The Old Fashioned Way

Drop in ceiling (were they serious?)

Drop in ceiling (were they serious?)Upstairs 1100 sq feet open space

Well, the towel has been thrown in and we have decided to go allllll the way to the drawing board and start over.  We started out only needing around $50-80k in repairs, but by the time the bank was done adding their projects that “would make the house appraise for more” and making us hire a general contractor, our bottom line total of borrowing $178k was just waaaaaaaaaay more than what we wanted to spend.  So, we are pulling it all back and deciding to go with Plan A, which was, do the work ourself!

We will have to get creative on finding someone to help with the roof work (we have a LARGE roof), but the other things are just maintenance issues that we can take care of ourself.  I almost feel relieved to be going back to Plan A.  I trust in myself more than I do the general contractor and the bank.  We also were not thrilled to add all of the things the bank wanted to add, just to make our house supposedly worth more.  As you can tell from our previous blog, you can see how well their theory held.

So, we are dusting off the power tools and mourning the six months lost on filling out paperwork and getting the house appraised.  We could have already gutted and redone the kitchen or bathroom by now!!!  Or at least sanded and repainted a porch ballister or two 🙂  It was nice for a while to think that we could have all of the work done at once instead of laboring over it for the next ten years, but in all honesty, I think we will be more satisfied and proud to come home and see the transformation and know that we had a hand in it.  So, three cheers for doing the old fashioned [hard] way! 

First, we are going to gut the horrendous sheetrock and drop in ceiling job that some misguided PO attempted and try to frame up an extra bedroom, bathroom and recreation room.  Even though I hate that  our first project is to finish space that we don’t need yet.  I mean, we have 4 bedrooms downstairs already!!  But, in order to gut the bathroom downstairs, we have to create a bathroom upstairs.  In our 4000 sq ft house, we only have one bathroom.  YES, I said ONE bathroom!  So, new bathroom upstairs first, along with the extras, then we can gut the ugly bathroom downstairs.  As a woman, I would like to scrape and paint the exterior of the house first, that would be a super improvement to the face of the house, but, in the Louisiana sun, instant gratification falls second on the list to keeping cool and avoiding heat stroke!  So, the upstairs it is. 


Time to throw in the towel?

After much haggling with the bank and going over and over our appraisal, we wonder if it is just time to throw in the towel.  Our house did not appraise for what we thought it would.  The first reason being the location and site value of the home.  The second reason is the bank does not want to pour money into a house, especially an old house, due to the current housing market, if they don’t feel they could resell it for what was put into it.  There are too many houses on the market here.

Initially, we only wanted to hire a contractor to rebuild the turret and replace some of the fascia boards and paint.  We pretty much could handle the rest ourselves.  However, when we laid it out for the bank, they told us we would have to add projects X, Y, and Z in order for them to feel that we are adding worth to our house.  So, we reluctantly added X,Y,Z all the while working with our contractor and letting him know that we plan on doing X,Y,Z ourselves and just don’t tell the bank.  Now that our house has come in undervalued, we have to cut the general contractor’s jobs.  But, in order to get the loan we need a general contractor!  ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  It is a huge vicious cycle!

In analyzing our appraisal, there are just not enough houses in the area that compare to ours.  The appraiser had a hard time finding some comps.  We are faced with making the decision of: 1) getting another appraisal; 2) finding our own comps; 3) scrapping the whole deal.  I have talked to a realtor friend and a respected appraiser, they both say that there aren’t any other comps out there and getting another appraisal would be throwing good money after bad.  No wonder people don’t fix up old houses!  LOL!  You have to have enough cash to do it all yourself, or have enough cash to hire it out.  Either way, you must be rich and have tons of money stashed away ready to be poured into these mammoth houses.  The sad part is, most people don’t have enough cash to fix these old historic homes up.  If they had the cash, they probably are living in a McMansion up the street in the “new neighborhood development”. 

Due to the very poor past maintenance of this house and lack of preventive maintenance achieved, it is in very poor condition and a LOT of things need to be replaced immediately, i.e. Roof (leaking and you can see daylight in one spot), plumbing (everything on one side of the house gurgles because there is no vent stack), porch (we currently have plywood holding it up), fence (it is leaning into the neighbor’s yard!).

We have redone three houses, but nothing of this magnitude.  We have been able to choose one project at a time and pay cash for it.  We can do a lot of the work ourselves, but we cannot do it all at once.  I am afraid that by the time we save enough cash to move on to the next project, we will have the other side of the house falling apart!   Ahhh….old houses, gotta love them!

What we immediately need to do is get the roof water tight.  It is leaking, needs carpentry work and a new roof altogether.  The last one was put on in 1948.  It is a good roof, and may last longer, but it is very brittle and once the tiles are moved to repair the leaks, they probably will be too broken up to put back.  So, therefore it was suggested we replace the roof in its entirety. 

Sigh…..I am starting to wonder if I should have listened to the realtor, loan officer, family and friends that I blogged about in my first post!  LOL!  Please, someone, anyone, are you out there?  What do I do now?

What they said

Well, we talked to the bank.  Even though it is a horrendous, convoluted appraisal, they said they couldn’t do anything about it.  Nice answer, huh?  Especially now that they have our application fees.

I was told that the only thing I can do is find houses in the area for a better comparison.  So, that means I have to do the appraiser’s job.  Luckily I have a realtor friend who specializes in selling older homes and properties in the Garden District.  She is going to help find some good comparables and see if that puts us on a better track.

What really galls me is, Louisiana is backwards in preservation and so are the younger people who live here.  I am 29, so I am not an old biddie cracking on young people.  I had a young appraiser, late 20’s, maybe early 30’s, who told me that the life expectancy of my house was maybe another 20 years!  Can you believe that!  It has stood for 100, it will stand for 200!  I just can’t believe the mentality.  Just because it is old, that makes it “inferior”.   You can’t build houses like this anymore!  I have news for him: My house will outlast any new home in the area.  Also, most of the new homes that are built today WILL NOT outlive their mortgages…mark my words.

So, here we are again, another delay and more negativity.  I told my husband that if someone offered to buy my house right now for what I paid for it, I would hand them the key.  I have endured two years of crazy looks from my friends, family, realtor, loan officers…….that is the short list.  Now, I have the appraiser telling me my house won’t live another 20 years.  Is it really worth all this trouble?


Well, the DAY before we left, the appraiser came by to look at our house.  He decided he was not going to include my half bath into the square footage because it opens onto the porch like a mud room.  Well, that aggravated me and I told him that it is heated square feet.  The a/c and heat run all year around in it…so why not?  Anyway, it did not get included in the appraisal.

Not only is that irritating, but we got the appraisal back this weekend when we got back in town.  Our property was compared to 3 houses: 1) 22 miles away (yes, you read that right…22 miles away and in a different town!); 2) the second house was 15 miles away; and 3) one on Marye Street in the Garden District (the Garden District is where we live).  The first two properties are considered RURAL and everyone knows that property values in rural settings are significantly lower than in URBAN settings.  Also, the appraiser made several notes about the large deductions he made.  He said that he made higher than normal deductions because he wanted to accurately reflect the value of our house…..?  Umm….I guess he meant the value he personally thought it should be.  Our house appraised for $56/sq foot…in a completely fixed state.  That is a 4200 heated square foot house, wraparound porch, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, a living room, dining room, kitchen, study, recreation room, new paint outside.  I wonder how a house one street over appraises for $300-400k for less square footage, but mine only appraised for $230?  Give me a break!  It is not even worth borrowing the money to have it fixed if they believe that after all the work we are going to do it will only appraise for $230????

I kicked it back to the bank and asked them to PLEASE find some houses that are closer, like, in the SAME town.  I further informed them that we lived in Alexandria, not Lecompte or Cheneyville. 

We shall see what happens!!!!!