The new Brownstoner article about our continuing saga with home renovations is up! You can read it here and see all the pretty pictures: http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2014/09/bushwick-reno-from-weeds-to-a-mural/
Extended version, with all my panic attacks detailed extensively, is below:
Oh, our backyard. Having a backyard was pretty much at the top of our list when we were house hunting, partly because outdoor space in NYC seemed just as luxurious as our own washer and dryer, but mostly, for our dog.
Unfortunately, our contractor did not include it in the budget to fix it up at all. So it’s kind of been chillin’ there for a year, a patch of dirt where weeds constantly grow and must be picked, a shed that is pretty much unusable (but because it’s made of brick and concrete, expensive as all get out to actually remove), and cracked concrete everywhere. Oh, and a storm drain that doesn’t always drain, it turns out (yaaaay, being a homeowner is awesommmmme).
Hey friends! Exciting news! I will actually be taking my house updates to Brownstoner once per month. If you don’t know about them already and you’re househunting or doing renovations, you should definitely get to know them. They are on top of all the juicy real estate news in Brooklyn and they’re also branching out into Queens.
They have a great community of commenters and a really active forum where you can ask anything, and most likely, someone will take the time to answer.
Check out my first blog post with them, where I talk about how excited we are to be getting solar panels!
We actually got to take this sign down weeks ago:
The sign off inspector came a day early and surprised my boyfriend. He walked in and said, hmm, it’s a small house, huh? He continued to walk through it and said, You did a good job with it though. Then he walked down to the basement and realized we had a bedroom down there. Ahhh, I see. Not bad. He went upstairs to the tenants’ apartment and said he liked that part best of all. Then he gave us a yellow carbon copy of his final sign off notes and said we could take the permit down. And that was… it.
The worst part about this whole thing is neither of us are handy in the least (one of us is learning though (totally not me)) and have never had to turn on a boiler before or really know what a pilot light is, so we kind of started at a disadvantage.
We do the first thing that we think makes sense – pull up the instruction manual. Which helps us locate the knob that turns the pilot light on, hooray!
The instructions are simple – turn on the pilot, turn on the electricity, turn on the thermostat.
Check. Check. Check.
Okay… We open the panel to see if we can locate the pilot light. No idea.
We perform all the instructions again, in forward and reverse order. What are we missing??
As soon as one thing ends, another pops up, right?
The good news is the walls are patched up and the electrician holes are virtually undetectable.
The bad news is that the electrician literally said there would be a delay on scheduling the inspection due to the government shutdown.
Yes. Seriously. We finished patching up the walls a week ago, which he insisted needed to happen before he scheduled the inspection (no idea why, especially if he failed again and would have to reopen the walls), and then he tells our contractor that the federal government shutdown is going to delay him scheduling something with the NYC DOB.
Are you kidding me?? I text back. I went to a state park this weekend! Tell him to schedule it now!
Before we could really start decorating the house, we patiently waited over a month for the electrician to get back to us on when he was going to fix our violations.
First excuse – he didn’t know what they were and he was supposed to be getting a letter in the mail – as was I – that lists all the violations. He didn’t want to start until he got this letter. It could take a while for it to be entered and be sent out. I tell this to my expediter, who, within the week, sends me a link that lists all the violations from the inspection. My contractor goes back to the electrician with the list.
It was bad, really bad.
I mean, I don’t think we will be getting electrocuted any time soon (knock on wood), but in terms of passing an inspection, no matter how many times the inspector could have turned the other way on small stuff (which he wouldn’t have, he sounded like a hard ass), there were too many big things that could just not go ignored.
Things like, did you know you are required to have an outlet every 12 feet around the walls of the house? We didn’t and for some reason, the licensed electrician seemed surprised about it too.
So now that its been over a year since we closed on the house (so crazy!), we can finally refinance our mortgage (the reason we were told we should wait a year is so we could get the house reappraised as the original appraisal is in effect for a year).
Even with interest rates shooting up, it made sense for us to look into it because we could get rid of that pesky mortgage insurance and move into a regular old conforming loan. Our house has well over 20% equity in it.
Exactly two days before the one year anniversary of our closing date, I email my current lender and ask to start the refinance process. I also tell him we want to possibly take some cash out, confident that the appraisal is going to be higher than it was originally. The real estate landscape this last year in Bushwick had been on fire.
After taking updated documents from me (bank statements, w2′s, etc), he comes back with a rate of 4.75%, which, even after taking out the mortgage insurance, puts us almost back where we started. He says the rate is high because we want to take cash out and we have a 2-family. Now we would just be paying more interest to the bank instead of mortgage insurance. It’s amazing what half of percent can do when hundreds of thousands of dollars are involved.
Probably the most, um, unexpected mistakes among all the things that went wrong once we got the gas turned on was that our toilet was running hot water every time we flushed.
But let me start at the beginning. We totally got gas meters last week! The gas authorization came through at the end of the last full week of July and as soon as we got the okay, I called National Grid. They set us up with an appointment for the following Tuesday.
We tell our contractor to make sure everything is ready for the meters to get put in and he assured me that would be the case.
National Grid rolls in on Tuesday morning (after a series of phone reminders that we need to be at the house or they will charge us for an uncompleted visit) and wouldn’t you know it – nothing is hooked up. Not the stove, or the washer dryer, or even the boiler or hot water heater. He also didn’t mark which meter was for which floor so the national grid lady couldn’t even hook up the meters.
I think we may have found the one reliable contractor in NYC.
Or maybe we are at the beginning of a streak.
It was off to a shaky start. We chose this contractor because he not only had reasonable rates, but because he was the only one who was actually using material that would make our front steps look like they weren’t just re-paved with new concrete. He said he could completely replace the old steps and put in new brick and granite tiles.
The shaky start was our healthy mistrust of contractors thus far coupled with the fact that he showed up almost 1.5 hours late to bring us the contract and collect the deposit. This was about a week ago.
When he finally showed up, we had already sent a series of annoyed we-are-leaving-in-exactly-3-minutes text messages.