Saturday, March 22, 2008

Impossible!

The first thing we did upon receiving the keys, was to meet Nick from Greentech at our new house, we asked him to come over to perform an energy audit. Which went pretty quickly as we have no furnace, or central A/C for him to inspect, nor was he able to tell how much insulation there was in any of our walls or attic, since it had all been plastered or drywalled over. One thing the audit did reveal was that our house has a lot of air infiltration through windows, doors, outlets, and the fireplace in the basement. Armed with our information from Nick and the promise of generous grants and rebates from the government and utilities, we lined up a couple of HVAC contractors to provide us with complete HVAC system and household hot water quotes.

First came Angelo, from Visic Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning. Dealing with him was about as much fun as rolling around in a patch of poison ivy. The minute he walked in the door, he declared with all the certainty one could muster, "I know why this house was on the market for so long!" "Actually Angelo, it was on the market for only four days", my wife corrected. Before even seeing the whole house he was declaring the job "Impossible!" We realized the house has a lot of challenges that would make running ducts difficult, but every question we had, and every suggestion we thought might work, was met with "Impossible!" After hearing him tell us that he has been in the heating and air conditioning business for 35 years, a half dozen times, and that he had worked on over 20 houses on our street alone, we were pretty disappointed that he could offer no solutions or suggestions, not even one idea - nothing but "Impossible!". We were very glad when Angelo left.

Next we met Denise from Comfort Zone 21 Degrees, and what a breath of fresh air she was, upon entering our house, she complimented it on all the original trim and mouldings that were left intact. She then systematically examined all the rooms of the house, starting from the basement. After throughly examining the house bottom to top, she repeated the tour with us and explained what she thought would be the best solutions. She immediately ruled out forced air ducting, as our house has very few interior walls and running the ductwork would mean boxes and bulkheads over our plaster crown mouldings - a deal breaker for me. Instead she took a floor by floor approach, and suggested equipment which would maximize comfort, minimize both installation and running costs and preserve our house's character. She suggested we use Rinnai natural gas wall furnaces, and Fujitsu 21 SEER heat pump/AC units. Both of which get excellent consumer reviews for efficiency, comfort, and durability. She was very up front with us, that we would not likely be eligible for grants and rebates for these changes. But the solutions she suggest will net out cheaper in the short run and be more economical in the long run. She also suggested replacing our electric water heater with a natural gas tankless system. This will give us additional space in our finished basement and save us a bundle on utilities. She said she wanted to give it more thought and work out the right sizing. As well she wanted to make sure that her installers would be able to do the work, with our house so close to our neighbours. We're looking forward to seeing what she comes up with and what her final proposal and pricing is.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Buyer's Remorse?

The first time we viewed the house was at the open house, on the weekend before the bidding was to take place. On that visit we spent about 10 minutes going through the house, as we didn't really have much intention of buying it. My wife and I had our hearts set on a real fixer-upper so that we could finish the house exactly the way we wanted. Despite the house only having electric heating, we knew there wasn't going to be "a needs TLC" discount, as the interior of the house was in pretty much move-in shape. In fact we knew the house was priced for multiple offers, and that the asking price was artificially low to entice even more bidders. However, when we got home that night and reflected on the other "fixer-uppers" that we had previously lost out on, this house struck us as a good deal, so we decided to make an offer...And then a higher one...And then a higher one still...And then it was ours.

Over the next four months we did numerous drive-bys, walk-bys and re-examined the listing's small interior thumbnail pics. We had a million things going through our minds. Did we make a horrible mistake? After all, we did only see the house for 10 minutes, most people spend longer than that deciding what to order from Starbucks. For each and every "happy reno vision", we would have a dreaded "we over-paid vision". So to quell these conflicting feelings, once and for all, we finally decided to use one of our 2 visits. Our visit was able to confirm one thing - that whenever we schedule a house viewing, we always get the sellers that don't leave the house. So while we didn't feel at all comfortable measuring rooms, or discussing our reno plans, with the sellers hovering over us, we are happy to say the house is pretty much as we remembered it. And we do feel a lot more comfortable with our purchase, and reno plans.

And those plans will include:
- Removing the enormous hornets nest that is attached to the soffit
- Having a natural gas line installed
- Getting an energy audit, and putting in a high efficiency natural gas, forced air HVAC system
- Installing a tankless water heater
- Converting the walk-in closet into a master ensuite
- Replacing the offensive aluminum slider windows with thermal pane, wood mullioned windows
- Renovating the kitchen and replacing the appliances
- Renovating the other 2.5 bathrooms
- Replacing the front door and transom
- Replacing the back sliding door, with a set of french doors
- Landscaping the front and back yards
- Converting the third floor into an office/guest bedroom
- Converting the basement apartment into a TV Room, Nanny Suite, Wine Cellar and laundry room
- Putting built-in storage in all of the bedrooms.
- Adding a front vestibule
- Putting fireplaces on each floor
- Moving the laundry from the kitchen to the basement
- Restoring all the brickwork and gingerbread details

We've budgeted about $135,000, and i plan on doing much of the work myself. SO...Do we think we'll be able to get all of our money back out one day? We're not sure, but we plan on starting a family and staying put for a while. My wife and I have had a chance to check out some of the local shops and restaurants, including a Valentines day date at GATE 403, and more and more, we are falling in love with our new neighbourhood. So at the end of the day, it's not just about an investment in real estate, it's about an investment in lifestyle and from that perspective we feel we've done alright. One more month until closing day.