Friday, January 15, 2010

Part II - The Beginning of a Big Ol' Renovation - How We Got To Where We Are Today

We weren’t always so certain about our love for home renovations. In fact, it was quite accidental the way it all happened. We had been married about one year and made the decision to purchase our first home. To our surprise, we learned that we could make the monthly mortgage payments by renting it out and so we did!

Our first home (purchased in 2004)

We spent the next several months saving our money for another down payment and were able to purchase a little 700 square foot home in Madison Valley (Seattle, WA). Our intention was to fix it up and live in it for several years. But, with all things in life, nothing is certain.

Our first purchase and current rental property in Fremont (Seattle, WA)

One spring day we were walking our dog and saw a “for sale” sign being put up in front of major fixer with a ton of potential. We were like Pavlov’s salivating dogs! We knocked on the door, spoke to the agent and that same evening, we signed papers and became homeowners of a second home! If only buying a home were so easy in today’s economy, right? In hindsight, it was really a risky financial move for us to own both homes at the same time but we were young and optimistic (notice I didn’t say naive). Luckily, the real-estate market was still hot and we were able to sell the little house right before closing on the second home.

Our Renovated Home In Madrona (Seattle, WA)

The finished dining room: note the beautiful retro light fixture from Rejuvenation and we LOVED these site-finished Tiger Wood

The kitchen "before" (with the exception of the slide in oven/range and stainless side-by-side refrigerator

It's not a perfect picture but notice the bowling alley that we used for the countertop ($75 - we win!)

Again, we intended to stay for a few years and began extensive renovations. We landscaped, built a new deck, put up cedar shingles, installed new hardwood floors, skim coated and painted all of the walls, installed a new staircase, re-did two bathrooms, new kitchen/appliances, and re-plumbed the entire home. Just when we thought we could see the light at the end of the “renovation” tunnel, we decided to move to Los Angeles! It may sound crazy but we weren't feeling challenged and were thirsting for adventure.  We were fortunate to be able to sell our house right as the "bubble" was about to burst and headed to sunny L.A.

After three home renovations, two major career changes and a bold move from Seattle, Washington to the heart of Los Angeles, California we find ourselves again knee deep in the biggest renovation to date and it feels great.  After 18 months of intense conversations, and five long months of aggressive haggling with everyone from the bank, lender, seller, contractors, and appraisers, we FINALLY purchased our new home!

I feel like I sound like a TV show when I say this but this new home is truly the biggest, craziest, most extreme renovation we have taken on to date! It is 3800+ square foot structure, with three units, a garage and a huge driveway all situated on a 10,000 square foot lot! Sounds cool, yes? It's in the heart of a major historic preservation overlay zone (HPOZ) in the center of Los Angeles. And, while we love the character and charm of this historic area, this also means that we will need to get all major exterior renovations/landscaping approved by the very strict HPOZ board (color of paint, plantings, windows, driveway, roofing materials, etc…) I like to think positively about this but they can be sticklers and I feel like they should be thrilled that we bought the biggest piece of poop in the neighborhood but we'll have to wait and see...

Here's our "baby"  She's a real just wait - - with a little sweat and love she's gonna look gorgeous!

To make it even more challenging, we are on a very tight budget. Our motto is, “the best for the cheapest!" We are excited to take you on this journey with us. It’s not going to be easy, it’s not always going to be fun, and it may make us go mad but we hope you’ll stick with us. We’ll learn together and hopefully we’ll show you a thing or two. We don’t claim to be experts. Just ordinary people who believe you can do a renovation for less than some of those shows on TV (I mean, what are those $100k kitchen renovations about?) The best way to save money is to act as your own contractor, which is exactly what we are doing (oh….and your own landscaper, tile-layer, skim coater, hard-wood floor installer, demolition expert, foundation repairperson etc…)

Enjoy our journey and we’d love to hear any tips/advice/suggestions you might have. We also like hearing about things you like too! Thanks for following.

~Sincerely – Russ and Ang

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