Bloggers tend to show only the things that “made it.” The screw ups, the mistakes, the ugly and the well-that’s-not-quite-what-I-envisioned are easily hidden when you control the camera. Whether it’s a dish that turned out tasting horrific, a craft that ended up looking like a child’s kindergarten project, or a major renovation, things can go wrong.
When I started blogging I promised myself that I would be open about the ugly moments as well. Okay, maybe not all of them… So today I’m going to share what I consider my biggest renovation mistake. It won’t look horrific, so don’t just go scrolling and expect to see something hilarious. Just, you know, learn from my mistake, eh?
This was the basement of our previous home when we first looked at it. I wasn’t into woodworking then or we might have just made an offer that included the tools and kept it!
This was after we purchased the home. Despite the lack of walls and any sort of creature comforts, this thing saw fairly frequent use as a guest suite due to our half mile proximity to the ocean.
A good part of the reason that we bought this home was because of the lack of homes with more than three bedrooms in the community. The home had been built in 2004, so we were reasonably assured that it was solid, and the extra space downstairs just screamed possibility. In all likelihood we were not going to spend that long in the area, so turning this around while we lived in it made good sense.
*Now, pay attention to this point: When we moved to that city we planned to rent. But there were not rentals. They were largely taken by those who served in the government in various seagoing enterprises. So we bought. And we decided that that extra space downstairs with the walk out and the separate entry made for a great additional suite. We made that plan, and we stuck with it. Remember that.*
Guys, I cannot even begin to tell you how frugal this entire renovation was, upstairs and down. You can check out the upstairs kitchen renovation here. That was in part because life is expensive, and mostly because the community we were in simply would not support a high end renovation. In other words, we would never get our investment out of that home if we chose upgraded…well, anything. If we did anything right, it was that. We chose our finishes based on the area, not on what current trends say every home should have.
Framing: Completed by ourselves. Electrical by an electrician friend.
Sheet rock: Us, and I swear we will never, never, never, never bite off such a big drywall project ever again. Ever.
Have I mentioned that we had a newborn and a just barely walking toddler at this point? Also, my husband worked and went to school, while I was teaching college classes part time. None of that has anything to do with the point.
Ready for paint at last. Notice the plumbing in that wall?
It is worth noting that I am a fantastic paint estimator. My estimate: 24 gallons after primer. Actual use: 23.5 gallons of paint. That also has no bearing on the point of all this.
Flooring: You guess it, done by us.
Totally gratuitous kid picture.
Did you remember the plumbing? That’s right, we made a kitchen. Out of nothing at all. (Cue song.)
I’m going to show you the real estate photos we had taken (by a photographer who clearly didn’t realize it would be better to turn the lights off.) Then we will see if you spotted our big error.
No, it’s not that the stove is right next to the fridge, though that’s pretty well a crapper as well. Actually, the stove wasn’t connected. The line for it was in the wall, but to connect it would have required permitting the basement as a second unit…for $11,000.
So there it is. An additional 1200 square feet, including a kitchen, two bedrooms, and a full bath, with a walkout to a private yard and gorgeous view. That brought the entire house to 2500 square feet, five bedrooms, and 3 bathrooms. In truth, there are not a lot of those out there.
We ended up wrapping up our time in that community faster than expected, just over two years since moving in. The basement renovation took a little under a year of that time. We were excited to put it on the market, even knowing that homes moved slowly there, and it had been that way for quite some time.
It took seven months to complete the sell of the property.
So what was our single biggest renovation mistake?
We projected our experience onto the imaginary buyers of the home rather than objectively analyzing the market.
Yes, rental availability continued to be a problem in the community. But where we imagined a younger family much like us purchasing the home and maybe offsetting their mortgage with some rent money, it was not younger people or families that looked at the home. So who did? Couples nearing retirement age that liked the master bedroom on the main floor.
We were so wrong.
Now, we consider ourselves fairly objective people when it comes to home purchases. We never were overly attached to the home, beyond the feeling of accomplishment in completing a large scale renovation. We bought the house knowing we would sell it and with the plan to get some money back in doing so. The good news is that we still came out nicely right side up, though not quite to the extent we had hoped.
If we were to do it all again we would better analyze the market by talking with real estate agents to get a sense for who the buyers there really were. I would remember that our experience may well be unique, and seek to learn more about what other people were experiencing. Again, we were lucky and still walked away just fine, but not without kicking ourselves a little. Life lesson learned.
Oh, and the couple that did buy the home? They are using the downstairs as her craft area.