Living on the Edge

When you live in New England there are some things you just know. October is the best month for apple picking, spring is a two week season, and you always need one more shovel than you think you will. It takes a certain type of saavy and cynicism to live through the winters that we do. So when people are shopping for houses they look for things that will help them get through the 15,000 pounds of snow that will inevitably fall every year. This means they want a sturdy roof, a leak-free basement, and a short, flat driveway.

Let me put this in simple terms. If you have a driveway on a hill in New England, there’s a 60% chance you won’t live to see spring. The snow and ice make these kinds of driving situations extremely hazardous, not to mention you’re responsible for shoveling that beast.


When I first saw this slope I thought it was a street. Upon further inspection I found it’s a driveway steeper than many of New Hampshire’s famous peaks. Beyond the fact that this is a virtual suicide wish, imagine trying to resell the property? Any seasoned New Hampshirite would take one look at this and laugh.


The house on top was beautiful but even foliage views aren’t worth careening off a cliff every morning to get to work.

What are your biggest no-nos when looking for a house?



Staging 101: Get Your Life Together

Part of the ColbyCo experience is getting your home professionally staged by our interior design goddess Celina. This has been proven to significantly expedite the sale of your home and increase the value in a buyer’s eyes. Celina is so good that buyers often ask to buy the staging along with the home. But a lot of people don’t understand what staging requires. Most people think you throw some flowers and a chair or two in a room and BAM, perfection. If you’re one of these people prepare to feel Celina’s disapproving stare.

problem wall AC unit

This is the blank canvas a stager works with. The bare bones are good, wood floors, natural light, AC, but it’s not enough. It’s Celina’s job to turn this ugly duckling into a Kate Moss.

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This is what she came up with. Black panels cover the unattractive AC and double as decorative wall art. A rug and strategically placed plants make the room feel cozier while striped armchairs (DIYed by Celina) invite the visitors to sit down. This looks like a home. Actually this looks better than a home, this looks like the HTGV house. This is what sells.


This is an example of bad staging in a similar room. A camp chair inside? Come on guys, we’re not animals. Frankly this might be worse than leaving the room as is. It just creates questions. Is there an interview happening in this room? Does this person have a rug fetish? Is this home meant to be owned by conjoined twins?

The evidence is clear. Celina is a professional and her work sells homes. Work with ColbyCo and you’ll never get roped into a conjoined twins’ rug fetish home again.

The Barbie Slasher Show

I’ve seen a lot of bad things in my life, handlebar mustaches, blue satin suits, Walmart on Black Friday, but last week I came across the most horrifying sight of all: a mirrored bathroom. And this wasn’t just any run of the mill ’80s horror show, this was a pink, fuzzy, circular bathroom, lined with thin mirror strips. I stepped in and couldn’t tell if I was touring an abandoned house or time traveling in a Barbie slasher movie.Bathroom4

Everywhere I turned there was something else coming at me, a reflective chandelier, tree-inspired wallpaper, carpeted floors. But the worst part of a mirrored room isn’t the decor, it’s the reflections. Like a bright beam of sunlight it sends you reeling back to suddenly see yourself multiplied fifty times in a small room. The bathroom is filled with versions of you whose thighs and arms have grown tenfold since you last saw them. Even the door is mirrored so there’s no way out. I began to wonder if this was some kind of CIA torture room hidden in a NH foreclosure.


The ’80s weren’t all bad, after all I met the love of my life in that decade. And I had a body good enough to go into a mirrored bathroom without having an aneurism. We got Microsoft and Duran Duran, but as the pink mirror monster above can attest, some things should stay in the past. 

1980s Flashback1


Working the auction circuit is a similar experience to going to the circus, you never know whether you’re going to have a great time or get kicked in the face by a monkey. Last week I attended an auction in Barrington, NH. The property was assessed at just under $300,000 and it seemed promising. Rumors mentioned a huge house with a new garage addition and sprawling estate-like lawn. My mind was already swirling with images of a contemporary Versailles – and a big profit margin.

Unfortunately, the monkey kicked me in the face. A long, muddy, dirt driveway led to the property that looked more like Morticia Adams’s new lair than a habitable residential building. That sprawling lawn was covered with at least 10 rusty cars in varying states of disrepair and the front of the house looked like it had been dragged through the jungle on a rainy day. When I got out of the car to attempt a closer look I heard the distressed calls of animals coming from inside.

Trashed House

While inspecting the damage I came across a wall of old license plates amidst a pile of trash. Despite the tackiness of actually collecting license plates, they were surprisingly appropriate for the situation. My favorites were the battered four each reading “O-GOD.” I had the same reaction upon seeing this disaster of a property, oh god, oh god, oh god. Needless to say, I walked away from this one without so much as a bag of popcorn.

License Plates

Not Your Average Yardsale

It’s always an adventure when we open the door of a new house. You never know what’s going to be hidden inside, whether it’s the former occupants or the things they’ve left behind. In our most recent acquisition we found one of the strangest items yet, a pair of wild boar’s heads. Talk about unsavory roommates!  We’re used to wildlife up here in New Hampshire but typically we find it out of the house. Celina briefly considered the couple’s design potential but decided better of it. There are some things even a can of gold spray paint can’t make work.

What’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever found in a new house?

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Back to the Future ……….

As you may recall we purchased a project property back in March at auction. Well we were not able to close until late June due to delays in getting a deed from the foreclosing bank which delayed our efforts considerably.  Then when we began work the major focus was on the non-conforming and slight bit challenging interior stair case. We quickly determined each riser was at a different elevation and many were not to code.  To correct the problem would require adjustments to the ceiling above so that sufficient head room could be provided.  We interviewed 3 different contractors but were finally able to find a solution with one of our long time partners. Here is the before picture.


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After the remodel a beautiful solution.



Like many project the key is finding a way to repair the major defect that will discourage a buyer and prevent a sale.  The house came out very nicely with interior and exterior paint. Unfortunately it has arrived on the market late in the year and interest has been tepid.  Such are the risks of the investing in real estate.


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What about the bats?

Cropped FrontYou may recall that while rehabbing this wonderful ranch home privately set on 4.3 acres we encountered a surprise in the form of a few bats in the basement. This was the last place we expected to find bats as we thought they resided in attics. In ordering the treatment services we learned that bats are a protected species, and as this is their mating season, they could not be removed completely until August when the young could fly.  Not exactly the news we wanted to hear but you live and learn. Well the rest of the story is,  that when the pest control firm came out to evaluate the situation, we learned the bats were really in the attic and that a stray or two had found their way to the basement, probably crawled into a corner and died after a day or two.  But the attic had plenty to be removed.  Seems the former owner a “builder” had not sealed the ridge vent ends when doing the roof and the bats had ready access to the house.  So the cost of bat remediation $1,100 with a discount. A discount sounds good until, you learn that we got the discount because, we also have mice and ants.  Nothing like volume to give you pricing leverage :).  All told the pest control bill will be over $1,600.  Not budgeted of course, just right out of the projected profits. Good news is bat removal is warrantied for 7 years, seems that bats will keep trying to return for many years after eviction, because they have a nice home they would like to retain.  Well the new owners will be covered, when we get it sold. And so another adventure ends.

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