So, we did this thing. A probably foolish, definitely exciting, mildly nauseating, mostly stressful thing. We bought the definition of a fixer-upper in a beautiful tree-lined street in Chicago, in a neighborhood we’ve loved for a while. And we’re going to share our journey with
family, friends, and casual acquaintances the world! Let’s get into it!
Girl, are you crazy?
Um, probably. On the one hand, we are not new to DIY/home improvement projects/minor refurbishments or even home ownership for that matter. On the other hand, we are not veteran renovators. Personally, it’s always been on my bucket list to do a full home renovation but I didn’t expect the opportunity to come up so soon.
[Brian: I remember that our then-three-month-old had just had a few good nights of sleep, and we thought “hey, let’s do that home renovation thing while we’re still relatively young and full of THIS much energy!” and promptly reached out to our real estate agent. After we bought the house our kid stopped sleeping so well (womp womp) so I’m kind of glad the project was of a scale that it wasn’t possible to do it ourselves – and so we can also catch up on sleep. This is us, by the way, on a trip to Ireland:]
How did it happen?
We decided to start casually looking at properties with an eye for single family homes – a tall order considering we wanted to stay in Chicago proper, and close to public transportation. Our current condo is beautiful and was renovated a few years ago by someone else. We were open to getting something that would need some love, so we called our agent to start dipping our toes in the water. “The Search” deserves its own post because it was a real trip!
We bought a classic Chicago brick two-flat (we learned that “two-flat” means “one building with two separate apartments”). Our particular brick beauty was built in 1915 and had only two owners prior to us purchasing it in mid-2018, so it retained a lot of its original detail (both good and bad). Here she is:
We’ll dive more into the before/after plans but at a high level, the first and second floors are each separate 2 bed/1 bath apartments with respective kitchens, living and dining rooms. The basement is unfinished and was being used for storage and laundry. It has a small front yard as you see in the photo and a huge backyard – one of the particular selling points for us. A yard in the city! Who says you can’t have it all? 🙂 Like most Chicago homes, it has a detached garage which will house our eventual car. (Yes, we have a toddler and no car. And we still go out and do things! We can chat about that some time).
So what’s the plan?
We’re turning it into a single family home! It will be decently large when we’re done, especially considering we are incorporating the basement. We’ll be losing some existing square footage due to not keeping the addition that’s currently in the back of the house, but even without that it will be a lot of house for our little family of three. Living/dining/kitchen on the first floor, bedrooms on the second floor, mixed use in the basement – more details forthcoming!
[Brian: we’re also hoping to identify some projects we can defer to after move-in that we can do ourselves to put some personal touch / sweat equity into the house.]
Is there anything wrong with this magical unicorn of a house?
Fair question. I mean, there’s a reason we could afford it, right? As you will see when we walk through the “before,” this is not the type of house you live-in-while-working-on-it-and-just-do-dishes-in-the-bathtub-like-you-see-on-HGTV. There’s not a lot we can salvage but what we can, we will. Also, despite being in a great neighborhood it is very, very close to the train. As in the “L” train or
infamous Chicago elevated train line, which is very, very loud. This point almost steered me to the “no” decision for this property, but ultimately I felt comfortable with our soundproofing options and potential minimal re-sale risk that I got on board (“on board”, get it? #trainhumor). Not to get sappy, but it is kind of beautiful thing, watching the train go by. City life at its best! (As long as you can’t hear it).
I’m in. What’s next?
We wanted a place to share our journey/triumphs/challenges so we decided to do a blog. We don’t have any particular scheduled planned, but we’ll post as we can. Welcome, and thanks for joining the ride!