Before & After: a RenoFi-powered renovation in West Chester
Their home needed A LOT of work, but the loan process was simple and easyApr 16, 2020 • Kira Barrett
- Location: West Chester, PA
- Built in 1930
- 1,800 sq. ft.
- 4 beds, 2.5 bath
- Previous renovations: remodeled kitchen, hardwood flooring throughout
- Valued at $405,000
- Additional 850 sq. ft.
- New great room with entry from backyard
- New master suite with walk-in closets
- All new exterior siding & roof
- Total Cost: $200,000
- Post-renovation value: $807,500
Five years ago when Justin and Nicki found their current home in West Chester, they had no doubts it was exactly where they wanted to be. The home itself, however, didn’t give quite the same affirmation.
“This home needed everything done,” Nicki explained. “It was really bad. We started by redoing the floors and painting the walls all before moving in just to make it livable. But its potential is why we bought it. We’ve always wanted to live on this street.” In fact, their previous home was actually just a block away. “We’d bring the kids here to trick or treat, and I was actually in a book club with many of the neighbors and knew how wonderful they all were.”
With visions of this property being their forever home, they knew the renovation work would be worth it. “We wanted to do it now while the kids were still here and could enjoy it.” Their oldest, Quinn, is 14 and were looking forward to he and his 11-year old sister, Jill, having their own bathroom and the extra guest room (their parent’s old bedroom as they move up to their new Master Suite) double as a “kids hangout.”
But their favorite part of the renovation has been on the main level. “We love how our family room space came together; set up with a TV and speakers; we’re really enjoying that. And the new patio is great. The back of our home had a funky set up with no eyes on the backyard. There was only a side door to exit, so to look out, we actually had to go to the downstairs bathroom. Now, we have a direct line of sight and the ability to walk straight out; that’s probably one of our favorite things.”
Justin and Nicki previously went through refinancing for other smaller projects, but had very little knowledge about home renovation loans and the process. “We just kinda Google searched ‘home renovation loans’ and came across RenoFi,” Nicki explained. “Justin and Lee have been super responsive to all our questions and on top of everything since. They’ve been so easy to work with.”
And the couple really appreciated that support when some substantial changes arose. While they originally planned for the master suite to be built above the existing first floor, their contractor told them the existing garage below would not sustain the addition. “So we figured if we’re adding above, why not add below?” Justin explained. As a result, their plans evolved into all new construction for the nice first floor living room they now love so much with the master built out over it.
And that wasn’t the only change to their original plans. “Going back, I would probably go into it with just a little more understanding that it’s likely to be bigger in scope that you plan. Not only for the little surprises you face when opening up walls, but for our own personal add-ons too. We figured the guys are here, so we really should just do this. Might as well!” Some of these additions included a backyard shed with electricals, all new siding to match that of the addition, a walkout from the basement, and that new patio in the backyard.
In addition to aesthetics and space, their goal was to solve a lot of potential future problems with their renovations. “Many of the cast iron pipes were here when the home was originally built in 1930, so the newly renovated bathrooms take care of replacing all of these,” says Justin. And these new bathrooms have changed their day-to-day BIG time.
As a family of four, only having one full bath got crowded to say the least. “We finally have a master suite with our own bathroom, Justin explained. “Now that school has started, it’s so much easier in the mornings with the kids. And during the renovation, when they were redoing the downstairs powder room as well, we were down to one bathroom. So now we really appreciate our new set up,” Justin laughed.
With a smooth appraisal process and the ability to secure their loan quickly, they were actually able to push up their timeline and start a few months earlier than expected. “The process was very easy. We don’t have any complaints. Everything went really well with the appraisal and everything, and we’re really happy.”
They managed to stay on budget throughout the process too, and while they did add about a month to their final timeline, Justin says it was largely due to additional things they requested themselves. “Our GC was really good at letting us know of any changes on their side. They had a great system called BuilderTrend.net that allowed us to get notifications on change orders and sign off or decline them right there.”
In fact, they highly recommend their contractor and actually already have to about half a dozen people. “We get a lot of foot traffic where we are and over the last couple of months, we’ve had people we don’t even know stop by and ask if we’d recommend these guys, and we always do.” And they attribute a positive experience with finding someone they really trusted to do the job.
“You really rely on finding the right builder; to not leave you hanging like some of the horror stories you hear, and we felt word of mouth was so important in our search. We saw signs in our neighborhood and talked to the before who used them before contacting 4 different companies to come out. Those referrals from someone you know and trust, and then actually seeing the work is invaluable.”
And now that it’s all said and done, Justin says the most rewarding part of the process was seeing it all come together. And for both Justin and Nicki who work from home, they had a front row seat to it the whole time. “Working through it and not really knowing what each day would be like was challenging at times, but it was exciting how fast the construction and framing goes up early on. Then once everything is set up and you’re actually living in it; relaxing and enjoying the space, that’s definitely the best part.”