What’s the plan?

Once our offer was accepted, the terms of the 203k loan meant that we essentially had to design the whole damn house ASAP, so that we could get as accurate a bid as possible from potential contractors. Our architect put together some basic drawings of the house in its current form (aka “existing conditions”), as well as a plan for what we wanted it to be.


Above are the existing condition drawings. As you can see, the first floor was just the basics: entryway, living room, kitchen, dining room, and a weirdly large bathroom. The second floor was just 3 bedrooms, with no bathroom.  The chimney – which was hidden inside a wall and did not connect to an actual fireplace – ran through the center of the entire house.

Our basic wish list for layout was: Continue reading

Real talk about the 203k loan process

This is a long one. I recommend a glass of wine. Got your wine? Good, let’s begin.

I never understood how people buying serious fixer-uppers paid for all the fixing-upping. Like, who has $150k on top of a down payment just lying around to pay for services? If you have all that dough, why not just buy a new house? Then, as we found ourselves strolling the vertigo-inducing uneven floors of the WPW, our agent mentioned this magical thing called a 203k loan.

Put simply, a 203k loan is a federally-backed loan whose goal is to rehabilitate houses that have fallen into disrepair. It packages the cost of the house purchase and all the renovations into a single mortgage with great interest rates and low down payments. It may almost sound too good to be true, but I assure you it’s not, as long as you (and the sellers) are willing to accept the vast amount of time and work that needs to happen before you can close.

203k loans are complicated because there are a LOT of moving parts that all need to come together in exactly the right order but also kind of all at the same time (you’ll notice a lot of “in the meantime” below). Your life will be far easier if you first and foremost find a mortgage consultant who specializes in 203k loans (sometimes called “renovation specialists”) and can help you make sure you get all your paperwork in order. I can’t overemphasize this point. Ours was amazing and I have no idea how we would have done this without him.

Once you have your mortgage consultant, here’s a basic breakdown of all the major steps involved: Continue reading

“Before” photos: the wood-paneled wonder

Like probably a lot of you, KC and I watch HGTV with great fervor. Despite the predictable formula, the poor cue card reading by the homebuyers (“I-can-really-see-our-family-enjoying-a-meal-in-this-kitchen”), and the ridiculous pretense that Every. Single. Couple. acts like they don’t want a fixer-upper (you do know what show you signed up to be on, right?), we can’t get enough of those kooky Property Brothers. One aspect of the show we especially like is that they always give these sad houses cute alliterative nicknames, like “The Shag Carpet Shanty” or “The Dark & Dingy Duplex.” (not sure if those are real, I just made them up). So our house, as you are about to observe with your own eyes, is clearly the Wood-Paneled Wonder. Behold (and please exuse poor iPhone pics):


FullSizeRender 3 Continue reading

In the beginning, there was a house.

I’ll be honest, I never thought we would own a house. Ever. A condo, maybe – but KC (born & raised) and I are city people, and the idea of having a free-standing, single family house (with a yard!) in a city just didn’t seem possible.

And then there was this house. This very old, very wood-paneled, very sloping-floored, very full-of-possibility house.


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I mean, those awnings! That façade! When we say “curb appeal” we literally mean curb, because it is right there.

Continue reading