My husband and I were afforded the opportunity to purchase our first home not long after we got married. We lived in a rent house in Northwest Austin at the time that was only 2 years old, and we decided we wanted to go a different route with our home purchase. We told ourselves things like, "we want to make it ours," and "we want mature trees," (obviously we watch a lot of House Hunters) but we couldn't afford one of the really well-kept older houses in Austin. This led to some compromise. We ended up in a 1988 one-story on the outskirts of Austin (literally; our house isn't technically in Austin or Cedar Park). Before we purchased the house, it was a rental property with little to no updates. The entire house was this God-awful oatmeal color from the carpets to the ceiling, the bathrooms had faux-marble tubs and counters, and there was some red nail polish (I think; I hope) trickled from the fireplace in the living room to the master bathtub. This purchase was made 3 years ago this summer, and, as I sit here under my popcorn ceilings listening to my husband hammer away at the deck outside, I'm thinking about whether or not we'd do this again.
Since we've lived here, we've completed an incredible number of projects from updating all of the common area flooring to replacing the deck. We've also spent an incredible amount of money, and we currently spent the entire weekend planning out our budget for our next few projects. We've learned a lot through this renovation process, so here's some advice to get your started if you're considering a fixer upper.
#1 - What can you live with?
If you're anything like us, you have a budget for the house but not much room for projects. When we left the title office, we had enough money for paint and one big project. That first big project was to replace all of the common area carpet and linoleum with tile floors (the stuff that looks like wood). I promised myself that after that was done, I could live with the rest of the house still being stuck in 1988. In reality, once the floors were done, I didn't want to stop. They just inspired me to do more because now things didn't match. I was forced to live with the changes that we made because we just couldn't afford to do more at the time, but it drove me crazy.
#2 - Stop caring what your company thinks.
We're one of the only couples from our college crew that stayed in Austin. Guess what? People LOVE to visit Austin. When they visit, they want somewhere to stay. I hated the idea of people coming to our house and judging my ugly bathrooms or these wretched popcorn ceilings. Guess what else? People don't actually care that much. Usually they're impressed with what you've already completed, and if they're not, oh well. They might also think it's quite neat that you own a home. That' a pretty cool deal. As long as the sheets and toilets are clean, they're just happy to not have to pay for a hotel room.
#3 - Make sure you both agree.
If you're buying your house with your significant other, it's usually a good idea that you both agree on the budget and the plans. You know that first big project I mentioned? I really wanted the money to go towards removing the popcorn ceilings. My husband wanted it to go towards updating the floors. He, obviously, won that battle. And now I sit.. 3 years later.. under the popcorn ceilings (can you tell how much I hate them?). Plan out your projects with realistic budgets, and make sure you're both on the same page regarding what order they should be done.
#4 - Make a realistic timeline and budget.
While you can plan out these projects all you want, if you don't have the time or money to complete them, you're shit outta luck. Our current renovation timeline stretches all the way to 2025 with our final project being new windows. We have 17 windows in the house to replace, so this is probably going to be the most expensive thing that we do. We put it off until 2025 because that's when all of our large debts will be paid off, so we can afford to do it then. Each month we put away money in our budget for our "Reno Fund." The amount that goes into this fund varies month to month depending on what the next project is. We're currently really into the idea of having a cool backyard, so the money going into that is a bit less than what it will be when we're starting to save for the master bathroom remodel. Our timeline revolves around school holidays. My husband is a teacher/coach, so he works on the house during his breaks from school (lucky!). We plan projects accordingly.
#5 - Don't paint your room Tiffany blue.
It has never and will never be cute.
So all in all, renovating houses is something that I love to do. While it's time and money consuming, if it's something you're in to, it's totally worth it. My suggestion, though? Make sure you have the budget (or at least can plan) for all of those renovations and then some before making the home purchase. There's nothing quite like a mysterious oak tree falling on your neighbor's house to really set things back.
Want to watch our reno projects as they play out? Follow along on Granting Order's Instagram account. I regularly post videos of my husband working in his sweet bucket hat.