PLEASE ENJOY THIS VERY SPECIAL POST FROM MY CLIENT, CHRISTINE RADLMANN, ABOUT HER FAMILY’S HOME SEARCH AND REMODELING EXPERIENCE!!
Those were the emphatic words uttered by my husband when he emerged from an open house in the summer of 2013. He had no idea that I would persuade him to buy that very house several weeks later.
We’d been living in a small Dutch colonial in Cranford for the past five years. With dark chestnut trim throughout and original hardwood floors, that house had character galore. But it also had minuscule closet space, radiator heat that hissed louder than 1,000 cobras, windows that hung from defunct rusty chains, and myriad other quirks typical of a 90-year-old house. By the end of our tenure in that sweet little home, we were over “character” and ready for spaciousness and a more contemporary feel.
We found what we thought was the perfect house–a “forever” house–in Cranford, a town we had grown to love, but the deal fell through. Finally I relented and agreed to look for a home in Westfield. But with our budget, the pickings were slim, especially since we had a long wish list: 4 bedrooms (all on the same level), 2 1/2 baths, large family room, attached 2-car garage, central air and heat, and a sidewalk neighborhood with little traffic. Anything that came close to meeting those requirements was out of our budget. We were starting to wonder if we needed to broaden our search to other towns.
Our REALTOR® –the exceptional (and exceptionally PATIENT) Sharon Steele, had introduced us to the Lenape Park neighborhood across Springfield Ave in Westfield, near Nomahegan Swim Club. Originally I scoffed at the idea of moving to this neighborhood, because it seemed so far removed from downtown. But we quickly came to love the quietness of the neighborhood, and the fact that it is filled with young children and growing families. We found an almost-right house in the neighborhood, but lost the bid on it.
All the while I kept wondering about a different property in the same neighborhood, one that seemed to need quite a bit work. On a whim, we drove to its open house, and I let my husband go in while I stayed in the car with our napping children. I kid you not, he came out two minutes later and forbade me from entering–he said it was the ugliest house he’d ever seen, and we’ve seen hundreds.
I didn’t enter the house that day, but after another month of house-searching and not finding anything, I went back to it on my own. Yep, it was ugly as heck inside! The foyer welcomed you with brown asbestos tile and mirrored walls–complete with additional decorative mirrors hanging on those mirrored walls! The bathroom toilet looked like something out of a horror movie, and besides dated fixtures, the walls were painted with a gigantic Italian villa scene. The rest of the house wasn’t much better. Brown faux paint and dated wallpaper decorated the walls throughout. The kitchen featured leopard-print wallpaper border and stick-on floor tile, not to mention the world’s smallest sink, a tiny fridge, and a Hobbit-sized island. Outside, the backyard was entirely overgrown with scraggly trees and shrubs on a steep hill, utterly unusable for children.
But here’s what else I saw: beautifully high ceilings upwards of 11 feet in the living and dining rooms; lots of natural light throughout, owing to several skylights and countless large windows; ample space in the kitchen and adjoining family room; a large two-car garage (attached!); a gigantic driveway that could fit at least 6 cars (perfect for our big family parties); an actual master bedroom with a walk-in closet and master bath, plus 3 other bedrooms and another bathroom on the same level. The house was ugly, sure, but it had everything on our checklist! And since no one had ever bid on the house (and it had been on the market for a looooong time), we knew we could get it for a great price.
Fast forward to a little over a year, and we are truly happy in this home. From the day we moved in–the very first day!–we started doing a multitude of improvements on the property. In the backyard, we we completely leveled the yard and created a large green space for our children to play. We completely gutted the powder room and kitchen on the first floor and have built our dream kitchen. We knocked down a wall between the kitchen and family room to create one expansive space, and added all new hardwood floors to that level of the house. We also built a laundry room off the kitchen, finished the basement into a small rec room, painted the entire interior, and updated the remaining bathrooms with some new fixtures.
It hasn’t been easy, but we managed to turn what was once the ugliest house in the neighborhood to exactly the house we’d been searching for. And even after all the renovations, we still have spent far less money than what we would have spent on a property that was already “done.” Of course, the real testament to having chosen the right house is the attitude of our children, who recently said, “Can we live here FOREVER?”
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