Monday, February 05, 2007

Home Improvements

As I alluded to in an earlier post, I haven't been blogging as much because my life has been consumed with other stuff. A large portion of that "other stuff" involves our house.

First the background...

We own (well, there's the mortgage, but you know what I mean!) a 3 bedroom, 1+ bath (toilet and sink in basement) Cape Cod house in a wonderful community. When I was still teaching, I taught at the high school in this district and we knew that we wanted our kids to be able to attend it. After C. was born and I decided that I couldn't stand to WOH fulltime, we made some lifestyle changes, and moved out to a cheaper community and rented, so we could save up some money and eventually move back to this side of town and this community. We sort of stumbled upon our current house. We were visiting some friends' new baby, and arrived a bit early, so decided to drive around. We saw the "for sale" sign in front of this house and, though it looked too small, decided to check it out. It was at the end of an Open House and the realtor nearly hugged us when we walked in--he'd had no one come in the entire time. We looked around and almost immediately fell in love with it. It was (and is) much larger on the inside than it seems on the outside. The kitchen was a LOT larger than kitchens we'd seen in every other house on this side of town. We had some reservations because it is on a busy street (but there's a park across the street) and there is no back yard (instead there was a beautifully-landscaped SIDE yard). It had been on the market quite awhile and was a bit out of our price range (and budget). We decided to make an offer anyway--at the top of our approved loan value. We went back and forth, but eventually did get the house!

One of the things we'd dreamed about doing someday was popping out a dormer on the upstairs bedroom (those of you familiar with Cape Cods know that the upstairs has those slope-y ceilings) and turning the unfinished attic into a second full bathroom. I think we always thought that we'd actually end up moving to a bigger house and considering this our starter home. Still, as we'd see friends and neighbors trying to sell their houses, and we'd see houses sitting on the market for months and months, and we'd see no interest rates as good as what we got when we refinanced five years ago, remodeling began to look better and better. Besides, we LIKE our house. We LIKE all the work that we've done on it, and that my dad did on it before he died. We love our neighbors, and we don't want the hassle of buying another house and of selling THIS house!

Meanwhile, we started taking a look at our finances. When we bought our Honda Odyssey five years ago, the only way we could afford the payments was to take out a SIX YEAR loan (not something I'd recommend). Our plan was to pay more than the minimum payments and, whenever we had a chunk of "extra" money, to put that toward the van. After all, interest on a home loan is tax deductible, and the car loan is only 1.9% interest, so it made sense to put whatever we could on the van. So between savings and Christmas gifts (thanks, moms and dad!), we were able to pay off the van loan in December--15 months early!

Now we had an extra $400 a month to "play" with. We crunched some numbers and figured out what size home equity loan we could take out with payments in that neighborhood, and we started to get estimates from contractors.

Imagine our surpise when we realized that yes, we could actually get that work done, for that amount of money! We talked to five contractors--one never called back; one heard how small our project was, and declined; one spent ten minutes here and turned in a lame bid at $300 under our budget; one designed a great, all-inclusive addition for a bit above our budget; and one turned in a nice bid for $10K *under* our budget.

So you know who we went with...

I should put this in a timeline probably. We started the loan applications the second week of January, when G. was still on his semester break from teaching. We interviewed contractors that week and the next one. We decided to go with the one on my birthday (January 18th). We then struggled with plan designs for over two weeks before settling on one that we're all happy with, and that should be structurally safe! :) Please note that I just condensed a month's worth of stress into one paragraph--it wasn't fun.

But here we are. We have the plans (which we LOVE), we have the loan approved (money should be in our account tomorrow) and we have the final meeting with the contractors tonight to get the FINAL dollar amount and what will and will not be covered (I know it always costs more than you think). I think it's finally safe to post that this thing is going to happen. I promise to post more details after tonight's meeting. Cross fingers for me that I'm pleasantly surprised financially....

3 comments:

sewingsuzee said...

Congratulations! So exciting! We need "before" pictures!

Abby said...

Very cool. I second the request for "before" pictures and also want to see pictures along the way. :)

Stefaneener said...

Oh, yes! I want ALL the gory details, which will hopefully keep my home improvement urges in check.