Renovating a 1950’s Ranch style single family home: The design process

My husband and I purchased our home four years ago as a foreclosed property. It was a bidding war, lucky us, we were right in the middle of what I refer to as the “Robo Signing Debacle of 2010”. After submitting our initial offer and driving over to see our vacant home almost daily I convinced my husband to raise our offer. As a residential real estate broker with almost fifteen years of experience, I’m my worst client. After 5 months of waiting we got the call I had been praying for saying we had won the bidding war and we were going to get our house.

When we first purchased the home we did a simple face lift on some of it in order to move in but we had rented out our old house so we only had one month to get it all done. Since then we have added brick pavers to the backyard and landscaped the entire yard but haven’t done a lot to the inside. Earlier this year, we decided to initiate the process of renovating this home, and started meeting with contractors. We were advised to enlist the help of a designer, which we did. My husband and I are used to hiring trades to do work on our homes and had not been down the road of working with a designer or a general contractor.

The designer came over to our house, took all of the measurements and put together what is called an “As Built” drawing. This is necessary in older homes like ours that no longer have floor plans handy for review. If you have a newer home with a copy of your floor plan, you can save yourself this step which generally costs anywhere from $200-$500. After we had a copy of our current floor plan, we met with this designer to try and come up with a design for our home. This can be a grueling process for someone like me, that tends to be indecisive and treats decisions like this as a perfect opportunity to survey whoever I come into contact with about their home and floorpan and what they think about toilets in front of showers or master bedroom doors off of foyers. After I was able to weed through all of my input, we were able to get a drawing of something my husband and I both thought looked functional. This is referred to as a “conceptual drawing”. This can cost anywhere from $500-$2,000.

Our designer provided us with a simple pdf for this part and in retrospect I wish I had done a little more digging before we went down this path. It seems there are different understandings from designers as to what a “conceptual drawing” entails. We thought we would be giving a drawing with elevations and measurements sufficient to pursue our initial contractor bids. After all, why would you put more money into drawings if you get your bid and realize you can’t afford the project and need to scale it back? Luckily we met a contractor that was a able to bid off of our simplistic drawing and in the end we decided to scale back our project to focus on one large area that wouldn’t require any further work from an architect.

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