Monday, December 28, 2015

Kate's Renovation: Part One

It's been a looong time since we last wrote something here, and I wish I had more than the usual excuses, but I won't bore you with them. If you follow Susie and I on Instagram, you've seen that our daily life is filled with more clients than ever and after our day job ends, Susie goes home to kids who are growing up too fast and now I go home to a baby of my own... a fixer-upper.

If you do happen to follow me, you've seen that in 2014 I got married. And in 2015, we turned our attention towards finding a house. My husband and I have always talked about finding a home that would need lots of work. For me, it's always been a dream to rehab a home and work on my own project. For my husband, his desire to spend wisely in real estate dovetailed nicely with his willingness to work hard (probably much harder than he anticipated).. 

I can't go forward without first giving you a little bit of background in to the Seattle real estate market, because it helps add context to the crazy situation we entered in to when we eventually found our house. Bear with me on this wordy post, I swear I'll get to the photos soon, but without some of this you will think we are even crazier than you're bound to think we already are.

After getting the go-ahead from lenders, we found ourselves in one of the craziest booms that Seattle has ever seen, with some of the lowest inventory on record. We attempted to purchase a couple homes, but found ourselves in what's become a typical scenario here: Pre-inspections in order to submit qualified offers (with no contingencies) on one review date. Buyers are usually one of many (in our case 10 other offers was typical) and the winner was always the all cash buyer who had offered much more than asking. It's not uncommon for a house to go for $100,000 over asking right now. 

As you could imagine, the combination of all those factors gave us a feeling of moderate desperation. On one hand, we loved our apartment. On the other, we were going stir-crazy in 575 (well laid-out and charming) square feet. One day in June, my husband called and simultaneously sent me a link to a home on Craigslist. It turns out that he had been periodically checking the property postings and a home he had seen months earlier had been "re-listed," but this time for much less. Now, it was actually in our wheelhouse. 

What he'd sent me was a listing for a 1924 Colonial Revival in one of Seattle's best neighborhoods. The listing had 4 photos and little else for information, but we immediately called the seller to set up an appointment. I've probably glossed over the fact that my husband had been checking Craigslist, and I should have been more hesitant, but the fact of the matter is that he has bought and sold so much over Craigslist in the near-decade that we've been together, that it only seemed too fitting. OF COURSE he was checking Craigslist, I should have known he would be. 

"Listing" Photo

The listing was unusual, however. The seller requested no real estate agents and the photos of the interior showed a less than well-kept home. When we arrived, it only became more clear that we were dealing with the unusual situation of a young man selling the home of recently-passed parents, one of whom had spent their later years dealing with a hoarding disorder. A bunch of other issues played in to the current state of the house and I'm sure the photos I'm including here can speak for themselves since I'd rather not air their laundry. I actually arrived before Hans and when he walked in and looked at my face, he mistook the expression for disgust -- another waste of time. And well.. disgust may have been present, but it was hidden behind what was actually the crazy look in my eyes that said "I WANT THIS HOUSE." 

At the end of the day, we had an awesome real estate attorney who helped protect us through the sale, which dragged on for longer than normal and almost fell through a few times. It was not an enjoyable process or one at all similar to what I pictured when thinking about buying our first home.

We also decided during the process that if it helped us get the house, we would let the current owner leave whatever he wasn't able to dispose of... wouldn't you know, that was just about everything. Although we're told by neighbors that truckloads had been taken out in order to get the house ready for listing. I've heard a few people use the expression "narrow passageways" which makes me grateful for the condition we got it in, despite it all.

"Listing" Photo

"Listing" Photo
The above photos were included in the ad, with one more of the backside of the house.

Here are some more that I took that day and on the day we took possession:

Because the sale had gotten delayed, we ended up closing on the house while we were in Europe for a summer vacation. Not ideal, but thankfully we kept in touch with everyone well enough to make sure things were progressing well and we gave my mom power of attorney to sign the paperwork, since we wouldn't be near a U.S. Consulate. 

On August 2nd, we turned the key as owners. We knew we'd be walking in to a disaster, but neither of us were prepared for the extent of it. In fairness, it had all been there when we bought it... it's just that nothing left in the 2 months we'd been waiting to take possession. Even the rotting food in the broken fridge and the bed sheets on the (now deflated) air mattress. 

Master Bedroom (Pringles included with sale)
Front Bedroom
(That's a bed. Someone had been sleeping here...)
Upstairs 3/4 Bath
The Basement
The Kitchen (notice the hand print on the cabinets...)
The Kitchen

Two-part powder off the breakfast room. 

Breakfast Room: Some of you might recall a photo I posted to instagram of house hunting with a photo of a sharps container near my feet filled with hypodermics? That container is about 12" from where I took this photo. 
The Dining Room
The Dining Room

Basement Bath - the only one with a shower and the only 'update' to the house as far as we can tell.

This pile (which actually filled most of the backyard and stood about 10' tall was the result of our first DAY of cleaning. We've since taken tons (literally) to the dump with multiple dumpsters hauling it away.
View from the upstairs landing. The trees have actually been cut a bit since so you can see more of  Lake Washington. From the master, the view is better. Can't believe we bought a house with a view... takes the sting out of leaving Lake Union. 

Backyard, facing the side
For the sake of breaking this up and organizing my thoughts, I'm ending it here. I'll focus on the revisions and the floorplans in the next post. I think this one could go on forever if I don't stop myself at what feels like a good spot.

But to give you some insight in to what's to come and what has been, this project covers everything. It might not have started out that way when we bought the house, but like so many restorations, it's turned into a tip-to-tail rehab of a house in much need of updates. We're replacing windows, converting the HVAC, restoring floors, replacing ALL the plumbing, replacing ALL the knob and tube, expanding kitchens, adding bathrooms, finding new uses for spaces and we're doing it ourselves.

Did I meniton that? Aside from hiring out a few small things that make absolute sense to not compromise the integrity and quality of this house, you're looking at the contractors.

As-builts and reno plans next time.


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