Airbnb Experiment On-Schedule, Blogger Needs to Relax

Airbnb Project(or, Why I Didn’t Make it to FinCon 2017 Dammit)

A long weekend of hard work and determined effort led to significant progress on the Airbnb project. It’s amazing what a combination of good planning, experience, and competent help can yield. The flooring in the bedrooms, hallway, living and dining areas have been replaced. The kitchen now sports a new faucet, cabinet handles, and most importantly, is DEEP CLEANED.

Hell’s Kitchen

God bless my mom. She was willing to clean behind the range and fridge, where years of crud, dust, and spills had built up over the course of 12 years. This condo unit was built in 2005. I don’t believe these appliances had ever been moved for cleaning. I’m now wishing I’d taken pictures of the disaster “back there”, but my photo-journalistic tendencies escaped me. Instead I’ll resort to a simple comment, like, “Gross!”

The fridge wasn’t much better. A little advice if you didn’t know: It’s really important to keep good airflow underneath a modern fridge. It doesn’t take much in the way of dust bunnies to clog up the vent. Imagine how much clogging occurred after 12 years. I’d argue you could stuff a cat with how much nasty was back THERE. Thanks Mom. Hopefully that fridge will last many years more, now that it can breathe.

Ready for some more gross stuff? Imagine a light fixture where dead flies of all species converge with cooking grease to fossilize in fluorescent glee… So nasty. I’m a good son. So when I took the light cover down, I at least had the decency to empty the cup’s worth of dead flies into the trash. All Mom had to do was get the layers of sticky old cooking grease off. Goo gone may be toxic. But that shit works!

New Flooring Adventures

God bless my step-dad. This is where experience and competence comes into play. We tag-teamed getting the old carpeting and padding removed, which wasn’t a big deal. Removing the tack strips from concrete padding? That sucked. Thankfully, we got a hold of some serious pry-bars and were able to pop those strips out. It was a work out though. Fortunately, the padding wasn’t overly glued down, so scraping up bits of it was no big deal.

By the time we were finished, we had filled up the entire cargo capacity of my step-dad’s Silverado with dead carpeting. Don’t ask about the complex’s dumpster. I am not a friend of the earth after this past weekend…

Between cleaning up Hell’s Kitchen and removing the old carpeting, we were well into Day 2 (Saturday afternoon.) I was itching to start laying the new laminate. It’s so true about DIY projects like this: the prep work takes roughly 25% of the total effort. For us, that meant a full day out of the four before I had to hightail it back to Minneapolis.

Airbnb Project
A concrete pad on a second floor unit: Better soundproofing.

Interludes of Shopping

Talk about a stack of receipts! We shopped hard when I got off the plane Friday, and again on Monday out of necessity. Fortunately, the essential stores are all nearby: Home Depot, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Wal-Mart. If it wasn’t on my list, my mom had it down. She’s somewhat of an Airbnb veteran, having stayed at some of the finest in Charlevoix during a summertime “girl’s week.”

I wouldn’t have thought to shop for basics like towels and linens. Mom’s got a good eye for this stuff though, and we brought home the biggest pile of white bath towels from Sam’s. Luckily they were only $6 a pop. Unluckily, I had to buy 8 sets.

Aside from bath towels, dishes, flat-ware, and other essentials, we also needed to go back to Home Depot because someone foolishly underestimated how much laminate was required for the flooring project. Nice work, Cubert. You thought you could get away with using scraps to complete the job. Ha! Nope. Good thing the “Deeps” had more of the Pergo in stock we needed. Another 40 square feet precisely. Oh yeah, and $183 in quarter round. Jesus! Take me now…

I could go on, but I think it best to just lay out all the expenses on this place, to-date. You can see how much it costs just to give a small condo a face-lift and furnish it for Airbnb prime-time:

Airbnb Project

Cubert’s Estimating Prowess (or lack thereof?)

If you’re checking my math don’t worry. In the exhibit above the “sub-total” is $1,706 more than the itemized list shows. That’s because I’m including the closing costs and two months of utility bills, dammit!

But here’s the bottom-line: When I first started analyzing the cash on cash returns for this place, before putting in my offer a few months back, I spit-balled an estimate of $10,000 to get her ready. That’s furnishing and repairs/upgrades, all-in. Now that we know I can’t estimate flooring for shit, let’s see how I’m doing with the big-picture on that $10K target, shall we?

Here’s the master checklist:

Airbnb Project

Airbnb Project

See what I did there? I jacked up my baseline from $10K to $12K. I still have about $4,000 worth of stuff to buy to outfit the condo, with a $400 cushion. You could say I cheated a bit by bumping up my estimate, but it happens all the time in my line of work as a software project manager. Rarely does a project come in under budget. The key is to avoid big swings in costs, that wind up putting big dents in the expected benefits.

Cash on cash (return on invested cash) was 24.45% assuming a $10,000 upfront repair/furnish bill. With an updated estimate of $12,000, cash on cash is now reduced by a whopping 1.31%, to 23.17%. I’m still doing alright. Though my knees and back are still kinda achy.

A near finished product

When the four days were all said and done, we were able to knock-out 95% of what I had planned to accomplish. Also not bad from an estimation perspective. We all could’ve used an extra day, but I couldn’t afford to be away that long. I’m really grateful to my folks for dedicating their time and effort. I sure as hell couldn’t have gotten this much done without them. And I’m equally grateful to Mrs. Cubert, for single-handedly wrastling two 4 year old minions those four days Papa was away. I love you all!!!

Let’s have a look at some before and after, to give you a little DIY inspiration:

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Living/Dining Room (See that unfinished strip to the right? Poor estimation, Cubert!)


Airbnb Project
Master Bedroom: Before


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Master Bedroom: After


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Looking into BR 2 from the Hallway. The continuity of the flooring is key!


Airbnb Project
The Nest got installed too – Easiest task on the list by far.

What’s on-deck?

After all this effort to completely replace the flooring in 2/3 of the living space, replace the kitchen faucet, deep clean, and procure “stuff”, we’re only about half way there to getting the Airbnb ready. We still need to get the place repainted (underway now, not by me!), get the furniture and beds in there, decorate, and hire a cleaner.

Man. This is NOTHING like setting up a long-term rental. It’s a never-ending list of to-do’s to get a vacation rental ready for use. Am I complaining? Just a tad. But thanks to math, good planning and okay estimation, the eventual rewards will make it all worthwhile.

I’m not sure when I’ll get back to Michigan to take on “round two” but there’s a healthy list of purchases yet to be made. Good thing we have Ikea here in Minneapolis. I’m envisioning a large payload of disassembled end tables, entertainment stands, chairs, etc. to haul out there later this winter/spring. Any volunteers to join me? 🙂

Comments 15

  1. Holy Crap, that’s a lot of work!

    ” Removing the tack strips from concrete padding? That sucked.”

    We sold our house last year and I had to do this exact thing. What a nightmare! Plus we had to pull up about 10,000 staples – no joke – from the old carpet pad to expose the hardwood floor underneath. Both Mrs. FF and I had incredible sore hands and fingers from all the repetitive work. Some staples were so dug in that I had to snip the staple in two and then pull out each side.

    Thanks for the PTSD flashback! 🙂

    1. You’re not kiddin’! Now, 10,000 staples? Ugh!!! That’s almost “hire it out” territory. Sorry for the flashback. Funny how we claim to “love” DIY, and forget how repetitive and draining it can be. It’s the glorious results that keep us coming back. 🙂

  2. Thank goodness for helpful parents (and spouses!). Here’s hoping the cash will start to flow, and the painful back/knees will start to heal. Quite the effort, looking forward to where this leads for you! You’re a better man than I….

    1. Hey, Fritz! Yes, indeed! Super grateful for the help. I’d be screwed otherwise.
      There’s still a touch of that old paranoia about the cash flow situation, but with patience and hard work, this thing will pay off. I’m sure of it. Now to figure out whether to leave a bottle of wine, box of fudge, or both, for our guests…

  3. Ah yes, flooring projects. This brings back memories. We updated 3 rooms in our former house before we sold and did it ourselves. Those little Bear Claw hammers are worth their weight in gold. I’m so thankful that our new place won’t need updating for a long, long time. It looked good when we were done but it took us awhile.

    Parents are so great aren’t they? Ours have helped us so much during moves especially. Pics look nice man!

  4. wow, so much work, looking good though! I’m sure it will pay off this summer. We usually get up around Petoskey/ Traverse each year, sometimes summer and sometimes winter for some skiing, maybe I’ll give you a shout and see if your place is available since it’s kinda in that sweet spot, Charlevoix right? 🙂

    1. Thanks, Matthew! I’m sure hopeful about that summertime payoff. You should definitely check it out for next summer. Charlevoix is a little less than an hour east of TC, and only 30 minutes (if that) from Petoskey. If I manage to get it ready sooner – maybe a winter stay for skiing – let’s keep in touch!

      1. Sounds good! We are planning a ski trip so it usually is either Boyne mtn or Schuss/Shanty so depending on where I’ll be in touch, thanks!

    1. Thanks, Dylan! A little bit of elbow grease and know-how can take you very far. I’d be glad to help – but you’d probably want my step-dad to come along too for the REAL know-how. 🙂

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