Many people have no idea how you go about funding a project like this or how important the budget is before you even start. I am not an expert or particularly good at finances. Paul handles most of our personal accounts and before we were married I totally sucked at finances. That said, I do manage discretionary items for our clients at Hawthorn - basically almost everything that has to be ordered. And we keep very accurate historical data on past projects. This knowledge was the basis for creating our budget.
After we made and had an accepted offer on the property, I sent over a preliminary budget to Needham Bank, our Lender. We chose Needham Bank because they have a lot of experience with these types of projects. After they received the first budget, they conduct an appraisal. Your house purchase price plus construction loan amount must total 80% of its future value (some banks only require 90%). In our case, the assessed future value was 510k. So based on the purchase price this left 140k in a construction loan. My original budget was 190k. I’m sure you can do that math - this basically means we are doing more work ourselves. Which is fun and totally fine with us.
Another item you may not know is you don’t get reimbursed for stuff until it’s done. Meaning if you have 15k budgeted for windows, the Bank doesn’t give you that money until those windows are installed. Some construction companies bill in arrears, so you don’t have to front the money, but there is almost always going to be a situation when you have to float a large sum of money. Something that is also super important to know is you only get paid from the bank for the budgeted amount. If those windows actually cost 17k instead of 15k, you are still only getting 15k. You will have to come out of pocket for the difference. It took three paragraphs to cover the broad strokes of the finances. You can imagine how this part of the project might be really stressful!
Demo is simultaneously the best and the worst. It's the best because you finally feel like you are accomplishing something and the worst because it can take forever when you are doing it yourself. Paul and his brother have been doing most of the demo so far, which is hopefully saving us some money. In general, our goal is to do as much of the work on this house as possible that we can do ourselves. Demo is hard work, but it doesn't necessarily take a ton of skill. I would love to be over there swinging a sledgehammer myself, but renovating a house with two very young children means we take turns.
So far, we (and by we I mean Paul, ha!) has demo'd the majority of the kitchen and the upstairs hall bathroom. There was a ton of rot in the the bathroom tub walls, which was to be expected because there were holes (no joke) in the shower tile. This weekend we are hoping to get more of the windows in the house demo'd so we can move onto the roof and getting the new windows installed.
In my day to day life, I am largely responsible for ordering windows for my clients. So, over the course of time, I have come to learn a lot about new windows. What I have little experience with is really really old windows. And our house has really really old windows. Quite possibly the original windows. Fortunately, my very knowledgeable counterpart at work came over to the house this week to double check our window measurements. For those of you that don't know much about windows, the sides of the hole that the window goes in to is called the jamb. Our windows are so old that the jamb is carved out so the upper part of the window can slide up and down. And there are no counter weights - there is a mortared in window lock. Its pretty cool actually and I'm probably not doing a great job explaining the ins and outs.
Despite the craftsmanship - the windows need to be replaced. They need so much work to even make them function and they are not energy efficient. I would love to put Anderson Windows, but they are expensive and are not the best option for Vinyl. Even though Vinyl windows are not historically accurate, they are going to be the best fit for us, We had Harvey windows in our last house and I really liked them. They are not crazy expensive and they have an excellent warranty. Plus, since the window opening are out of square, the Vinyl windows will allow for a little bit of flexibility to fit in the opening better.
I am going to be saving all the window sashes that don't have cracked glass. I have big plans for some projects with these windows sashes that I will save for another post.
There are many things I love about this house, but the kitchen is last on the list. It's a dark and narrow forgotten room at the back of the house. There was only one entrance into the space and you would walk around a gigantic double-sided chimney to get to the sink. To be fair - the whole house was dark until we cut back a lot of the overgrowth around the house. But the kitchen didn't improve that much as far as natural light goes. Originally - my plan was just to open up another doorway on the left side of the fireplace so you would have two entrances into the kitchen - essentially giving you the ability to walk around the giant chimney. But the more I considered it, the more I just wanted to knock down the chimney.
This is the first of many decisions that are swayed by money. This chimney is huge and has 4 fireboxes. So it’s going to cost thousands of dollars to remove and we have a very tight budget for this renovation. Never the less, the plan was to knock it down. That is until Paul started demolishing the kitchen and actually opened up the wall to the left of the dining room fireplace. Now it actually feels much more open and bright. I'm torn! On one hand - I would love a big open kitchen. On the other hand - the fireplace feels charming. Decisions decisions...
Some time after our second child was born, I decided our house was too small. Alright, if I'm being completely honest, it was the minute we brought H home from the hospital. Our cute little antique farm house in the town of Medway, MA that we loved, was now too small for us. In reality, the size of the house was probably fine, but I could see on the horizon a not so distant future where one full bathroom was going to be a problem. It didn't help that our 3 year old, E was now asking for "her privacy" every time she used the bathroom.
In addition to being a full-time interior designer, I also have my real estate license and our firm has its own brokerage. So, I am the type of person that constantly looks at real estate listings. When we were first pregnant with E and living in an apartment, I dragged Paul to about 50 open houses. Sometime before H turned one I stepped up the search for our next house. We established a budget and started looking. We knew we wanted to stay in Medway since we love our town and our neighbors. In particular, I really wanted to stay in the same neighborhood which is close to the Library and Choate park where all the town events happen.
I would like to say we came across 4 Milford St right away, but that wasn't how it happened. Before there was 4 Milford, there was 181 Main st. 181 Main st was on the market for about 2 years before we saw it and its a beauty. But it took me 3 months to convince Paul we could handle the much needed renovation. In that time, a developer put the property under agreement. Cue the disappointment.
Undeterred, I kept looking. A couple of months later, 4 Milford came on the market. And it was a stunner if you could look past the over grown lot, dirt, and obvious neglect. We went to the open house and I will never forget afterwards Paul saying "That house is a big no for me". All it took was a construction budget, some hand sketches, and a Pinterest board and I convinced him to take the plunge!