After closing on the house we were anxious to get going! In fact, we were so excited that we immediately started getting our current home ready to sell and prepared to move. We weren’t really that naive about the timeline, we just wanted to make progress of some sort and that was the only thing we could think of to do at that time. Looking back, maybe we just should have relaxed and enjoyed our Spring Break.
The finding and purchasing of the house happened so quickly that we hadn’t had much time to line up all the other aspects of the renovation. We needed to:
1. Get financing for the renovation
Actually, we thought we had this figured out before we purchased the house… but that option fell through. So now we needed to secure enough financing from somewhere else to at least finish the first phase of our renovation. We foolishly thought it would be easier to get financing for a renovation than buying the actual house. Turns out that banks don’t have much faith in the do-it-yourselfers. It also turns out that you cannot get a home equity loan on a house that is not inhabitable, even if you have 100% equity in the house. We determined that the first phase of renovation needed to be all about getting the house livable. Once we achieved that, financing options would open up a little. The first phase will need to be financed by a home equity loan on our current home, a personal line of credit, and our own savings. We had talked to several people about cost estimates for the first phase and also did a lot of cost estimate research online. It’s going to be tight, but hopefully by doing as much work as possible on our own and carefully prioritizing our spending we will be able to get the house inhabitable using our available budget. We figure worst case scenario – we sell our current home, rent, and use the equity to complete the first phase. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!
2. Figure out what changes we are going to make to the house (if any)
Before closing on the new house we had seen the inside only twice, but taken many pictures. We used those pictures to develop a floor plan of how we might lay out the house to best fit our needs and begin planning for the renovation. We laugh now when we look back at the scale of the rooms that we initially sketched out based on our memory of the first visit to the house. It is amazing how well everything fit when we weren’t restricted by pesky things like actual dimensions! It became apparent that we needed more than a little help with the floor plan, especially when we started thinking of ideas on how to finish off the 2nd floor. We needed an architect. We are fortunate to already know a “retired” architect who lives in our neighborhood and knows old houses as well as anyone. Plus I (Joe) have known him and his family for 30 years… so there was a good comfort level before even starting.
3. Find a contractor (or not)
We assumed we would need a contractor to handle some of the work that was beyond our capabilities. Our architect was able to recommend several people. We contacted them all and met with one of them very soon after buying the house. Still not exactly sure of what we were doing, we showed him around the house and pointed out everything we thought we might do. The contractor seemed excited about the project and the potential for the house… until I told him our budget. Now, to be fair, I don’t think he understood that I was not talking about our final budget, I just meant our phase 1 plan. I wasn’t really surprised that we didn’t hear back from that first contractor. It was at that point that I realized it was a little early to be talking to contractors – we needed a more definite plan and scope. It was also at about that point that we decided we weren’t going to use a contractor. Amy and I are increasingly bucking the idea that everyone should follow some standard path to achieve certain goals. Usually this path is laden with people just looking to make money off of you. We figured we were capable of hiring people to do the jobs that we knew were over our head. Plus, we have the luxury of being surrounded by people who have plenty of home rehab experience! When we run into something we aren’t sure about, we’ll just ask!
While we were waiting to get everything going with our architect, finalize financing, and find sub contractors, we were itching to do something with our new property. We were told that maybe a good place to start would be the landscaping. At first it seemed silly to be worried about the yard when the house itself needed so much work. But then we realized that now was a perfect time to work on the yard. It was still Spring, the bugs weren’t out yet, the temps were low, and the massive weeds hadn’t completely taken over. Plus there was glass and other dangerous things all around the house that would need to removed before we could even let our kids play in the yard. After a trip to the hardware store to pick up an electric chain saw, we were ready to get going!
We split up. Amy tackled the driveway, front sidewalk, and steps. Joe began chopping away a decade worth of unattended tree saplings and weed-trees that surrounded the foundation of the house and the fence line around the back yard.
Amy devoted her time to uncovering the driveway from years of encroaching dirt, weeds, and grass. I have to say that Amy’s job was not as visually rewarding because she spent hours just picking up glass, shoveling dirt, and fighting ants. Her handiwork did uncover a big portion of the sidewalk to our front steps that had been taken over by an enthusiastic front yard and also revealed a brick border that we had no idea was there. We forgot to take before and after pictures, but here are a couple pics of the driveway.
The alley behind our garage was also completely covered in saplings and weeds. Here is the before picture:
Here is the after:
After the first weekend Joe’s arms were covered in poison ivy. Should have expected that. After three weekends of working on the yard, we finally got it to a point where the property didn’t look completely neglected. As an added bonus, it turns out that lawn mower sitting in the garage still works!
Now, we need to decide what we are going to do on the inside of the house…
Follow our story and read the next post here: Decisions, Decisions!
Read the Previous post here: Under New Management: A BEFORE house tour.