The Slow Flip, House Style

Downstairs spiral staircase

You may remember the story I told you about how Mr. ItchyFeet and I (over the course of 10 years) remodeled an old condo while living in it? We called it ‘The Slow Flip’. Well, selling that lovely piece of property allowed us to buy our younger, bigger house in an amazing area of Seattle. Also in need of a slow flip. This story starts with my love of spiral staircases.

Let’s find us a house!

We had been working with our real estate agent to find us a house for almost a full year (she’s a saint!). It’s not like we weren’t trying. We looked at houses just about every week and put so, so many offers in. We just kept getting outbid. It was a lot of work and really frustrating. Then Christmas hit and our agent called us all surprised with two houses available. She didn’t think there would be anything until the holidays were up as it’s a bad time to sell.

Lighthouse with spiral staircase
I love spiral staircases. Every one of them unique and special in its own way! This one is in Playa del Carmen.

The first house was a disaster. You could smell the wet carpet right when you walked in (they didn’t put a moisture barrier between the concrete and carpet in one room). The windows were single-pane with really weird storm windows (with ivy growing into one!). It had both forced air and electric wall heaters. There was this strange pipe projecting into the kitchen. There was random painted wood paneling everywhere!

During the open house, I walked past that pipe in the kitchen, turned the corner, and squealed out loud. The house had a spiral staircase! Both my agent and Mr. ItchyFeet told me to hush as apparently you don’t want all the other people also looking at the house to know that you want it. But a spiral staircase! I was so excited! We had just taken a trip to Amsterdam and stayed at a place with a gorgeous wooden spiral staircase. I just love them.

Kitchen before remodel
This is the kitchen before the remodel. The drawers would just fall out if you pulled too far. Single pane windows and several layers of vinyl flooring.

The staircase

My love of the spiral staircase began when I was a kid. I remember someone’s house with this tiny black spiral staircase in the corner that went either to a library or was against a large bookshelf. I just remember that wonderful smell of old books. There have also been countless lighthouses, hotels, and vacation homes with spiral staircases. Made of everything from metal, stone, and wood. Every one of them unique in their own way.

People have love, hate relationships with spiral staircases. They are beautiful, but not very functional. Especially the one in this house. It was black metal, which was cool, but it had cheap plywood steps covered with carpet, which was not cool. Plus, the carpet tack-strips were on the top of the steps instead of the bottom. They poked right into your feet and snagged your socks. Ouch!

In addition, the stairs ended on the lower level such that you would deadend right into a wall. Why? You then had to do a 180 and walk between the stairs and another wall to get behind the stairs to the hallway. It was a really tight fit and not to fire-code at all. Weird. They also did not bolt the staircase to the floor. Not the safest way to do it. But I wanted it nonetheless!

Outbid again! Stupid Seattle housing market

We looked at so many houses that I don’t even remember the other house we looked at that weekend, but we ended up with bids on both. One was looking at bids that Monday. We got outbid, so we put a bid on the other one. The housing market was just that crazy. We were putting bids on houses that we had seen for maybe 30 minutes for over half a million dollars, with no inspection contingency. And we were doing two over Christmas weekend. It was insane! We got outbid on the other one too. Sigh.

Kitchen during remodel, what a mess
We were in a constant state of remodel the entire time we lived here. This is during the kitchen demo. That weird pipe is at the top of the picture.

In fact, the agent for the spiral staircase house called and asked if we would change our escalation clause to go up to $650,000. We were freaking out. Buying a fixer-upper house for more than we could afford! It was in a really great neighborhood, though, so we sucked it up and went for it. We still got outbid! The seller’s agent just used our escalation clause to get another buyer’s escalation clause to go above $650,000. That is some kind of shady. But we were very relieved, as that was way more than we wanted to spend.

We kept looking, put in offers, and got outbid on a few more houses. A couple of months later, the spiral staircase house’s seller’s agent called our agent and asked if we would like it. Their buyer had financial issues and could no longer buy the house. We said yes and had mini panic attacks. It was expensive, but we knew we could fix it up and sell it for way more than we put in. A few hours later, we got the call that our offer got accepted. That spiral staircase was mine!

Kitchen after remodel
This is the kitchen after the remodel. We created a butler’s pantry in that back area to make it usable. We miss that stove!

The Slow Flip

Over the course of five years, we slowly fixed up this truly interesting house into something remarkable. A completely redesigned kitchen that now had a pass-through bar to one of the living rooms. Three newly remodeled bathrooms. All new landscaping with a lovely rain garden. Fresh paint everywhere! We put soffit under the roofline to cover the unsightly nails poking through. An amazing carport changed the entire look of the front driveway (we had a lot of drama with the neighbors and the city on that one, but it worked out in the end). New wood flooring upstairs and polished concrete downstairs. It was gorgeous!

We are talking nonstop construction the entire time we lived there. Mr. ItchyFeet broke his neck shortly after we moved in, so he couldn’t help as much as we would have liked. We hired out for most work. His parents helped a ton. Even my mom came all the way out from Colorado to help me with the garden. Thanks, family! We moved downstairs and upstairs and even into one of the living rooms while work was in progress. We turned a bathroom into a temporary kitchen for a couple of weeks. That sucked.

Mrs. ItchyFeet working on a concrete patch
Here I am working on a concrete patch before we put in new wood flooring. Go me!

Every weekend was a project with potential buyers always in mind (I got a lot of cosmetic advice for the projects from our real estate agent. She’s the best!). I watched a ton of YouTube DIY videos. Tiling, concrete work, cutting in while painting, installing toilets, caulking, electrical work, rain gardens, pruning fruit trees. I didn’t even know YouTube had fun videos. I thought they were all for house projects. Huh. I really felt like I had two jobs. It was all a lot!

Was it worth it?

The crown jewel of the entire remodel was that spiral staircase. We found a wood sculptor who specialized in unique staircases and hired him to design us something magical for the house. And magical it was! It was truly a work of art! They made the entire thing of high-quality polished plywood. I kid you not; it was so cool! It made the house.

Remodeled bathroom
One of our remedeled bathrooms orginally had a pink tub that had to be removed with a sledgehammer. That was crazy!

We kept the carpet for as long as our old dog stuck around, as she loved the carpet. After she sadly passed, we scheduled to have wood flooring installed intending to sell. Then COVID hit. That set us back almost a year. The pandemic made it that much harder to find contractors and installers. Luckily, Seattle’s housing market was as robust as ever. We moved into an apartment close to where I worked and staged the house to sell. And it sold fast and at asking!

Because the bank owned most of the house and we put a ton of money into the remodel, we didn’t make a huge profit. But it was worth the effort and hardship. We lived there while we worked on it, so we wasted no money on rent. By living there, we also avoided having to pay taxes on any of the financial gains we made. Go us!

Patio under the deck near rain garden
We updated the deck and put in a lovely patio underneath with proper drainage. The rain garden is on the right. I miss all my ferns and fruit trees!

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