How much work are you willing to do?

From our last post, you can see that Dan and I have sat down and thought about the kind of features we want in a home, and what we’re willing to put up with in our new adventures as homeowners.  This little gem threw me a curve ball when it comes to “how much work are you willing to do”:

“What a quaint little home!” you say.  Oh yes, its charms weren’t lost on me.  The price tag made you stop and wonder though – $155,000.  $155,000!  Something must be terribly wrong with this home if an all-brick Kitchener downtown family home is asking 155.  Take a look inside dear friends:

Ohhhh!  You wanted WALLS?  And flooring?  And wiring?  And plumbing?  And load bearing walls?  Well, you need to get your head out of the clouds sunny, what were you expecting for $155,000?

Here are the details of this charmer on Betzner Avenue:

Building Type: House

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms (Total): 0 <– Yes, that says zero

Floor Space: 1620 sqft

Storeys:  1.5

Age Of Building: 41 to 60 years

Land Size: 41. x 124X41X124.5|under 1 acre

Title: Freehold

Location: 54 BETZNER Avenue North

This is my favourite – the general description of the home in that little blurby that should say things like “handy man’s dream” or “cozy and charming”:


That’s all you get.  You’re paying some real money for a weenie little patch of grass and a shell of a house, without any bathrooms, and a real estate agent who couldn’t be bothered to spin this into something you might really consider buying for a minute… before you look at the pictures again.

Someone gutted this little beauty and left him for dead.  But let’s stop and think for a minute – what are the possible reasons for doing this to a home and then selling it for next to nothing:

My immediate thoughts were fire, grow-op, meth house, or serious mold issues.  I’ve almost entirely ruled out mold since no sane person would think that every wall needs to come down for a little mold problem.  Fire seems very likely, or it could be an enthusiastic flipper who went too far and ran out of money.  My money is on fire or grow-op.

But for a solid day, I had this house in my mind as a real possibility.  If you could knock the price down to even $120, that would leave you some serious cash for fixing it up right.  In our hypothetical world of estimating how much we can afford for a home without actually speaking to someone who would lend us the money, we are working with a budget of $200,000 for a home.  Now, Dan and I are not construction experts, and Dan is notoriously terrible at estimating numbers of any kind (How DARE you, sir! -Dan), so we asked around about how much it would cost to make this into a liveable space.

Expert #1: Uncle Simon

Experience that qualifies him to tell us what’s what:  Decades working in construction, including numerous DIY projects for himself and my grandparents/parents/sister.  He’s also worked with my other uncle on flipping a house or two

Estimate for reno: $25,000 to $40,000

Notes: This estimate is based on Simon’s experience with doing everything himself.   I would wager that this cost is strictly for materials, since this is how he does all of his projects.  He’s happy as a clam to live in a construction zones for weeks or months since he loves a good project and quite frankly doesn’t need a lot of things to be happy.  Since Dan and I would not be doing THIS kind of reno work on our own, that would mean a higher price tag to get the job done.

Expert #2:  Uncle Andy

Experience that qualifies him to tell us what’s what: Years of working on his own home and being rather handy.  This is not the uncle that worked with Simon on flipping homes, but he knows a thing or two about working the aisles at Home Depot.

Estimate for reno: $100,000

Notes:  Again, Andy does a lot of work himself, but I think the extreme nature of this potential project made him immediately see dollar signs.  Andy has been working steadily away at several DIY renos in his own home over the last year, and personally knows how terrible it is to live in while work is being done.

Expert #3: Al and Julia (Dan’s mom)

Experience that qualifies them to tell us what’s what: Again, years of construction work and personal experience gutting and flipping some houses.  Al and Julia completely redid their current home, which is a dead ringer for our Betzner Avenue wonder – roughly the same age and size.

Estimate for reno: $60,000 – $70,000 without drywalling

Notes:  Our most depressing, and likely most realistic estimate.  Having done all of the work themselves for a very similar home, they know what the costs are for top quality renovations must-haves,  Al is also involved actively in new home building and was a carpenter and contractor for decades.  While this house saves you the step of tearing it all down yourself to start from scratch, it looks like important things are fire damaged, which means a lot more work and money has to go into it before you even start holding up paint chips to the walls.

I don’t think this house was ever really a possibility for us, even before we considered how there might be fire damage or other serious structural damage to deal with.  But I loved the idea of a starting from scratch and doing exactly what you want to do with a house.  The major downside is that is has to be done all at once before you even move in.  We’ve already paid double rent twice in our short 1.5 years of living together, and paying for extra months of rent while also footing a mortgage just isn’t our bag.

To cap it all off, I also don’t think we’re willing to put this much work into a place.  We’re thinking more along the lines of repainting, doing little weekend fix-it projects, and gutting a kitchen or bathroom only.  Sorry little Betzner house, I hope someone wants to love you, but it won’t be us.


About joeyandjanice

Two crazy kids trying to make sense of the jumble surrounding making the jump from renting to owning our first home. Join us here as we stumble towards the biggest purchase of our lives.
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