Before & After: a RenoFi-powered renovation in Villanova
- Location: Villanova, PA
- Built in 1958
- 2,768 sq. ft.
- 5 beds, 3.5 baths
- Valued at $780,000
- Additional ~350 sq. ft.
- Transform 3rd floor into full Master Suite
- Redo the back porch with fire pit & add new front porch
- Total Cost: $256,000
- Post-renovation value: $900,000
When DJ and his wife, Vanessa, found RenoFi, they were just about to close on a traditional construction loan, having accepted the fact that they would need to refinance their first mortgage to do so. What they didn’t know at the time was that meeting RenoFi would eventually save them $119k in future interest payments.
From the moment DJ & Vanessa bought their home almost 2 years ago, they knew they wanted to renovate. “We found this home in Villanova and we loved it because of the cul-de-sac and a lot of young families with young kids,” DJ explained. “We spoke to other people on our street who also did renovations, and they reassured us that we weren’t going to find a community like this anywhere else.”
DJ & Vanessa were optimistic they could make this home into one they loved. After all, the alternative was paying $1 million+ for the right home in the wrong Villanova neighborhood. And with 5 other bids from buyers on the property they wanted, timing was key. What they needed was a loan that allowed them to purchase the home first, then handle the loan process after settlement in order to stay competitive against other buyers. And thanks to RenoFi, that’s exactly what they would find.
As an outdated 1950’s split-level without much curb appeal, there are multiple parts to their renovation plans:
- Add a new front porch to overlook cul-de-sac
- Redo the back porch and expand to include fire pit
- Turn the 2 bedrooms, bathroom and attic space on the third floor into a full Master Suite with office, book nook with built-in shelves, additional closets and stairwell to a new attic space off the 2nd floor
- Blow out the traditional split-level stairwell and create an open banister style staircase
Their three young children were the motivation behind a lot of their renovation plans. A new front porch, for example, would make it easy for DJ and Vanessa to watch them play with the neighbors across the cul-de-sac. Their goals for the third level were all about function. With a funky layout of small rooms, wasted attic space and very minimal storage/closets, by blowing out all the walls, they’re looking to create a much more usable space.
“It’s just so much easier and more enjoyable to be in the house now; the ability to have a space that we envisioned when we bought the house.” DJ explained. “Our Master Bedroom gives us and the kids their own space, while the backyard is much more usable; we’re out there all the time. Same with our front yard. This is the largest home I’ve ever lived in and to have this much space with such a beautiful structure is unbelievable to us.”
When starting such a major undertaking with no previous experience getting a loan for renovations, DJ & Vanessa didn’t realize how hard it would be to find one. DJ spent 6 months calling bank after bank, learning about their fees and interest rates and trying to figure out how do we do this?
“It’s really confusing to try and finance construction on a home. No one tells you what to do. The banks just say we have this and here’s the interest rate. And we knew they weren’t good, but you don’t really know what questions to ask. It’s just not an expertise most homeowners have, so it’s time consuming… and can be scary too.
“I wish we would’ve found RenoFi earlier. Honestly, the process was a lot longer than it needed to be because we really had no idea what we were looking for. RenoFi put together a program of experts that’s just an incredible resource for homeowners.”
From there, the construction process went just as smoothly. Which is largely because of the thorough contractor vetting process that DJ & Vanessa undertook. And while their choice wasn’t the cheapest option, he was the right one.
DJ recommends all homeowners interview at least 3 contractors and really look at their them side-by-side. “We interviewed 4-5 contractors, and got recommendations. There were cheaper quotes, but when we compared the plans directly, we could see huge gaps. This guy took everything into account, and he really knew his stuff. We walked through two of the other houses he had done on our block to see his work. He made us feel very comfortable.”
DJ also has some tips for saving money. “Work with your contractor to leverage their discounts. We were able to go out and buy the things we really wanted and still ended up coming in under our GC’s budget because we found them for cheaper than we planned. This allowed us to go even nicer than we envisioned on some features.”
Not only were they under budget, but their project finished on time too. “Everything went so smoothly. RenoFi made it so easy for us from the start. The team prepped us on everything we needed to get together and it was all submitted electronically. We never once went to the bank. And we were very lucky we had a great architect and contractor throughout the process.
“All you start with is blueprints and just kinda hope it will turn out like you envisioned. Having this idea and actually seeing it come together piece by piece; to see the progression and transformation is the most fun part. And then when it’s finished - it’s like holy cow. People come over, and say, ‘this is unbelievable.’ Everything just exceeded our expectations.”