Did We Make A Profit Selling Our Second House?

We answered this question after the sale of our first house (spoiler: we bought in the bubble and sold in the recession), so now we’re back to do it again – but this time the coins stacked a bit more favorably, thanks both to selling in a slightly better market and by not sinking as much into this house’s improvements (it helped that we didn’t need expensive upgrades like a new roof and windows this time around).

We managed to sell this latest house for $23,000 more than we bought it for back in 2010. And our best estimate is that we put around $14,500 into improvements that stay with the house (i.e. not furniture or other decor that moves with us). That means we made a net gain of about $8,500. Here’s an estimated breakdown of where the money went:

  • Kitchen renovation (including appliances, new flooring, backsplash, lighting, counters, opening the wall, etc): $6,955
  • Deck building/staining/sealing: $1,783
  • New patio: $1,252
  • Built-in desk in the office (it conveys with the house since it was custom-built for that area): $124
  • Laundry appliances & built-in shelves: $712
  • Hall bathroom update: $168
  • Guest bathroom update: $51
  • Crown molding that we added throughout the house: $218
  • Fireplace upgrade with new tile/mantel: $147
  • Board & batten in hallway: $57
  • Pergola over carport: $214
  • Column update for porch: $198
  • Window boxes/plants for them: $132
  • Paint/stain for every room, built-in, and outdoor area (this doesn’t include furniture paint/stain since that comes with us): $800
  • Landscaping, light fixtures, curtains, and miscellaneous other items that stay (like new border tile & toilet in the master bath): $1,700
  • Total: $14,511*

*some of these prices are total costs for projects, including some items that won’t convey with the house – for example the bathroom makeover costs include art and accessories that came with us. So this isn’t a perfect tally.

But regardless of how meticulous our math is, we’re incredibly grateful that in just a few years we were able to increase the value of this house so much – especially given our experience with our first house (to which we barely boosted the sale price at all – stupid market!). But of course, we owe a 3% fee at closing to pay the buyer’s agent commission (but we would have owed twice that amount if we used a seller’s agent, so we’re thankful for that as well).

In the end, we probably broke about even on this house. House flippers we’re not. But house lovers? You betcha. The thing we’re most excited about is finally getting to roll all of the equity that we’ve built over seven years of paying the mortgage on our first two homes into this new house – nearly cutting our mortgage balance in half. Yeehaw! That was definitely worth the wait.

What about you guys? Have you added up what you’ve spent on a house and compared it to what you got back? We always hear kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor “square footage” (decks, patios, etc) tend to up the resale value of a house. Has that rung true for you? One thing we haven’t really heard much about are built-ins, but we think they’re such a nice feature (like the built-in desk we made for the office, the ones in the dining room that we inherited, and the one that we added to the laundry room).

So built-ins will definitely be making an appearance at the new house (especially since we’re already starting to notice a lack of built-in storage here). They add a nice feeling of function + customization, and both of the built-ins that we added were under $125, so that’s definitely some nice bang for your buck!


  1. says

    Yay for 7 years’ equity! Thanks for sharing these numbers (along with everything else you share every day!). It’s a nice reminder that you guys are real and work with a real-life budget. :)

    -Katie at AdventuringAtHome

  2. says

    Well done on the less wordy, but full of great content and visuals post!

    We’ve yet to buy a house (always rented), but we think we have decided on a spot for the first house purchase down the road in a few years. (As in it meets our top 5 living requirements after moving 60+ combined times.)

  3. Christine says

    While I’m sure you would have loved to make oodles on your just sold house, somehow the way you did it just seems (and feels) right. It appears you did all the things that you wanted to, to make the house your own while not getting crazy about adding unwanted upgrades just to sell the house at a later date. I think it is a good guidepost for anyone making changes to their home, especially if they plan to spend a couple of years living in it. We knew our kitchen upgrade would put our house in the “most expensive house on the block category” – and that’s not a position one wants to be in actually, because the comps will scare off potential buyers. BUT, we wanted a functional kitchen that we loved and a couple of years later, we know the money we sunk into the kitchen was well worth our satisfaction while we are here. Every time I walk in there, I smile. Great job – both the record-keeping and the selling!

  4. Sara B. says

    I love your glass half full attitude, but I am astonished that you did not see a bigger return on your investment — compared to the condition of the house at purchase time, you have made huge improvements, especially to the core living spaces — the living room and kitchen. And the landscaping work you did yourself would have cost someone tens of thousands to hire out — maybe Richmond is still a depressed market, but I would have expected a much bigger return on your investment.

    • says

      I don’t think it’s a depressed market as much as housing is just very very affordable here. I have never heard of anyone buying and selling a few years later and making a giant profit because since home prices are so low there’s not doubling or anything. For example, our house was 2XX,XXX and we sold it for 3XX,XXX which is a big jump in Richmond since most homes of that size in that area are still in the 2XX,XXX range. I think it’s all relative since someone who lives in DC might buy their house for 7XX,XXX and made improvements and immediately see that it’s worth around 9XX,XXX since prices are higher so they grow more than a $200,000 house can – ya know?


    • Jenny says

      But in housing math, I’d probably put a value on having a place to live for those years. If you figure renting an equivalent space would cost maybe $1k a month (?? don’t know, up here in DC, as you note, housing costs are higher and that kind of space would easily be $4k/mo), you can figure that in as a “value” provided by the home for four years. As in, the whole transaction provided you with (in some weird economic terms) roughly $0 in cash and $30k or something like that in housing services. Right?

    • Christi says

      I agree, I am in real estate and I was shocked about the low return. But in AZ it must be different.

    • Val says

      It really must depend on the area. Because I’m in Alabama and I think that you guys got a huge return on your investment, especially considering how little time you’ve lived in the house. We’re in a very affordable market as well and Sherry’s right, a house isn’t going to double in value in a few years here. Not great for flipping, but we were a bit more protected from the housing crisis.

    • says

      I was somewhat surprised at how (relatively) small the total worth of the house increased, considering how lovely you both made it! You all make a good point about the cheaper market. I’ve always heard about big leaps in my city (Vancouver, Canada) but that’s clearly also because I live in an area where regular homes sell for more than 2 million. I suppose that’s the one “upside” (though of course it’s all relative) for being in an expensive market, if I ever manage to get into it!

  5. Meredith says

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m curious why you say you “about broke even”? I’m estimating the 3% commission was probably between $6000-$8000, so if you sold for $23,000 and sunk $14,500 in expenses….and I have now answered my own question. I’m a dork. Congratulations on increasing the value so much!

  6. Emma says

    Thank you! That was very kind of you to share. I suspect “regular” folks that have to hire labor rather than do it themselves would have worse #s but you should be VERY proud of yourselves for increasing the home’s value by so much in a few years. You deserve every penny. I’m excited to read all about the beautiful things that will happen to your new house.

  7. says

    I can’t believe you guys share so much but really, it’s quite helpful!

    We’re vacationing (and yup blogging) from Croatia this summer and it makes us wonder if maaaaybe we should sell our house and move abroad for a bit and have another adventure. WHO KNOWS.

    These things are such big decisions and it’s so helpful having people like you break it all down!!

    Thanks as always as sharing so much with us! You don’t have to, but we appreciate it!!!

    • Lee says

      That sounds awesome! I’m planning a trip to Croatia in 2 months – I’ll have to check your blog for tips!

    • says

      Maja, we’re having a great time. Croatia is such a beautiful country.

      Lee, definitely stop by and say hello! So fun that you’re planning a trip to Croatia yourself! Feel free to ask if you want tips on where to go! Our home base is Split but we were in Dubrovnik over Memorial Day weekend and we’re going to the islands this weekend. Also planning a week in the Istrian region. It’s a small country but so many beautiful cities! :)

    • bergie says

      We just sold our house (and breaking a little better than even) and are moving abroad with a toddler and newborn — we’re crazy but love big adventures! You can do it!

    • Maja says

      I’m from Zagreb, currently in Ohio but moving back to the East Coast in a bit. Reading your blog posts makes me miss home so much! I’m glad someone’s enjoying it at least. :)

      In case you might be looking for some light summer reading, here’s a blog I think you might enjoy called Zablogreb. It’s written by an American who married a Dalmatian girl, moved initially to Split and now they live in Zagreb. It’s his take on some of the cultural differences and stuff he enjoys or is completely baffled with (google “propuh”, you’ll see). I wonder how many of his experiences you might identify with! :)

      Have an awesome vacation!

  8. Teresa says

    We purchased our house in 2006 and spent 35k improving it. We just listed for 12k more then we bought and in this market we will end up losing money. Our agent said we bought when it was high and selling when low! Very disappointed but we hope our new house will be our 20+yr home to watch our 2 little ones grow up. Live and learn right?!?

  9. says

    Wow, that’s great. Good for you. With our first house too we were in the same boat. Bought during the bubble and sold during the recession. So hopefully we’ll see a better outcome whenever we sell this house. The No VA market seems to be doing well these days. How do you account for the labor hrs that you put in on all the DIY that stayed with the house? If you had hired contractors for those jobs that would have been part of the price tag for those projects, right? Congrats once again. So excited to see what all you dream up at the new place.

    • says

      Oh yes, if we had hired out these improvements we would have lost money bigtime, so we look at it as “by putting in sweat equity, we grew the value of this house and then got to sell it for more and roll all of the equity that we built up paying this mortgage (and the one on our first house) into our new house. Seeing that loan amount drop by almost 50% = awesome!


    • Sally says

      If Sherry & John had hired contractors, they not only would not have made money on the sale; they would not have had anything to write about on their blog. :-) I think that the fact that the home improvement projects provide material for blogging (and consequently, income) needs to be taken into account as well.

  10. says

    First of all- I hope unpacking is going well!! Secondly, I’m just curious (and forgive me if you’ve addressed this elsewhere) but do you guys make an attempt to pay extra on the mortgage each month? My husband and I are so inspired by your ability to live “richly” while being frugal, and I’m just curious if this may have been one way you gained additional equity…

    • says

      Yes, we try to overpay when we can (without stretching ourselves of course) and also are huge fans of 15 year mortgages (you pay MUCH less interest over time that way – seriously if you compare how much more interest is on a 30 year loan vs. a 15 year loan, it’s staggering – so if you can afford a 15 year loan it’s sort of like overpaying every month since it’s a larger amount but it’s for a shorter period of time with less interest :)


    • becca says

      We pay (significant) extra principle on our mortgage each month. When we refinanced a few months ago, we considered switching to a 15 year loan, but for us it would’ve only saved us 2K in interest over term of the loan. We decided to stay with the 30 year, since we hope to pay it off in 8 years anyhow, because if one of us lost our job, or we had some other unexpected big expense, we wouldn’t HAVE to make the bigger payment. For us, 2K (over the life of the loan) wasn’t worth possible foreclosure in an emergency. But each person’s finances are different, definitely do the math and check out all your options!

    • says

      Oh yes, 2K over the life of the loan is nothing! You totally made the best call. When we had our loan guy do ammortization schedules it saved us tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the loan to go with the 15 year one. I think it must matter what rate/what type of loan/how much it’s for/etc :)


    • lisa says

      my brother is an actuary and always works with figures. he told me something a few years ago that totally makes sense…no matter what type of mortgage you have–a 30 year, 20 year, 10 year, whatever, you can make that mortgage into any type (15 yr. 20 yr etc) you want by paying extra each month. so, even though one person may have a 30 year mortgage at the same interest rate as a person with a 15 year mortgage–but the 30 yr mortgage person puts tons of extra payments in each month, you can make it “become” a 15 yr mortgage, or a 10 year mortgage, etc…during this time, by doing this, in the long run you will cut off tons of interest payments also since you are paying it off quickly…like the bimonthly payment plan..you don’t need to sign up for that…just pay 1 extra month’s mortgage payment in a year’s time, and it’s the same as having a biweekly plan. so, just remember, just because you have a 30 year loan, doesn’t mean it has to be 30 years…you can make it 25, 22, 15, 10 etc….

  11. says

    We sold our first home in 2010–my husband (then a singleton) had purchased it a couple of years before for way too much. At closing, we owed $0 and we were cut no check in “profit”. Adding it all up, we lost about $10,000 on improvements. In the end, though, I was just grateful to be rid of that place!

    We’re hoping to stay in our current home for a long time, but if we sold it tomorrow, we would break even or maybe make a few bucks because the market is hot around here. I’d like to think we’ve been pretty thoughtful about what we’re putting into this house. However, I’m no psychic, and the market could turn sour on a dime. I just try not to think about that.

  12. says

    We also bought on the bubble with our current house and I can’t imagine we’ll ever be able to sell for what we paid. But, I guess you have to live somewhere :) Glad to hear the outdoor space is a selling feature – we’re hoping to add a backyard deck or patio in the next few years!

  13. karen says

    wow! houses over here, north of Toronto go up 10’s of thousands in a few years!! so ofter 3 and a half years we made a profit of 60,000.
    Housing prices here are CRAZY!!!

    • Sarah says

      Sure, it’s awesome, but it also means that it is incredibly difficult to get into the market for first-time buyers. It falls in line with the comment you made earlier, Sherry – the pricier the market the greater the return on small improvements. To give you an idea… it wouldn’t be unusual for your first little ranch to be listed in the $500K range in Toronto. And your current home could go for somewhere around $1.2M. Karen is right…absolutely CRAZY housing prices!

    • Lesley says

      Location, location, location!

      We luckily were able to forge our way into the Toronto market 12 years ago (this week actually), made a shrewed decision about neighbourhood and have since tripled the value of our investment!

      The other thing to keep in mind is that the cost to renovate, even when you put in the sweat equity, is higher in the more expensive markets too – our completely do it yourself kitchen remodel cost over $10k and we didn’t even get new appliances at the time…

      I think a more compelling case is the % of value. We have put 10% of the purchase price of our home into renovations (still have about 5% to do), which feels about right at a total of 15% additional investment… the advantage to our situation is that the market has now made that investment less than 5% of the current market value.

    • rachael says

      We live in a very small town about 2.5 hours west of Toronto. Housing is very affordable here. Our next door neighbors used to live in Toronto (Distillery District I think), lived there for 5 years and made $100,000 on their place when they sold it. Moved here to our quaint town and bought their house for just over $110,000. Now he doesn’t have to work and they are living their dream!!

    • Barbara says

      We live in a smallish community (40,000) in northwest GTA and the properties have appreciated like crazy here. Our little 1400sqft house appreciated over $100,000 in 3yrs and all we did was put down hardwood floors and paint. Of course when we wanted to get something bigger, it then cost us that much more to buy as well!

      Rachael – where is this little haven of yorus – perhaps I need to consider moving again lol!

    • says

      I was just going to comment on how jealous I am of house prices. I’m in Alberta, Canada (outside of Calgary) and its also freaking crazy here. So hard for first time buyers to get their foot in the door! i’m moving to Richmond…

    • Mary says

      I agree! My 880sq ft condo that I bought for 193k in the fall of 2008 went for 245k 3.5 years later…

      Our new tiny (1100sq ft bungalow + fully finished basement) cost us 280k…we had to buy a 50+ year old house in order to get detached and a decent sized yard…

    • says

      See that’s what I like to hear. You made a little bit of a profit and ended up almost even stevens but you’re like “meh…that was fun!” :o) I love living in a house and making it our home. I don’t know if I could ever become a flipper – even with houses going for 20K down here right now! – because I would take it way too personal if someone messed up something that I put so much blood, sweat and tears into. Ha!

      My best, Lynn
      *And Canada sounds bananas right now. Pretty much sounds like America did right before 2008 happened. I’d be selling high like my life depended on it! haha…

    • Claire says

      Lynn, don’t fear for us! :) Canada’s banking system is set up quite differently than the US, so the risk factors that led to the housing crash in the last decade aren’t really there. Plus, it’s really just a few big cities that have crazy prices (Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary…). We live in Calgary and the condo market isn’t crazy, but inner city homes are. We bought for $605 in Nov 2011 and equivalent homes are listed around $690 today. We’ll hold on a couple more years, finish the basement, and see what we can get.

  14. Shannon says

    I’m glad you’re sticking with built ins. I LOVE them. Unfortunately at my house I only have a built in spice rack, but since we are completely remodeling two rooms for my boys, I’m planning on adding something in there for them.

  15. Kathy says

    I always think about “resale value” when we’re thinking of tackling a project. We know this isn’t our forever home, in fact, we’d like to move sooner rather than later. Additionally, we live in an area where the homes typically sell for less than other parts of our township, so we definitely don’t want to sink in a tons of money that we’re not going to recoup.

    We tore down the original brick deck because it was leaking water into the crawlspace (split that cost with the sellers) and DIY’d a deck in the first summer. Last year, we found out we had bats nesting in the attic, so that cost us about 5K (& no other projects happened last year). This summer, my husband is tackling a fence and we’re having new laminates installed in our downstairs den (hopefully soon!). Then it will just be other cosmetic upgrades, but no other “big” projects in the works for this year.

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