Can We Do It?

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Can We Do It?

Postby BenjiGirl on Wed Sep 27, 2006 6:37 pm

Hi, all. This is my first time here...so glad to have found the site because as of last night we are considering buying a house built in 1860 that needs a whole LOT of work: new garage, attic conversion for our girls, rooms gutted, new kitchen and bathrooms, wood floors refinished, windows, lots and lots and lots of paint indoors and out, new landscaping, and more. I'm sweating just thinking about it.

We're just learning about renovation mortgages, consulting a contractor (major sticker shock), and hope to schedule a "feasibility inspection", which is required for the renovation mortgage. I'm sure you know all about it...

I am petrified!

My husband can do a lot of this stuff, but so much needs to be done, it's very overwhelming. We both work full-time and have three kids. The whole thing is dependent upon the seller taking a much-reduced offer on the place. The house has only been listed for a few weeks but he has already dropped the price $20,000. Still not nearly enough. If we don't get this house, it will surely be another old place because that is what we love.

I've read the suggestions in articles - adding 15-20% to the budget, trying to live elsewhere while you do the messy stuff, only buy good structure, expect delays, etc.

Any other good ones? I'm the pessimist - always wanting the worst case scenario - and my husband is the optimist. I'm hoping we can meet somewhere in the middle and have a lovely home without needing to live on pancakes.

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Postby barrett on Wed Sep 27, 2006 7:09 pm

it sounds like a lot of your problems are cosmetic, etc. you'll find the time and money for that as time passes. you can live there while you do it. it may be messy and uncomfortable, but just think about the end results. what's wrong with the kitchen and bathrooms, do they function for now? if they work then live with them and update them when you can. painting, floor refinishing, and landscaping should be the least of your worries as long as the bones of the house are good.

buy it and do what you can on evenings and weekends. it may take years, but you'll save thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars if you paid somebody else to do the work. i think your kids would also be more than happy to help you guys work on the old house. and then years from now they will have good stories to tell their potential spouses.

and the house has been reduced by $20,000? we were lucky to get $2,000 off the asking price! we have an old arse farmhouse built around 1850, it needs lots of work, we do what we can when we can, and that's what memories are made of. we know we have many years of work ahead of us, but we can say that we bought an old crappy farmhouse and made it our home.

got any pictures to help us with your problems?

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Hi, Barrett...Thanks!

Postby BenjiGirl on Wed Sep 27, 2006 7:44 pm

Yes, everything seems functional and we're pretty sure the bones are good. Once we get some kind of estimate from the contractor, we plan to schedule this feasibility inspection and have the pros look at everything more closely.

The seller tried to make the house a 2-unit rental property and got as far as splitting the front and back off from one another. He just never finished the job and now that work (lousy) has to be reversed. This thing he calls a "garage" is a pile of mismatched sticks over stones. That will be a big (but necessary for moving) expense.

But yeah, as you said, it really could be a lot worse and much of it is cosmetic. We don't know what's behind the drop ceilings.

I think the price drop came from other potential buyers going in and then giving feedback to the realtor. It is still overpriced and we're hoping the appraisal will back that up substantially. And then there is this market cool-down...

Something that seems to vary wildly: the cost of various projects. Guess it depends on the materials you choose and how much work you do yourself, yah?
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Postby BenjiGirl on Wed Sep 27, 2006 7:45 pm

I took pictures, but have to download.
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Postby barrett on Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:24 pm

"We don't know what's behind the drop ceilings."

when i removed the drop ceiling on my enclosed front porch, i had water fall on me like niagra falls! there was fiberglass insulation between the old beadboard ceiling and the newer drop ceiling that held all of the water from a mysterious roof leak. there's some things a house inspector will never see or find, be warned. like leaks into the ceiling of a porch that has been enclosed.

our house was listed as $102,000 but we got it for $98,000. and it was still the least expensive house in town. the more expensive houses needed more work and had a lot less usuable yard space. some had backyards that went almost straight up a hillside. yard space that we could use was important to us.

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Postby jeepnstein on Wed Sep 27, 2006 8:41 pm

Go out and a) buy a bottle of your favorite vice, b) get some takeout, c) rent "The Money Pit". Settle down and watch the movie from the point of view of a documentary.

I especially enjoy the part where the Contractor's crew shows up. They are a mix of circus freaks, outlaw bikers, and goodness-knows-what. "Oh, they'll be done in a couple of weeks." That could very well be your lot in life.

Seriously. If you don't HAVE to have it done all at once then you can enjoy the whole thing. If you demand perfection on the day you move in then I hope you have a never-ending fountain of cash. Us mere mortals take our time and enjoy the ride. I've known folks who had unrealistic expectations and they were miserable and they eventually ruined their house. Haste makes waste on an old house.

Hire what you just can't handle. An example might be rewiring the entire house in six to eight weeks and passing all the inspections. Take your time and enjoy the rest.

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Postby Greg on Wed Sep 27, 2006 10:24 pm

I must admit, I’m having a bit of trouble picture the condition of the place. The first two things on your wish list are new garage and converting the attic for the girls. Those are luxury items for any house and this is an 1860s house. Then you talk about how the price has recently dropped because of the condition and the bad work the owner did…..something doesn’t mesh here.

In a house this old you need to look very, very, very closely at the very basics: electric, plumbing, HVAC, roof, foundation. If all of those are good (and that’s a big “if”) then the rest is down hill. If the inspectors give a green light to all those things, then things like landscaping, paint, and refinish floors can be done at anytime after you move in. Those are weekend fun projects in the life on an old house owner.
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Postby Tom on Wed Sep 27, 2006 10:37 pm

Yea, shoot, compared to my house when I bought it, yours sounds like a cakewalk. Sounds like a lot of cosmetic stuff - the tasks that offer immediate reward without risking the structure of the house.

I think you are better off living in the house as much as possible during the work - much less expensive. Should save your money for direct improvement to the home.
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Postby S Melissa on Thu Sep 28, 2006 9:31 am

Lessons from the school of hard knocks (and bruised knuckles!):

Take your time line and double it - you may get done sooner but it will save on disappointment if you miss your first mark.

Take your budget and double it - you may come in cheaper - but you will have less shock and pain if you plan for unexpected "finds" when you rip into something - known as the "mushroom effect."

Get one or two key rooms done right away - even if they are somewhat temporary in their finish. This will give you a respite from the rest of the disaster. It may be a kitchen or bathroom so you can enjoy some level of civilization and a family gathering room - even if it is the dining room or a future bedroom - what they are in the end isn't as important as having a place to plop your bum and enjoy some down time. (mine shifted from room to room as we moved through the house - my bedroom has been in every room of the house as we moved through it as well. :D )

Make friends - who will work for beer and pizza and the pleasure of your company. If they have skills so much the better - if not, then things like painting and wall paper stripping and grunt work is valuable! Also, think about hiring High School seniors or college guys for some of the grunt work as well. They work cheap and their young backs are so much better and some things.

Enjoy it. You will have the respect and envy of all you know when you are done. You will be seen as a visionary when your old house sparkles with new paint and wall paper and lovely vintage (or vintage looking) finishes and fixtures. You will know your house like you know your kids. I can still visualize where the plumbing and electric runs are behind the walls. You will work your butt off to get the walls prepped for painting or paper, and folks will be awed by the finish -but you will know that was the least of the work. And we will be here to help as much as we can. Good luck :D
Canton, MI
1860 Italianate - Reuben Huston Home
S Melissa
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Postby leowis1 on Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:21 pm

I love the movie "The Money Pit". I laugh every time. I took pictures (as you have seen) of my renovation. I moved them all to the computer and burned them to a DVD. I also got this software "DVD RipIT", which can take a small portion of a movie and make it a file. In the middle of my slide show I cut into 'The Money Pit'. Its the scene where the bathtub crashes through the floor and Tom Hanks just starts laughing! HA HA HA HA

After the kitchen blows up and the turkey flies across the courtyard and lands in bucket, Shelly Long says "Well, the turkey is done". Tom Hanks replies, "So is the kitchen." HA HA HA HA "All I want to do now is enjoy a nice luke warm bath" HA HA HA HA

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