Renovating a Bank Repo. What Did We Know?

My soon to be husband and I, along with our combination of three children, were living in a double wide trailer with his parents. We just knew we had to get out of there. If not, it would soon be all out war.

I was a real estate agent at the time and, a bank repo just came on the market four house up. This would be perfect. The kids could stay in their school and not leave their friends. We would still be near his parents so we could help them. And, we would have privacy, finally.

The house itself was in utter despair. The wiring was older than the original shingles that were still on the roof. There was not one wall that was even with the floor and ceiling and you had to go outside and around to the side to go to the basement through the exterior entrance because the inside set of stairs were just hanging. And, it was only a two bedroom; we needed four. But, as long as we all worked together, we were sure we could do it. So, we made our bid, got an excepted contract and closed within a month.

Maybe, I should have mentioned already that, prior to the day we started gutting this house, my new husband (we were married a week after signing the contract) had never swung a hammer at anything other than his brother when they were children. You can imagine how much fun I had teaching him!

Before we could start working on renovating, we had to clean. It took two, twenty-yard roll off dumpsters just to get the trash out. But then, we were ready to go.

The first thing we did was hand each child a hammer of their own (engraved and decorated with ribbon and bows) and told them to go to it. They knew what their job was; rip every wall and ceiling out. They had such a ball. That was, until they discovered that blown-in insulation gets black and powdery after a few decades. What a mess. That was the end of the kids working by our sides also. Not only were they all get sick for days, but they all refused to step back into the house until we got it almost done. Who could blame them.

Okay, walls and ceilings down, black powder a foot deep in every room and another twenty-yard roll off. Cleaning time , again.

Next, we had to have the county inspector come in and check out the wiring, plumbing and sewer. Yeah, the sewer passed.
All new electrical wiring from the electric pole, three houses up, to every outlet, socket and light switch in the house. Now, I’ve already told you that my husband was no carpenter. Let me assure you, he is no electrician either. But, he did have a co-worker that use to own his own electric repair company. Yes, we hired him. Good thing he doesn’t work his day job as slow as he runs electric lines.

Let me back up to those basement stairs for a moment. Our original home inspector was such a nice man. He referred his son, a real carpenter to us. Great, we hired him, without even meeting him! Not a good thing to do (and mind you, I am a professional that deals with inspectors and carpenters all day long). By the time we realized that our steps were off level by 3/4 of an inch, the son was gone and the inspector’s number was out of service. Yes, our fault.

Now, the plumbing went in just a little bit easier but, once it was done, we had to hire a masonry because, I swear, the plumber decided to use our basement floor for practicing with his new jackhammer. Okay, maybe I am exagerating a little there but, you would have thought so if you had seen the basement floor.

Time to hang new walls and ceilings. What could there possibly be to cutting and screwing. Well, when you don’t know what you are doing, it makes for a lot of extra time, work, materials and expense. Speaking of expense, let’s add in the cost of a new drill that belonged to my fath-in-law. It is still in the house, somewhere. Yep, somewhere behind one of the new walls.
Needless to say, we ended up hiring a friend of our (who we discovered later, was a theif, not a friend) who really was a carpenter and experienced at hanging and finishing drywall. We did learn a lot from him as we worked along side. we learned that, when your new wall is up, it is not suppose to look like a patchwork quilt.

Flooring, there a whole other story in itself. I kept trying to tell my husband that, if you can’t measure drywall to hang, you shouldn’t attempt to measure floors for new carpeting. You guessed it! My carpet was a little shy of fitting the rooms. But, that’s okay. Hey, I had patchwork quilt floors to match my patchwork quilt walls.

I will have to say that, the paint and wall paper went up without a hitch (except in my kitchen – that is the room my mother-in-law decided she would do). But, of course, the final touch to any new walls is the baseboard. We decided that, since we still had younger kids at home, vinyl made more sense. Not! Especially if you listen to family and use liquid nail to ensure that it stays in place. Every bit of my new vinyl baseboard was laying on my floor the morning after we ran the furnace for the first time.

Our final blow was when we sat, after we were moved into our new home, and figured out how far over budget we went. I won’t give you figures but, I will tell you that we bought our home five years ago and, we will be paying off our loans for renovation in 11 years. I can’t wait.

All-in-all, we had some fun, some really memorable events and a whole lot of arguements. But, it was ours and we actually loved it once we got moved in.

Barbara Rexroad

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