This was the house that started it all. It was a beauty. All 924 square feet of it. It was the summer after my third semester at college and I had decided that I wasn’t going to go any further into debt to complete college. With no desire to move back to my parent’s house (I had just turned 21), with no savings and with little income, I didn’t have many choices. I REALLY did not want to get an apartment.
I REALLY did not want to get into an apartment. I don’t know why I was so opposed to it but I was just really against it from the start so I never even tried that direction at all. I was working for a landscaper at the time and was maybe making $10 per hr, not working full time. I think I was maybe making around $800 per month
There was a mobile home park down the street from where I grew up. I remember riding my bike through the park as a kid and trying to jump the speed bumps. Other than that, I hadn’t paid much attention to it. But I noticed a for sale sign out on the street around the same time I was trying to figure out where to live.
I went and looked at the mobile home. It was owned by this really old guy that had no teeth. I remember him telling me that he was a reformation minister. He told me multiple times during my 10-15 minute conversation with him that I should look up reformation in the concordance (actually, he said “con-cor-DEE- ence”).
The mobile home itself wasn’t awful. It was quite old, had 2 bedrooms and two bathrooms, and it smelled like old people. He wanted $12,000. To my naive brain, $12,000 didn’t sound too unreasonable to buy a place, although there was still space rent of $365 per month. But it didn’t really matter because I didn’t have $12,000 and I doubt any bank would have lent it to me.
In the process, I met the park manager and asked her if she knew of anything else for sale. She told that #4 was empty and that the people who used to live there were in bad health and were probably interested in selling it. I peeked through the windows and saw a lot of trash but the outside was clean so I figured it must not be that bad. The manager told me they wanted $3,000 for it. It was bigger than the other mobile home and even had a third (tiny) bedroom.
Well, I still didn’t have $3,000. I figured the most money I could scrape together was $1,000. So that is what I offered them. They said if I could get them the money by the weekend, they would sell it to me for that. I don’t even remember now if I actually walked through the place before I bought it. I must have, but like I said, I was naive and figured it must not be that bad.
Well, let me tell you what…it WAS that bad! This is what the living room looked like the day I bought it. If you notice a black hole in the bottom left-hand corner of this picture…it really is a hole. I’d say the hole was big enough that I could easily have dropped a La-z-boy recliner down onto the ground.
The bathroom wasn’t any better. After doing way too much cleaning in the bathroom I tried taking a shower. When I was done I stepped out into the hallway to find a river of water that flowed out from the tub, down the hallway, and onto the ground through another hole at the back of the house.
I wish I had taken a video camera through the house when I first bought it. And I wish there was such thing as smell-i-vision. I have pictures, but the pictures just don’t do it justice. It stunk. It stunk real bad. They had a small dog(s) that must have peed wherever it wanted. The floor in the master bedroom was so rotten that the four legs of the bed had punctured right through the subfloor.
The kitchen drywall behind the entire run of cabinets was solid black with mold. The bay window was so rotten that when I took off a piece of metal siding, I could poke my finger right through the 2×6.
I ended up replacing about 90% of that entire structure. Over the next year or so, I totally gutted everything. I replaced floor joists and all the subfloor. I replaced multiple exterior walls. All the windows got ripped out and replaced. The siding was taken off and recycled (I made $300 from the scrap metal…not too shabby when I only paid $1,000 for the entire house).
Let’s see, what else? I redid the roof, put in a new bathroom, converted one of the bedrooms into an office and lots more. I don’t have many pictures of the finished product, unfortunately, but here is one of the bathroom and one of the living room after I was done.
I did all the work myself, with quite a bit of help from family and friends. Fortunately, my dad was willing to loan me the money for the cost of the materials because I really had no money.
Oh, and did I mention that I lived in this place almost from day one? I cleaned out the room that was in the best shape and set up an inflatable mattress and a little dresser and that was that.
If I had known how bad the house really was, I probably would never have bought it. But I am so glad I didn’t know. It was an incredible learning experience for me. My dad knows a lot about maintenance and construction so he taught me a lot along the way. But this was my house and so a lot of it I just learned by trial and error.
My girlfriend Keely, who later became my wife, supported me through this entire process. And she got her hands very dirty along the way. At one point, a few months before we were to get married, she came over to the house after school and I had been working on the house. I was discouraged. I remember telling her that I was ashamed that this house was all I could offer her because I knew it wasn’t much. She took my hands in her’s and said that it would be perfect and she was excited to join me here as my wife.
In an attempt to wrap up the story I’ll try to summarize the next five years. I finished up the last major part of the renovation one week before we got married. She moved in with me and we had a wonderful start to our marriage in that home. It went from being the nastiest house in the park to one of the nicest. We were very happy there and it was perfect for what we could afford. It allowed us to save a lot of money and be able to make other investments.
After we had been there five years, an opportunity came up to sell the mobile home and buy a much nicer house in a great neighborhood. All told, the house cost me about $7,000 after all the repairs. I sold it for $20,000 after owning it for almost 7 years.
You’d think that getting into a house that was really way over my head would have deterred me from getting into real estate any further. Well, within the first year after I bought that mobile home, I purchased six more and sold them and now, about 7 years later, my wife and I own 5 houses including the one we live in…but that’s a story for another time. Click here to read about the next phase in our real estate journey.