Hello, this is Sue Ann. I’m on vacation in Denver enjoying the cool weather and changing tree colors, but I’m taking a break to talk about what I’m seeing here, from a real estate redevelopment point of view. It’s funny, but now that I do this all the time, I can’t help but evaluate every place I go as potential for what we do. Here are my totally subjective findings. Bear in mind, I didn’t study up on this place before I got here. This is all just me thinking.
Where we are staying is in north Denver, Colorado, USA. It is a place anyone who doesn’t mind living fairly close to your neighbors would love to live. There are incredibly charming houses, ranging from some really old Victorians a few miles away, to meticulously renovated bungalows from early in the 20th century where I am staying. There are parks everywhere, funky eateries, interesting places to shop (and of course marijuana dispensaries)…and very easy access to the freeway to get to work or the surrounding area. It’s near the stadium and other attractions.
The area reminds me a lot of central Austin. There are many lovely small, old homes, interspersed with much, much bigger very modern-looking houses plopped into each block. I’d say it’s about 75% old and 25% new and trendy. Everything has wonderful landscaping—this is not a poor neighborhood, judging from the upkeep. My guess is all the less-attractive homes were razed and replaced with the big ones. The first picture in the gallery below shows what’s right across the street from me.
Now, is this an area in which I’d love to fix up a house and resell it? You bet! Do I think I could? Maybe not. For one thing, you do NOT see many homes for sale here. Looks like this is a very popular location. A seller’s market. But I’d keep looking in all the usual places (foreclosures, estates, etc.).
The House and Its Strategy
Where we are staying is the last house in the gallery (photo 8 because I had trouble re-ordering them). It’s not the most attractive house, and in fact is a duplex among mostly single-family homes. It’s exactly what I would have bought in this neighborhood f I had a chance, so bravo to this homeowner.
The house has been renovated, for sure. I had to laugh at myself when I walked in and announced, “Oh look, a rental level renovation!” My traveling companion wondered how I knew. I ticked off these tell-tale signs:
- The floor plan is obviously original. There are a lot of walls a more upscale renovation would have knocked down.
- The flooring is the standard vinyl plank stuff we all put in rentals. Looks good. Is sturdy.
- The kitchen floor is those gray rectangular tiles we all use.
- The kitchen back-splash and kitchen counters are entry level tile and granite. They look nice, are easy to clean, and don’t break the reno budget.
- The kitchen cabinets are builder grade or lower, and not custom. In fact, they don’t quite fit, as a couple of the photos below explain.
- Everything in the entire house is one color.
- All-new doorknobs. All the least expensive at Home Depot.
- New windows (actually they are pretty good).
I’m guessing the guy put in $15-$20K on this, maybe less. And bingo, all it took were some furnishings from Target (see Photo 7, in which I can tell you where every low-cost yet sturdy item came from), and there is an Air BnB that will produce income all year round. My guess is it’s already paid for itself, and if property values continue to rise, the owner can make some good money selling it to someone who wants to do something fancier later. It’s one of the many strategies a renovator will use, and a good one. This owner has obviously been well trained, perhaps by the same folks who trained us!
Kudos and Criticisms
I get a kick out of evaluating the renovations other people do. I am sure folks do the same to us (why DID they fix up that lake house so much, people may ask?). So, I took some pictures to back up my observations.
First, the house is perfect for its use. It’s full of sturdy yet inexpensive furnishings in all the trendy grays and blacks people love today. There is minimal art, but enough to make the place feel homey. There is enough household equipment to make it work fine as a home away from home. People staying here don’t have to worry about breaking anyone’s prized possessions, but feel comfortable. They left some charming aspects of the old place intact, like really interesting curved walls at the ceiling, and original bathroom tiles in black and white. All good.
I think perhaps a few shortcuts were taken in the renovation that should have been addressed.
- Photo 2 shows the area behind the door in one of the bedrooms. Oops. No molding. It doesn’t show when the door is open but DOES when it is closed. There are also holes in a weird door in the closet, which I assume is access to the bathroom pipes.
- I don’t know what to say about screwing the medicine cabinet shut (Photo 3), but they do sell replacements.
- Then there are the fuse boxes. Not the most attractive kitchen decor items. They could have at least hung a picture over it. Painting over the metal did not disguise them.
- And the poor rest of the kitchen. It looks fine from a distance. Exactly what any renter or first-time homeowner would swoon over. Gray tile, granite, the beloved stainless appliances, a tile backsplash, and dark cabinets. There’s a big sink and nice faucet, too. But, Photo 5 shows that the cabinet drawer to the right of the stove hits the stove drawer when it opens, so both have to open to use that drawer. Hmm.
- Photo 6 shows a nice-looking corner cabinet that doesn’t quite shut. The under-sink one does the same. These are brand-new and already not working right. I’d address that if anyone was actually going to live here.
So there you go. Obviously I couldn’t stop doing this job, even on vacation. I had fun evaluating this renovation, and have really enjoyed looking at all the styles and types of updates people in this area have been doing. I can see why so many people want to move to Denver, but like Austin, I can see why residents wish people would stop coming and filling the place up, too.
If you are traveling, I recommend you do a similar exercise. Evaluate an area on your own. Then look up more information on the area and see if your initial impressions were accurate. I’ll be doing that when I get home!