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.

Online marketing and selling your home

One of my favorite things to do before I fall asleep at night is to shop/surf the internet on our iPad. I love to research purchases, compare prices, check various sites for coupons before I make a purchase. I do this with everything from new patio furniture to planning my son’s 7th birthday party. It should come as no surprise that people are using this same approach when it comes to buying a home.  I recently took a listing and planned the kick off weekend, as I mentally refer to the first weekend a listing is on the market. We came up with a plan, entered the home into the MLS and marketed the first open house.

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I use Craigslist, Zillow, Facebook, Google+, postlets, and a few others to market listings. Our open house was Sunday from 1-4pm and the weather was very cooperative. I came in with my water with lemon, flyers and a multitude of signs and balloons. The open house was a huge success and about 50 people came through the home. The interesting part about this open house was that at least 75% of the prospective buyers came through with no agent. They had seen the open house advertised on one of the many websites, the home was being marketed on. These buyers were educated on the market and had researched what the seller had paid, what the property most likely would rent for and what schools the home was districted for before they even stepped foot through the front door. This was incredibly insightful as a residential broker as to the path most buyers are walking towards finding a home.  As a broker, it challenges me to stay ahead of the curve with my marketing approach and to hone my negotiation and contract writing skills. Gone are the days when a real estate broker was the only way to gain access to information. The role as a real estate broker is changing and I think there is so much more value in the contract writing and negotiation in addition to accurate, updated market knowledge and an aggressive online marketing strategy.