% rule too), but these have done well by us.

the Porch House renovation // dining room

Three // Old homes with Original character

This is a bit of a personal preference, but we like old homes. I keep a filter on Zillow and Redfin to search for homes built before 1950, thus making sure to see only the oldest of homes in our area. We do this for a few reasons. First, old homes with original character are inspiring, interesting, and unique. Second, old homes were built to last. They used real materials back then (no particle board) and were created by craftsmen. It would take a fortune to recreate some of the molding and built-ins that were standard to this vintage of home. I’m not saying we’ll never buy a home that’s newer than 1950, but that’s another rule of thumb we use.

the Dexter House renovation // backyard

Four // Location

This is a non-negotiable item on the list. We look for homes close to downtown, mass transit, and schools. And we make sure those homes are in safe neighborhoods that we would want to live in. Over the years we’ve found that properties that are close to parks, grocery stores, and restaurants/bars tend to always be desirable and thus a good long-term investment. Many of our homes are on busy streets too, which we’ve found make great rentals because they cost less to purchase and command similar rent to homes on less-busy streets.

Five // Unfinished square footage

Unfinished square footage – usually basements – can provide a nice equity bump when finished. Not all of our homes have had tall enough basements to finish, but we love it when they do. Finishing out a basement costs much less than adding on and can really increase the enjoyability and value of a home.

the Ravenna House // basement

Six // Zoning

If at all possible, look for a home with zoning potential. Could you convert the home to a duplex? Triplex? Add an apartment over the garage? It’s not always easy to predict what you’ll want to do with the property in the end, but having flexibility in the zoning is nice. The Wallingford House had a rentable backyard cottage, which was the only reason we felt comfortable buying a home that expensive in the first place.

Seven // Passion

We look for properties that we’re passionate about. That can be hard to quantify, but for us it often means lots of natural light, cool original details, and connection to the outdoors. But whatever floats your boat, the bottom line is that you should be excited about the home. Whatever you plan to do with the home – live in it, renovate it, rent it – properties are hard work and that work is much easier to do when you love what you’re working on!

The Porch House Renovation (featured on HGTV’s Master Plan)

The market has changed a lot in the decade since we bought our first house. But even so, these rules would drive our search today for a first home. I’d love to hear if you guys have any other criteria for buying homes or thoughts on these rules.

*disclosure: We use affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of the links, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you.  Affiliate links is one of the ways we keep this blog running, so thanks for supporting the Grit and Polish!


Renting Out Your Home for a Weekend: the Nitty-Gritty details of Getting Your Home Ready

We get a lot of questions about how we prepare our home for weekend guests via AirBnb or HomeAway. Many people are considering doing the same, but are not quite sure how. Where do you put your clothes? Do you have to throw away all of your food? Do you actually meet these strangers or do you leave a key under the mat? We’re going to get into all of that today. Read on for how we prepare our Farmhouse for weekend guests.

Setting a Minimum Stay

Setting a minimum stay is easy to do on both Airbnb and HomeAway. We set a 2-night minimum at our Farmhouse, which makes the extensive preparation worth it for us.

Pro-tip: if you know you’ll be gone for a longer period, set a longer minimum stay to begin with. If your home doesn’t book, you can always shrink the minimum stay as the date gets closer. This is especially relevant for holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, where people often take longer vacations. 


We charge $350/night at our 4 bed/3 bath/2800sf Farmhouse, which seems to be a high enough price that we don’t get too many inquires (our goal is only one or two stays per month) but people still book it. Deciding on a price is all about making the effort worth it for you.

Pro-tip: To set your rate, look at comparable listings and hotel rates in your area. Then adjust up or down based on factors like number of beds, amenities, season, and condition of your home. 


Welcoming your guests can either be done in person or with a lock-box/hidden-key. We have a lock-box at every property (we use this one) but like to meet guests when at all possible. We also leave an information with details including check-out instructions, what to do with dirty linens and trash, internet login, how to work the TV, instructions for using heat and cooling, etc.

Pro tip: leave a lock box near your front door with a key and an instructions sheet inside the home. And, if at all possible, meet your guests in person so they know they’re renting from real people!


Of course you want a clean home for your guests to enjoy (heck, you want to enjoy a clean home too). But that doesn’t mean you have to launch into a Spring clean before each guest arrives. Tidy up and deal with your personal items (more on that below) and then focus your cleaning efforts on the bathrooms, kitchen, floors, and windows. We also like to stage our home with pillows, throws, flowers, books, and games so that it looks extra inviting.

Pro Tip: hair is your number one enemy. Make sure all evidence of mammalian inhabitants (aka hair) is gone from the house before welcoming guests.

Bedroom Storage

This seems to be a hot topic for readers – what to do with your clothes? When we’re renting out our primary residence for a weekend, we close off our closets, but leave the dressers in the kids’ rooms as is. The bedrooms in the Farmhouse are well appointed but not overly-personal and we make sure that there’s a surface for guests to put luggage on in each room. That could be a chair in the corner, a dresser top, or a luggage rack (we use these).

Expectation of Privacy

I’ve been asked a lot about our ‘underwear drawers’, so wanted to address that despite the fact that our underwear drawers are closed off in our closet. There’s an expectation of privacy that goes along with renting out a home. We expect guests to respect reasonable boundaries and behave like responsible adults. And they expect the same of us. If a guest rifles through my underwear, I’d be a little ‘ikked out’ but mostly just sad for the guest. It doesn’t matter if a stranger knows the color of my underwear but it does matter if a person has made it to adulthood and hasn’t learned about boundaries. Ya know? And on that note, Garrett and I have long gotten over the ‘there’s-a-stranger-in-my-home feeling. We’ve been landlords for 10 years and learned to appreciate the cool people we have met along the way and thank the holy heavens that we aren’t rude or unpleasant like the worst guests we’ve had.


We put waterproof mattress covers over each mattress and pillow (we love these foam mattresses, these pillow covers, and these mattress protectors) before making the bed. We actually use the covers when we’re at home too and throw them in the wash when they need it. In terms of linens, I keep 2 sets of sheets for each bed at the house and put one on for guests and make sure the second set is washed and ready for our return. We don’t have one dedicated set for guests, just whichever is up on the laundry cycle.

Pro tip: Have a clean set of sheets and towels ready for your arrival so you can quickly get settled.  

Office and Personal Documents

We leave our office desk cleared off for guests, in case they have work to do. We also have one set of drawers in the office that’s lockable, which is where we leave our office and business supplies. All of our personal documents – like passports, birth certificates, etc – go into a fire-proof safe, which we bought years ago in case of a home fire.

Tip: lock up personal documents and valuables in a fire-proof safe. It will do double duty protecting your things in case of fire. 


We move personal items like tooth brushes, lotions, etc into a closet and leave towels, soaps, and shampoo out for guests. In the kids bathroom, we keep a basket on a top shelf with all of their things in it when we’re away.

Kids Toys

In general we keep kids toys put away in their bins (or a closet) when guests arrive. But, if you know kids are coming, it always nice to leave out a couple baskets of appropriate-aged toys. We keep the majority of our book collection in the living room, open for everyone, and leave a smaller box in the kid’s rooms.

Pro-tip: if you know kids are coming, leave them some age-appropriate toys and books.


Honestly, we don’t have a lot of valuables. No expensive jewelry to lock away or anything like that, but if we did, I’d put it in the safe.

Conveniences and Other Nicities to Leave Out

We like to make available the following items for guests: cell phone chargers, books, games, coffee, shampoos, soap, and toys. We also try to leave a bottle of local wine or a bar of local chocolate for guests. Anything to make them feel welcome will help them enjoy their stay and in turn, give you a better review.


For short stays, we like to leave the kitchen countertops clean and clear. Our food stays in the pantry cabinet but we clean the refrigerator, tidy up our food, and make leave at least two shelves for guests. Our kitchen gets a TON of use every day (we are basically home full time with 3 young kids) so this is probably the biggest task in getting our home ready for guests.


Both Airbnb and HomeAway have policies that cover up to $1,000,000.

That’s everything we do to prepare our home for weekend stays, but let me know if you have any more questions. I’d like this post to be a real resource so I’ll update it if more questions come in.


Farmhouse sources available here

Related Links

3 Reasons to Rent Your Home out for a Weekend / House Hacking to Financial Independence (our story via Minimalist Mom)

*disclosure: We use affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of the links, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you.  Affiliate links is one of the ways we keep this blog running, so thanks for supporting the Grit and Polish!


House Hacking // 3 Reasons to Rent out Your Home for a Weekend

During the One Room Challenge, I mentioned that we are renting out the Farmhouse this summer for a few weekends as a vacation rental.  As the Farmhouse has added bookings, we have scheduled weekends of camping and family visits, which we’re all looking forward to. But when I’ve shared our summer plans with friends, I’ve gotten some questioning glances. So I thought it would be helpful to outline a few of the reasons we like to house hack our primary residence here today.

As long-time followers of the Grit and Polish already know, house hacking (i.e. getting others to pay part or all of your rent/mortgage) is our M.O. We’ve been doing it for 10 years and I truly doubt we’ll ever stop. House hacking has set us on a path to owning 5 homes, retiring at the age of 34, and living a pretty fantastic life all around. Low-fee sites like Airbnb and HomeAway have made renting out your home for a weekend (or longer) easy, and I’m guessing some of you may be considering it too. So today I wanted to share 3 of the reasons we decided to rent out our primary residence for short stays this summer.

One // Get paid to go on vacation.

Let me repeat that: get paid to go on vacation!  Most of us don’t need another reason to take a trip, but if you did, having someone else subsidize your adventure is pretty compelling.  So far we have reserved a campsite on the San Juan Islands and scheduled a longer visit to my sister’s house during summer bookings. We’re all much more excited about those trips than we would be spending another weekend at home. And a couple of winters ago, we did a longer 2 week booking when we lived at the Dexter House. We got to spend that time in the country at my in-laws house, relaxing and having one of my favorite Christmases ever, while earning thousands of dollars. Not too shabby.

Two // Less clutter

It’s easy to let stuff creep into your life. A few extra toy baskets here, a couple cast-off bins of old books there and suddenly you’re making space for things you don’t really have space for. Stuff seems to attract other stuff in my experience.  And it’s a slippery slope that can leave your home feeling cluttered if you’re not careful. For us, the best way to fight the slow creep of stuff is to invite others into our home. There is no better reason to keep your living spaces tidy and clean than inviting others to share those spaces with you. So host a party, invite a house guest, or better yet, rent your home out for a long weekend.

Three // Earn a financial return on your effort

This is a big one for us. We all spend time maintaining our properties (a lot of time if you live on a 3 acre old farm like us) and you probably spend money furnishing and decorating them too. So why not earn some money on all that time and effort? Renting your home out for a weekend or a month essentially turns chores into an investment. And that shift in thinking to a landlord/real-estate-investor perspective can help some (read: my husband) enjoy a home that might otherwise feel a bit like a ball-and-chain.


photos of Our Farmhouse // entry / master bedroom (and here) / officeBoys bedroom / master bathroom

Getting your home ready for guests is a whole separate topic that I won’t go into here, but I will say that in the past 4 years of hosting on Airbnb (including 2 of our homes in Seattle on a full-time basis), we’ve only had a handful of finicky, unpleasant guests and even fewer super messy/disrespectful guests. Have you ever rented out your primary residence? Would you ever? We’d love to hear why or how you house hack! Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.

Related Links

Our Farmhouse page and sources // Our story: Early Retirement and Old Houses //

*Disclosure: we use affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of our links, we may receive a small commission at no cost to you.  Affiliate links is one of the ways we keep this site running, so thanks for supporting the Grit and Polish!

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