I Bought a New House … Almost

Not long ago, in a blog post I shared about goals and my desire to finally make some progress in renovating my farmhouse. I started making slight progress, but somehow, every time I think I’ll really focus on it, something happens to distract my time, energy and money. This time was no exception. 

First, I was hired to oversee the renovation of another old house in our community. I’m excited about the project and the new friendship being forged in the process.

Then, in a situation very similar to last year, my efforts have been further derailed by another house. 

Yep. I bought another house.

This was the blog post I started writing a couple of days ago. The post went on to tell the story. How I talked with the owner months ago and she wanted too much money. How she called me last week and asked if I still wanted it, for $60,000 less. Yes!!

How the house was going to be auctioned as a foreclosure next week. We would have to move fast if we were going to close before the sale. But, then she was hospitalized and that delayed things and jeopardized the closing.

It told how everything seemed to be coming together finally. I’d delivered the signed contract to the title company and I was planning the rehab. The sellers were relieved to avoid foreclosure.

That was the post I started writing. That was the post I wanted to write. But the thing about real estate investing and foreclosures is that you have to expect the unexpected. It’s unpredictable, and a deal isn’t done until it’s closed.


This truth was hammered home again when the title company called. The owners owed back taxes to the IRS and the house had a $350,000 tax lien. They claim they don’t owe it, and honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine these people could possibly owe that much in back taxes.

But regardless, the issue will have to be addressed before I can buy the property. This means the lender will have to agree to postpone the foreclosure sale.

So for now, we are asking the lender for more time. If the lender is willing we may be able to deal with the lien, either by determining the IRS has the wrong guy (it happens), or petitioning the IRS to lift the lien to allow for the transfer of the property. They have a process for doing this, but it takes time.

One thing is for sure, this is a very good reminder of the importance of doing your due diligence when buying property. Not many people realize that when a property is bought at auction, the buyer may be purchasing more than just the house.

There are certain liens that survive and the buyer becomes responsible for those. In some instances, a junior lien holder such as bank that provided a second mortgage, will initiate foreclosure. If you were to purchase that home at auction, you would also be responsible for the first mortgage. Can you imaging buying a house at auction for $50,000 for instance and then learning you are also responsible for the $100,000 first mortgage?

And the thing is, a lien can be placed the day before a sale, making it very difficult to be 100% sure you’re getting a clean title.

These are the nitty-gritty, messy details that they never really talk about on Flip or Flop or similar shows. It can be risky business. You have to be very careful, very diligent and make no assumptions.

For now, thankful that I dodged that bullet,  I’ll keep working with the seller. I’ll keep trying to help them avoid foreclosure, knowing much of it is out of my control. I’ll work with Susan, my new friend and client, to see that their new home is structurally sound, updated and beautiful. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get a project or two around here completed.

4 Distinctions Between A Designer and a Decorator and why you need to know the difference

There’s something about the New Year that makes us want to clean, organize, purge, remodel and redecorate! I’m no exception. Though we’ve had an unseasonably warm and dry winter, Monday morning was cold and cloudy. I watched from the window as the  ice and sleet turned to snow. It seemed like a good day to spend a little time sitting by the fire and working on the plans for the organizing, remodeling and redecorating I want to do in this New Year.

I’m not alone. Many of my friends and family are embarking on home projects. I think there’s something innate in most of us that causes us to want to create beautiful living spaces. Certainly, networks like HGTV and DYI have tapped into this and it’s made them very successful.

Sometimes, as you embark on your project you might find that you could use a little help. But getting help can be confusing. For example, Interior Decorator and Interior Designer are titles that are often used interchangeably. While there is certainly overlap, there are really two distinct things. If you’re seeking help with your projects, make sure you understand the difference so you get the help you need.

So, what is an Interior Decorator and what does he or she do?

  1. Interior Decorators address the aesthetics of a space. They are responsible for applying the finishing touches to an area. They choose colors, fabrics, textures and furnishings. It’s their job to make sure these things work together to express the preferences and personalities of their clients.
  2. They work within the confines of an existing space to make it beautiful. In addition to applying finishes, they determine furniture placement. Correctly placed furniture enhances the functionality and beauty of a space.
  3. They often shop for their clients, sourcing furniture, fabric, finishes, curtains, rugs and decor.
  4. While there are courses available for Interior Decorators, there is not a licensing requirement.

Interior Designers, on the other hand address the function of a space. Of course, function has a tremendous impact on the aesthetics, and sometimes Designers will also function as the Decorator as well, but Designers work within a scope that is deeper and wider than that of a Decorator.

  1. Designers need to be knowledgeable and aware of building code and structural requirements. They need to understand the building process because they may need to suggest moving walls, doorways, windows, plumbing, or even building an addition.
  2. Designers can work directly with architects, engineers and contractors.
  3. They seek to understand how a client will use a space.  After understanding the needs and desires of a client, they will design structures and changes to best meet those needs.  Again, these could include structural changes. They consider how light, sound, heating and cooling will affect the comfort and function of a space.
  4. In most states, Designers must meet educational and testing requirements and be licensed before they can claim to be a Designer.

So next time you’re in the middle of big project and decide you need some help, you’ll know where to turn. In the meantime, if you’re tackling a DYI project and get a little stuck, send me an email. Chances are good I’ve tackled it at one point or another, mostly because I am addicted to remodeling and decorating. I really would love to help!

How the Story Ends…

After publishing 5 Years, 5 Minutes and the Happiest Place on Earth, I was contacted with the following: “Inquiring minds want to know, how does this story end?” So, for all the inquiring minds …

In the original post I wrote, “Let’s be … people who choose, and choose again and keep choosing to embrace joy, to grab it fiercely and hold on tenaciously.” Those words really are the rest of this story.

When I checked out of the hotel, I had to pay several hundreds of dollars for the repair with the assurance that there would be a partial refund coming the following week. The following week I received a bill for over $2000.00. When I questioned some of the line items, I received a bill for $2400.00. I spent hours on the phone with the hotel manager, with the maintenance supervisior, with the third party contractor who installed the tub, with his franchise headquarters in Canada. I talked with attorney’s. Finally, I obtained the contact information for the person who runs the hotel. He agreed to seek another bid from another repair company and I have not heard from them in over a month.

I don’t yet know how the story will end. I only know that this is an opportunity for me to practice choosing joy, to continue choosing it when the bad situation only gets worse, to choose it when I am tempted to worry and Anxiety, that relentless adversary, would attempt to place me in his shackles and isolate me from joy.

I chose not to let the situation steal the joy of Disneyland and being with family. That was a personal victory, but I didn’t realize at the time that the joy of Christmas would be threatened as well, that in the following days and weeks I would be confronted with the same decision, with the same choice.

This story is still a cliff-hanger. I still choose to cling to joy. I am learning what it means to cling relentlessly and how to hold on with tenancity when my grasp feels weak and the days without resolution feel long. I am hopeful that I’ve heard the last of this, but if not, well, I guess I’ll keep practicing, keep choosing.

5 Years, 5 Minutes and the Happiest Place on Earth

“Mom, you need to come in here.” This was Anna calling to me from the bathroom of our hotel room. Half an hour earlier I had stretched the hotel blow dryer from its location next to the sink, into the room that contained the bathtub and toilet. I wrapped the cord around the faucet, and put the blow dryer in my shoe.

About now you are probably wondering what in the world I was doing. Well, let me tell you. I was feeling brilliant!

We were at Disneyland celebrating Anna’s 21st birthday. Yes, her birthday was in July and yes it was now December. But there we were, with my parents, my son and daughter-in-law and my nephew. It was our second day and until now it had been magical!

Disneyland had been transformed into a Magical Christmas Wonderland. Garlands hung from buildings.  Lights twinkled, illuminating trees and roof lines. Christmas trees rose tall and majestic on Main Street. Christmas carols floated on the air. The very atmosphere was charged with a festive energy as gingerbread scented snow fell from the Southern California sky. Yep, snow in Southern California. Only at Disneyland!

An early catastrophe had been avoided when a kind man working Space Mountain recovered my cell phone. It had fallen from my pocket on our first ride on our first day.  In that moment, when he placed the phone in my hand I was sure nothing could mar this trip.

From there it only got better. We had not waited more than 10 minutes to get on a ride. I’d enjoyed a Disneyland corn dog … hands down the best corn dogs on earth … and I consider myself a connoisseur.  We’d laughed and laughed until I cried and my sides hurt.  I was surrounded by people I love.

The magic continued into day two. We’d walked thirteen miles the first day, and the park would be open later this night. For these reasons we decided an afternoon break was in order.

Knowing we’d be returning to the hotel room, we board a raft on the Grizzly River Raft Ride, affectionately known in our family as GRRR. The day before, we’d exited the ride with clothes soaked, hair hanging damp in our faces, and water squishing in our shoes with each step.

This time however we were prepared! We donned our newly purchased plastic ponchos, (at least the girls did), full of naive expectation that the plastic would somehow protect us. We’d learn that the water would find it’s way over the top, in the sides and splash up from the bottom. As a result, when we started the mile-long walk back to our hotel room we were once again wet and cold, but happy.

After changing from my wet clothes, I put the blow dryer in the porcelain sink with my wet shoes, hoping they would dry and plopped onto the bed with my laptop to complete some work before we returned to the park.

My dad asked about the persistent noise and in an effort to ease the annoyance I moved the shoes and blow dryer to the bathtub. I closed the door, the noise was muffled and I returned to the bed satisfied that I’d solved this minor issue and could only be considered brilliant …. until my high horse violently bucked me off with those 7 little words from Anna, “Mom, you need to come in here.”

I responded, somewhat tongue in cheek and with a little chuckle,  “What, did the blow dryer melt my shoe?”

“No worse. It melted a hole in the tub!”

What?! How can that be? A blow dryer can’t put a hole in a bathtub!! But it did. Right there, where the bottom of the tub meets it’s side was a silver dollar sized hole. There was no denying it. My mind raced. Could I fix it. Yes, I probably could. With a repair kit and a little bit of time. That was it. I’d just find a Lowes or Home Depot and I’d fix the tub before we left. But I wasn’t sure I could find an exact color match and did I really want to spend my vacation repairing a bathtub?

Google “what to do if you melt a hotel bathtub” and you will get exactly zero responses. Nada. Zip. Apparently I am the first person in the history of the internet to make this particular blunder.

I weighed my options, then drug myself to the front desk and attempted to explain to the manager what had happened. After several attempts to comprehend what I was saying he simply said he would send a maintenance man.

I left the office, dejected and depressed. This mistake was going to cost me more than the rest of the trip combined and I had certainly not budgeted for “melted bathtub”.

As I walked back to our room alone, I had some time to think. I recalled something I’d heard recently. “If the thing you are worried about will not matter in 5 years, don’t give it more than 5 minutes of energy or worry.” My memory was sketchy on the details. Maybe it actually said not to give it more than 5 hours of worry. I don’t know, but I had a firm grasp on the concept.

I knew, in that moment, I had a choice to make. I could let this ruin my trip or I could choose joy. I have the incredible privilege of being able to choose how I frame this story, not just here on my blog, but there, in that moment. In the moment of my distress. And in the moments that would follow.

I was in Disneyland. With three of my kids, two of which I don’t see often. I was spending time with my nephew, my parents. I was in the Happiest Place on Earth. A place where the worries of life can be set aside for a time and you can be transported back to childhood. Where magic is real and one can believe that dreams do come true.  I was experiencing something that, for many, remains only a distant dream.

A place that is the reality of one man’s audacious dream, a dream that today touches millions of lives every year, providing joy for it’s guests and employment for thousands of families.

I love the story of Walt Disney because he was a dreamer.  Disneyland was another dream in a long list of dreams pursued and obtained by Walt. Dreams that were pursued with great risk and at great cost. If you haven’t already, watch the movie Walt Before Mickey. Be inspired. Be challenged.

In that moment, walking from the office to the hotel room, confronted with my choice, I chose not to let stress steal joy. I chose not to steal the joy of those with me. There was not a thing, not one thing I could do about that tub. It was stupid, but it had happened and I would have to make it right. That was the cold, hard truth. But I didn’t have to let it be more than that. The circumstances had not changed, but I could.

In 5 years, it would be a mere memory, something the kids would bring up to tease me and we would all laugh together. I chose not to give it more than 5 minutes of worry, 5 minutes of energy. If I’m really honest, I chose not to give it 5 more minutes of worry. I’d surpassed the 5 minute milestone before I’d ever made it to the front desk. None-the-less, on that walk, alone, I made a choice.

That’s the real beauty, the real magic and most of us miss it. We have a choice! We can embrace faith or embrace fear. We can choose stress or we can choose joy. We can focus on what we don’t have or we can be thankful for the blessings we do have.

The choices we make ultimately make all the difference in our lives, in who we become, in our characters. They even affect our health. Choosing joy combats the damaging effects of stress. And, it affects those around us. Let’s be carriers of joy, people who enrich the lives around us in spite of negative circumstances. People who choose, and choose again and keep choosing to embrace joy, to grab it fiercely and hold on tenaciously.

There is tremendous power in realizing we can choose and in choosing joy.

5 years, 5 minutes. It’s your choice.


A Tear-Down or the Realization of a Dream?

I’d been waiting a year for this moment. Well, a year and a lifetime. It was late. Darkness and silence surrounded me. The rest of the house slept. I lay on the air mattress on the floor of the living room and I thought about the journey that had brought me here.

As a child, in this sleepy, Colorado mountain community, I’d always loved this house. I didn’t know then that the proper name for the roof style was “gambrel”. To me it was simply “that barn house”. Towering cottonwood trees lined the front of the property. A creek wound it’s way through shrub oak and among the pines between the old barn and the southern boundary. The Greenhorn Mountain rose tall to the west. Strong. Constant. Beautiful. I didn’t know anything about the place, it’s history, it’s owners. I was a kid and knew only that I loved it.

I would leave this place, this community. Not by my choice. Not willingly. Not without tears and an aching heart. My journey away from here took me first to Arizona, then eventually to other parts of Colorado, to Indiana. I was privileged to live in some other cultures and see some of the world. I’d lived in Europe, traveled to Asia and Africa, had a baby in Holland. But somehow, in the back of my mind and deep in my heart a love for this place remained.

Nearly thirty years after leaving, I returned. When I did, I drove by this house, this barn house. I couldn’t tell if it was occupied or not. The car in the drive might indicate it was, but the place looked abandoned. I would learn that the house was going into foreclosure. That started an exercise in patience that would last nearly 10 months. 10 months of waiting. 10 months of working on contracts, repair estimates, financing and appraisals. Just before closing we almost lost the house when our lender quit the business and did not notify anyone. But finally, finally we were here.

I lay in the dark that night remembering the broken, winding road that had brought me here. So thankful to have this place. So grateful to be here … and wondering if I’d made a huge mistake.

The smell of dog urine was so strong as to be nearly unbearable. Every window was open to the August night, and still I found it difficult to breathe. I was thankful that the kids were upstairs, removed from the foul and toxic odors, bedrooms newly painted and floors newly refinished. I remembered the words of my friend and realtor when I’d first talked with her about buying this house. “I think that house is a teardown.” I wondered now if she was right.

Of course the floors had been mopped and bleached, but urine penetrated the wood floors and the odor hung heavy in the still, night air. The bank had winterized the house in March, an exercise in futility since by that point bitter cold temperatures had already wreaked their havoc.

The plumbing would all need to be replaced as well as the water heater due to freeze damage. Soot covered the ceiling and walls around the water heater. It was unclear if it was due to poor venting or a fire, but either way, it would need to be addressed. A toilet bowl was cracked where water had frozen. The well pump was failing. Cracks had formed on some of the walls and the living room ceiling was failing where a poor attempt had been made to patch a former leak. Walls were black with woodsmoke, tile had fallen from the shower wall, windows were cracked or broken.

My mind played that list over knowing these items were just scratching the surface. And again, I wondered if maybe my friend was right. I thought of all those others who had wanted this house, who had placed their offers and received the news that theirs was not the highest and best. Maybe it wasn’t too late to sell it to one of them. But I was used to trusting my instincts and my instincts told me that this place was worth saving. That the bones were great. That I couldn’t tear down 100 years of history.

So I used the sheet to cover my nose and filter the foul air and I remembered all of the reasons I’d loved this house in the first place. I drifted off to sleep determined to address the odors and dreaming of what this place would become.

It isn’t finished yet. Weeks before closing on the house, I had started a new business. It would grow rapidly and consume my time and energy, requiring long days and more than an occasional evening. I bought and rehabbed the Greenhorn Farmhouse. Kids got married and wedding preparations replaced rehab. But little by little it’s improving and I have very high expectations for the coming year.



I’ve been replacing windows one at a time and have just three remaining. If you’ve never done that before, I’ll show you how in an upcoming post. It’s not nearly as hard as it sounds and you can save a great deal of money by doing it yourself.

Today, my crew worked to repair and stabilize the barn. A back wall was pushing out and I was concerned about the structure.  They removed years of accumulated manure, now composted and compacted with dirt. With picks and shovels, they dug holes in the rocky ground. New support posts were set in holes and concrete was poured.

Tomorrow the walls will be pulled back into place and attached to the posts. Someday I will re-side the barn and install proper barn doors but for now I’ll rest easier knowing the horses are safe and the historical building will continue to stand there along the creek and among the trees.