I feel like I am just stuck in a rut right now. A lot of exciting things are going on at the moment, and I know that I should be enjoying them. We finally closed on our house and the title is in our name. The thought of home-ownership was at one point a dream and now it is a reality. Now the projects begin. We have an apartment to pack, wallpaper to tear down, walls to pain, hardwood floors to re-finish, and other projects that will emerge at the blink of an eye. This should be fun; this should be exciting. But something feels off right now as I write this article from my hotel room. After sitting at the same looking desk that I have sat at so many times at every Hampton Inn in “you name it” city, it finally it me. The reason I am feeling off right now is not because of the volume of work that has to be done on my house, but rather, the fact that I will be traveling a lot for work over the next few months is having negative impact on my ability to complete these projects and even worse, my savings account.
The Initial Plan
Our offer was accepted in the middle of May. The offer stated that the title was to transfer on July 11th and the former owners would stay in the house (renting of course) until Sunday July 23rd. We negotiated this based on the unfortunate circumstances of the borrower and were glad to help them by allowing them to stay for an additional couple of weeks to ease the transition to their new home. They have been amazing people and we were glad to help them out.
When we purchased the house, we purchased the house with the intent to take down the wallpaper, paint the walls, and re-finish the hardwood prior to moving in. Part of the reason we offered $10k less than asking price was due to the fact that the house was going to need some updated. And by the way, the house has A LOT of wall paper and carpet to remove. We aren’t talking about one room with wallpaper and pull up carpet. We are talking about working on the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms, and hallways. This is not a small job. Similarly, the hardwood that needs to be re-finished is also of similar size. All in all, it is probably around 1,000 sq. ft. of area that needs to be updated for each project.
The initial plan was to move in by the end of August. Working backwards, we created the following timeline:
- July 23rd – Tenants Move Out
- Weeks of 7/24, 7/31, 8/7, and 8/14 – Remove the wallpaper and paint the walls
- Week of 8/21 – Have Hardwood Re-finished
- Week of 8/28 – Move into our new home
The plan was in motion at the time of purchase and the timeline was set in motion. We would have plenty of time to complete the tasks and be ready to go. I would try to spare a few Fridays and Mondays using PTO to have long weekends for working on my house where I could (but those were hard to come by based on our scheduling as it turns out).
How Traveling Ruined the Plan
Based on the people I discussed this timeline with that have experience working on their houses, they told me that this timeline was ambitious. It could be done, but it would require working on week nights and weekends and require the project to run like a well-oiled machine. We were stubborn about having hardwood refinished before moving in while the house was empty. It was something that we discussed before buying and was built into our offer for a house that wasn’t as updated as others in the neighborhood. It just made sense to us to have this completed while the house was empty rather than doing it at a later date and having to work around furniture within our house.
But to me, that wasn’t the biggest pain point in the plan. Rather, it was my travel schedule from work that keeps me out-of-town and more importantly, out of the house that has projects that need to be completed. Here is my upcoming travel:
- Week of 7/24 – Travel Monday through Thursday
- Week of 7/31 – Travel Monday through Friday
- Weeks of 8/7 – Travel Monday through Thursday – This was supposed to be a five-day trip, but I asked to take the Friday off to work on my house and it was approved.
- Weekend of 8/19 – An Out of town bachelor party for one of my best friends.
I’m on the road a lot in the four weeks that it is CRITICAL that I take down the wall paper and paint the walls before the hardwood specialist pulls up the carpet and re-finishes the hardwood. Due to how messy the other two projects are, we just want them completed prior to refinishing to avoid the mess that is taking down wall paper and the looming accident that is bound to happen with my clumsy wife and I when we paint our house.
I know what you all are thinking, why am I going to the bachelor party with these items looming? First, this was one of the first travel items I agreed to on the listing. Second, this guy was one of my groomsmen and as a part of my wedding, I asked my friends (and a fellow Diplomat who may have been the best man) to buy a suit and attend my bachelor party. Not cheap by any stretch of the means and my friends did not blink when asked. Bottom line, I’m not missing this once and a lifetime opportunity for him.
I may have been ambitious at the beginning, but man, I’ve been feeling down about this timeline and the pressures that traveling has placed on accomplishing everything I wanted. With the realization starting to set in, I started to become very stressed out. I was having a hard time sleeping at some nights, worrying about how all of it was going to get done. The only person who knew this was going on was my wife, who would calm me down when I was awake. This wasn’t right, I knew it. And something had to give…
Selecting the Service to Outsource
Eventually, my wife and I discussed the possibility of hiring someone to do the services to ease my mind. But with being frugal and trying to keep the costs down, this idea was not my favorite. But I was open to the conversation. Between taking down wallpaper, priming, and painting, we figured we would select one of the services to receive quotes about the services.
Ultimately, we decided to outsource the wallpaper removal. We arrived at this decision based on a couple of reasons. First, since this was the first item that needed to be done at our house, it set the tone for our repairs. If there was a delay in taking down the wallpaper, the rest of the project’s timeline would be ruined. So it was critical that this gets completed timely and right. Second, I talked to many, many people about taking down wallpaper. It is a dirty, labor intensive, grueling process. It can be done, but expect to budget a lot of hours towards taking down wallpaper. Don’t forget, I have A LOT of wallpaper to take down.
We called 7 people to provide estimates multiple times based on Thumbtack, HomeAway, and other websites. Shockingly, we only had three responses. We had two lowball offers that were about $1,500 and one higher offer. The two lowball offers didn’t seem right. They told me if the wallpaper would not come down, the would paint over the wallpaper and smooth the seems so we can eventually paint over it. Hmm that didn’t sound right.
Ultimately we selected the more expense person. She offered to have this done in four days, take down all the wallpaper without question (even if it was difficult), remove all glue from the walls, rinse them after, putty over all holes, and sand the walls down after. The cost (this still is difficult for me to write), was $2/square foot or $2,000 total with taxes.
After several discussions with my wife and my family, I decided to hire the person and incur the cost. Since that decision, while I am still upset about the premise that my traveling has cause me to incur this expense, my piece of mind is much better and my stress level has been reduced greatly. It is strange to think about it, but there is a cost of stress and time that I know will help offset the actual dollars paid in this scenario. It doesn’t mean that I am happy about it. It doesn’t mean that it is a frugal thing to do. It doesn’t mean that many of you would have made the same decision. But stuck in the current situation that I am, which finds myself writing this article in a hotel like I have done way too many times over the last three years since we launched this blog, it was an expense that I had to incur. There is a larger elephant in the room and a greater question that needs to be asked that is the root of these problems. Why am I still traveling for work? But I’m going to save that discussion for another time.