At 2:00 pm. Ruth Ann walks through my front gate, her eyes on the peeling grey paint and overgrown landscaping.
“Jennifer, how are you? Have you finished your PhD?”
Stepping into her hug, I glance self consciously at my neglected yard, “Uh, well, no, I quit.”
I met Ruth Ann while crashing open houses for homes I couldn’t afford about ten years ago. Intimidated by all the upscale fanciness, her strangely comforting aura stayed with me. So, a few years later, when shopping for my first home, I called her. I love her and I’m pretty sure everyone who has ever met her does, too.
“What is going on? Why are you selling?”
“I want to get rid of everything and drive around in an RV.”
“Oh how wonderful!” followed by a quick change in tone, “You need to scrape and paint the entire exterior if you want to sell high. You also need a new roof and to clean up this landscaping.”
Me, “How much is that going to cost?”
Ruth Ann, “It could be as much as $10,000, but we can talk about getting some competitive bids.”
I think about my maxed credit cards and my hopes for a nice class A start to sink. Ruth Ann meanders through the house, her 30 years of expertise clicking as she narrates to herself, “….we need to move out some of these books…. more decorative items across that shelf… a painting on that wall….”
Back to me, “Jennifer, we have to make this charming. I mean, it has to be a perfect doll house if you want to get close to $300K”
We sit down and she shows me comparables and current listings, trying to gently break the news to me that homes nicer than mine have dropped to $299K.
Me, “What do you think it sells for?”
Ruth Ann, “Lists for $299K and sells for $285K.”
Reviewing my spreadsheet, I see that nets me about $27K (not counting upgrade expenses), still leaving me with $18K in credit card debt and no money for a down payment on my RV.
I call my brother Joel, a builder and handyman who lives in Michigan.
“Joel, I know you are busy, but I need some help.” I explain the upgrades needed on my house and ask if he can fly down.
“No problem. I can knock all of that out for the expense of materials, but I’ll need you to help. Don’t worry, roofing is easy and I have all the equipment to scrape and paint.”
So, test one of my RV dreams. Can I really re-roof and paint my own house? It looks like I am going to find out…