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Make the decision. Mike and Leann currently live in a home that's more than 4,000 square feet (not pictured; this photo shows the new one), and their children are in their early 20s. Rather than waiting for the children to completely move out, Mike and Leann decided to find a smaller home now that they can make uniquely their own and transition to.
Remodeling tip 1: Look for a house with "good bones," meaning it doesn't suffer from extensive neglect and disrepair and the inevitable resulting damage. It should be structurally sound and be able to be renovated without completely rebuilding it. Sure, anything can be fixed and rebuilt, but if the renovation is too extensive, it just might be better tearing down the house and building new. So getting an architect, a builder or both to help assess the condition of the existing house before purchasing is critical.
Look past the cosmetics. The Rowes didn't let all of this wood and stone or the "fast-food-restaurant storefront" scare them. Let's face it, who hasn't been on a house search and walked into a home and wondered, "What were they thinking?" But in this house — a case where the 1970s has a lot of explaining to do — the size, location and general Florida split-plan arrangement made too much sense to take a pass on.
Remodeling tip 2: With your architect and builder in tow, take a careful look at the existing house. Climb into the attic, check for signs of settling, analyze how difficult or easy it'll be to restructure the rooms, assess the condition of the heating and cooling system, and assume nothing meets current code so it'll all have to be brought up to date. Don't, as they say, have your eyes wide shut.
Assemble the team. Before closing on the purchase of the house, Mike and Leann engaged a builder they knew and me as their architect to start the design phase and see what could reasonably be done with the house.
Remodeling tip 3: Find an architect who practices in your area. Ask friends, scour the Internet and look on Houzz's professionals listings for someone with experience in projects like yours. Ask about the architect's experience, workload and ability to listen to you. Ask the architect for references and contact those people to see how the architect worked and whether or not the architect did a good job listening.
Establish a preliminary budget. Mike and Leann, like all of us, have a budget that has to be adhered to. So, again before closing on the purchase, Mike and Leann met their architect and builder at the house to toss out ideas and likely costs. Doing this enabled them to walk into the project with their eyes wide open.
Remodeling tip 4: Don't wait until after the design is done to find out what the project will cost. The advantage of assembling the team early is being able to control likely costs from the onset. The architect then doesn't draw a design that won't get built, and you won't get frustrated and upset.
Remember that there will be unforeseen items and changes during the course of the project, so you'll want to include a healthy contingency with this budget.
Practice patience. Mike and Leann spent two years looking for just the right house. It was a search for a home that had good bones and a prime location, and they found it in the small town of St. Pete Beach, Florida. Having a home on the water is a dream come true for Mike and Leann, both avid fishers and boaters. In just a few months they'll be able to walk out their back door, climb aboard their boat and head off into the Gulf of Mexico.
Remodeling tip 5: Remodeling a home can be messy and fraught with discomfort. From the excitement in the beginning to the discomfort and angst of the construction to the absolute joy when it's all done, a renovation project is not unlike having a child. So remember to keep your eyes on the prize, knowing that the joy of living in your new home for many years will more than enough compensation for the discomfort of the renovation.
Next, Part 2: How to Get the Drawings Underway