Well, I guess I became one of those people who started a blog only to abandon it months later. But I promise it wasn’t because I lost interest – instead it was that I lost a little bit of hope in our project.
My last post on here was on July 9th, 2016 – ironically named, “Things are finally happening!” Obviously, shortly after that, those things that were happening – stopped. In that post, I wrote about how the plans for our house were being presented to the town in a formal presentation to the Zoning Board. And in the meantime, we could start work on the first floor and basement. Actually, you need a permit to start work. I knew that, I just assumed we were getting it. WRONG! Although the Zoning Board graciously approved our plans for the full renovation, including the new second floor, we had taken another key element for granted. THE BANK. $$$$.
After our house was essentially destroyed (February 15th, 2016 – OMG), we had sat down with our bank (with whom we had just gotten a mortgage from in June of 2015 – OMG), to discuss the possibility of undertaking the larger scale renovation while in the midst of an insurance claim. We were assured that it is done all the time, and they even advised us to utilize their Renovation loan program. In order to start that process – the bank needs the approved set of architectural plans. Do you see where I’m going with this?
We forged ahead with our hopeful, grand vision – having the architect draw up and present our devised plan for adding a full second floor with a gracious Master Suite, 3 bedrooms, and bathroom. Our main worry during this process was having enough time in our temporary living situation to complete the full project. It turns out we were getting way ahead of ourselves.
After triumphantly receiving our Zoning Board approvals, we immediately called the bank to get the financing ball rolling. Wishy-washy hesitation doesn’t even begin to cover the attitude now displayed by the bank. Now that we were ready to proceed, the bank declared that they weren’t sure if they could lend money for a renovation for which the house currently had money in escrow due to an insurance claim. In summation, because we have a mortgage, the bank essentially still owns the house – the insurance company pays out the recovery funds to the bank (with our names also on the checks). The bank holds the money in escrow and performs progress checks during the reconstruction and releases the money back to us. It’s obnoxious – but I also understand it. Because of this, they could not fathom how to work around the issue – you would think they would’ve also known this back when they told us it was an amazing idea, right?
So that was a punch in the gut. And trust me, we fought – for about a month. We called so many different people to explain the situation. But because they are such a big bank, they have no motivation to make exceptions for “the folks.” We even tried to negotiate with the Loss Department of the bank to make an exception to let the two phases happen concurrently, but they would not even entertain that either. Basically, we asked if the first floor and basement work could be finished, but leave the ceiling open so that once it was approved and the funds were released, we could flow into the second floor addition portion. NOPE! The Loss Department and Mortgage Department of the same bank apparently cannot speak to each other.
OK. So the dream was over. To add insult to injury, every contractor we brought through the house told us we were crazy – that it didn’t make sense to not do the second floor now. No joke – we know that! Some even said to level and demolish the house and start from scratch – which actually hurt the worst.
In the end, I had ten contractors come to the house to bid out the new scope. I wasted at least another month doing walkthroughs and getting bids for just the first floor work. The last one I finally liked and felt like “he got it.” And he has so far! We submitted the full set of plans to the town in December, with the hope that we can still do the second phase almost immediately following the first (maybe with 6 months off – I think we deserve it!) It took a very long time to get the permits — almost 3 ½ months!
However, as soon as we got those permits, the work started. It feels SO good to stop by the house and see progress. Lots of progress. Which is good. Because…..we have to be out of our temporary housing on May 28th! We are keeping our fingers crossed we can meet that deadline (with a little room to spare). If not, we will be living with my parents while it finishes up.
Some other great news is that we are moving forward with the backyard landscaping work, which includes a new stone patio and steps down to the river. And I’ve been having an amazing time picking furniture and finishes for the new spaces. We are also switching from oil to natural gas heating and cooling, which is something we always wanted to do eventually.
Even after all this chaos, disappointment, and stress – I do not think it can be said enough how excited we are to have an end in sight and be back in our home. We have put so much heart and soul into the redesign and choices, that I think it will be surreal to actually see it come to life. Some things are worth waiting for, and I think this will be one of them.
And I’m back, for real! 🙂