So you’re considering an offer on a “vintage” home. Or you’re considering an offer on a “period” home. Or your considering an offer on an “existing” home that needs a little TLC. Read on…
If you’re building a new home or selecting your new home options move on… (right after watching our movie suggestion and breathing a sigh of relief that you took the “new” home path)
Dreams are great! There you are, sitting back with your eyes closed sipping lemonade, imagining life on your front porch surrounded by Victorian gingerbread with a cool summer breeze caressing your face. What a wonderful life.
Stop! before you do a thing, at least take a methodical approach to assessing the process and expense you will encounter after the sale and perhaps before you move in. Unless you’re an expert in this field, and watching a few episodes of “Flipping Everything” does not make you an expert, take a pencil in hand and organize your desires, your needs and the property’s current state.
Your first instinct is to upgrade kitchen and baths. So you just rough figure the cost, bite the bullet and be done. Right? Not really. That approach could prove to be your biggest mistake. I’ve seen it. I’ve made it.
Movie Suggestion: If you don’t believe my cautionary words get a copy of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (available on YouTube, Amazon and streaming services). Watch it, then watch it again. Then proceed to ponder the following three steps.
Preserve: We are talking about the basic structure of the house, the supporting utilities infrastructure and long ignored maintenance issues. This is an area for the experts. Your eyes will not catch much of this and it may not even show up on a standard home inspection, though that’s a good starting place. Everything you restore or upgrade from this point on will depend on a solid foundation, walls, floors, windows, roofs and modern utility infrastructure to serve your upgrades. This may involve removing some of what you want to restore and installing it again. A professional assessment of the needs and cost will depend on what you want to restore and upgrade. Get the complete picture in your mind first, then assess preservation steps and their cost.
Restore: These are things that caught your eye. You fell in love with them without really knowing them. Love at first sight doesn’t always work but an immediate background check can avoid a big mistake. People love the floor, the trim, the built-ins, the gingerbread, the stained glass, the doors, the knobs, the mantels, the gingerbread. Check to see if modern replacements are available for existing trim (exact size does matter, standards have changed over the years). Is that quaint gas fireplace surrounded with beautiful glazed porcelain actually an asbestos filled pit? What role will that stained glass play? You know the window replacements will be custom. Can you relocate utilities properly for those modern appliance replacements?
- Each feature that you love must be assessed as a whole throughout the home and the cost of restoration quantified.
- Each future environmental upgrade must fit without interfering with essential restoration and be supported by preserved or upgraded infrastructure.
Upgrade: Kitchen and baths are areas that need special attention as to both size and function. Know what you want first. Do you want to maintain the look and feel of the period or the particular structure? Understand the needs of a modern family go way beyond what they were 50 or 100 years ago. Obtain accurate drawings of your final desired floor plan.
Now engage a professional Kitchen and Bath Designer (hint… you will not find one at Lowes or Home Depot). After you have initial sketches and a design template made STOP. Take them to the people you intend to engaged in preservation and restoration. That professional template should provide accurate size, position and utility support information that the restoration and preservation crew will be required to support. You may have to repeat this process when you encounter unexpected problems.
There is a lot more to this than laid out here. It’s important to understand this is a complete project and needs a plan. It’s not a series of family fun do it yourself weekend adventures in remodeling or interior decorating. It’s serious business. Be aware of the whole process and project before you can estimate the impact on your finances as well as your nerves. Take the story of Mr. Blanding’s seriously. Remember the joy his family experience in the end. You may need that image to keep you going. It will be worth it if you maintain nerves of steel and your sanity.
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