We are Land Barons: $12,000 out the door.

by Caleb

Kalamazoo House


In early May Marci, Abel and I fled the still snow Upper Peninsula to head to Kalamazoo, MI where we could visit with friends and family and sit in a sunny biergarten. It was great. However, while we were in Kalamazoo we realized that houses can be insanely cheap (like around $10,000 for a fixeruper).  We would slowly drive around sketchy neighborhoods looking at rundown houses while Abel slept in the back.  We would drive by condemned buildings, wondering what they cost. But then we saw a house 3 doors down from some close friends in a rapidly improving neighborhood that was a little more than what we could easily afford, but interesting enough that we wanted to take a look.

We called the realtor, found out it was bank owned property, and scheduled to take a look. It is a 1905 1400 sqft house that….needed some work.  But all the pieces were there. It had gone through several alternating periods of neglect and renovation, but all of the important parts where sound (good foundation, newish roof, mostly updated wiring, etc.  We looked at the house with the realtor  saw its potential, and made a low ball offer, 25% less than what they were asking.  The realtor stepped away, called the client and came back with a lower offer of 40% off of asking price if we could pay cash. We did some quick math then realized we could probably make that work.

So in two days we went from idly looking at super rundown houses in kinda scary neighborhoods, to buying a semi rundown house in a nice neighborhood. Our plan is to fix it up and rent it to some friends. So at the beginning of June we came back to Kalamazoo and started working on the house.  There is more work than I had hoped, but not more than I expected.  I’ve been removing the last vestiges of the worn out and over taxed knob & tube wiring, tearing out the kitchen, gutting and replumbing the bathroom, reinforcing some framing, ripping out the carpet and getting ready to CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN.  The house had been a rental for the last 15 years and pretty well neglected. The occupants appeared to have been wheelchair bound chainsmokers without any propensity towards cleanliness.  It kinda looks like they had food fights and filled the duct work with cigarette ashes.

Marci and I miss our cabin in the woods, the thick moss, fresh scent, camp fires,  cast-iron cooking, the summer saunas, and the long peaceful drive into town. We don’t miss the ticks,  the biting black flies, the ticks, the mosquitos, the ticks,  and the mud. Hopefully when we are finished with this project we will still have enough summer in the woods to get our firewood put away for the winter, to do some cabin projects, and enjoy the summer!

But for now, I will slog around remodling an old house. Its actually kinda fun.