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. Alice says

    I haven’t sold a house, so I don’t know what will help sell it. What sold this house to me is the curb appeal. I’m really picky about what the front looks like (I like peaks) so if a house doesn’t have it, I won’t look at it. :/
    Also, a fence and a finished basement would be giant plus marks.

    • says

      I am always interested in those who like curb appeal as ‘you’ being the owner of the house are not looking at it from the curb, others are.

    • Jessica says

      You being the owner get to see your house from the curb or street every time you pull into your driveway. IMO, it’s nice to pull up and say “Man, my house looks great.” Especially when the exterior and landscaping looks better than any other house on the block. Plus, I’d say curb appeal is important for an owner because no one wants to be “those” neighbors whose house is the biggest eyesore on the street.

  2. gail says

    Great recap and love reading about the progress of your move.
    Excited to get more details!!!
    did you keep the big round dining table? did it fit in new house?
    I just love that table and the chairs!

  3. Sheila says

    This is probably the wrong audience for this thought but I’ll throw it out there anyway – The amount of money that some of those improvements would’ve cost if you hadn’t done most/all of the work yourselves would be much higher and therefore the profit margin lower. Of course, this is a DIY site so I’m sure most of the readers will be DIY-ing it also rather than paying someone to do the work.

    Congrats on this exciting new chapter of your lives!

  4. says

    Oh, you leave behind your washer and dryer? I would think that’s something you can take with you. The previous owners of our house sold theirs before we moved in (now, the machines were probably older than me so it’s just as well). Also, you guys have great taste so I’m sure it’s awesome for the new owners to inherit all your curtains, etc., but I’m sure that’s not true with all houses. Like ours. Or your new one. Old yucky curtains are just old and yucky! I wonder, do buyers always expect to have things like that left behind?

    • says

      I think that’s a regional thing! In our area when you’re selling a turn-key house, you get to command a higher price but it needs to be move in ready, so folks don’t take appliances with them. But by buying a fixer upper, we saved a lot of money on that end so we can put the money we saved into brand new appliances over there :)


    • says

      I actually think that is a good thing because then the appliances fit the house. In Australia you nearly always take them but it doesn’t make sense to me. Of course then you don’t have control over the quality but at least you get appliances that fit (besides, moving fridges is a pain!).

    • says

      Yes, things that convey do vary by region. However, in our area, things that must stay are things that are attached. Curtain rods, blinds,microwaves over the stove, stoves, light fixtures etc. Curtains, refrigerators, washer/ dryers etc do not have to be left. They can be. They can also be written into the contract if its something the buyer wants. (Everything has a price!) or you can always list that all appliances, curtains convey. But you have to be very specific. ALL curtains means all curtains etc. It has to be written in the contract. If the new owners don’t want all your curtains there could be fees for the old owners for removal of property (not that this happens a lot). Some buyers appreciate not having to buy new appliances and having curtains on the walls, even if its just until they figure out what they want! I’d rather leave it and not have to move it :). Hope that helps clarify what conveys.

  5. Lauren says

    We added some built-ins in our living room and LOVE them! It’s a nice decorative feature but also extremely functional–we have all our electronics (DVR, game consoles, etc) hidden in ours and when the doors close, you’d never even know they were there!

    Congrats, I think it’s fantastic how much value you added to the house in the time you were there! :)

  6. says

    That’s actually great that you broke even on it since a lot of people aren’t that lucky these days. I know when we sell, we’ll be lucky to get what we paid for it unless we’re willing to wait for a serious upswing. We’ve probably over-improved for our area (remodeled the bathroom, kitchen and have a patio that is truly like an outdoor room) with another must remodel in the basement. Ours is unfinished and there isn’t a single home in our complex that doesn’t have a finished basement. So we’ll likely just throw up some dry wall and a half bath.

    I don’t mind doing those improvements that we’ll enjoy while we’re here. It’s been 17 years so they’ve more than paid off for us even if they technically don’t money wise when we sell. Still kind of a bummer though.

  7. says

    Well done on coming out in profit (or at least even) I’m so pleased for you! So looking forward to seeing what you do with your new home. I noticed that the handrail to the front door seems to echo the pattern of the arms on your office chairs. So guess that must make you feel at home already! ;-) Good luck with all the unpacking!!! We’re in the throes of moving stuff from our old home to new home (we’ve been here nearly 2 years already eek!) as DD2, SiL and the GrandTwins are going to stay there for a bit as they just sold their home and haven’t managed to find another yet. So I know what it feels like living in a house full of boxes! And they’re not even all here yet.

    My best wishes to you both and the rest of your family (does Burger like the new house?) for many happy years in your new home.

    Maggie from Liverpool (UK)

    • says

      Thankfully Burger is loving it! He walks around like he’s the kind and has already found a bunch of “favorite spots” to lay around and be lazy. Haha!


    • says

      Maggie, the thing about the handrails to the front door and their similarity to the office chairs was the first thing I noticed about the entrance, too. Soo funny!

      S&J, it´s so interesting to read about your adventures! Here in Austria people buy/build houses like once in a lifetime and then they want to stay there forever. Even if they have to drive long distances for work changes or the house is too big after the kids moved out or if they don´t get along with the neighbours -they won´t move (good for the lawyers haha). You american guys seem to change places much easier according to current needs. I like that.

  8. Chelsea says

    This post, and the last time you did this, are so interesting to me! And I say that as a renter who probably won’t be a home buyer/owner/seller for a very long time. Thanks for sharing these!

    • says

      Of course! We had fun with it last time and had documented more costs this time (we did more budget breakdowns as we made over our second house) so it was nice to have those for easy reference :)


  9. says

    I love that you guys are so willing to get down to the nitty gritty with this stuff! Congrats on the sale and the new home.

    I secretly can’t wait to sell this house (no plans to anytime soon) just to see how people react to what we have done inside. It has been a year of work (so far) and it is a completely new DIY home. It is kinf od like atending your own funeral and finding out what people really liked about you…

    • Alisa says

      We’re doing that right now. It is SO fun! Our realtor was the very first realtor on this house (it’s from the 70s) and she lost her breath when walking in when we decided to list. It was a pat-yourself-on-the-back kind of moment for sure :)

  10. Tanya says

    Wow, the new homeowners got a really great deal. If you add the cost of your labour and account for the full cost of items (for those times your totals include the great deals you seem to find)the new home owners received a really good value for their money – they should love you. If you made the same types of changes to a similar house in my area you would probably get $50-75K more, but our market is strong and few houses are for sale.

    I think it is smart to sell on your own and save that 3% – you worked hard for it.

    Best of luck on the new place.

  11. says

    The thing to consider was that if you were paying someone to do the renos then you would not have made a profit. So there is a huge lesson for everyone – learn DIY skills!

    Congrats on making a profit guys!

    • says

      Haha! Oh yes, sweat equity probably saved us around 30K, so by DIYing it, we didn’t have to take a big loss to update this house and live with nicer areas like a new deck, patio, kitchen, etc :)


  12. says

    Thanks. This is so encouraging. We recently refinanced to a 15 yr at 2.78%. And we just added hardwoods to most of the house (4k) and are starting reno on our front porch and kitchen….looks like we are headed in the right direction.
    Thank you for all you do!!!

  13. says

    That’s amazing! We bought our condo 5 years ago just before our market really sunk. The one above us is now selling for 41% of what we paid for ours. Yup. 41%. Between what we put down, what we’ve paid in mortgage payments, and the money we’ve put in to improvements, we’ve already spent more money than that upstairs one is selling for. Such a bummer. I can’t wait to be free of condo living and have a big house for the kiddos.

  14. says

    We bought our house 2 years ago on a short sale and plan on selling it in 3-4 years so I’m always super careful about what I update so we make a big enough profit to really help out with house #2’s mortgage. Would I love new kitchen cabinets? Heck yes. Would it make a lick of difference in what we make back on the house? Nope. Our cabinets are in great shape, I just hate them anyway. It’s tough to find the right balance with all that stuff!

  15. Miranda says

    That’s really impressive! Congratulations! I think it’s really cool that you all keep track of money in vs. money out. It’s not only interesting, but also very helpful to the rest of us, too! One thing, though – I think you’ve undervalued your time by not representing it in the figures in some way. The people who purchased your homes didn’t just get the “stuff” you put into it, but also the hours! The many, many hours. That, of course, is worth it by being able to spend time in a house you truly love, but the “time is money” evaluation is always something I consider.

    • says

      Oh yes, we definitely put a value on sweat equity! If we had hired all of this out we would have probably lost around 30K, but by putting in the time ourselves, we were able to save that loot :)


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