The curb appearance of the house was terrible.
The yard had never really been taken care of and was overrun with weeds. In areas where the dog, old cars and other junk sat for long periods of time, the grass had died and large brown spots were left behind.
The stucco was cracked, pieces broken out and long rust streaks ran down the side of the house. Most of the lower windows were no longer functional and all needed new caulking and glazing. Most had various pieces of the window missing and were beyond repair. Almost all had signs of serious rot. None of the screens were intact and several were missing.
One of the hallmarks of a house built in the early 1920’s is the piano windows that take center stage in the formal living room. These windows didn’t open and were in terrible condition. It was sad to see how far the previous owners had let everything deteriorate to a condition almost beyond repair.
The upper windows had been broken out and the screens were missing. The front deck was in disrepair and had started sinking on one side. It was in dire need of a new stain job.
The chimney needed tuck pointing, and several bricks were missing.
All the fascia and soffit needed major attention besides just paint.
The fence between the yards was broken and crooked.
Neither garage door worked or could be repaired.
All the external doors of the house had to be replaced or repaired.
In the front porch, the north windows were missing. This allowed the rain to come inside, which caused major black staining and damage to the Oak floors and woodwork.
The downspouts were missing, or had long ago been taken down and not replaced. This caused water to gather and seep down into the basement. This resulted in mold and premature deterioration to the cement block. The basement windows were all broken, missing or patched together with whatever was available at the time to make repairs.
All the sidewalks had either sunk or were cracked. They had heaved which made for uncomfortable walking, not to mention the safety hazard.
The only thing that really didn’t need immediate attention was the roof it had been replaced three years earlier because of a storm and an insurance claim.
Other than these things listed and a few I have omitted, the house seemed in good condition.
I had to to keep telling myself this to avoid being overwhelmed; regardless, I was still overwhelmed. However, being numb helped.
Now that I had completed the demolition of the majority of the house and conducted a fine-tooth inspection, I was beginning to get a better picture.
It was grim.
I clearly new that all the things I had hoped to do was merely a wild dream. I knew at best after making all of the “must-do” repairs and bringing everything up to code, that there would only be a limited number of things I could do to make the house more appealing.
I already had entered into a pre-sale intent to purchase agreement with a friend; a person with whom I had previously done business.
The goal at this time was just to make the house habitable and get all the repairs done to code so I could sell it. The guy interested in buying the house had indicated that he might be interested in selling the house in which he was living and moving into this one, renting out the basement for additional income. The house was zoned R-2 and could easily be converted into a duplex because of the separate basement entry. It was exactly for this reason that I had planned to replace all the plumbing, rough in a new bathroom and install an egress window.
I confess at this point that, for all I cared, he could have raised sheep in this house. All I wanted was to finish it and sell it. I was so ready to be rid of this headache I had purchased.
Considering all the work that needed to be done, the challenge was going to be to set a selling price that would be acceptable to the purchaser. To state the obvious, my budget was tight. Although I had calculated for some wages to be paid for my labor, there was a very distinct possibility that I would not receive any wages. I was prepared for this.
It is hard to get motivated about a difficult long hard project for which you receive no return or even wages. I felt that I was up against a wall. The worst part was, on this house, there was no alternative but to roll up my sleeves and take my lumps. I had to get on with it, because the sooner that I did, the sooner it would be completed and off my hands. I was well aware of the financial hemorrhaging that was occurring every minute that the house wasn’t sold. This was not only discouraging but had the very real potential of financially devastating me and my business partner.
This could have been disastrous.
The bottom line was, I need to get busy and not become overwhelmed with the “what-ifs”. This was easier said than done. Talk is cheap – building material is not.
I started immediately with a detailed list of the scope of work that needed to be done. I listed everything that had to be done to meet code, along with everything that needed to be done just to make the house saleable regardless whether it was covered by a code issue or not. Everything had to be on the table and very thorough. There was no place for denial, wishful thinking, personal choices or tastes. I had to be completely neutral in my assessment. I couldn’t allow any emotional attachment or feelings cloud my judgment.
At this point I had no emotional attachment to the house at all. In fact, it had the beginning of, not only a bad taste, but a feeling of resentment towards it and the previous owners for not taking better care of the home. Of course, this was pointless; I had what I bought – junk.
No one was to blame for this mess, but me.
I just had to bite my lip and get the job done.
With so many things that I had found wrong with the house, my poor lip was already raw, black and blue from biting it.
The maximum amount of money I had available to me for remodeling was forty-grand. That sounds like a lot of money until you start construction or making repairs. It’s amazing how quickly that amount is spent.
Even though doing my own labor gave me a considerable advantage and would stretch my budget it wasn’t pleasant to think of the several months more work that lay ahead of me without getting paid.
In fact, to be honest, it was downright discouraging. But that was the situation. All the bitching, groaning and complaining in the world wasn’t going to change it. I had to just get over it and get going.
In the back of my mind, the best I had could hope for was to spend no more than forty-grand, bringing my investment up to about one hundred and eighty thousand dollars without accounting for the carrying costs and some other miscellaneous costs. I had hoped that, when all was said and done, I could take out five grand for my labor. The good faith pre-sale purchase agreement would yield me $187,500. This left a $2500 cushion for unexpected cost overruns. This amounted to about 6 percent of the remodeling budget; at best, a very minimum amount.
That is a kind way of saying, “I’m so screwed if something goes wrong”.
Not a fun position to find yourself in at the beginning of the largest remodeling project that I have ever undertaken.
The stakes were high.
One other potential hurdle with the pre-sell purchase agreement was that, at the end of the project, either party was free to amend or cancel the intent to sell or buy. For the most part, the agreement was done to secure the money to remodel the project.
When I thought about it, my headache returned; it was a good thing I was mostly numb, or perhaps, simply dumb. Regardless I had to move forward.
I returned to the basement because it was the most logical place to continue the remodeling. I had already replaced all the plumbing and significant portions of the concrete floor. All the previous walls and the temporary ceiling had been removed. Everything else had been stripped to the bare walls.
I replaced all the basement windows with glass block. This would allow in much needed light while securing the basement. Because, in all likelihood the next owner would want to have rental income, it had to have an egress window installed to conform to code. I felt this gave some much needed flexibility for future expansion. I needed to increase the value of the house. One of the few ways I could do this, without adding an addition to the house, was to utilize all the existing space in the wisest way possible. The basement exit, which was separate from the rest of the house, enabled an easy future conversion to a duplex if necessary. The immediate plan was to simply make this a “mother in law’s apartment”. Postponing the conversion to a full duplex saved a lot of work and a lot of money.
Money was tight and had to be well spent.
I was taking a large risk but felt I had no other choice.
Only time would tell.
For now, this was only one of many worries, and surprises yet to be uncovered.
Copyright… all rights reserved D.Jerzak 05/10/07