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A Serial Rehabber Reveals Her Tips From Redoing Five Houses

Welcome to Ask an Insider, where Curbed gets up close and nosy with local pros in real estate, neighborhood development and city planning. We ask the questions, so you don't have to. Think you have knowledge to share? Shoot an email to the tipline and we'll consider handing over the megaphone. This time, we're chatting with Anna Kahoe, who, with her husband Dan, has overseen renovations on five D.C. houses they've lived in over the last 20 years.

[Interiors at Anna and Dan Kahoe's Blagden Alley carriage house; photos via Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects]
Curbed: When did you and your husband start renovating houses?
Anna: We bought a row house in Adams Morgan 20 years ago for $146,000. It was a fixer, and they had just kicked out squatters who had been living there. There were burn marks, signs of crack usage and a bunch of vintage porn magazines around. We had to do a lot of work, like painstakingly stripping the wooden panelings. We hired someone to help, but we did a lot of the work ourselves. It took a year.

Curbed: What's it like living in houses as you renovate them?
Anna: It's funny, my husband can endure all kinds of dust and grossness during a rehab, but I try to keep a few things stable in the chaos — I make the bed, I put away my clothes.

Curbed: What makes you guys want to fix up old houses?
Anna: I think, if you're a professional remodeler — which isn't us — you might do things differently. But we do things based on a love of old houses and a desire to bring back their faded grandeur.

Curbed: You've supervised many contractors over the years. What's the key to working with them smoothly?
Anna: Many decisions get made on the work site, so it's important to be around. Contractors take pride in their work, but if you are there, they know that it's a team thing.

Curbed: Many developers are gutting older homes now. Are there specific pet peeves you have in their type of renovations, aka flips?
Anna: I hate breakfast bars. I feel like they chop up the house.

Curbed: You've lived in — and rehabbed — houses, a laundry building and now a carriage house. Any other properties you'd love to convert?
Anna: An old bank would be neat.

Curbed: What's the biggest disaster you've had while redoing a place?
Anna: At our old Adams Morgan house, our handyman accidentally sealed the cat up under the floorboards. We got him out, but it was crazy! -Jenn Barger

· Blagden Alley project Denied Approval; D.C.'s Late Mail [Curbed DC]
· Local antique merchants bring work home in Blagden Alley [Curbed DC]
· Homeplace: A Bohemian Carriage House [Garden & Gun]