If you’ve been following along for a while you’ve probably heard about our debt-free journey before, but you may not be familiar with our journey with buying a foreclosure and remodeling it. We haven’t always lived where we do now. Barry and I bought our first home about 15 years ago. It was a townhouse that we bought before construction had even begun! It took about 1,100 years for them to build it (not really, but it seemed like it took FOREVER). While we were waiting for it to be built, we lived in the apartment that Barry’s parents had at their home.
We lived in our townhouse for 8 years, and completely paid it off in after 7 years. That’s when we became debt free! We decided that we didn’t want to get another home mortgage loan EVER.
We liked being debt-free and all the freedom that it brought.
If you talk to most people they will tell you that its impossible to purchase a house with cash. But we are normal people, and we did it! Barry worked at a church – I was pregnant and not working. We sold our townhouse and took the cash, plus some other savings, and bought the house we live in now with cash. Once we paid for the house, our savings was pretty much depleted, but there was no mortgage!
A lot of people have given us grief for buying a foreclosure because some people disapprove of the whole idea of foreclosures. They think it’s predatory – preying on someone struggling financially. But we disagree. If someone has experienced a foreclosure, it’s really too late for them. Sometimes there are occasions of predatory behavior. But if someone has already been foreclosed on by the bank; why should a house sit empty?
This house sat empty for two years!
In this case, the homeowners here had taken a reverse mortgage, where you basically sell your house back to the bank. When you die, your estate has to buy the house back, or the bank becomes the owner. But when this homeowner died, the family didn’t want to buy the house. The house sat empty for two years and needed quite a bit of work!
The only reason that we were able to get this house was because the original (30-year-old) heat pump did not work.
We knew the house needed work, but we also knew that it is in an amazing neighborhood, and houses almost never go up for sale there. We made a kind of low offer initially, and the bank rejected it. There was another offer on the house that the bank accepted. However, when those potential buyers had a thorough home inspection completed and found everything that was wrong with it, they decided to walk away. The bank knew we were interested and they called us back. We then had the benefit of a full home inspection to review, and were able to negotiate an amazing price.
The biggest issue we wanted to deal with was the heat pump, electrical, and plumbing. It was about $5,500 for a new heat pump. We closed on the house in May and got to work…and started saving. We weren’t able to pay cash for the heat pump until the end of August. In the meantime, we took care of the wiring and most of the plumbing…in June and July…while I was pregnant (ha!). Let’s just say it was kind of miserable with no air conditioning in a construction zone while very pregnant.
We do have a YouTube channel where we shared a tour of the house right after we bought it. It’s awesome to walk through and see the house before we started doing any work. Hint: there is a picture of Jesus in that video that you need to see.
You wouldn’t even know it is the same house now! We’ve done so much work to make it ours, and when it comes time to sell the home, we’ll have a great way to share with the potential buyers all about the things that have been done.
It took us a full 6.5 years to finish this remodel.
We went about it slowly, one project at time, when our budget, and our schedule allowed. We didn’t stretch ourselves too thin. Instead, we took our time, tackling one project at a time, because we knew there was a lot of work we needed to do. We’d save and plan for a while, and then tackle the next project. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
What all did we do in our home?
One of the first things was to completely re-wire the entire house. It was a safety hazard. The wiring was all original to the home (plus some scary add-ons done over the years) and it was a complete disaster. That took a couple of weeks, but wasn’t too terrible. Then we had to replace a lot of galvanized plumbing. Those were the only real “absolutely required” repairs, so they were first on the list.
Then, we did the heat pump. While air conditioning is nice; heat is essential. As that summer wore on, we sweated through removing some AWFUL wallpaper, patching walls, painting, cleaning, etc. There was, of course, plenty of landscaping to do, and plenty of other misc. projects.
Once we moved in and had settled for a while, we decided what came next. We had the hardwood floors refinished carpet installed in all the bedrooms. Because we weren’t huge fans of the carport, we turned it into a closed garage, which is now Barry’s wood shop. We remodeled the kitchen from top to bottom a few years back. We remodeled both bathrooms and the basement, putting in a guest bedroom. Outside, we put covered porches on the front and the back or our home. See…we pretty much redid everything!
Was it worth it?
I know that a lot of people feel like they don’t want a project. But we didn’t mind buying a house that needed work because that was what we could afford in our budget, and we knew we could learn so much by taking on the projects. If your budget is lower, don’t feel like there is something wrong with buying a house that isn’t move-in ready. Just be ready to live in a construction zone for a while.
Don’t feel bad about your budget whether it’s high or low.
Make decisions based on what your budget dictates and then go for with it. Don’t feel pressured by friends and family to buy more house than you can afford. If your budget allows you to purchase a large house or large piece of land – don’t be ashamed! That’s not something you should feel bad about either!
When we first considered the idea of buying a foreclosure, we were a little nervous because our DIY skills were limited. We spent a lot of time on Google and YouTube. You can learn a lot online. From there, we asked friends and family members with those skills to guide us (and in a few cases, we hired them to help!).
Learn to be okay trying new projects – don’t be afraid to take them on!
You never want to wait until you are a master plumber, woodworker, or painter to start. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect to start. If you look around our house, there are a lot of parts of it that aren’t perfect. If you work in the construction industry for a living, you might find all our mistakes. But you know what? We are proud of how it all turned out, and it is OUR HOME. We love the finished project!
We want to hear from you! Have you ever remodeled a home? Or have you ever or are you considering buying a foreclosure? Comment below to share your stories.