Home Mystery #1, a more perfect answer

We have lived in our house for the past ten years and over those ten years, as we have renovated the house, some mysteries come to light.  The biggest mystery we have had to endure is the actual date of construction.  The title to our house states 1943 as the date of construction.  Unfortunately for the title, the methods of construction in the house (hand hewn log beams, single plank construction, horse-hair plaster and square cut nails suggest a much earlier time period for construction.

When we renovated our bathroom, we removed a drum trap from the bathroom floor.  Drum traps were created for ease of access for cleaning.  Imagine a coffee can that someone has drilled two holes into.  The first hole is low on the can and the second hole is high on the can.  Now, two pipes are inserted into those holes.  The lower hole is the inlet and the higher hole is the outlet.  At the top of the can is a screw-top lid to allow access to the can.  This is essentially a drum trap.

A drum trap may sound great: ease of access through the screw-top to clean any clogs within the trap.  In practice, however, the trap does not work as planned.  Imagine what happens when the trap gets clogged and someone needs to clean it.  Because the trap is not a single pipe there is no way to snake any clogs out.  The only way to remove a clog is to open the trap, thereby allowing any of the water stuck behind a clog out onto your floor.

Drum traps were banned in 1945.  Because of this bit of information, I believe that my bathroom was added in 1943 (outhouse prior to 1943).

I decided to  research construction methods for the 19th century.  The square cut nails gave me a clue as to the age of the house.  All of the original nails in the wood lath and plaster as well as the few remaining supporting columns were square cut nails.  The round nails we are familiar with today only became prevalent in the 1890’s.  I now knew that my house was built prior to 1890, but I still didn’t know exactly when or by who.

For another personal project, I was researching deeds and found that each deed lists not only the prior owner of the property, but usually two owners prior.  Using this information, I realized that I could ‘go back in time’ to learn who owned the land my house was on and try to discern when the house was built.

Our county has online access to all deeds back to when lands were originally purchased from the state (mine was originally part of a 400 acre tract purchased by John Irwin in 1794).


Using this database, I was able to find one reference which reads: “…having thereon erected a frame dwelling house and log stable,…”.  The only question which remains is this: The Sarah P Biddle/Lois M Gates deed, which includes the reference to the frame dwelling does not state who built the house, just that Elizabeth Booth died and that Sarah P Biddle, Mary E Wilson, Bella J Zimmerman, Lois M Gates and Phoebe A Smith were all owners and ownership was transferring to Lois M Gates (whose husband was also the attorney representing Lois during these negotiations).

A quick read of the deed above may suggest that Sarah P Biddle built the house between 1879 when she acquired the property, and 1907 when she sold the property.  However, after some additional research, Elizabeth Booth owned two pieces of land, one part of which was sold to Sarah Biddle.  The larger property that Elizabeth bought was purchased from Hiram Hendrixson in August of 1865 for $500.  This is the land where my house now sits.


Given the age of my house and Elizabeth’s need for housing, it is my assumption that my house was built between August 1865 and September 1879, when Sarah Biddle acquired the property.  During the late 1860s and the 1870s, Elizabeth would have owned approximately seven acres on which to farm or otherwise make a living.   Our house is situated about three miles from downtown State College and about two and a half miles to the old town of Scotia (now a ghost town).

If I find anything more, I’ll update the post.

Goals, Updates and Changes for 2014



Just as everything in life is a work in progress, so too is this blog.  Having read through many of my previous posts, I realize most of the posts are more academic (aka: dry).  In 2013, I tried to write within the self imposed bounds of “Real Estate Investment”.  Life is more colorful than simple real estate investment, so in 2014 this blog shall morph into a more colorful tale of my (and my family’s) journey to financial independence (FI).  I also have more to say than just real estate investment, just ask my brothers (and probably my parents).

To kick things off, I’ve set my goals for 2014.

2014 Goals:
HBS Real Estate-
1) Add an additional $1,000/month in cash flow (forward looking cash flow)
2) Purchase a minimum of 3 additional rental properties
3) Use unique financing on at least one property (eg. Owner financing, 0% down, etc)
4) Leverage at least an additional $200,000
5) Identify a headquarters for HBS to move the business out of my garage.

Personal Goals:
1) Finish the wood stove room (the picture was taken before my daughter was born…she’s well past 1 year old now)
2) Get master bedroom finished to drywall stage (with new floors)
3) Enter, run and finish a marathron
4) Bike to work at least 160 days this year (that’s 66% of the year)
5) Increase passive cash flow (excluding Real Estate Investment) to $500/year (forward looking cash flow)
6) Invest a minimum of $100/month into my daughter’s stock fund
7) Repay my daughter what we owe her (used to pay for the roof that goes over her bedroom)
8) Invest all unplanned or ‘windfall’ income (eg. Bonuses at work, tax refund, etc.)

Just as I had no idea how to rewire an entire house, I have no idea how I will accomplish some of these goals, but I’ll figure it out.

What’s this blog about?

Sunset on the west coast.

Sunset on the west coast.

Through this blog, I am going to document my progress to reach my goal of at least $4,033 pre-tax dollars through investments (mostly real estate).  I want to document this progress for two reasons: I want to show you exactly how I do it (what works and what doesn’t work for me) and I also want to be held accountable to my own goals.

In addition, I will explain how I got to where I am with three rental properties and approximately $710 monthly cash flow to my bottom line on a salary of $49,400.  I will outline exactly how I did this so you will have ideas for how to replicate my success.  I will describe and photograph each of my projects to show you.  This blog is to share ideas in creating wealth by using your head and hands.

I got the idea for this blog after I read through a variety of blogs including Timothy Ferriss, Mr. Money Moustache, and Richard Branson’s entrepreneurship blog to name a few.  Many times I was left feeling, well how exactly did you ‘buy your first rental property’?  What steps did you take?  When you asked your friends for a loan, did you simply say “Hey, I want some money, so, uhhh, can I have some?”  Many times these nitty-gritty details are left out of the discussion.  These discussions will be tackled in this blog.

Many of the blogs I follow discuss the excess in which we American’s live.  Do you really need three TV’s?  How about that HUGE DVD collection (ever heard of Netflix…it’s an even BIGGER DVD collection you can borrow!)?  Do you really need to buy a fifth pair of jeans? that third pair of black shoes? that new car? the newest iAnything?

Mr. Money Moustache espouses saving almost 50% of your take home pay (is it even possible if you aren’t in the top 25% of the nation’s earners?).  Tim Ferriss recommends creating an online money tree which keeps selling products with little input from you (great, but what if you can’t think of the next great gizmo of the hour?).  Pat Flynn recommends building a stream of passive income (is there really such a thing as ‘passive’ income?).

After reading these blogs, I felt a little dejected; doubts crept in “would it ever be possible to retire as early as I wanted to?”  I really didn’t want to have to work until I’m 65+ (if I choose to, that’s fine, so long as it’s my choice).  At some point, I realized all of the ideas in these blogs are great ideas, I just needed to take the ideas that worked for me, as I understood them, and apply them to my life, hence this blog.

I want to show that many of the success stories profiled on each of the websites are not an overnight success.  There are ups and downs; successes and failures as well as road blocks and speed bumps.   But it’s possible.  It is possible to be a success while dealing with these speed bumps and failures.  The methods described in many of the blogs and websites I mention work (or at least should…maybe I’ll fail).  If I do fail, at least you’ll see what not to do.  If I do fail, I will learn from my failure and be more successful in the future.  If someone sees me take a wrong turn somewhere, please, speak up.

What do you plan to do?  How can you make it a success?  Maybe real estate isn’t your thing.  Maybe you’re an avid photographer, could you start a camera rental business (http://money.cnn.com/2013/07/01/smallbusiness/camera-gear.moneymag/index.html)?  What if you really like pets, could you start a pet treat truck (http://www.nbcnews.com/business/doggie-food-trucks-fetch-company-profits-6C10411778)?  What can you do to start a business?