Confessions of a Serial Remodeler

I confess. My husband and I are serial remodelers. But don’t judge us too harshly. There are mitigating circumstances. We never intended housediagramto be remodelers. When we started 26 years ago, we only envisioned doing one small project on our condominium which still reflected the previous owner’s taste. It was something anyone might have done, painting, putting up new wallpaper and installing a new floor in our small kitchen. When the project was finished, these small changes transformed a dark, dated kitchen into a cheerful, modern space. The experience infused us with feelings of power and self-satisfaction. We moved on to our half bath, a cave-like space we dubbed the black hole of Calcutta, that was our second successful remodel. A year later, we had done everything there was to do in our condo. We basked in the glow of our friends’ compliments. It was too late to turn back; we were addicted and ready for bigger challenges. We bought an older, structurally sound but terminally ugly vacation home and spent eight months on a total framingremodel. On a cold fall day with a fire cheerfully warming the redecorated living room, our realtor drove up and said he had a buyer who might be interested in the house. A day later we had a contract for double our original purchase price. We had not only transformed a house but we had made money doing it. We had taken the bait and the hook was set.

Six houses later, we have learned how to insulate, sheetrock, tile, build stairs, do finish trim work and numerous other building skills, and are well known at Home Depot. We spent evenings and weekends completing building projects and learned to live with construction debris. We went from relying on professionals to acting as our own general contractor. My husband found he had a talent for design and became the architect for all our projects. geezermailcheckWe have had the pleasure of living in many unique, beautiful houses that we created.

WARNING: Building and remodeling can be toxic to your relationship! My husband and I have been lucky. We went down a dangerous road and escaped unscathed. We learned early on how to set up a decision making structure, assign areas of control, compromise, and always put our relationship first. We are about to finish our “final” remodeling project on our dream/retirement house.  When our friends laughingly ask if this is really our last project, I am smart enough not to say yes.  The other day my husband mentioned a fixer he saw in our neighborhood that he thought might be a good investment opportunity.

Susan Harrison is an attorney by training, home remodeler by accident, and a writer by choice.

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