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

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

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*

Expenses

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

Sources

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

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Ravenna House // How to Get a House Ready to Sell

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

The sale of our Seattle rental, the Ravenna House, closed yesterday (!!!) and I have to say, selling a house was way more effort than I had expected. We spent the better part of 6 weeks painting, cleaning, and spiffing and today we’re running through exactly what we did and what we think was worth the effort. psst: we’ll be sharing the final numbers and the master bedroom makeover next month. 

Before we get started, I should mention that the Ravenna House is located in a close-in neighborhood of Seattle. Property values here have sky-rocketed in the nearly 5 years we’ve owned the house. We bought in 2013, which was at the bottom of the recession, and then renovated every square inch of the home while watching double-digit yearly price increases. But in the last 3 months, Seattle’s seen a $70,000 drop in prices and inventory has piled up. Multiple offers are no longer the norm and price drops have become more common (you can read more on that here). So we were more than happy to get a full-price, cash offer in 5 days.

Read on for all of the updates we made to the house in preparation for selling:

New Roof

We had a new roof put on the Ravenna House in the Spring in preparation for selling. It wasn’t a necessity, but we felt that the decade-old roof would downgrade the move-in-with-just-a-toothbrush status we were going for. In the end, I’m not sure we got our money back in the sale price, but I do think it gave the buyer added peace-of-mind, so it was worth it on that front.

Decluttering

Everyone talks about how important decluttering is when selling a home and I’m going to reiterate that today. Every bit of decluttering we did was 100% worth it. Ravenna was already an Airbnb so there wasn’t a ton of extra stuff in the first place, but we still spent a couple of days emptying closets and swapping around furniture. Decluttering is probably the most significant thing you can do…and bonus, it’s free!

Staging

In addition to decluttering the house, we brought in some fresh furniture and decor. This took a lot of planning and preparation, but not a lot of money since most of the furniture and decor came from our Bryant rental and Farmhouse. I have to say, staging was 100% worth the effort. The most common feedback we got from potential buyers and look-e-loos was “this house is so cute and staged so well”. So worth it! I’d definitely recommend talking to your agent about hiring a staging company if you’re selling (and don’t already have houses full of furniture ;).

Fresh Paint

We re-painted most of the walls and molding at the Ravenna House before listing the home. Paint works wonders for making a home feel fresh and new and is a relatively inexpensive, so well worth the effort.

Fresh landscaping and curb appeal

When we first met with our real estate agent, she recommended we spend some time on the curb appeal (scroll up to the roof section to see what the home looked like before we tackled this). Ravenna had vinyl siding on it when we bought the home so it’s always been less attractive than the neighboring houses. We couldn’t do anything about the siding, but we did prune the bushes, add some new plants and bark chips, replace the mailbox, remove the screen door, change out the hardware, paint the door (BM Hale Navy), and pressure wash everything. I can’t believe what a big difference it made. The updates cost under $500 and many of the folks that came to the open house complimented the curb appeal. Worth. Every. Penny!

Servicing the furnace

We scheduled a furnace service while the home was on the market, since our’s hadn’t been looked at since it was installed a few years ago. Everything looked normal, but the mechanic swapped the filter and noted his service on the furnace itself. The service showed up on the inspection report so this was also worth the expense.

Master bedroom updates

I’m planning to write a separate post on all of the updates we did to the master bedroom, but I definitely think these changes were worth while. The molding, new paint color, and fresh decor made the room feel special and much more “master-ey”. Adding a second closet also seemed to be a positive with buyers. Old houses are notorious for their lack of storage so his-and-her closets was downright luxurious. I’m not saying a mini-renovation is necessary, but making the master special was worth while for us.

Kids Bedroom Closet

We built-in an IKEA wardrobe in the kids bedroom to replace the closet we swapped to the master bedroom. We had to add this new closet in order to keep it a legal bedroom, but otherwise, I probably would have skipped this update. It seems like buyers prioritized the master bedroom over the other bedrooms and that’s where I would focus more attention.

Pre-Inspection

We had a pre-inspection done because we wanted to remove all hurdles for potential buyers. In the end, I think it was worth the effort and expense because we were able to address a few items that popped up. But then again the buyers ended up paying for their own inspection, so there’s that. This is one of those ‘maybe’ items because it didn’t increase our selling price, but it may have helped bring in our buyer.

I’d love to hear worthwhile things that you guys have done before selling a home! Next month we’ll be sharing all the numbers on this sale, so stay tuned.

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Ravenna House // We’re Having an Estate Sale!

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

I’m still not sure if I should call it an ‘estate sale’, ‘moving sale’, or ‘garage sale’ but…we’re having a sale! We’ll be selling most of the furniture and decor from the Ravenna House plus lots more that we’ve picked up over the years.

Ravenna House Master Bedroom // bed frame, curtain panels, and dresser will be for sale

The sale is scheduled for this weekend in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood (near 25th Ave NE and NE 65th Street). Doors open at 10am and items will be first come, first serve. If you’re interested in coming, please leave a comment below or over on my Instagram and I’ll direct message or email you the address.

Saturday (9/15) 10am-3pm

Sunday (9/16) 10am-1pm

In addition to the Ravenna staging items, we’ll also be selling a lot of the antiques and decor that we’ve picked up over the years and haven’t found a spot for. Vintage bed frames, school desks, a Pottery Barn couch, lamps, Restoration Hardware chairs, antique furniture, an IKEA sleeper sofa, side tables, rugs, pillow covers, curtain panels, art, and more. Unfortunately we won’t be able to deliver, so buyers will need to take purchases with them. Cash and Venmo only.

Ravenna House Living Room // Pottery Barn couch, lamp, and rugs will be for sale

Ravenna House Kids Bedroom // bed frame, animal heads, and curtain panels will be for sale

Ravenna House Living Room // Chair and cowhide rug will be for sale

Porch House master bedroom // Rejuvenation rug will be for sale

Bryant House second bedroom // rocker and rug will be for sale

Vintage school desks will be for sale

Vintage spindle bed will be for sale

That and tons more. We look forward to meeting some of you!

xoxo

-Cathy

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Happy Friday 8/31/18

Happy Friday! Wow, what a crazy few weeks we’ve had! For the entire month of August (and part of July…?) we scrubbed, painted, and staged the Ravenna House and officially listed it last week. Listing a home really is a ton of work, at least if you’re us 😉 Admittedly Garrett and I may have gone a bit overboard with our preparations, but we’re really proud of how the Ravenna House turned out. And I think that last 10% of done-ness paid off. Because Ravenna is officially pending and will close in a few weeks. Eeech!

Now that Ravenna is off of our plates (at least for a few days…we’ll have to move out all of our staging stuff), we’re getting the Farmhouse ready for our biggest celebration of the year: Labor Day!

Daphne’s bedroom at the Farmhouse // sources here

This is the weekend we bust out all of our cowboy hats, boots, and antique quilts (found this one at an estate sale last week!) and welcome family and friends to the Farmhouse. There will be a pit roast, playing, parade candy, catching up with friends, rides on the ferris wheel, a scary movie, and beer on tap. Best. Weekend. All. Year!

Well it’s Friday again, and I’ve found lots of great links from around the web. Grab a cup of coffee and dig in!

All the biggest design mistakes in one post. Thank you, Emily!

Are we all getting sick of super-fast, whole-home renovations? Yeah kinda. Loved this discussion from Young Home Love and can’t help but think there’s a new HGTV on the horizon (or maybe it’s already here…Instagram anyone?).

Ever thought of putting a slide in your home? (Yes, said every kid, ever!) This super-beautiful, refined wood slide is exactly what I’d put in if we had a spot for it!

Hey parents, which is better: rewards or punishments? Neither?

What it’s like to be 90-something. When I asked one person, “Do you wish you accomplished more?” He responded, “No, I wished I loved more.”

via / Photo: Laurey W. Glenn / owner and designer: Ashley Gilbreath

I’m dying to return our Farmhouse to a light exterior color and this Southern beauty reinforces that! Someday… Related: no-fail exterior color combinations from Katie Hackworth.

Have a great weekend!

xoxo

-Cathy

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Ravenna House // Why We Are Selling One of Our Seattle Rentals

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

Why are you selling the Ravenna House? It’s a question we’ve been asked over and over again lately. So today, I wanted to share all of the reasons we’re selling one of our Seattle rentals. But first, let’s back up and do a quick recap of the Ravenna House.

Master bedroom // rug, sconce, cord cover, bed frame, sheets, blinds

We bought the Ravenna House, a 1926 Tudor, in 2013 at what turned out to be the bottom of the Seattle housing market. The house was in rough shape (an understatement) and priced at only $220k. The “tear down on a small lot”, as it was dubbed, garnered 16 offers, including ours. The seller was the elderly son of the original owner and liked our family enough to sell us the Ravenna House for $270k cash, $16k under his highest offer. Of course we didn’t have $270k in cash so had to beg, borrow, and beg some more from family (more about that here).

Garrett and I then launched into a renovation that covered every square inch of the property. We tore down the dilapidated garage, renovated the main floor of the house, had the old oil tank removed, brought natural gas to the property, installed a new water line to the road, lined the side sewer, commissioned a new furnace and ducting, built a fence, installed sod, and finished the basement before mortgaging the property with a process called delayed financing (more on that here). We lived in Ravenna for 2 years before moving on to our next project, the Dexter House. At that point, Ravenna turned into an Airbnb – our first foray (of many) into short-term rentals – and that’s what it has been for the past 2 1/2 years.

So let’s talk about why we’re selling the Ravenna House.

Kitchen // bowl, candle, cutting board, berry bowl, drawer pulltiles


Why We’re Selling One of Our Seattle Rentals

Capital Gains

Capital gains are the taxes you pay on profits from a home sale. In our case those taxes would be about 15% of the profit and north of $50k. However, if you lived in the house for 2 of the past 5 years then you can exclude up to $500k in profit ($250k for single people). Meaning you don’t have to pay taxes on the profits from your primary residence unless those are over $500k (or $250k for a single person). Tax free money is a rare commodity and with our 2-of-the-last-5-years deadline looming this year, Garrett and I started considering selling.

Accessing Equity

We are lucky to be in one of the best real estate markets in the country. The Ravenna House is now valued at nearly 3 times what we bought it for. Even with the $70k we have tied up in renovations, we’re still expecting to make a six-figure profit in tax free money. Of course accessing equity in a property isn’t usually that difficult – you can do a cash out refinance or take out a HELOC – but not if you’re us. Banks don’t like to loan to ‘unemployed’ folks who have with a high debt-to-income. So selling Ravenna was the only option available for us to access the equity.

Diversifying

One concern Garrett and I have always had with our situation is that all of our metaphorical eggs are in one basket. And that basket is Seattle, single-family real estate. What if that big earthquake finally hits? What if Amazon pulls out of the city? What if there’s another recession and unemployment leaves the renter pool sparse? Seeing problems and liabilities is just what my brain does and I’ll feel more comfortable when our investments are more diverse.

Free up Time for Other Interests

Selling the Ravenna House will free up time (and equity of course) that Garrett and I can spend on new projects that we’re more excited about. This year we got a little burnt out of landlord-ing: cleaning houses, communicating with tenants and Airbnb guests, and driving back and forth to Seattle. Taking one of our Seattle properties off of our plate will give us back some of that time. We love the Ravenna House (I hope that’s obvious) but we’re ready to shift the time we were spending on it to something we’re more excited about.

Upstairs bathroom // stool, door knob, wall tile, grout

Kids bedroom // unicorn, swan, bunny, rug, curtain rod and rings, night standblinds

We spent the better part of August preparing the Ravenna House for sale and it went on the market last week! We’ll be sharing more of our selling process and the work we did over the next month or so, but in the meantime, let us know if you have any specific questions in the comments below.

Related Posts //

A New Roof for the Ravenna House

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

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

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.

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Durability of Marble Countertops // The Ravenna Kitchen 4 years laters

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

You may have noticed that there’s a lot of marble in the Porch House kitchen. But it’s not the first time we’ve used marble. Back when we were remodeling the Ravenna kitchen, some four odd years ago, we chose marble countertops. Yup, we put marble in a rental house. Of course it wasn’t a rental back then – it was our home – but we had a strong inclination we’d rent it out eventually. And sure enough, it’s been a rental for 2 1/2 years now. If you think we were crazy to put marble in, you aren’t alone. So today, we’re going to look at how those marble countertops have held up so far.

The Grit and Polish - Ravenna Marble Kitchen range table

By the way, these photos were all taken during a recent Airbnb turn. Sources and related posts are listed below. 

Four years ago, picking marble felt like a risky decision. So many people warn against the natural stone, citing staining, etching, and imperfections as pitfalls. At the time, neither Garrett nor I had personal experience with marble to draw from. But here’s the deal. I love natural materials. And I love the look of marble. I had high hopes that the so-called pitfalls of marble would feel more like a beautiful patina that got better with age, so I went with my gut and we purchased the marble.

Marble Nomenclature

Here we are 4 years later but before we look closer at how our countertops have held up, lets run through a few marble terms:

HONED // a matte finish on marble that has been dulled by sanding or acid bath. Honed creates a soft look that ages well (in my opinion). For many people, honed marble is easier to live with since it doesn’t show imperfections as much as polished marble. Honed marble is often sealed to keep it from staining.

POLISHED // a glossy, shiny surface on marble achieved by polishing. Polished marble won’t stain as easily as a honed finish will, but it shows scratches and etching.

ETCHING // dull spots on the marble caused by acid literally eating away a bit of the surface

STAINING // marble is a porous stone so things like wine or flower pollen can leave stains if not cleaned up quickly.

SCRATCHING // marble is a semi-hard stone, somewhere between soft soapstone and hard granite and can be scratched with hard objects like knives and belts.

All About Our Marble

The Ravenna House countertops are polished marble and they came with some sort of sealant applied, although we’re unsure of exactly what. In the past four years, we haven’t applied anything else to these countertops nor done any major maintenance. We cleaned the countertops with Meyer’s dish soap and countertop spray when we lived there, but of course the Ravenna House has been a rental for 2 1/2 years now. It’s hard to say exactly what the Airbnb and month-to-month tenants use, but it’s likely the same Meyers products since we leave them for their use.

What 4 Years of Wear and Tear Looks Like

Believe it or not, there is actually quite a bit of wear on the stretch of countertop shown in the last photo. It’s hard to tell, right? That’s the thing with marble etching and staining. Unless you’re really close and at just the right angle, you can’t tell it’s there. Here’s a closer look.

The Grit and Polish - Ravenna Marble Close Up

As you can see, our countertops now have a bit of etching, a couple scratches, and some subtle staining in this high traffic area. That original shiny, polished finish is now somewhere between polished and honed. But overall, these imperfections are hard to see. They’re definitely not obvious when you walk into the house or even when you’re in the kitchen. But if you bend down low enough and look just right, you can see them.

So What Are We Going To Do About It?

You may be wondering what we’re going to do about the wear and tare on these countertops, and honestly…nothing! The etching and subtle staining don’t bother me one bit. I actually like the patina of it all now. I’ve long preferred honed marble to polished, and the wear on these countertops gives them that same ‘aged gracefully’ quality. You could say, I’m a happy marble customer. I should mention that we’ll eventually likely re-seal these countertops just to keep them in good shape. It’s impossible to know how renters and guests will treat them so making them more durable is a good thing. But that’s not on the agenda right now and won’t be unless we notice a lot more staining and etching.

I’ve often heard that marble is not for perfectionists and I would have to agree. While the imperfections and aged-quality of the marble after 4 years doesn’t bother me one bit (or Garrett either), I’m sure it would drive some people crazy. So my advice: while marble isn’t particularly high-maintenance, it wouldn’t be a good fit the people that are perfectionists.

Sources

Cabinets: custom // Marble: GS Cabinet // Large cutting board: Hardwood Industries | Range: American, Albert LeeWarehouse Sale | Vent: Viking, Albert Lee Warehouse Sale | Dishwasher: Viking, Albert Lee Warehouse Sale | Fridge: KitchenAid, Albert Lee Warehouse Sale | Backsplash: marble laid in herringbone pattern, Home Depot | Chandelier: West Elm | Ceiling Lights: Home Depot | Blinds: Home Depot | Sink: Amazon (similar) | Faucet: Katom | Table: craigslist | Chairs: Industry West | Oak floors: Hardwood Industries | Blue printed bowl (with cherries), West Elm | Mercury Glass Candle: Anthropologie | Drawer pulls: Home Depot | Cabinet latch hardware: Home Depot |

Read More

Ravenna kitchen marble choice // marble backsplash // Ravenna kitchen before and after // Marble 101 from Remodelista // How to clean marble from the Kitchn

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Bathroom Updates: Plants, Pictures, and Potty Training

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

Wilder is officially potty-trained so we hang out in the bathroom quite a bit.  Spending so much time in there was a constant reminder of all the projects I wanted to finish up but hadn’t gotten to.  It was the perfect motivation to get this room finished.  We didn’t do anything major, just some decorating and a chance to incorporate potty-training basics.

The Grit and Polish - Bathroom from hallway The Grit and Polish - Bathroom collageThe Grit and Polish - Bathroom from hallway 2I’ve always loved plants in the bathroom.  I think it helps liven the space up, and keeps a white bathroom from feeling too sterile.  Plus if there’s one benefit to having a window in the shower, it’s that you can grow a plant in there!

The Grit and Polish - Bathroom shower plantThe Grit and Polish - Bathroom plant

The open shelves were one of the things that constantly bothered me about the bathroom.  They are a leftover nook from an old medicine cabinet and always seemed like an afterthought and were full of too much stuff.  So I restyled the shelves, paired down the clutter, and I’m finally happy with them.

The Grit and Polish - Bathroom open shelvesThe Grit and Polish - Bathroom picture

The mirror is a new addition from Anthropologie.  We never intended for the previous mirror to be a permanent fixture, but it ended up there for over a year.  I always wanted something circular here, but never spent the time to find a replacement.  So when I saw this one hanging up on the wall at Anthropologie, I knew I needed it!

The Grit and Polish - Bathroom mirror

That brings us to the topic of potty-training, something we discuss way too often here at the Ravenna House.  We have a very essential item that we leave in the bathroom at all times for the kiddo.  We call it the Duckie.  Yes, it’s got red eyes and as my sister said, “it’s creepy as hell”, but heck, anything that gets a 20 month-old out of diapers is a-okay in my book.  It’s actually the same potty chair that Garrett and his sister’s used.

The Grit and Polish - Bathroom duckie on toilet

It’s kind of creepy, right?!  What do you think about the other bathroom updates, I’d love to hear!

More info on the Ravenna House bathroom resources and renovation herehere and here.

xoxo

-Cathy

p.s. If you’re interested, we followed a modified version of this potty-training method.  The no-pants thing really worked for Wilder and the no-diaper thing really works for mama!

p.p.s. Zooey Deschanel’s Hollywood home. All I can say is that kitchen is wow!

p.p.p.s. And speaking of kitchens (aren’t we always?!) I really dig this classic, English kitchen!

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Ravenna Living Room Reveal (Take #2)

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

Well guys, as I mentioned last month, I finally won the debate and we now have a sofa in the living room. And let me just say that everyone – seriously, everyone – has mentioned how much better the layout is now.  Oh how good it feels to be a winner!

The Grit and Polish - Living Room CouchAdding the couch led to full on redecorating escapades that culminated the morning before we had some special guests at the Ravenna House.  Here’s a look at the new and improved living room.

The Grit and Polish - Living Room FireplaceThe Grit and Polish - Living Room Wingback ChairsI’m pretty obsessed with gallery walls.  I have a whole board on Pinterest dedicated to these lovlies and never ever get sick of them.  So I thought why not put one in the Ravenna House?  I built this one with black and white prints from Costco’s art collection and frames from Ikea.

The Grit and Polish - Living Room gallery wallLets talk about toy storage.  I bought two baskets from Ikea for like $20 a piece and they are a godsend.  Where we used to have toys strewn about the living room, hiding in every nook and cranny, they’re now almost completely contained in those two baskets.  Now if I could just get Wilder to put away his own toys…some kids actually do that, right?!

The Grit and Polish - Living room toy storage

If you’re interested, take a look back at our old living room layout.  What do you guys think?  Is the redo new and improved or just new?

Resources – Sofa: Pottery Barn, discontinued | Pillows: West Elm | Black, patterned throw: Anthropologie | Cowhide: Ikea | Red Alpaca blanket: wedding gift | Trunk: Vintage | Silver Candle: Anthropolgie | Toy Baskets: Ikea (similar to this) | Lamp Shades: Pottery Barn, discontinued| Wingback Chairs: Vintage | Bronze side table: Urban Outfitters | Mirror: vintage | Black and White Photography: Costco | Picture Frames: Ikea | Green inlaid box: Serena and Lily, old | Lantern: Ravenna Gardens, old | Blinds: Home Depot | Wall Paint: Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter, 50% tint | Doors and Trim Paint: Benjamin Moore Simply White

xoxo

-Cathy

p.s. I’m down with Cuba!  Especially Justina Blakeney’s design inspiration!

p.p.s. What will become of Seattle’s most famous house?!  I’m secretly hoping someone renovates it and moves in!

p.p.p.s. Love this transformation.  What a beautiful LA home!

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Backyard Before and After

THE RAVENNA HOUSE

After a long, long backyard renovation, we are finally done!  And I’m really excited to show you the ‘after’ pictures.  But first, let’s look back to a year ago:

Ravenna House Backyard 2 Ravenna House Backyard at House

Pretty awful, right?!  I’m a little embarrassed to even show you guys those ‘before’ pictures, but that’s what it really looked like while our attention was focused on the interior renovation.  Oh so messy and wild!  After a good 6 months of work, here’s what the backyard looks like now:

The Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard PatioThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna BackyardThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard towards houseThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard at GateThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard concrete name printThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard shed

We did a lot of work back here.  First we tore down the unstable garage, removed quite a few trees, laid a patio, fenced the yard, built a shed, and finally installed the gravel path and landscaping.  You may have noticed the patio is outside the fence.  The patio doubles as overflow parking for guests so we decided to only fence in the yard area–a compromise to allow a fully fenced space for little legs to run.  Unfortunately we did a lot of work during the winter, meaning we fought with the rain over the colder Seattle months.  But we lucked out with a couple nice Spring days this month to lay the sod.

The Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard sod The Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard sod projectThe Grit and Polish - Ravenna Backyard workers

We are absolutely loving having a space to play outside, even if it is small.  Wilder likes to run around in the grass and take care of the plants – or should I say stomp around in them?  He often goes into the shed and picks out a couple of tools to “fix” stuff with.

The Grit and Polish - Wilder in his work boots 22 monthsThe Grit and Polish - Wilder in his work boots 22 months 7

He’s a pretty special little guy, that one!  Those Timberland boots (aka his “work boots”) have been glued to his feet!

The Grit and Polish - Wilder in his work boots 22 months 5

Oh and lest I forget our other boy, Bubba is pretty satisfied with the new backyard too.  He likes to run around in the grass and bark – I’m pretty sure he’s just expressing his excitement to be outside without a leash!

What do you think…do you like the new backyard?  Please tell me you think it looks better than it did a year ago!

xoxo

-Cathy

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