My interest in real estate, interior and exterior design and decorations dates as early as my 20s. At a time when I should be more taken with beautiful women, I was drawn towards beautiful buildings instead. When I walked the streets, you would sooner see me staring at a beautiful house before you catch me staring at a beautiful lady walking right by me. Now don’t get me wrong; I like pretty women but I’d say I was a lot more passionate about buildings than I was about anything else. My passion metamorphosed into an investment in my 30s and soon it became a hobby because I enjoyed everything that came with the process of rebuilding a living space.
Today, I’m going to share one of my recent projects with you.
I would implore you not to judge me or my project harshly as I am not a professional architect or a professional interior designer. I am just a big fan of the entire process. Simply put, I like to turn an erstwhile shamble to what I’d call a home.
The apartment I am about to show you is a tiny 37 square meter studio apartment located in Varna city, Bulgaria. If you have never been to or never heard of Bulgaria and Varna City precisely then you really should plan your next vacation with Varna as the destination.
This city is a beautiful place with lots of natural ambiance and to top it all off, cost of living here is very low. Bulgaria is arguably one of the cheapest places to live but that is a subject of another story.
In 2016, I decided that it would be a good investment to buy a tiny apartment, remodel and refurbish it then rent it afterwards. This would be the second small apartment I buy.
What I was looking for was simple; an old and terrible looking place with a low asking price. The goal was to spend some money on the apartment, remodel it and transform the entire look and feel of this place. In the real estate world, the uglier and dirtier an apartment is; the better. The catch with apartments like this is that many buyers would not look at it twice and the thought of buying it would hardly cross anyone’s mind. This puts me in a stronger position when negotiating the price. I would be the buyer who looked twice and thought of buying it. To cut the long story short, I found an apartment and bought it for $23,500. I got $21,000 in a 30-year-long mortgage loan from my bank while the extra $2500 was my money. My monthly payment to the bank was $100.
Further down in this article, I would tell you how much of the capital I invested and what my rental income was after I rebuilt the apartment. Now let’s get down to business. Hopefully, these images would show you the entire transformation process.
Looks really scary, doesn’t it? This was the apartment’s main room. The idea was to transform this space into a living room, bedroom and dining area. The door beside the closet in the first image separated the main room from the foyer while the door beside the vintage TV separated the room from a small kitchen.
Here is a view of the foyer from the main room. The door to the right is the entrance door while on the left; there is another door that leads to the bathroom. Here the “beautiful” bath in all its glory. Just kidding 🙂
Probably, the most attractive thing about this bath was the fact that I didn’t have to contemplate on what to keep or do away with. I knew everything was going.
And here’s a view of the whole place. For an apartment that is so small, it sure had a lot of doors; 4 to be exact.
As with any remodeling, my first task was to dispose the garbage and old furniture that was occupying space in the apartment. Quite frankly, this was not an easy job at all.
The apartment is on the first floor of a 4-storey building, has very little backyard space with the property of the erstwhile inhabitants of the apartment littered all over it. It is safe at this point to say the apartment was technically abandoned.
And speaking of the little backyard, here’s a look at the scenery before I started working on it. I’d say this was certainly one of the most repulsing sceneries I had ever encountered in all my real estate years. Broken windows and shattered metal parts littered across this backyard, not to point out the old chairs and tables. Did I mention the dead cat? There was a dead cat behind an old stove!
You would think that for an apartment that had so many doors, at least one would lead to the backyard but none did. To get to the backyard, I had to go through the hallway of the building itself. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t shared with every other apartment owner in the building. To create a regular access way from the apartment to the backyard, I pushed down a part of the wall with the window so that I could access the backyard without having to use the hallway.
I also pushed down the wall separating the main room from the kitchen. With one of the doors out, I proceeded to remove the other door leading to the foyer which reduced the number of doors to two (entrance and bathroom door) as against the four that had been in the apartment. The tiles had to go too.
My wife and little boy observing the building process 🙂
Next, I had to take out all the old electricity cables and replace them with new ones. The electrical process was relatively basic; I took out the parts that didn’t sit right (everything) and replaced them with better options.
Personally, I like a well illuminated room so I made sure there were lots of cables on the ceiling and the walls for the light bulbs.
Nobody likes a tacky wiring where you get to see TV or PC cables. So in a bid to keep the surface clean and arranged, I put all the wires in an electrical conduit between the two windows (as seen in the image). These tubes were later embedded within a plasterboard wall which helped to hide all the cables, straighten the walls and provide the much needed insulation.
Here you can see the cables and pipes for the kitchen. Seeing as the bathroom was quite small, I decided to move the boiler in one of the cupboards in the kitchen. It was hidden down in it.
Here’s what the bathroom looks like before the remodeling and after some heavy chiseling. The key to remodeling a house is to be clear about your priorities. Have a picture of the end result of your refurbishment process from the start and then work towards it.
With a clear cut idea of what I needed the apartment to be, I knew the next process was to put the plasterboard on all the walls and ceiling. For proper insulation, I put a 5cm insulation wadding beneath the plasterboard. It took two months of heavy lifting and remodeling to arrive at the picture below. Here’s a look at the final product.
I switched out the old and dilapidated window frames with new one of better quality and a dark blue color. I was going for a modern design with this apartment and this means infusing some shiny surfaces and materials. While dark colors tend to make apartments look smaller, light colors make them seem bigger so I chose light colors in a bid to make this apartment appear bigger than it actually is. I used classic dark blue curtains to match the window frames and offer some sort of contrast to the white floor.
I installed a laminate on the walls and made it seem very 3D giving it a pop out feel as well as distinguish it from the other white walls.
The floor finishing offers a simple yet stylish feel to this space with a desk in the corner to serve as a work place. On the right is a dinner table with two chairs to sit two people.
I infused green accents to create a livelier feel to the place.
The new curtains provide the much desired elegance to the room with look out windows opening up to the backyard. I love an eclectic approach when it comes to interior decoration. I like to incorporate a variety of styles and materials and fused them together to create a well rounded décor. This may be against the designers “rules” and probably absent in their big books but then again, I’m not a designer and I simply like my designs that way.
The couch which also doubles as a bed is in front of the TV along with a small coffee table. The couch transforms into a big sleeping bed with just a couple of easy moves. I just didn’t have enough room to make a separate bedroom.
I replaced the old closet with a modern style closet with mirror sliding doors to create the illusion of a much larger space. This new closet also doubles as a great storage place and for an apartment that isn’t very spacious, this storage place is very important.
One of my favorite places of this studio apartment is the kitchen.
While the apartment is quite small, the kitchen is actually pretty big. It has ten modules in total with a hidden built-in fridge, washing and drying machine, a stove, an aspirator, and a sink. I hid the boiler which was previously in the bathroom (see fourth image above) beneath the sink.
Here’s the couch as a bed. To maximize space, there is yet another storage place beneath the couch.
The bathroom spots a similar tiling with the main room. This is an Italian tile imitating marble with 60x60cm dimensions. The addition of the smaller grey tiles was deliberate to provide a vibrant yet dynamically stylish feel to this glamorous bathroom. At the moment of writing this article, there’s a mirror above the sink that is absent in this photo because I put it in later 🙂
I’m sure you are wondering why there isn’t a shower curtain or some kind of wall that prevents the toilet from getting wet.
Well, here’s my explanation: This room is 130cm wide and 2m long. Quite frankly, with limited space like this, the only option would be a curtain but this wouldn’t stop the water and if you asked my opinion, I’d say I think those curtains look very ugly.
Here’s a view of the foyer after the remodeling. As with the new closet, I incorporated mirrors behind them as a storage place for shoes and jackets. Simply click the mirrors and they open.
The goal with this apartment was to transform a small place into a seemingly spacious apartment. I replaced the erstwhile wooden door on the bathroom with a glass door to provide a modern outlook as well as a feel of extra space to both the bath and the foyer.
I used a white painting for the exterior walls of the apartment and put bricklike tiles at the bottom. I also integrated lighting solutions for the late summer nights outside. A rattan table and chair did not only seem like the perfect fit for this backyard but they also provide the option of having a nice breakfast or a coffee when the weather is good.
Now let’s talk some numbers shall we.
I rented the place in the summer of 2016 for $300 per month. This is a long term rent. While I could simply rent it on a per night basis, double my income and make a minimum of $20 per night, I would rather not deal with multiple clients which is why I prefer long term rentals.
$300 monthly minus $100 for the bank leaves me with a net profit of $200. Of course after some time I would be making some repairs which would mean spending some more money but with small apartments such as this one repairs are comparatively cheaper and faster. And if $200 seems too small an amount for income, let’s imagine that you repeat this process 10 or 20 times, this would amount to $3000-$6000 per month. And the prize winner is that all of this money is just passive income.
Keep in mind that this entire process does not span more than 2 months meaning you could easily buy and rebuild 2-3 small apartments per year. 10 years from now you could have 30 studios earning you sum total of at least $6000 passive income.
In about 10 years, the amount would actually be much higher because rent increases on a yearly basis so what could be $6000 now could easily be $12,000 or more in 10 years.
Well, there you have it, that’s how I transformed a tiny old apartment into a luxury investment. I hope the informative within this not only help but also motivates you. As far as you are willing to put your back into it, everything is possible. Here’s a few more costs to give you a more detailed information.