In May 2019 we bought a summer apartment/studio to Pärnu. As I’m from Pärnu, I’ve always had a feeling that I need to have our own place there (besides my mom’s place).
As I basically live in real estate portals, I stumbled upon this awesome deal, priced insanely under the market price. Usually, for this price, if you get anything, then a horrible apartment in a crappy location.
We got a relatively great apartment with a small yard for 28 000 €! It has 22 square meters, so yes, it’s tiny, but perfect for a two-people holiday apartment (and not to mention the rental yield…).
It’s almost in the city center (5 minute walk), and very close to the beach – about a 15 minute walk. It has a wood-heater and we also installed an AC meant for heating and cooling (approx. 1000 €). I’ll come to the finances later.
Besides that, we removed the kitchen, the wallpaper, lamps etc, and replaced them with more modern ones. The only things that stayed in place were the floors, ceiling and the tiles in the bathroom. It may sound easy, but in reality it took up most of our summer, as we’ve never renovated an apartment before.
So it was a lot more work than we expected, but at least the learning-curve was huge! I can proudly say that Ronald can now assemble IKEA kitchens – in my opinion it is such a hard task that he should include it under the “skills” section on his LinkedIn profile.
So here are some before and after pictures:
We didn’t have the time (or money, really) to change the tiles, so we kept them in place. They’re not the worst, but could be a lot prettier. In the future, we would like to remove the bathtub and replace it with a shower instead, and therefore get nicer tiles.
The learning point of the story is that white makes everything look more expensive. Keep it in minds, kids!
The kitchen saw the greatest upgrade. We were considering keeping the same kitchen that there was for a while, and just paint it white. But then ditched the plan when we saw that we could get a great kitchen for € 1200 from IKEA instead (with appliances).
We managed to sell this kitchen in a couple of hours on Facebook marketplace for € 50, and the refrigerator went for € 40. The only thing we kept was the exhaust/ventilation.
The yellow looks much brighter on the pictures, in reality its more of a mustard-yellow. It gives some warmth and style to the place. Especially considering that most of the time it’s grey outside.
If we would’ve built this place for ourselves, we would’ve chosen a better-looking sink and faucet, but as our main intention is to rent it out, we opted for a bit cheaper solutions. So, ideally, it would have looked even nicer. And we would’ve also thought about a nice vintage fridge…
I do love the long countertop. After removing the huge refrigerator, it gave us a lot of room for the countertop. As no more than 2 people fit to live in this apartment, the fridge is sufficient. We scored that from a good friend of mine, who sold it to us for € 75.
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In a small space like this, I decided to use bar stools and table, instead of regular ones. It saves a lot of space and just looks better in general. The chairs are actually quite comfy and they were discounted (from Jysk).
However, since IKEA sent us the wrong countertop, we bought a new one from Bauhaus. It is solid wood and a very nice-looking countertop (also pretty expensive – €170 a piece and we needed 2 of them), but this time we ran into problems again, which I’ll explain shortly.
Living room / Bedroom
I sadly don’t have before pictures of the living room. But I can say that it had the same horrible wall paper and an ugly closet which was extremely non-functional for the space (wide and low, and also brown in color, like from a cheap motel).
The nice thing is that the living room actually fits 3 people to sleep comfortably. The grey chair opens up to a one-person bed, so if we have a guest, we can have them stay over. Or you can just earn more money when renting it out on Airbnb. Functionality above all!
Make it Functional
Another functional thing is the closet. When we were assembling it, we started to worry whether it’s too big. But it fit perfectly! It has a lot of space for hanging clothes and also storing stuff.
We really wanted to make sure that the place is easy to rent out long-term and short-term as well. One day when we move back to Estonia, we will most likely use it as an Airbnb rental. Hopefully, one day we will be able to purchase the apartment above this one as well, which is 90 square meters (but can be divided into 2 apartments, and needs lots of renovating).
But until then, we rent it out long-term. I know a lot of tiny spaces like this one have just a pull-out couch for the tenant to sleep on. I wouldn’t find it the most comfortable thing to sleep on a couch all day every day, so instead we got a full-sized bed.
The bed is from IKEA, and has lots of space underneath (which is good for tiny places), but the craziest deal we got was the headboard for the bed. We got it for € 20 !!!! We walked to Wendre store (a local store in Pärnu) where they sell all sorts of bedding stuff, and this just happened to stand there. At first we were sure it’s in a wrong size, but then measured it and it was the size of the bed! We bought it immediately.
We ran into several unexpected problems, such as:
- Plumbing in the bathroom.
Ronald spent the entire day connecting water pipes to the bathroom sink. The connections were weird so he had to go to the store several times.
- Removing and re-installing ceiling strips.
We found out that there were wide holes underneath the current strips, so we had to figure out how to cover them. We mostly just filled them up with makroflex/filler and made them look nice with white paint.
- Assembling IKEA kitchen.
This should be a whole other blog post. For example, we got sent a wrong countertop and several other things went wrong.
- Receiving a kitchen countertop with huge holes in it.
As IKEA sent us the wrong countertop, and we didn’t have time to drive all the way to Riga again, we decided to order something from Estonia. So we did, and we ordered it from Bauhaus in Tallinn.
That was a huge mistake and I reported them to the buyers protection agency as well. They declared that nothing is wrong with it, or if we want to, we can change it to something else. Well, we were in a hurry, as the summer was ending, so we couldn’t send it back and wait for longer. Buyers protection found that I was right, but it’s still in process. So, don’t buy from Bauhaus, is the learning point for me.
It had about 50 holes in it – so we just ended up filling them.
So, first of all, how did we get money to do all of that? We sold our apartment in Tartu for a profit of € 30K (timing+location+white interior). We also had a 20% down payment for our Tartu apartment and we received that back as well. So technically, we could’ve bought the apartment without a loan and start the renovations.
But, we still bought the Pärnu apartment with a bank loan (on pretty good terms), because, heyy, cheap money! Never spend your own money if you don’t have to! And we also used some of our savings for the down-payment (as we bought the apartment in Pärnu before we sold the one in Tartu).
After selling our Tartu apartment, I got a lot of confidence that I can flip houses/apartments, as there is a huge need for move-in ready places in good locations. People are just willing to pay so much more money for white walls and nice-looking furniture. It’s something I’d probably never do myself, as it’s just financially not reasonable.
However, I need to find a new business partner for the flipping business, preferably a guy who can do all the dirty work like plumbing, assembling kitchens etc., because Ronald definitely didn’t enjoy it as much as I did.
If you plan to sell your home for profit, then don’t buy the cheapest closet from Jysk. Put some stand-out items (like a nice sink or a nice countertop) and you’ll see it’s worth it in the end. And keep it white!!
But enough of that.. How much did the renovation cost?
We hoped to stay within € 3-5K. We ended up spending approximately 6260 € on renovating the place (including decor and furniture). So we went more than 20% over our planned budget. The most expensive jobs were done by the painter, and also buying the furniture added up to about 3.5K (including kitchen).
We probably could’ve gotten it done for much cheaper, but since we don’t trust ourselves to do the paint job or install an AC, we paid more. And we’re happy we did as the result was so much better than when we would’ve done it ourselves. Some jobs should just stay for the pros.
Also, we didn’t count the not-so-direct costs, such as eating out during renovations when we didn’t have the kitchen assembled. That actually added up to quite a lot as well.
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