Before & After: a RenoFi-powered renovation in Ardmore
Turning a starter home into their forever homeSep 7, 2019 • Kira Barrett
- Location: Ardmore, PA
- Built in 1940
- 1,700 sq. ft.
- Additional 700 sq. ft.
- Full eat-in kitchen, with heated floors
- New master suite with luxury bath
- Total Cost: $185,000
After renovation value:
When Ken and Katie bought their current home in Ardmore over 11 years ago, it was a great starter home for the two of them. But since it lacked the qualities they envisioned in their dream home — like a true Master Suite and large, eat-in kitchen — they were prepared for an eventual move. So when their family of two became four, they began casually looking for the upgrade. The challenge was finding the home they envisioned in the area they grew to love.
“When we first bought the home, we didn’t really know the area,” Katie explained. “But our street really turned around in the last ten years; there are tons of small children and really awesome neighbors. And those things you can’t guarantee anywhere you choose to go.”
After a number of years of both casual and serious searching, Katie & Ken realized they had a few options: settle for a neighborhood they didn’t love, buy more home than they needed in a competitive market, or stay right where they were by turning their starter into a forever home. So about 2 years ago, they started talking to general contractors for their home renovation.
“It was an intense process before RenoFi’s system existed,” Katie shared. “I was doing a lot of research online of what home renovation loan products are available. I even got desperate one day where I typed in my information to LendingTree and got bombarded with a million different things, which I totally regretted,” she laughed. “I was just trying to figure out if we could get a loan for that amount.”
After about 9 months of researching on their own for the type of loan that would give them the funds they needed for their project, it was RenoFi that helped the Katie & Ken find a renovation home equity loan. With a first mortgage rate of less than 4%, a solution that didn’t require them to refinance into higher rates was key at the time. Since a renovation home equity loan allowed them to borrow money based on the post-renovation value of their home – which was $550k vs. the current home’s value of $385k – they were able to dramatically increase their borrowing power for their home improvements and keep that awesome rate locked in. Having spent months blindly filtering through numerous mortgage loan and rehab loan options online, Katie emphasized how effective and painless RenoFi’s system made finding the right solution for their specific renovation goals.
“It just feels like the opportunities out there aren’t all clearly advertised; like the information is buried in websites. So the fact that RenoFi does all that for you… going through all their information and having worked with certain lenders to understand the different products, and then aligning them with your goals; like how long of a loan do you want to be in, how much you can put toward monthly payments, etc. is just such an incredible resource.”
Unlike all the other online lender calculators she attempted, she felt much differently about RenoFi’s system. “You can input the information regarding what you’re trying to do and get a quick sense of like how much your monthly payments go up and all those other important questions you have. I think that’s what RenoFi does; it gives you a very tangible piece of information to make decisions off of.”
Katie & Ken’s end goal was a spacious two-story addition off the back of their home with an all-new Master Suite upstairs and large, live-in kitchen below — all of which was projected at about $185,000, so they planned to take a loan out for $195,000. “It’s interesting, looking back, we probably should have taken out a little more for our loan amount. With having to pay a fee for an out-of-state architect, as well as permit fees - we didn’t really pay attention to how much that would be at first.”
Katie & Ken also wish they would’ve been a little more probing on any project additions they decided on along the way. “We added heating to the bathroom and kitchen floor and did some additional electrical work in the mudroom. The general contractor noted it would be additional, but not what the exact amounts were, so I’m just kicking myself a bit for not asking how much exactly. It may have influenced some other decisions we made.”
But it wasn’t the first time they worked with their general contractor for a renovation project either. About 8 years ago, the father-son duo did their garage conversion. While it wasn’t quite a comparable undertaking to the scale of home improvements this time around, even then, they did their research. “I think the most important thing is being able to see their work,” Katie explained. “He had done a home renovation for our neighbors two doors down. We got other quotes but liked his work and felt comfortable with him. He and his team were extremely clean and organized, which was huge for us having young kids. We had friends with similar projects that the contractors did not leave their homes that way at all.”
And now with the home renovations complete, Katie claims they’ve all gotten a little spoiled. “The other day, we were in the bathroom and our 3-year-old asked if we could turn on the heated floor. I was like how do you even know about that?!” Katie laughed. “But just having the extra space and the kids being able to sit at the bar or play in the kitchen while we make dinner - it’s just a total shift in how you live. And it’ll be interesting to see once we go into the winter months where we’re inside more too.”
Believe it or not, Katie was a little sad to see the renovation project end. “Watching everything come together each night when we got home from work was the most fun part. I’m going to miss that, " Katie explained. “Seeing everything in actuality versus on paper or through tiny samples was so neat. In the end, it all really came together as we had hoped.”
After 5 1/2 months of work, Katie says the end is kinda a reality check. “Once the contractors are gone, they’re gone,” she said. “As soon as the finishes happen, all of a sudden everything wrapped up quickly, and before you know it, they’re not at your house everyday like you’re used to. So just really make sure you have an end of project punch list before your general contractors are onto other projects, and you’re splitting their time with other homeowners.”
Katie & Ken are ‘so happy’ with their decision to renovate, and aside from some lessons learned along the way, say they wouldn’t change much about the process. “Once the plan was submitted and the work started, the timeline was really to our expectations. It really helps the process along to have decisions on different things made as soon as you can make them; like your bathroom vanity or carpet picked out ahead of time, so when it comes time to put it in, you’re not delayed making those decisions and can keep things moving.”
Despite seeing themselves in their newly-renovated home for the long-haul, Katie appreciates the added peace of mind that a renovation home equity loan provides in case their plans change in the future. “Knowing this loan will boost the appraisal value of the home, confirms that the money we’re putting in is worth it. And the type of loan that we got gave us the confidence that that was in fact true. I’m not guessing at what our future appraisal will be; the bank wouldn’t give me the loan amount if that’s not what our future home value would be.”
So what’s next for Katie & Ken? Possibly a nice deck off the back of their new addition. “But that’s probably not happening any time soon,” Katie says. For now, they’ll just enjoy those heated floors.