Renovation Reality

My husband and I met when he bought his house. I was his real estate agent. Crazy, huh? He bought the house in May 2007, and planned to renovate and sell by September 2007. He chose a local contractor who came highly recommended by my husband’s mortgage broker.

Here’s a peek at the house (built in 1908) – pre $150,000 renovation lawsuit-blood-sweat-many tears:

The front, obviously. Do you like the wire hanging from the ceiling where a light fixture should be? When it rained, water would pour through the hole, and when it was cold, we would get a lovely icicle.


And the back…notice the black tarp on the left? The man who owned the house before us had dug out a bunker under where a porch use to be…by hand, with buckets. Odd.

Don’t worry, I have more pictures. To make a long, heartbreaking story short, when we were about $80,000 into the reno, we realized that of the 26 items on the original estimate, only 14 had been started, and not one had been completed. NOT.ONE. We weren’t living in the house at the time, so when we would come out to check on the progress, the contractor would make promises and give explanations…we were so deep, we thought the easiest way to proceed would be to move into the house (with no hot water, finished kitchen, or bathroom doors) and keep a closer eye on things. We quickly realized that we had made a terrible mistake by trusting this contractor.

We were left with a house that was maybe 25% finished, and we only had about $10,000 left to finish the project (which we quickly realized was not nearly enough) So begins the blood, sweat, and tears part of the story. The hardest I’ve ever worked – and we planned a wedding and had a baby during it too. Instead of 3 months, it took 3 years. Here are a couple more pictures – showing before and after. Sorry some of the pictures aren’t so great, unbelievably, we didn’t really take “after” pictures.


FOYER – There use to be a low ceiling in the foyer. We had it removed and the correlating wall, but the contractors couldn’t figure out how to finish the railing to match the existing lower portion of steps.  The wall and closet on the left were removed, the picture on the right shows what was left.

This is how the contractors left the newly created laundry room…knowing we were moving in that day. (Before they started working there, these floors had been in perfect condition.)  Oh, and they never hooked up the plumbing, so the 1st time I did laundry…water was pouring into our basement, which as you’ll see below, had dirt floors.

Basement…or something.  The  rectangular mound on the left was once a 10 foot deep abyss.


BEFORE- On left, original master bath – and only bathroom in the house.  On right, once they tore down kitchen ceiling below the bathroom, they found serious water damage, so the whole bathroom floor came out.




Originally, a parlor  for the master bedroom, but we added a hallway to make it a small 3rd bedroom.

Original kitchen.  These were all of the cabinets, the opposite wall just had a stove on it.      

Thankfully, we survived, so there are “after” pictures to share.   This post has reminded me to take lots of pictures of our next house, I can’t believe how few I have of the last house!



New House Introduction

After being in contract on 4 other houses in the past year, and not closing on 3 of them…I believe (still holding breath, crossing  fingers, etc) that we’ve found “the one.”  Just to recap the year in houses:
 House #1 – Small cape cod – everything, including carpet, walls, and exterior was a lovely light pea green.  Sellers wouldn’t make several crucial repairs (like make the water run) so we canceled the contract.
House #2 – Small cape cod – needed total rehab.  Were doing a (ridiculous) full 203K FHA loan…and costs got out of hand…by closing, we were paying more for the house than it was worth.  Strangely enough, FHA allows that to happen?  Yeah, I know.  Lender surprised us with $3000 in additional closing costs the night before closing, with no explanation other than that he “thought” it “may” have been an error with a credit that the seller was giving us.  Since we decided to cancel the contract, HUD didn’t want to give us our $1000 in earnest money back, but after I wrote a letter explaining the horrible experience we had with our lender….they gave it back, which they NEVER do. (supposedly)
House #3 – Small brick ranch without an oven. Water view and .75 acres…but the house was really small – 1426 sq ft (we are big people) and we realized that we would probably grow out of it.  We decided were paying too much for a house that needed updating….we’d never be able to sell the house for what we’d need to put into it.  The final straw was trying to negotiate the repairs with the seller – we only asked for a couple of things that were required by the lender (treating termites) or maintenance items that should have been completed on a full-price house (not a distressed sale) before it was listed.
AND….Finally…House #4 – The morning we cancelled our offer on #3, I was lying in bed that morning and thought to myself, I wonder if they’d take “X” amount for house #4 – if they did, I’d want it, even though needs lots of updates and has no water view.  I went downstairs and B was looking at #4 online – he said, they lowered the price on #4 to “X-$1000” (numbers changed to protect the innocent).  I ignored him because he enjoys “pulling my leg” all  the time.  Once he finally convinced me, I realized that it was a sign we were looking for.  We made an appointment with our Realtor to see it again.  We canceled offer on #3 because the seller wouldn’t make repairs, and made a new offer on #4 which was accepted by the sellers.
So, here are the “before” pictures of the house that should be ours as of 8/31/11 (if everything goes as planned):
One of the things we love about the house is that we can live there and fix it up over time.


One side of double-sided fireplace

Other side of double-sided fireplace Living Room and Sun Room Kitchen Colorful kitchen




Guest / Kids Bathroom


Master Bathroom


Back of the House


Shed in the Backyard



I have a napping baby on my lap, so that’s all for now.