Someone asked me for the full back story of my house - so I thought there might be others that want to know as well. So, I am posting the answer here (gonna be a long one).
You can see tons of before - during - after pictures HERE
Frank and I got married in Dec 2005. We moved to a small town in NW, NJ and were renting. We actually moved there in Sept. So about Jan/Feb, for fun we started going to open houses.
It was then that we realized that we would probably be renting for a while. House prices were pretty high still and what we could afford was crap. We decided at that point that we would wait 1-2 years before starting to look again.
Well, since I moved more than an hour and a 1/2 from my job, I was doing temp work. On my off days, I would just play around on the internet. One of my "go to" websites was the NJ Multi-listing. I though that maybe something would just fall in my lap.
Well, exactly that happened!!!!! I would check it usually in the morning. So, I looked at it one day and saw a house listed.
The house was listed with 4 bedrooms, living room, family room, office, decent yard, etc. And then I looked at the price. It was super super cheap. It was about $90,000 less than the cheapest house we had seen. Thing is - there was not one picture.
I really thought it was a mistake. So, I called the Realtor and asked why it was so cheap. I thought maybe there was a fire or other type of damage. He basiacally told me that the seller was VERY motivated to sell. I told him I wanted to see it. It was so cheap that I knew that we could afford it - even on just my husband's salary. The guy told us he would only show the house if we were pre-approved for a loan. he also said that there were no pictures because the house was just listed 20 minutes ago.
We called a guy that they reccommeneded and got pre-approval the same day. I went there at 4:45 that same day (by myself) and totally loved the house. Of course I had to look beyond all the crap and how bad the house looked. But seriously, what I really saw was all the wood moldings - and of course potential.
The house was built arount 1900 (give or take a few years) and had great bones. Plus it was a great size for us. It is really big.
I called my husband as soon as I left the house and told him I wanted it. Now, I have to admit - I would never looked at this place if I knew it was a side by side duplex. never thought I would want to live in one. I also have to admit that the main reason why I wanted the house was the price - but I also loved that it had so much potential. When you are in the house, you can not tell that it is a side by side. The floor plan is not the norm for a side by side.
My husband came bright and early the next day to see it and we put an offer in on the spot. We found out from the realtor (was not really supposed to tell us) that the house was a pre-forclosure. We later found out more details from our attorney. They accepted our offer within a few hours. Which was great, because there were other people that did in fact look at the house.
Basically, a guy owned a house but "rented" to a relative. Their agreement was that he would buy the house and they would pay the mortgage and the taxes and of course all the utilites. I guess they could not get a loan themselves. Well, I guess that agreement did not work out so well. The payments were always late, the owner wound up paying more times than the people that lived there, etc.
When the house was listed, they were very behind in the payments, they had not paid any sewer bills for 2 years, and the taxes were over a year in arrears.
The guy was basically selling the house for what he owed the bank. He was not going to make a dime. The issue was that the price did not reflect the back taxes or the back sewer fees. That all worked themselves out and we closed 45 days later. We also found out 3 days before closing that the house was still not cleared out. I guess they worked all day and night because on closing day, there was just some paint, etc left in the house :)
We knew that we would have to put a lot of work into the house. The house had been rented for about 30 years (different owners) and renters really do not take care of houses like they are their own.
As you can see in the pictures, a lot of the work was cosmetic stuff, but there was also a lot of behind the walls stuff. We have all brand new plumping and electric. The kitchen was not really functional , so we moved it.
When we closed, we went gung ho with demo and did a lot of the plumbing. My dad was helping too. We also did all the cosmetic stuff on the second floor. All the rooms on the second floor (except the bathroom) were fine, just needed the carpets ripped up and new paint.
After a few months, we ran out of money and ambition. For more than a year, we really did nothing to the house - little things here and there. My husband wanted to pay down some more debt before we did anything else.
What really set the wheels in motion was that in November 2007, we were trying for over a year to expand our family. We were getting ready to start seeing a specialist. I told him that there was no way I would be trying super hard (with medical assistance) to have a baby, and that baby has no where to sleep. He agreed - but kind of dragged his feet.
So, in Jan I started looking into a Home Equity Loan. Got all the info and basically he just signed the papers.
We hired a contractor in mid Feb and the work started the next day. We had some issues with our loan and issue with the contractor but I guess it all worked out in the end. The most exciting moment was when my stove was hooked up.
We did not have a kitchen for almost 2 years. I cooked every meal on a hot plate or the BBQ. And believe it or not, I cooked most every night. Heck - I have a growing teenager that I need to feed :)
Now, we are at the point where it is just little things left. Things that we did not want to pay for becuase we could do them ourselves - things like paint the stairs, paint the porch, etc.
But, we are having a big Labor Day party and you KNOW these things will be done before then.
Well, that is the back-story in a nutshell. Sorry it turned out to be super long.