DEAR MR. MELTZER: We don't know if we're smart or just lucky. Two years ago we bought a beautiful old Victorian house that had been neglected for a long time. We got it for $60,000.
We scraped off much of the old wall-paper ourselves and painted and repapered most of the rooms. We sanded down the old hardwood floors and finished them. My husband used up his three-week vacation and we worked approximately four complete weekends.
Our total decorating cost, excluding our own labor, was about $1,500 for materials. When the house was finished I furnished it with some beautiful old wicker. Everybody told me it looked just great.
Unfortunately, after two year my husband was transferred and we were forced to sell the house. We ran one ad in the newspaper and found about five interested prospects. We sold the house for $105,000. That's approximately a $40,000 profit in two years. What do you make of this?
ANSWER: In real estate, one and one do not always equal two. Sometimes they equal three, four or five. Very often by spending money wisely you can end up with a much higher value than you would expect.
Much of this is due to the fact that buyers lack imagination. When you bought the house it needed redecoration. Most of the prospective buyers could not imagine what it would like finished. Most of them were not willing to put in the time and effort on the work, as you did.
Now that you have redecorated, it probably looks as good as you say. Even though most of the work is superficial, the average buyer reacts on the first impression. Consider yourselves very lucky, and I hope you do as well with your next property.
DEAR MR. MELTZER: I own a 60-acre parel of land in the suburbs. I hope to subdivide it for houses. I understand I must put in the roads and utilities for the subdivision.
Is there any guideline I can use in determining which subdivision layout is the most efficient? I now have two engineers who have come up with entirely different plans.
ANSWER: The test of an efficient subdivision is your relationship of the total land before subdivision and the amount of land you have to sell after subdivision.
If the land lost for streets and sidewalks is approximately 20 per cent of the total land area, you subdivision plan is of average efficiency.
Anything less than 20 per cent is natually more desirable. If it takes more than 20 per cent, you obviously have a parcel of land that is very difficult to subdivide, or an unimaginative engineer.
DEAR MR. MELTZER: I'm about to leave my husband because of his rotten cigars. He smokes them from the time he gets up in the morning until long after he's gone to bed. The smell is everywhere. I have sprayed my favorite perfume, bought air deodorants, but nothing seems to work.
As a last resort before I call my lawyer, I decided to ask you if there's anything I can do to rid our houseof that terrible odor? You see, I really love my husband. I don't want to leave him. But I'm tired of my clothes smelling from cigars, my hair smelling from cigars, our furniture smelling from cigars, etc.
ANSWER: I'm told that by putting a tablespoon of ammolia in an open bowl of water, persistent stale tobacco odors can be overcome.
A very efficient, house-scrubbing wife of a friend advises that lighting a candle in the guilty room will absorb tobacco odors.
Bernard C. Meltzer answers questions only through this column. His address: Suite 900, 112 S. 16th St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19102.