All posts by JanneZack

I grew up in Memphis TN, got a bit tired of humidity, so moved to New Mexico for College and then to Utah with a job change. I began working with an Architect there, and decided to change careers. I moved back to Memphis to apprentice in the Residential Home Design field. Now, almost 18 years later, I design custom homes which are built all over the United States. I LOVE what I do.

Finally in the Game!

1700 - C17-013-01


I’m FINALLY in the game.  It’s been a LONG time coming, but I’m finally able to say that we are moving forward… FINALLY!!!!

Let’s just get one thing out there in the open… when you buy property from the government you can expect that they don’t move very quickly… it’s pretty much like waiting in line at the DMV!

I believe I mentioned in a post that I had bought 4 lots from the Shelby County Land Bank.  Well, there is a process that has to be followed… in triplicate it seems, like all government work.  I had to put a sizeable deposit down and pay for the newspaper ads that told the world (well, anyone who reads that paper) that I had made an offer to purchase the 4 lots to a tune of $200 per LOT! OUCH!  BUT I kept a cool head knowing that the purchase price was really a great deal.

After waiting 3 weeks I discovered that no one came forward to  bid against me for these lots, WHEW! My first hurdle down… 47 more to go!

Then, there was a City Council vote… who knew!  That would happen at the end of the month… yet another 3 weeks waiting for that to happen.  It was a mere formality, so just time served I suppose was my payment for that bit.

Then, the letter stating that I had 30 days to pay the balance on the lots, or if I failed to purchase them, I’d be barred from buying any more properties for a year.  So, I got my attorney on the horn and got him to get HIS stuff going… Lord only knows what all he did, but he did manage to get me Title Insurance and Surveys and things of this nature so that I wouldn’t lose anything else if I went through with this deal.

All that came back good to go, so I went and paid for my lots the last week before I lost them.

Now, there is another waiting period, the Land Bank said that it would take 7 – 8 weeks for me to receive my Deed in the mail.  Seven – Eight WEEKS!?!?!  My attorney wanted to go down and pick up the paperwork and walk it over to the court and have it registered immediately, but the Land Bank kept not wanting to do that for some odd reason, so now I’m in a holding pattern yet again, but this too shall pass.  My attorney also said that I didn’t have to wait to get the mailed Deed before construction, only had to wait until the Deed showed up as Registered through our county Register’s office.  So now, I check daily to see if it got registered.  Not only am I chomping at the bit to get going, so is my builder.  It turned off cold here this week and it has rained a bit over the last few weeks.  I really just want to get the foundation in the ground before all the winter rain and nastiness starts.  If that can happen, I can keep a few folks employed this winter, which works out well for all of us.

So, above you see the plan.  This is the final plan. I do not plan to change it again, but reserve that right as I am a woman after all.

Hopefully this will be a profitable venture and the other 3 lots remaining will have an easier go at this home building venture.

{{{{{{   Aaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh!   }}}}}}}

I hate waiting, but better cool my jets down so that I don’t make mistakes… especially those with lots of “zeros” at the end!

Visit again soon to see how things are going.  I hope to post photographs as we go.  First step already accomplished, we have an address now…. Well, the builder got one, so just holding on until the gate opens!

Another Investment Plan

Hello everyone,

I have had a great opportunity to create yet another investment home.  I’ll define this again, for those of you who won’t like this house.  An investment house has very few cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms.  It also has small bathrooms… well, for the style of homes I typically design, for a NYC apartment, they are luxurious.

This home has 1350+/- sq. ft. with 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths.  It is a 1 1/2 story home (it has a second floor, but appears from the front to only have one.  The Master Bedroom and bath are on the first floor. This home has an open concept living/dining/kitchen so that those who love to entertain will have a great place to do that. There are 3 bedrooms and another bathroom upstairs for the kids, or an office, etc.  There is a walk-out attic for the mechanical units (water heater, HV/AC, etc.

Have a look and as usual, I’d love to hear your comments. 1300 - B13-011-01

Thanks, Janne

I’ve joined the captcha team

I SO hate those things that show up when you try to comment on a website or blog, you know, like for Ticketmaster when you have to type those funky letters that are so difficult to read you miss them 3 or 4 times before you get one right so that you can search for tickets, well, I’ve joined that team because I was getting SO MUCH SPAM!  Ugg Boots and some weird hand-bag site… If you know me, I am neither an ugg fan nor a handbag fan, so now, hopefully, those idiots will go away.  I apologize but you, my dear readers and commenters will need to answer a simple math problem (feel free to take off your shoes to add and subtract the problems that are presented).  I apologize in advance, but hope this serves us all better in the future.


Long time coming

It’s taken me a bit of time in planning – But I’d like everyone’s ideas on the two plans attached.  I have designed these to be built on one of the lots I have purchased.  The lot size is just barely larger than the footprint of this house, so expansion is not an option.

The ONLY difference in these two houses is the second floor.  I’d like opinions on which you like best.

Please note that this house was designed as a rental unit using minimal kitchen and bath cabinets.  So, be kind when you notice that there aren’t ample cabinets… there is a HUGE pantry (for those of you who rent and hate the fact that there are never enough cabinets).

My main question is, would you prefer the master bedroom on the front of the house, or on the rear.  What about the laundry location? Which do you prefer? Linen closet location?1500 - C15-003-01 1500 - C15-003-02

Thanks in advance, Janne

Skin in the Game

Well, I’ve finally got some skin in the game.

I began attending Memphis Investors Group  (MIG) meetings in January of 2012.   (MIG is a group of property investors put together to help educate people on better ways to own, manage and make money at investment properties, commercial buildings, and rental units).  I originally began going because my father is aging and I wanted to help him manage his property portfolio, (big word for one office building and a rent house), but I wanted to make sure that leases and policies were up to date and legal, etc.  He had not done any type of updates to his leases in many years and was losing interest in the day-to-day operations of the office building and always had a hard time getting his house tenant to pay rent on time.  I needed to help him, paybacks for all those favors he did for me while I was growing up.  Now I keep his books as far as his properties are concerned, which really isn’t hard, I receive the rent checks, send invoices, go to the bank each month, nothing that is too time consuming, but I feel better knowing that he is getting his money.  I don’t ask for money, I’m not a real estate agent and by law I can’t be a “Property Manager” so, I just take care of my dad by helping him.

All that said, I became very interested in owning my own properties because of attending the MIG meetings.  The meetings are quite interesting and there seem to be easy ways to get into the game.  I have learned so much that I now want to get myself into the game.

A question that is commonly asked at MIG is “How many offers did you make last week (month, year, etc)?”  If not, why now?  For me this question has been a no-brainer as of late.  I was not fully educated and needed to do a lot more study and prep work before I jumped in with both feet and all my money.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve WANTED to just jump in a play with the big boys, but I knew that wasn’t possible.  I’ve never had a lot of money (I was a single parent of 3 for a number of years) and what money I have managed to accumulate, which still isn’t much, was TOO hard to get, so letting it go to some get-rich-quick scheme was not on my list of  “to-dos”.  But I went religiously to the meetings and have listened at every opportunity.  I have gone to training seminars, I have read books, I have listened to national speakers, I have even gone to weekly lunch meetings, which are 100% informal meetings, but given a few questions, those who are experienced teach you one on one.

I have been looking for the perfect situation.  The perfect place to buy to begin my property investment career.  It has not materialized …   yet.  I was looking for a duplex in a particular area of town.  My main reason for a duplex in that area of town was because of one of my kids who wants to live in that area and keeps finding herself with no place to live.  I thought I could buy a duplex and rent one side to my daughter and the other to some random stranger.  The daughter could do all the rent collecting for that unit, she could add her rent and pay the notes, I could teach her some homeowner responsibilities and still be “in the game” myself.  Well, one can only look for so long before one goes crazy and quite frankly, when has buying a place for your own kid ever worked out? EVERYONE I talk to says it’s a horrible idea.  You get stuck with all the bills, HOA fees, lawn mowing, etc., because the kid doesn’t have any skin in the game. SO, suddenly it hit me:  I design homes for a living.  I’ve been concentrating recently on investment type homes (inexpensive to build with very few kitchen cabinets or bathroom cabinets, no frills, just walls, rooms and toilets.  The investor I have been designing for wants 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 2-car garages all in 13-1400 sq. ft. heated.  No porches to speak of, just a small covered stoop so that they can claim to have a porch, but in all practicality, there really isn’t much porch).  This said, why not look for building lots which have been foreclosed, or are distressed for whatever reason.

So, I changed my way of looking for properties, I began to look for LOTS rather than used houses.  I found some lots.  I actually found some quite affordable subdivision lots, in a great area of town, ready to be built on, and not in a flood zone.  There are some other strings attached at the moment, but I won’t get into that in this epistle of a blog post, but I will say this, others have run away from these lots because the LOOK scary.  They are cove lots, tiny cove lots.  They have easements running through them that would make a grown builder cry…. but mainly because they’d need to have a custom home designed for the lot.  My advantage, I can do that for myself!  I can design a house that will fit on each lot if I have to.  So, after talking to many advisers (my father, not one, but two attorneys, several builders, a title company or two), I have decided to put some skin in the game.

I laid some money on the table and made an offer.  I NOW have skin in the game.  I don’t know if it will go through or not, but I am both hopeful it will and terrified that it will all at the same time.   Needless to say, I’m not ALL THE WAY in the game, but I did leave a few fingernail indentions in the chair and a few bucks on the table.  NOW I can say I have some skin in the game, but only time will tell if I win the bid, or if I’m let off the hook.  I think I will be sad if it doesn’t go through, but if it does, I will be terrified for the next step…. building a house.  Wow!  We shall see……….

LIVING in a Tiny House

Now, I don’t live in a Tiny House, may never live in one, however, that doesn’t keep me from dreaming about the PERFECT tiny house.

With that in mind, I’d like everyone’s thoughts about this one. It only has floor plans at this time, there will be additional elevations and sketches, but for now, just imagine walking through this one. C:UsersRJHPDocuments2012 Client Jobs - June 6, 2014TINY HOU

For those of you who do build homes:  The kitchen, bath, office and foyer are framed with 8′ walls.  The Loft(s) have 6′ kneewalls and there is a gabled roof on top of the kneewalls, consequently, the lofts have minimum of 6′ head height.  As for the stairs, the codes have changed over the past few years, each tread here is only 9″ wide.  It won’t be the easiest staircase to get up, but it is more than adequate especially since most tiny houses have ladders!

I’ve seen the IKEA kitchen table in many Tiny Homes.  It is only about 12-18″ x 30″ but folds into a HUGE table.  Just in case you didn’t notice, there is plenty of room for

There is a full kitchen and the FULL SIZED stackable washer/dryer is in the bathroom.  There are quite a few cabinets for dishes and supplies as well as a 4′ x 18″ pantry cabinet.  Who won’t love that!

There is room in the Bedroom/Loft for a King Size Bed!  There is also a walk-in closet as well as a secondary closet which could be a built-in dresser or shoe shelves, whatever your heart desires.

I’d like your thoughts!

We have a total of 674 Heated Sq. Ft.

Must Haves

I’m totally addicted to the Tiny House Movement.  I LOVE looking at the designs, I love imagining myself living in one (not thinking of course that my hubby could never live in there with me, so it’s not going to happen any time soon, but that still doesn’t keep me from obsessing over them).


So my question is this, what things do you have that you can’t live without? I know newly weds and hippies don’t hold on to possessions, but I have a few heirlooms that have been handed down to me that I really don’t want to part with.  SO, I’d need to make a place for them in my tiny house.

One piece is called a “Break Front” or Hoosier (sp?) that was used in my grandmother’s kitchen.  It was just about the only counter top she ever used.  It is really deep (at least 30″-36″ deep.  There is a cabinet with glass doors on the upper part and small drawers/bins under that upper cabinet.  Below the counter is 2 drawers that would hold silverware and utensils and below those are two huge drawers/bins to hold flower and corn meal maybe.  This sits up off the floor and allows for storage below.  This piece I couldn’t leave behind.

I also have a buffet.  It is about 36″ tall and about 5′-6′ long.  It has 2 long drawers in the center, again for silverware and service pieces, a deeper drawer for linens.  On each end is a cabinet door.  The space is about 18″ square on each end. I’m assuming this is where other serving pieces would have been stored like large bowls or pitchers.  This piece would have to come with me.  I currently use the buffet in my master bedroom as a TV stand.  We use the drawers like a dresser and just use the cabinets for storage.  I would probably use this in my tiny house for that as well.

What things, that you have now, would you insist on keeping if you were moving into a tiny house? Furniture, Equipment, Sports gear? I’d like to know.



Investment Project – Alley Loaded Garage

1300 - C13-002-02

Just so my readers (well, eventual readers) will know what we do, I thought I would start with a few pictures of projects.  Our home plans start at about 400 sq. ft., although with the new Tiny House Movement, well, to tell you what I think about that, I’m obsessed!  But haven’t published any of those … yet.

Here is a recent design I did.  Before you tell me how terrible the kitchen and bathrooms are, this was designed to be built BY Property Investors with the specific goal of renting this house out right off the bat.  Therefore, I was given a specific list of criteria.

1. MINIMAL Bathroom Cabinetry – they tried to talk me into a 24″ – 30″ vanity, but I refused to use anything less than 36″.  Granted a 36″ vanity really isn’t much if you need a little space, but it has that precious extra 6″ to hold at least a curling iron… for the girls.

2. MINIMAL Kitchen Cabinetry – the investors also did not want many kitchen cabinets because they often get destroyed by renters. The fewer cabinets, the better as far as replacements.  Because I have a heart for renters (I was once a renter), I TRIED to give you more cabinets, but was shot down, so, I made a big pantry that will hopefully allow you to forgive me for the lack of cabinets.

3. Four Bedrooms, Two Bathrooms, 1350-1450 sq. ft.

4. Double Garage

There were a few other criteria, like the overall width and depth of the house and of course there were some restrictions regarding the lot size, so the physical footprint trumped some of the above criteria.

If you were buying this property, particularly in this area of the country, this would definitely not be a great choice, yea there are lots of bedrooms and 2 full baths AND a garage, but the cabinets aren’t ideal especially for a homeowner.  However, if this size house is what you are looking for, maybe the “normal version” of this plan would be more appealing.  Notice the expanded bathroom on the first floor, the additional storage room under the stairs, the added cabinets in the kitchen as well, there are doors which close off the washer/dryer (in the plan at the beginning of this post, those are open to the world… not my choice, but to save money for the investors).  Yes, this is a rear loaded garage for use with an alley style subdivision, but we also flipped it over for a front loaded garage where the Master bedroom is on the back of the house.  Works great either way.

In either version of this plan, you could add a bonus room or even a 5th bedroom with minor modifications and that room could be added above the garage.

By the way: I’m told that this house was rented out PRIOR to it being completed for about $1300 per month.  This is pretty good in our market. Nice 4-bedroom/2 bath homes are apparently hard to come by around here… well, located in good neighborhoods.

Your thoughts and comments appreciated. If you are a property investor and build new homes for rent, what criteria would you ask for?

1300 - C13-002-01