Thanks, everyone. We're on Puget Sound near Tacoma, WA.
The most rewarding thing is that the prior owners had screwed it up so badly that we got it for nothing. It was on the market for 500 days and it was a divorce property on top of that.
We'd built a nice nest egg from renovating and flipping properties during the boom, and we got out of the market in '07 before it got really bad -- we were actually hunkered down in a 1-bedroom rental when we found the place, watching the market tank month after month and contemplating our next move -- we were able to pay cash for the house and the renovations. Of course, it helped that we swung our own hammers for most of it.
I put 6000 nails in that goddamn floor. All by hand. I contemplated selling the place as-is halfway through. Never again.
We brought in contractors who needed the work when we had something really tricky. For instance, the dining room has 8" mahogany crown connecting flat-texture drywall to an 11' T&G ceiling; we'd bought the crown on CL and had 9' of overage so we only had one shot at it. After I wrapped the beams the corners got kinda weird:
I'm good, but I'm not crazy. The guy who did this was Rain Man with a FesTool saw.
All said and done, though, I couldn't be happier. All we pay now is taxes and insurance, and we don't have kids, so we were able to effectively retire in our 30's. The ultimate in sweat equity. I'm in the Army Reserve, which covers our benefits, and I pick up a private security contracting gig here and there. Other than that our time is our own.