Finished Bathrooms

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This post first appeared on Brownstoner.com on November 17, 2014

Designing the bathrooms in a narrow house was a challenge. One option was to forgo having an office to accommodate a massive long master bathroom. I’ve never been the type of person that needed a huge home or bathroom — and I always wondered who were those people on HGTV that insisted on having double vanities. So the smaller but fully functional master bath won out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The en suite master bath is in no way tiny. It does have a tub and standing shower but there isn’t much room in there except for the necessities and I’m fine with that. The master floor tiles came from a company in California. I searched high and low for inexpensive patterned concrete tiles and there isn’t such a thing.

And the electrician put the bathroom sconce too low. To remedy that problem, I need to a find a horizontal medicine cabinet.

To save on costs, the new guest bathroom is actually an existing bathroom off the hall in the old house configuration. Crazy how much money you can save by not moving plumbing. The downside is that things are really tight but cozy. The Moroccan-inspired floor tiles in the guest bathroom, pictured above, were also pricey but luckily I didn’t need a lot. And at the store where I purchased them, if your designer or architect places the order then you get a 10 to 15 percent discount, depending on the style. The wall tiles are from Overstock.com.

I’m debating adding a shower enclosure to the claw foot tub. Reviews from my few overnight guests have been mixed. My mom loved not having an enclosure, as did my friends who stayed over with their kids. But another set of friends said the current setup was awkward. But I must say, I love not sharing a bathroom with guests. Continue reading

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Bed Stuy Reno: First 203K Inspection

This post first appeared on Brownstoner on December 12, 2013- as part of our cross blogging partnership

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From the contractor’s perspective, the 203K inspection is probably the single most important part of the 203K process. The contractor doesn’t get paid for his work until an inspection actually takes place.

But let’s take a step back. The 203K inspection is the official FHA inspection of the property, and it can only be done by the 203K consultant. When applying for the 203K loan, you are required to select a consultant. Based on budget and the scope of work, the consultant determines the number of “draws.” Draws are the total number of payments and inspections.

My project has a total of five draws. I selected my consultant based on the feedback I got on Brownstoner Forum last year. My consultant has been great and even gave tips to make the process go more smoothly.

When to schedule a draw? How it works is that your contractor will complain to you about how he’s low on cash and then you will tell him he needs to finish more stuff before you call the consultant. (I’m only slightly joking about this.) Prior to the first inspection, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

I frantically emailed Pamela from the blog So We’re Buying a House! and asked a million questions, such as “do I have to fill out this crazy FHA form?” Pamela patiently answered all my questions by telling me not to worry about the inspection, and that the consultant will complete all the forms and he will determine the percentage of work completed.

The day of the consultant’s visit my contractor actually cleaned up! Cleaning is not his strong point but I was impressed that there were no longer paint cans and equipment just laying around. (Above, one of the kitchens about four or five weeks into construction. It looks totally different now.)

The consultant came and took lots of photos of all the work and asked the contractor questions. The entire process took about 30 to 45 minutes. A day or two later the consultant sent me and the contractor the official report reflecting the amount of work completed to date and the amount the contractor is to be paid by the bank.  The owner and the contractor both have to sign the form. The form is then sent to the bank by the consultant, and like magic a check arrives that you and the contractor both sign.

And all is well for a couple weeks until your contractor starts complaining about getting paid again. Next up: How to find a contractor for a 203K renovation.

This is what $4500 looks like

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This is what $4500 looks like

Yesterday, the blog got a nice feature in Brownstoner. I’ll be cross blogging once a week to the Brownstoner audience. I’m super excited about this and I want to thank everyone for their nice emails and comments. In fact, one of the comments encouraging me to keep going and not give up almost brought tears to my eyes- especially, after the horrid day in court with the tenant from hell. And for the record the NYC landlord tenant court is unfair and leaves small landlords vulnerable to professional freeloaders.

Since, we last left off I got a violation from National Grid.  When they came a few weeks ago to turn on the heat they found several gas leaks. Well, come to find out I needed a new gas line for the entire building- which set me back $4500! Anyway, keep the words of encouragement coming, I need them right about now.