Before & After: a RenoFi-powered renovation in MalvernApr 19, 2020 • Kira Barrett
- Location: Malvern, PA
- Built in 1958
- 2,000 sq. ft.
- 4 beds, 3 bath
- Blow out walls between kitchen, living & dining rooms to transform entire first level into an open concept
- Completely update kitchen with all new finishes & appliances
- No additional sq. ft.
- Total Cost: $55,000
After renovation value:
For Joanne and David, moving from their current home was never an option. Since they purchased their Malvern split-level in 2016, they knew they wanted to invest in making the home fit their growing family’s needs. But at the time, they didn’t even consider the source of funding that is now making their renovation plans possible in all the ways they had hoped.
“We love our neighborhood and our neighbors, and some of them have done this exact renovation, so we know what it looks like and what it does for the house,” Joanne explained. “Plus, Malvern is a funny market. If you’re looking in the $500-600,000 range, it’s hard to find an updated home. So we figured we might as well put the money into our house versus the cost of moving to a slightly bigger home that may not be updated.”
With walls dividing the kitchen, living, and dining areas, Joanne and David wanted to open up the entire first floor. Their four-year-old daughter and another due in July were primary motivators for the renovations set to start mid-April. “There are two main walls that surround the kitchen and close it off to everything else; it’s just become really untenable to be able to see everything. So we’re looking to blow out all the walls and make the whole first floor an open concept.” And while they’re at it, they plan on completely updating the kitchen with all new cabinets and appliances. “The kitchen has been updated since the home was built in 1958, but the finishes and materials aren’t very nice, so we wanted to do that as well.”
When they began searching for the funding for their renovation project, Joanne was focused on finding loans without a huge interest rate. She began “poking around” online and came across a post from RenoFi in the Main Line Remodeling & Decorating Facebook group.
“I found it interesting… RenoFi’s linking with Credit Unions. That was a source of funding I didn’t even consider, and it turned out to be a pretty cheap source of funding in terms of interest rate. And so it just made sense for us to go that way with such a large price tag of a renovation; that we would take it out of the equity of this home which has appreciated so much in the three years that we’ve been here.”
“RenoFi was really great. Justin was so helpful in making the connection for us with a Credit Union,” Joanne stressed. “This is our first big renovation and RenoFi made the actuality of it easier because we were able to get less expensive funding to do the renovation from a source we didn’t even know existed.”
Despite a few delays pushing their completion timeline from 6 weeks to 10, Joanne and David say they wouldn’t have done anything differently. “Everything that held us up was really out of the contractor’s control,” Joanne explained - like losing a whole week due to restained tile floors that simply wouldn’t dry. “Financially, we were right on track. Any changes that had to be made or additional money spent was because of something on my end. Our contractor was great throughout the whole process.”
Joanne also credits such a great experience with their GC to getting a trusted referral during the screening process. “We have neighbors who went through a similar renovation project recently. They recommended him, and we were able to go see the work he did at their house. We had him over for an interview to see our house, and it allowed us to really get comfortable with him, his process, and his work.”
And to help other homeowners get the same type of experience, Joanne advises being very clear with your expectations. “If something isn’t as you anticipated, be open about it, otherwise you’re just going to end up extremely frustrated. Our contractor not only gave us progress reports each week, but we would give him a punch list as well, so at the end, we were working on narrowing that down. It was more of a collaboration to make sure our expectations were met.”
While designing the space and picking out materials and fixtures was Joanne’s favorite part of the process, it was those finishing touches that were also her least favorite toward the end of the project. “We stayed at my mom’s for about 7 weeks, and then moved back in for the final 3. A lot of things happened so quickly - the walls coming down, the cabinets going in - but then after we moved back in, there were a million little things like crown molding that needed to be painted and touch ups to do. Living through those things weren’t very fun.”
But the end result, was completely worth it. “We absolutely love having the island. We never eat at the table now,” Joanne laughed. “With a 4 ½ year old and now with the baby coming, having the whole floor open; it’s just nice to be able to see everything, where before I was very much just off in the kitchen while the rest of the family was out in the living room. And from an entertaining aspect, it allows for more people and better flow, which is great.”
Not only will the new layout better suit their needs as a family now, but it’s part of a longer laundry list for down the road. “Eventually we have a bathroom that our kids will be using that we’d like to update too. We’re definitely going to be renovating for a while, but this project is the biggest one,” Joanne explained.
So, if you’re considering a home renovation of your own, leave yourself a little financial buffer in case changes do come up, according to Joanne. “If you’re going to be tearing down walls and doing all this work, you might as well get everything you want out of it in the end.
“This is our second home, and we’ve always taken the approach that we like to put our touches on it. If you have the room and the home value, I think how the renovation loan was packaged was the best way to do it. With home prices so strong in our area, I wouldn’t hesitate if there’s something I want to change. We want to invest money in our homes because we want them to appeal to us and make sense to us.”