Saturday, March 25, 2017

From the Top Down

Often over the last two months, I've wondered what it would feel like to sit down to close on a house and feel a sense of accomplishment and finality. Because at ours, it was like someone just handed us a permission slip to start working. :)  When we closed, there was not much anticipation of moving, settling, nesting. It was all plans for what to get started on first.

Through the closing process, I had found a contractor that I really gelled with and trusted, though for no apparent reason. :)  I just liked him because his bid was incredibly detailed on a massive spreadsheet with prices, taxes, product names and everything. I knew we would get along. So once I had seen what all each project would cost, we were able to narrow down what we could do ourselves and what we needed the professional to do.  Let's start with the top floor.

Upstairs has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Two of the bedrooms are larger than average, and one is a pretty normal size. :) There wasn't much that needed to be done in the bedrooms aside from new paint and finishing the windows.  The carpet was in fine shape, but needed to be stretched and cleaned.  Our contractor did the shower tiling, installed a new window in the only window in the whole house that was not replaced to match the rest, and sanded down the master bath ceiling.  Otherwise, we did the rest up here ourselves.

The bathrooms were another story.  The main hall bath had no flooring and was down to the studs around the shower. The master bath technically was usable, but the shower hadn't been cleaned in I don't know how long and was disgusting.  The floor was pretty bad, and the vanity was not an ideal master bath vanity.  So I basically wanted to gut it (but leave the standing shower and nice glass doors if they could be cleaned up).  The first thing I did when we got the keys was come and clean that shower to see if it was salvageable.

Guess what??

It was totally salvageable! It looked nearly brand new after a good scrubbing! :)  We also ripped up the old linoleum, put down new, and got a new vanity and paint.  Here's the before and afters

And, after: 

One thing that was a major chore was the ceiling in this bathroom. It was like a stucco that was horribly inconsistent that I could not chisel off. I ended up having our contractor, David, sand it all down flat so we could paint the ceiling. Ew. That was a chore and left a huge mess! But, glad we did it. :)

For the kids bathroom, we changed everything but the cabinet and the toilet. New vanity top, new shower, new window trim, new paint, new floor!


If you followed along on Facebook you saw some of the baby steps in this bathroom, but here's the final product, After!

One thing I was sure of was that I did not want grout in the bathroom floors. We chose a vinyl sheet for our bathroom and the laundry room, and went with slightly nicer vinyl tiles for the kids bathroom. I'm pleased with both of them!

Here's the before and after pictures of the upstairs bedrooms!

These are the only two pictures we have of Meryn's room before its mini-makeover, but here's her room now!

It was painted with Valspar Brushed Lavender, carpet cleaned, replaced and window trimmed. 

This is the boys bedroom. It is one huge room, with double closets. In here, we painted Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray, with the dormer window walls painted Magnetic Gray, trimmed windows, cleaned carpet. 

And for the last room upstairs, the Master bedroom! As with the other bedrooms, all we did was paint, clean and stretch the carpets, and trim the windows, and in this room we added a light fixture. 

The only thing left to do upstairs is to figure out what to do for window coverings for the dormer window in our bedroom. I have two panels of curtains from India, the burgundy and gold ones hanging on the larger window, that I really love.  My options are to keep those and buy a roll down shade for the dormer, since there's hardly any wall on either side of i anyway.  Or simply get four matching panels. I'm leaning towards a shade that wouldn't cover the beautiful window frame.  What say you? :) 


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Watching and Waiting

Through the fall, I kept watching Zillow, but honestly, everything was now compared to what I thought the house from June could be.  (I mean, I had probably 15 pages of graph paper drawn out of floor plans, remodeling lists, and more... so much for having put it out of my mind, right?)  I kept trying to figure out a way to buy it for their opening bid and still be able to remodel it, but it just wasn't going to work.  I had peace and trust though, that God would lead us to a good house that would be a blessing to us for a long time.

Having done my research, I knew the house was in redemption until November 10th. So, my expectation was that it would get listed sometime in November, December, or January, for the asking price at the auction.  I had also figured that we'd need about $30,000 to remodel it and repair all the damage.

One Saturday morning in late October, we were all rushing around getting ready for the last of the soccer games for the season.  I heard my email ding, and quickly checked. It was an automated email from the bank announcing a new foreclosure listing in Derby.  It was THE house.  And I screamed out loud when I saw their listing price.  It was... you guessed it. $30,000 less than the opening bid at the auction. I could NOT believe it.  I sent it to my realtor immediately and sat in disbelief.  We set up a showing that afternoon as soon as we could, and we had a contractor ready to go to go with us to confirm  estimate on the remodel.

At 3 that afternoon, everyone gathered there.  My parents, realtors, contractor, everyone walked through it, taking our time. I remained convinced this was just a gift from a good God to us, and no one seemed to have any major reservations.   So we put a full price offer in.

But you know how big banks are.  They picked up all the offers that had come in over the weekend on Tuesday and looked at them.  They let us all know (I have no idea how many there were) there were multiple offers, and we had until Friday to give them our *best* offer.  Paul and I stewed on this, and thought, and prayed.  Should we play the game and try to outbid what we think others will offer by a few hundred dollars? Or do we offer as much as we can legitimately see paying given its condition and what we want to do?  I really, really wanted to do this.  There was something so redemptive about taking a house like this in a sad state and bringing life and beauty back to it. It's why Chip and Jo are so popular! :)  Plus, on the financial side, even with the remodel expenses, our investment would be well under the value of the house.  And our mortgage would be thousands less than if we bought a ready to go home in town.  On top of that, I will have gotten to pick out every last detail of it!  I was motivated. So we decided to give them our truly best offer.  We upped the ante a good bit.  And, we got the house. :)

But there were some unexpected hiccups along the way.  First, when they came to turn the water on so the house could be inspected, the water heater sprang a leak, and so the bank just decided to shut the water off and say no one could turn it on until after closing. This caused us to lose our first loan option: they would not loan for a house without water.  Thankfully, our realtor had connections and was able to get us in with a local bank that did in-house loans that was willing to take the risk.  So then we were back on track.  The inspection came back that it was a strong house with good bones, lots of life left in the heating/cooling, no major problems.  So that's another step down.  But, then the appraisal came in below our offer.  This could have been bad. The bank could have chosen to cancel the contract and re-list the house.  But, they decided to take the appraised value instead and keep moving forward.  This was great for us! :) It cut our buying price down a few thousand!  The last hurdle was with the loan.  The loan came through fine, but the PMI company (mortgage insurance) felt they were assuming too much risk in this situation.  We decided to plead our case.  I sent them my list of improvements and bids from contractors, proof that we had the funds to pay for them in cash, , and statements from inspectors cleaning up some questions they had.  We had to cancel our first closing date, but in the end, they decided to give us the go ahead, and we were able to close before the end of the year.

There are just so many moments in those six weeks where I saw God swing doors open and set up best case scenarios for us.  We were walking confidently into it with a perfect peace! (And, good thing I'm obsessive and already had copious Pinterest boards full of ideas and products so we could get started with the remodel ASAP! The contract required that we take occupancy within 60 days of closing!)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Discovery

When Paul and I got married, we really thought we'd never own a home.  We felt called to give our lives overseas for the kingdom of God, and felt like that would prevent us from ever buying and putting roots down somewhere.  But as is often the case, God has plans that don't necessarily go in a straight line like we imagine they will. When we'd been in India for seven years as a family, my body spazzed and I got so sick I lost over 40 pounds. Most of you know that story, but, it ended with our returning to the states quite unexpectedly.

Once we realized and surrendered that we were back to stay, we scrambled to figure out what we were going to do.  Paul ended up going to work with my dad, which was a really good fit for our family.  But, it meant that we wouldn't qualify for a home loan for two years.  I had figured out that now we were back, we'd be able to buy a house, and I was anxious to do that. But since I'd been waiting so long, and since I'd moved so many times, I had definite things in mind that I wanted. And living in a not-so-old suburb of a bigger city didn't provide those things. I wanted an old house, like at least a hundred years old. I wanted traditional charm and character, like colonial houses. I wanted a bedroom with a window nook set out on the roof.  Big trees. Columns. Big porch. Like houses built in the 20s and 30s.  Problem was: our town didn't start building neighborhoods until the 50's.  

I watched the market, stalked zillow. I saw what was available in our little town and for how much for two years.  It was hard for me to find something that I liked, let alone that I loved.  But one day last summer, in June, my mom mentioned that a friend of ours knew the house across the street from her would be for sale soon.  So I drove by.  I couldn't believe what I saw. I had seen this floor plan a few times before in town, and had thought it could work for us...
This is what I saw! Big tree! Big front porch! Dormer windows!!  It was also in a beautiful well kept neighborhood. A neighbor next door was out in his yard and I pulled over to ask him about it. It was vacant, and he asked if I wanted to go in and see it.  Of course I said sure! He let me in through the back door. 

I walked through it in about 15 minutes and really thought it could work for us. I came home and told Paul about it and made him go back with me (we let ourselves in the back that time!)  The problem was, it was being foreclosed on, so we had to wait on that process. 

Over the next few weeks, I drew out the floor plan, thought about how we'd remodel it, and how much we could afford to pay for it and still be able to afford to remodel it.  Because it was in terrible shape.  

This is the living room and dining room.  It had new windows, but they were unfinished. The dining room was missing the lower part of the wall and had no flooring. 

Kitchen: new sliding door, unfinished, subfloor, no base boards.

Kitchen. No backsplash or floor, desperately needed the cabinets to be cleaned/refinished, and new counters

Laundry room: totally gutted. 

Main bathroom: subfloors, 70s counter...

Main bathroom shower: nonexistent! There was some tile board there, but some down to the studs as well. 

Basement: it would need to be finished into a bedroom, with an escape window on that back wall, and an office if the house would work for us. Also, the siding was unfinished on the exterior and the driveway was missing the concrete in one large area. 

The good news is, the bedrooms and family room were in decent shape. 

Master bedroom

Second bedroom with double closets

Basement family room: all it needed was new carpet and paint

So, I did a bunch of research to find out that it was being auctioned in August.  At the auction no one made a bid and the bank ended up with the house. I also was able to find out their opening bid on the house, which is what I figured they would list it for. At that price, there was no way we'd be able to buy it *and* renovate it.  So I pretty much put it out of my head.  But, I did sign up to get the updates from the bank so I'd know when they listed it, which I thought would be in November. 
But, they surprised me big time!