Prioritizing Expenses for Your New “Old” Home

When moving into an older “new” home we often focus on the exciting stuff; paint colors, furniture, and the décor. Due to this, we forget about the important things like the “bones”.

You know the “bones,” the house’s structure, what is under all the plaster and paint. We also forget in the excitement of a home purchase and move in, the maintenance cost of older homes.

My dad put it best, “if you don’t want an expensive hobby, don’t move into an older home.”

Wait a minute! Before you stop reading …This post is not to deter you from buying or crushing on an old home. Rather to help you prioritize renovation and maintenance costs.

Hopefully through this post you can learn from both our good ideas and mistakes. Remember we’re just a few regular homeowners who learned a thing or two from buying and slowly renovating an older home. Maybe it will help you plan for lovin’on your new “old” home too.

Firstly the budget…

  1. Seriously analyze and itemize the major structural costs you see coming. Your home inspection will tell you what does or does not need work.

Our example: We needed a new roof and we knew this expense would be a biggy. Therefore we budgeted enough and squirreled it away as a future expense.

  1. Are there health concerns with your new “old” house? Possible asbestos or lead paint? (They have you sign a hazard warning in California.)

Don’t think the age of your home is a catchall. In the 1970s these hazardous materials were still in use because contractors and companies were allowed to use them in order to eliminate supply. In fact HVAC friends of ours have seen asbestos wrapped duct work even in 1980s homes. (YIKES!)

But don’t freak out yet… This is where you prioritize a possible cost and budget for encapsulation or removal. Have it tested, and bring out the professionals. They will give you the advice, do their thing and sometimes even calm your nerves. Also don’t go by what one professional says. Instead have several estimates and an independent inspector and/or lab help you. Don’t go with an abatement company who “happens to test.”

This often can be done prior to purchase. If it comes back positive get estimates for abatement and this may even become part of the negotiation process in home buying. If not you know the risks and costs and can have it professionally encapsulated and/or abated before move in.

Our example: We had the professionals come in and abate the popcorn ceilings, re-plaster and air test before move in

  1. Don’t ignore the small stuff, include those costs in the budget and priority list. It helps to imagine your home as a grandma. She may be a tough ol’ bird for 60+ years old but her bones are still 60+ years old. Don’t let that small leak in the guest bath or that saggy gutter go ignored, these can become a big problem with a BIG price tag for you later. Consider doing a mini-inspection with a handyman. Also by itemizing the projects you find, you can evaluate which ones can be a DIY project or left to a professional.

Our example: A small valve issue on an old toilet, turned into a quarter inch of water and a big clean-up for us later on. (Thank goodness for a great home warranty!)

  1. That leads to the next tip, consider extending your home warranty or adding coverage. Paying a little up front may pay dividends in a good nights sleep later.

Our example: Our real-estate agent arranged at signing for some additional coverage since there was some extra money left on the table. Our coverage included out-take pipe repair and some leaks so this has helped ease worries.

  1. Consider your future renovation plans, and start estimating the costs for materials and/or labor. You may have your dream home dancing around in your head, but once you start dreams may equal big dollars. Once the bones and maintenance are itemized and planned for, add the “dream cost” onto the list. Then you will see how much you can really budget for a kitchen remodel.

Our example: Looking at the end budget…Yikes! We knew if we wanted that kitchen remodel to happen we’d only have about $1500 left for it…This is when you know creativity and DIY can be put to use.

All in all, our best lesson, and one we need to consistently remind ourselves about, was to keep a running “home repair emergency” savings. It also should be separate and not mixed in with the renovation budget and funds. This turned out to be the best tool in helping us sleep at night when those little house catastrophes happen. (i.e. like rats moving into the attic, or an air conditioner stops working.) This little savings will help with home warranty deductibles and you’ll feel less pain in the pocket book when the maintenance issues strike.

I hope these tips help you prioritize and plan for your new “old” home, because like grandma, they may have great bones, but be prepared to take care of them.

We Don’t Do “Easy”

DIYers can attest to the mantra, “we don’t do easy.” Especially a DIYer with the guts and gumption to buy an ugly, old, fixer home. Did you experience “the look” from friends and family when you were showing them your “little bundle of joy” the 60+ year old bungalow/cottage/mid century/craftsman, etc that you were now about to buy? The one with the roof so bad that looked like it was a hobbit’s home. The one with the tri- color master bath, the twenty six different kinds of wallpaper, and the ultimate, modern day, home- buying sin… the one without a dishwasher. (For shame!)

You know, “the look” where the friends and family glance at you as if you’ve grown a unicorn horn and your freckles turned to skittles. DIYers know if we chose the “easy” way, we would be stuck in a cookie cutter home, possibly in a location that required uber commuting, and neighbors living on top of you. (At least out here in California). If we did “easy” we’d call for the nearest handyman, or contractor, and be overcharged for a renovation with no heart and a cost that left us with no money.

DIYers have learned there is an intrinsic value of not doing “easy.” Primarily that value is experience and knowledge. Yes, the creative, mechanical, part of us loves to tinker, craft and play in the mud. However the real reason we DIY is for the gained experience. We also want to save a ton of money, but more importantly we want to push the experience envelope. We want that badge of honor in the form of fork-sized splinters, rough hands, and biceps that would put Madonna’s to shame.

When friends and family ask “how did you do that? You will have the experience and knowledge to explain or help them. Gained experience is so much more valuable (and fun) than “easy”. Don’t do easy! This can be related to so many aspects of our lives, not just home improvement. If struggling with a decision, or life issue, remember this well known quote, “All things worth doing are never easy.” Instead do creative, frustrating, sweat equity, and cheap, do it yourself. Gain experience, start small, take classes. Also evaluate your skill level and time against the huge list of tasks. Oftentimes if you know yourself well enough through experience gained, you can diagnose a task quickly and ask for help. Sometimes professional help is necessary when it involves safety, but at least you had the wisdom. knowledge, and experience to know when to ask.

Does “easy” not work for you either? Not just DIY, but also other aspects of our life?

TV Stand Turned Wine Rack (Ikea Hack)

This is just a little spin off from the in progress Mancave Makeover… We are all about recycle, reuse, and re-purpose. Primarily because of our very little home renovation budget.  We had this old Ikea book cabinet/TV stand from our first home. I had hung some curtains in it just to hide the mountains of mismatched textbooks (Seen below in a First Home Flashback)

wine rack 1

Then it was passed on to the garage for storing odds and ends…(seen below)

before garage pic4

Finally after searching the stores for inexpensive wine racks that could handle 50+ bottles (We had a lot of left over wine from the wedding). Most costing $50 and up!

I found my way to home depot and bought about 20+ ft worth of wooden dowels and battery operated LED lights. (Total cost just under $25) Cutting the dowels by hand and to the width of the shelves, hammering them in, and attaching the lights with sticky tape…VOILA! Beat up Ikea shelving to basement wine cellar.

wine rack 2