You’ll Love The Stylish Open Kitchen In This Cute Remodeled Virginia Cottage

Erica Warren
Contributing Writer

Here is a sweet revenge story and some remodeling tips your bank doesn’t want you to know.

Banks don’t want you to know these tips because they could lose millions.

(Names and some details have been changed to protect the privacy of this a**hole)

In 2007 I graduated law school and married my high school sweetheart. We decided to double our income and have no kids for a few years so we could save up for a down payment on a house.

I had an entry level job doing grunt work at the time. I worked my butt off and as a result got offered a job that paid 3x what I was making. By living on a ramen noodle budget, saving my entire salary and living off my husband’s income, we could put 20% down on a house in one year.

We rented a $1000 a month sh*t hole apartment in the new city. It was owned by our landlord. A real estate agent. We will call him “Randy Brathwaite”. Randy was a portly, middle-aged, thin haired man who always smelled like his laundry had soured. He talked way too fast and his jokes were dull and corny.

I felt like he looked down on us because we were a young, clueless, newlywed couple in a big city. However, we were a safe bet for renters so he chose us. We filled out the rental agreement and the credit check and this is where the trouble started. Randy squinted hard at the credit application. He saw my job title listed as “Lawyer”, and my income, 74k. For a 25-year-old in her second year out of law school, in the recession of 2008, this was a small fortune.

Randy raised his head from the contract and looked at me like I had 3 boobs. In a voice that sounded like he had food stuffed in his cheeks he said “I can’t believe how much money you make.” Randy must have said this a half a dozen times under his breath over the next hour.

Eventually I told Randy “We are saving to buy a house. We will stay for a year and would like to go month-to-month after that. Is that okay?”

Randy’s 2nd chin jiggled as he shook his head yes.

A year later we found a nice little cottage and bought it. The cottage wasn’t going to be ready until two months after our lease was up. I called Randy to see if we could extend our lease by two months before moving out. Randy agreed and sent me an extension to sign. I opened the letter and read the extension. It included a clause that increased the rent by $800. I flipped out.

I called him and said “Randy, why are you increasing my rent by 80%? That’s too much!” With a snobbish tone in his voice he said “Erica, it’s what the apartment goes for now.” We argued back and forth for a few minutes but it became clear to me he wasn’t going to change his mind. He knew how much I made and he wanted to leech as much money as possible. His snobbish tone turned into anger and then he said something to me I will never forget:

“I’m Not Asking You To Like It Erica, I’m Telling You To Pay It.”

I got off the phone and complained to my husband. We tried to figure out other options but nothing worked out. We were stuck. I swallowed my pride, wrote the check for $1,800 and sent it to Randy. I did the same thing the next month. When it came time to move out we ensured the apartment was spotless because we wanted our $500 deposit back. Randy kept all $500 and said it was for “cleaning”. What a load of B.S. By the time we moved out Randy had managed to screw me out of $2,100 and I couldn’t do anything about it. After we moved out I looked up how much the rent was for our old apartment. Randy was listing it for only $1,100. I was beyond pissed.

10 years later my husband lost his job. Finances were a bit tight but we had two gorgeous girls and we had found creative ways to remodel our cottage on a budget.

One morning at work I overheard my boss Steven talking to our receptionist.

“Hey Lisa, I’m expecting someone to drop off some paperwork for me. If a Randy Brathwaite asks for me, tell him I’ll be right out.”

I froze when I heard that name. I thought “there’s no way.” I walked over to Steven who is still at the reception desk and said “How do you know the name Randy Brathwaite?”

Steven tells me ” He is my old real estate agent. I’m about to sell my house and get a new one. I’m going to ask him to be my agent again. Why?”
I described what Randy looked like just to be sure and Steven confirmed my description. I started to tell him my story and right at the moment Randy waddles in the front door of the office. I stare at him in disbelief. He’s carrying a folder of papers and doesn’t recognize me. Randy and Steven shake hands and talk for a moment. I stand there awkwardly. Steven then turns to me and says “Randy, this is Erica, I think you may have already met?” Randy squints at me trying to remember who I am. I then said “Hey Randy good to see you again. My husband and I rented an apartment from you on —– Street about 10 years ago.” Randy’s eyes indicate he hasn’t put it all together yet but he smiles and then says “Yes. How are things?”
We have small talk for few minutes and then Steven and Randy get back to talking business.

My boss Steven makes a ton of money and he was looking to buy a huge house. I was very familiar with the legal and financial aspects of the sale they were discussing so I butted in with some advice. I made them aware of some legal stuff they did not realize and then I started talking numbers. I say “Randy, by doing the legal stuff we just talked about and with all the total transactions, you could walk away from this deal with over 30k.”

Randy says “Wow you’re really smart. How did you know all this?” I respond, “Well, I did a lot of research when we moved out of your apartment and bought our house 10 years ago. Plus, I’ve been at this law office for over 10 years now so I picked up a few things along the way.”

Randy’s eyes squint……then light up. He remembers exactly who I am now. He also remembers our last conversation. His body language and mood shift instantly. He changes the subject, gives the papers to Steven and tells him to sign them as soon as possible. He then waddles to the exit. In a sarcastic tone I say “Really good to see you again Randy.” As the door is shutting behind Randy, in a loud voice I say “Steven, don’t sign anything. I have a story to tell you.” Now, Steven is looking at me like I’ve lost it. He says “Erica, what the hell was that about?” I then tell Steven the entire story. The $800 increase, the $500 security deposit he kept, the “I’m not asking you to like it Erica, I’m telling you to pay it.” comment”, everything. I say, “Steven, you can’t use this guy. He is evil. I’ll help you find another agent, just use ANYONE but Randy.”

My boss is a great guy. He agrees with me. He says ” Randy has been straight with me but I can totally see him doing that to someone. There is no way I can use him now. What a jerk!”

Steven grins and then says “What do you want me to say when I fire him?”

I knew exactly what I wanted Steven to do.

The next day I stood behind Steven listening as he made the call to Randy:
“Hi, Randy? It’s Steven calling.
“Yeah, about that. I’ve decided to get some other quotes from other agents. I’m not going to sign up with you …
“No no, you shouldn’t give a discount. You’d be losing money if you did that..
“No, this is just a decision I’ve made . . .
“No, it has nothing to do with Erica . . .
“Well, I’m Not Asking You To Like It, Randy. I’m Telling You To Accept It. Goodbye.”

Randy screwed me out of $2,100. I screwed him out of $30,000. It was the sweetest revenge. My only regret was not being able to see Randy’s face.


Here are some pictures of our remodeled cute little cottage in Virginia. My husband lost his job in the middle of the remodel so we had to get creative with the budget (I will tell you more about that later). When we bought the cottage the interior was old and worn out. The layout has been changed to an open floor plan. It now has a soothing light color palette, classic finishes and refinished hardwood floors.

The size of the kitchen is the same, but everything from the cabinets to the light fixtures is brand new.

Originally the dining room was separated from the kitchen; the walls were removed to create a great open room.

The new living room space features recessed lighting, new hearth tile and a painted brick fireplace.​

A second fireplace is found in the bedroom for extra coziness. Gray glass hearth tiles for modern detail.

The gray color palette continues into the bathroom. The shower surround is done in classic subway tiles with a penny tile accent stripe.

This bedroom functions as my office. The walls throughout the house are painted in Repose Gray.

My Top 5 DIY Home Improvement Tips

My husband lost his job half way through the remodel so we had to get creative. Here are some of the tips and lessons I learned that may save you time and money.

Stripped Screws

I stripped countless screws while remodeling our home. If this happens to you just place a rubber band over the head of the screw and you will be back in business.

Marking Holes To Hang Items

Here is an easy way to mark holes. Just place tape over the area with holes, mark where the holes are on the tape, put the tape on the wall and drill the nails in the areas you marked.

How To Stop Paint Brush Drips

Place a rubber band over the opening of the can of paint. When you dip the brush, wipe of the excess paint on the rubber band.

The Magic of Extra Light Switches

If you are remodeling your home, install extra light switches where you can. We got a little crazy when we learned how easy it was to install light switches. I can now shut my kids TV off from my bedroom if they’re grounded or watching too much of it.

The Most Affordable Way To Get Renovations

My husband lost his job right before our kitchen renovation. We already paid our deposit to the contractor and if we backed out we would have lost a good amount of money. We had to get creative on how to pay for everything. I asked the lawyers at my office for advice. They told me about something called “Cash Out Refinancing” that I could do through a little known government program called Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance (FMERR).

Here is how “Cash Out Refinancing” works through the FMERR program. Let’s say you have $100,000 equity in your home. If you use “Cash Out Refinance” through the FMERR program, then you can get half your home’s equity in cash at a low interest rate. So, if your home equity is $100,000 you could get up to $50,000 in cash for renovations. You can also lower your interest rate, shrink your loan term and lower your monthly mortgage payments. Our bank did not tell us about this because they wanted us to keep paying a higher interest rate on a long loan term.

The cash we received plus the money we saved on interest and mortgage allowed us to turn the cottage into our dream home. Plus, the value of our home has increased big time after the renovation so we will get even more money back when we sale.

We got in this program at the right time. Due to the market the FMERR program is becoming more popular for people who want to renovate their house, lower their monthly mortgage rate or shorten their loan term. However, a lot of people still don’t know about it. Plus, banks have lobbied against the program. From what I’ve researched, the program will end around .

Do You Qualify For FMERR?

If You:

  • Own A Home In Virginia For More Than 30 days
  • Are Not More Than 30 Days Late on Your Mortgage Payment
  • Have Not Missed More Than 3 Payments In The Past 12 Months
  • Live In a Qualified Zip Code (Typically Within 50 Miles of Ashburn)
  • Then you have a great shot at qualifying for the FMERR program.

Then you have a great shot at qualifying for the FMERR program.

Do You Qualify For FMERR?

I did a lot of research. Below are the 2 places I found to give you all your options at the lowest interest rate. Hope this helps and good luck.

Option 1: Between the hours of 8am (est) to 9pm (est), you can call 866-935-6329 press option 2 and ask about the Freddie Mac Enhanced Relief Refinance (FMERR) program.

Option 2: Select your age below and answer a few questions on the next page. After you enter some information about your home, you will find out how much you can get.

Remember: You do not need to pay anything to use this program. It’s completely free and only takes a few minutes. Any source telling you otherwise should be avoided!

Select Your Age To Check If You Qualify:

Check Your Eligibility, It’s Free! »


*We are dedicated to bringing readers valuable information which can help them accomplish their financial and lifestyle goals. Our disclaimer is that this site does receive compensation for product reviews and referrals or purchases made through our links. This page is an advertisement/advertorial. The story depicted here is for demonstration purposes only and everyone’s results may vary. We hope you find our online resource informative and helpful. This site is in no way affiliated with any news source. This site contains affiliate and partner links. This website and the company that owns it is not responsible for any typographical or photographic errors. If you do not agree to our terms and policies, then please leave this site immediately. All trademarks, logos, and service marks (collectively the “Trademarks”) displayed are registered and/or unregistered Trademarks of their respective owners. Contents of this website are copyrighted property of the reviewer and/or this website. Mortgage Lenders are constantly changing their policies in your state to meet demand and manage risk. Affiliated comparison sites can give you access to today’s most competitive rates in your state. Example savings illustrated above is for demonstration purposes only and results will vary based on your individual qualifications which may be associated with your home’s loan-to-value, home type, city and state where the home is located as well as other factors including but not limited to credit scores, employment history, residency type and other factors.