We closed on our house Friday, September 9th! The entire process was amazingly smooth. We met some of our nice new neighbors while there for our final walk through too.
The home was built in 1884 and has been well maintained so we didn't hesitate to make an offer the day we saw it. And the best part is a previous owner already moved walls, so the work we want to do at this point is mostly cosmetic.
The kitchen and master bath are in great shape, but unfortunately outdated and not our style so we will be renovating them. Originally we tried to steer away from homes that needed work, but we realized most of them needed something, but I didn't know anything about the process and there wasn't much online. I'm going to do my best to try to document the entire experience in case it helps anyone else with their first major renovation project.
Master Bath (before):
Made Offer - Mid-July
When we made an offer, hubs and I agreed we wanted 1) a new kitchen and 2) to renovate as many bath/powder rooms as our budget would allow. All before we moved in. My SIL recently lived through a massive renovation and she recommended avoiding it if possible. One visit to her home mid-renovation was enough to convince me she was right.
Researched Designers/Contractors - Late July
I started researching design firms and asking friends if they could recommend anyone. Initially looked for a Design Build firm - where the designer and builder work together as one company. It sounded the safest from my perspective. Ultimately went a different route when I found a designer who's work I loved and who had glowing remarks from past clients. I read a lot of people think Design Build firms can be more expensive over hiring them separately, but I never explored it enough to discover if this is true or not.
Initial Meetings and Selection - Late July
While looking at kitchen photos on Houzz I realized that the ones I liked most, were from the same handful of designers so I started reaching out to them to set up meetings and ask if they were available for a new project.
One firm didn't return my email or my phone call which I think is just plain rude. It's not that hard to copy and paste some verbiage into an email to explain you aren't accepting new clients. I still have a grudge and plan to carry it for a bit longer.
Contracted with Elizabeth for design work - August 1st
We selected a designer whose style and approach to our project matched us best. Most importantly, I could work really well with her. And this is important. We signed a contract with Elizabeth to start right away so we could hit the ground running after we closed. I feel lucky she had the availability for my project due to another one getting stalled.
What that month was like before we closed...
Within a month we have "bid ready" designs and all of our materials selected. Pretty sure this is not a normal turn around, so add an extra month or maybe two if you are reading this for your own renovation. It was a whirlwind, but I think looking at all the homes we didn't buy, actually helped me hone-in on exactly what I did or did not like. I pretty much knew what I wanted. And the Hubs was pretty hands off and even jokingly only requested we be sure to include a disposal in the kitchen. Only having one decision maker made things go a lot faster, as I didn't have to discuss each little thing, or coordinate multiple schedules to go look at tiles/slabs/carpets/plumbing/cabinets/etc. I mean, I did struggle on some decisions, but it could have been so much worse if there were two of us struggling!
Although we had to make decisions timely, it never felt rushed. Most of the time was spent designing the kitchen. What I envisioned, didn't always fit in the space or fit in the budget. Like the faucet I thought I wanted. Until I learned it was $2,890. Yes. I am serious. Or that pesky air conditioning tubing getting in the way of my wine fridge.
There will be design challenges for renovation work. Expect them.
And when the stress of it all creeped in, Elizabeth was super helpful in defusing the process and answering all my crazy questions and making it fun and exciting. Even my husband who has been hands off, admitted to seeing the value in a designer and her work, guidance and experience being worth the fees (vs a DIY approach). This approach works for us, but might not make sense for everyone, I get that.
I want to point out, doing all this work with Elizabeth prior to actually closing on the house was risky. We could have ended up paying her for designs we didn't need if anything happened to derail the home purchase. The sellers and their agent were all so reasonable and genuine, we didn't have any red flags and trusted our instinct and decided the advance progress to be gained was worth the risk.
Next step is for the three potential contractors to walk through with our plans and provide bids.