Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Money Pit: Chapter 1

"The Discovery"...

Since the most common form of salutation directed at me these days is, "How's the house coming?," I figure it makes sense to get the history of the topic out of the way so any updates can be reported without the need for background information. So here we go:

We had been actively house hunting for about year when we stumbled upon the property I so lovingly refer to as "The Money Pit." Our list of requirements for a house were a minimum of 4-5 bedrooms (3 of which needed to be on the main floor since the boys are still young), a master bathroom, a separate living room and family room, either a second kitchen or space to put one in (to function as my workshop), a walkout basement (since I would be working in said basement), and a garage -- 1 car, 2 car, didn't matter as long as there was one. We set our sights on a minimum of 2800-3000 sq ft. In Utah, recorded square footage includes the basement (which are 99.9% of the time finished living areas), so 2800 sq. ft is not as livable in Utah as it is in other states. We knew we wanted to remain close to the city since Tyler works by the University and most of my clients/jobs are in Salt Lake. I preferred we stay in the Holladay/Millcreek area. Our agent convinced us to spend a day looking in Sandy and Cottonwood Heights as well, but we never considered those areas.

We found a house in Holladay we fell in love with in August 2008. It was literally a block away from our current home so the location couldn't have been more convenient to Tyler's grandparents whom we spend a significant amount of time looking after. It was love at first sight -- built in the 60's with a retro, roomy style. The ceilings were vaulted, it had gorgeous trees on the property with a great backyard, met all our requirements (minus the second kitchen, but I felt I could work with the space). The only downside was that it did need some cosmetic work inside (popcorn ceilings, old windows, original leaky bathrooms, etc.), and down the street was a gas station. The gas station was close enough that standing in the front yard, I could look south and see it. This really, really concerned me for obvious resale purposes. Still, it was a house that would last us a long time, so after spending a month thinking about it, we decided to make an offer. The house had been listed for 6 months with no offers so we went in low. They countered, we countered, and we finally decided on what seemed to be a fair price. Then came the inspection. It had some notable electrical and plumbing issues, but the biggest concern was the roof and the ceiling. It was a tar and gravel roof that was well past its prime and would cost about $8000-10K to replace. We also had the popcorn ceiling tested and it was of course littered with asbestos. After adding everything up we were looking at about $20K in necessary repairs...before anything cosmetic. We went back to the sellers and asked for $8000 in concessions, against our agent's advice. At that point we were already feeling uneasy about the property and I had already detached myself enough to say if I didn't get the concessions, I was going to walk. They came back rather upset, offering us $1000. So I didn't even bother countering. We walked. And I felt good about that decision.

Fast forward to December. We were starting to feel desperate. Jonah was starting school in the fall and we felt we really needed to pick something, anything, so we could get him enrolled. I started widening my search and shortening my list of requirements and eventually I stumbled upon a house in Sugarhouse. Sugarhouse is a ridiculously charming neighborhood in Salt Lake City. Tree lined, picturesque streets, as pedestrian of a community as you get around here, eclectic shops and restaurants...from a real estate perspective its liquid gold. (and resale potential had big very important to us from the beginning...blame it on my moving around as a kid...) The house I found was listed on Friday. It was smaller than we wanted, but I figured it didn't hurt to look. It was an estate sale and had been a one-owner home. It was in great condition for its age and while it hadn't seen significant cosmetic updates in decades, the bones of the house seemed strong enough. We saw it on Monday, and in a move more impulsive than any Tyler has EVER made, we put an offer on it that night, knowing it would be gone if we didn't. They didn't counter and we were under contract. Inspection time came and the inspector we had used previously was out of town so we used someone our agent recommended -- we didn't find out until later that he had never actually worked with him before. That inspector was horrible. He must have spent a total of 40 minutes in the house and the stuff he glossed over (that we discovered after the fact...another story completely) was incredible. The biggest concern for me at that moment was that the guy refused to get on the roof because it was winter time. What?! I understand you don't want to slip and fall, but come on. Why should I pay full-price for an inspection that is not complete? (And yes, I did ask for a reduced price, and no, I did not get it.) I called my agent and told him the deal was off unless I knew the roof was in good shape (flashback to the house we were previously under contract with). So the agent scheduled his licensed roofer to get on the roof, clear the snow, and give it a thorough inspection. The inspection came back with a green light so we closed on the house.

And this is what we bought: 2 beds, 1 bath, a living room, dining room, and minuscule kitchen on the main floor, and a family room, 1 bed, 1 bath, 2nd kitchen and utility room in the basement, all squeezed into 2400 sq. feet. Very typical, if not larger-than-normal, for Sugarhouse. It was indeed a walkout (though not a full walkout like I'm used to) and it had a 2 car garage (which we refer to as a car-and-a-half). And a postage-sized backyard. Really tiny. But people don't buy those houses because of the size. They're looking for character and location. Done.

We closed on January 9, 2009. At the time, we got a good deal (who knows now with continually declining property values) and an excellent mortgage. But we weren't delusional. We knew it needed a TON of work. We weren't strangers to remodeling, but I don't think anyone could have imagined just how much work would eventually go into it.

Here's the Before photos:

The planter you see off to the right actually had three pieces of PVC extending from the planter to the ceiling to look like decorative pillars. So very UNdecorative. My brother-in-law popped those off before the photo was taken.

Tyler actually tried to fight me on removing the planter. He thought it had character. I thought he was on drugs. As a mom, I immediately started anticipating the number of trips to Instacare resulting from boy-flagstone collisions. Not good.

Dining room. Before anyone calls dibs on the chandelier, know my dad walked into it and broke it before we had even owned it a week. And we did find out after we sold it (broken) for $10 that it WAS real crystal and worth a good little sum.

It was hard to get a good photo of the main kitchen simply because it was SO SMALL. There was no where to stand. Note the plaid carpet...and the "island" which went up to my knees. I'll post more before pictures of this beauty when we get into the kitchen remodel specifics.

Boys' bedroom. I survived sharing with my sisters. I hope they do, too, because I don't have life insurance on either of them.

Main bathroom. It. Is. Pink.

Hallway. Tyler fought me on the closet doors, too. This time he won and got to keep the 50's wood.

Master Bedroom. Before anyone passes out because of the size, just know this is VERY TYPICAL for the age and location of the house. Anyone house shopping in this area knows this is what you get. Our furniture will barely fit.

Shot of the original steel windows with storm windows and lovely awnings which kept it feeling very cave-like. Just the ambiance you want in a house, right?

Downstairs kitchen, or my workshop. Take a look at these appliances (don't ask for them -- they've already been sold) and the awesome carpet!

Utility Room. Two furnaces. One is original to the house (so 60 years old), and the other is about 30 years old. I tried to negotiate a new furnace, but they're in such good condition, I had HVAC guys telling us there's no reason to replace them. I'm just hoping they hurry up and die before I stop renewing my home warranty. At least the AC is newer.

Downstairs family room.

Downstairs bedroom.

Just wait until you see the transformation...if it ever gets finished.

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