First project
23-year-old buys home to fix up as investment
By Mary Matsumoto
Mary Matsumoto photo
Ryan Schneider, 23, stands in front of the house on New Holstein’s Park Avenue which he has purchased in order to renovate as an investment.

Ryan Schneider, 23, is the proud owner of his first home, a two-story house on Park Avenue in New Holstein.

He had been looking for a house that needed a little work—but not too much— something he could fix up himself, live in for a period of time and then eventually resell.

The son of a contractor, Dan Schneider of Schneider and Schneider Construction of New Holstein, Ryan knew basically for what to look. He had grown up around construction, and for the past five years, he himself had worked in heating and cooling.

Ryan’s father had coached him to look for three things when buying a house as an investment—location, the building’s quality workmanship, and whether the house had something going for it.

Ryan had looked at eight houses before he found the one that fit those requirements.

First, location. The house was close to Civic Park and the Elementary School. Not bad.

Second, quality workmanship. Even when making the first run through, Ryan knew how to spot quality. Did doors hang straight? Were they hollow or quality wood? What about flooring? Was it cheaply made, covered by carpets and linoleum? Or hardwood?

Well built for its time

Ryan’s house had hardwood floors, and while built in the late 1930s to early ‘40s, the house is a two-by-four structure with poured basement walls, not standard for that time, but a sign of quality building.

Third, did the house have something going for it? This house had a new water heater, new furnace and the kitchen had been remodeled, though not finished.

Besides those three important elements, Ryan had been looking for something he could purchase and improve, doing most of the work himself, but he knew he needed to be reasonable. If he took on a house with a huge amount of square footage, he’d be in for more of an investment than he could afford, both in money and time. A smaller space would mean less cost to fix it up, less upkeep, and less taxes.

Actually, not a big city kind of guy, Ryan had wanted a home in the country, but he looked at this as a somewhat temporary project. Make the essential improvements, move in at some point, work until the project was finished, and then sell the house to make a profit. That dream house in the country would have to wait.

When Ryan did his initial walk through, he drew up a rough sketch of what he had in mind for improvements. The landscaping could wait for a while, and the old wood siding was in decent shape. But the house needed gutters and the windows needed attention, too.

As for the inside, he decided to tackle the projects in two parts. He would work on the first floor and do a thorough job. Then, he’d move in before starting on the second floor.

His tastes and resale appeal

When making his plan, Ryan considered both his own taste as well as details that would ultimately give the house resale appeal. He knew that as a rule of thumb, a house with three bedrooms and two baths was an easier sell. His house had a full bathroom on the second floor and a tiny room with a sink and toilet on the first. He’d need to design a full bath on the first floor to increase its resale value, and to satisfy his own tastes, he would insist on a walk-in tile shower. He would also put in a first-floor laundry room, another selling point, making the house more user friendly. People don’t like to go up and down stairs if they don’t have to. And he’d add a mud room at the back entrance.

So where would he get the space?

The downstairs already had a living room, dining room, bedroom and kitchen. He would keep the living room, but the dining room would become a first-floor master bedroom. He would knock out an entrance to the bedroom already there that would eventually become a spacious bathroom with whirlpool bath, tiled shower, toilet and his and her sink. By changing the wall plan a little, he would also have a connecting laundry room and mud room. Then, as for the kitchen, he would finish the remodeling job that had been started. He even knew the person who had the cabinets that had not yet been installed.

But before he could start on his plan he would have to take out the old plaster and lath, stripping the walls down to the studs. He would get rid of the knob and tube wiring and the old cast iron pipes.

And though this might seem like an overwhelming task, Ryan had qualified help in the form of friends he knew he could rely on for support—his best friend since first grade, an electrician; a good friend from high school who installs flooring as a living; contacts he had made through the trades who are plumbers and would offer advice; and a sister who works for Otter Creek Landscaping.

What he needed more than anything else was time.

Besides Ryan’s job in heating and cooling, he also works on a farm. With the house closing in May, he knew he’d be busy at the start with field work. He’d have to put his project off until summer, when he hoped to have a month or two to work on his house before combining and other field work started at the end of summer, beginning of fall.

“If I can get the funds and enough buddies together, maybe I can slam it out in the summer,” said Ryan. “If not, it’s going to be into the winter, just because I have to take my time. I want to make sure I do it right and don’t shortchange myself.”

One of the biggest mistakes people make when looking to improve investment property is trying to cut corners, Ryan said. “They do it themselves, they get sick of it, or they want to save a buck, and in the end, they realize, ‘I should have done it right the first time.’ It saves you a lot of headaches in the end.”

Ryan has his work cut out for him, and though it may not be his house in the country, for now, it will serve his purpose— it is an investment for the future.

But someday, his first house completely renovated and sold, he’ll turn his attention to that house of his dreams.

“In my dream home someday, everything will be done for me,” he says. “Then, there won’t even be a thought of resell.”

And though he may not be there yet, he’s heading in the right direction.