Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Hideaway Kitchen

Check-out this cool hideaway kitchen from John Strand, a British manufacturer of compact furnishings.

According to his website, the hideaway kitchen is suitable for 'one room living' areas where the kitchen is hidden from view and can be used to co-ordinate with other items of furniture situated in same environment.

Cheap Links

  1. The Original Subprime Crisis (NY Times)
  2. Drinking The Mortgage Kool-Aid (Matrix)
  3. Kwanzaa Celebration at Folukie (Bed-Stuy Blog)
  4. Mortgage Crisis Puts Friendships to the Test (CNBC)
  5. Home Prices Post Biggest Annual Drop in October (CNBC)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MSNBC Video: Fed Endorses Mortgage Rules

According to the Associated Press, the Federal Reserve has endorsed new rules that would give people taking out home mortgages new protections against shady lending practices. The Fed proposes:
  • Forcing lenders to make sure that subprime borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance.
  • Restricting lenders from penalizing certain subprime borrowers — those with tarnished credit or low incomes — who pay off their loans early. The restriction would apply to loans that meet certain conditions, including that the penalty expire at least 60 days before any possible payment increase.
  • Barring lenders from making loans when they don’t have proof of a borrower’s income.
  • Prohibiting lenders from engaging in a pattern or practice of lending without considering a borrower’s ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home’s value.

Watch the Video-->

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cheap Tip Of the Day

Weatherize Your Home, Save Money
1.) Two door sweeps, $5.99 each
2.) Two rolls of Insulation tape, $1.98 each

Inside 83 Halsey Street

Garden Level Condo: $625,000

A couple pictures of the Garden level condo at 83 Halsey Street.

Two bedrooms and two small bathrooms, plus access to half of the backyard. Each apartment has its own water heater and boiler. Do you think this is worth $625K?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Crusty No More: Garden Level Bath

The bathroom on the garden floor was terrible. The previous owners put together the bathroom hastiliy--the shower blocked off the sink, the toilet was squished into a corner, the tiles were terrible, and in general, it was very cramped. The job was also half-done; apparently the owners were considering a renovation, but gave up or decided it wasn't worth it.

We called in our mason, Mr. R, immediately. He suggested that we move the wall out so that the bathroom would seem bigger. Mrs. Reno thought that was a good idea, but I didn't want to take space away from the kitchen. In the end, we extended the wall near the toilet.

Our plumber, Mr. H, moved the shower plumbing into the wall near the door of the bathroom so we could knock down the wall that blocked the view of the sink. We also decided to take the sheetrock down from the wall above the tub to expose the brick. Exposed brick is an easy way to introduce color to a bathroom without painting it. We've done this before and tenants have loved it.

Anyway, the bathroom came with one serious perk: a working jacuzzi tub. We thought it was broken and couldn't be saved, but Mr. H came to the rescue. Not only did he fix the tub, he showed us how to work its settings. Once cleaned, it sparkled like new.

Our electrician, B., came through several weeks later to complete the wiring for the track lighting in the bathroom. It probably took Mr. R. about a month to finish the bathroom, but as you can see, it was worth the wait.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Don't Panic...

Problems Unknown

Mrs. Reno and I are all about buying fixer-uppers for a couple reasons: they're still somewhat affordable by NYC standards, and there are some real gems out there. Before the subprime mess, the easiest part of buying a fixer-upper was getting the financing and closing.

But fixer-uppers are a challenge. After you close, the house is in your hands with all its defects--known and unknown. Most people imagine that they're going to hit the ground running and begin renovating ASAP. But, typically, it's not so easy. Usually you'll find that there are plumbing, heating, and roofing issues that your engineer and inspector conveniently missed. You'll also find that the seller didn't leave enough money in escrow to cover the problems you've discovered.

Resolving these problems will eat up your time and a whole lot of your money. If you're trying to renovate quickly for rental income, prepare yourself to pay your mortgage for a couple months before you can take a break. For example, when Mrs. Reno and I brought our brownstone we discovered that the roof, which the seller agreed to fix, was leaking because they used large nails to fasten the asphalt roof. Never assume that what you agree to at closing will actually be done as you asked. Our assumption about our roof cost us about $1500.

When unexpected issues pop up, don't panic. Take your time to resolve them even with the threat of months of mortgage looming over your head. In the long run, it'll pay off.

Cheap Links

  1. A Tour of the Shaker House Condominium (Bed-Stuy Blog)
  2. Remodeling Shakes It Up in Bed-Stuy (NY Daily News)
  3. Video: Fixing a Clogged Drain (Brownstoner)
  4. Which Blocks in Bed-Stuy Are the Nicest? (Brownstoner)
  5. How Can I Hide These Security Bars? (Apartment Therapy)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Halsey Street, Condo Haven?

The Condo-ization of Halsey Street

Over the past few weeks we've noticed two browstone/townhouses turning condo on Halsey Street, between Bedford and Marcy Avenues. Over the weekend, we saw 83 Halsey Street, and today we noticed an ad for 145 Halsey Street. Both these buildings were featured and discussed on the Bed-Stuy Blog.

We went to an open house at 83 Halsey Street on Saturday. This four story brownstone has been divided into four condo apartments listed at market prices: $499,000, $445,000, $655,00 and $625,00. Prices aside, each apartment featured some pretty nice perks: gas burning fireplaces, stainless steel appliances, decks for the higher floors and private backyard entrances for the lower floors. The investors also went to a lot of trouble to preserve the wood detailing, such as the original sliding doors and stained glass windows. However, there was a downside: the bathrooms were really small, and the garden apartment features a standing shower. The tiling and fixtures in the bathrooms were no show stoppers either. According to Property Shark, 83 Halsey Street LLC, brought the building for $630,000 on February 23, 2006. The apartment on the top floor, a two bedroom, two bath, is already under contract at $499,000.

145 Halsey Street ( ) which was purchased in 2005 for $710,000, boasts that each sun-filled condo has three rooms, eleven foot ceilings with elaborate crown moldings, modern chandeliers with original plasterwork medallions, original fireplaces, pine flooring, a restored original bathtub, stainless steel appliances and cherrywood finish cabinets in the kitchen. There's a showing this weekend from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

What does this mean for long time residents on this street? Will these condos help boost property values? Will renters be priced out?

83 Halsey Street is between Bedford and Nostrand, where some of the largest and most well-kept brownstones in this part of Bedstuy can be found. My guess is that many of the owners on the block could care less, and probably welcome the condo and the change it represents as it will only increase their property values and the likelihood that they will recieve top dollar for their homes.

145 Halsey is on a nice, but different block: the brownstones are slightly more narrow and several of the owners are new. There are also several kinds of browstones on this block-- some are traditional brownstones, others are brick/brownstone combos and there's a really big conversion project going on at the corner of Halsey and Marcy. Time will tell what change will bring to this strip of Halsey Street, but either way, I'll be around to let you know the deal.

145 Halsey Street

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cheap Link: Make Those Wires Disappear

Try this trick from Instructables and your desk will be clear of wire clutter in no time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Slideshow: A Walk Through Prospect Park

The Fall Colors in Prospect Park

A few weeks ago I took a walk through Prospect Park. The fall colors were so beautiful, I had to take pictures to share with you.

Click here to view the Prospect Park slideshow.

SlideShow: Prospect Heights

Click on image to view the Prospect Heights slideshow.