December 17, 2018

To Renovate or Not?

Love Blooms Here

This is a love story about a house, a family and a realtor. It’s a sad story with a happy ending.

I was contacted by an estate and elder law attorney to assist with the sale of a home in Carmel.  You’ve heard the phrase: the house has good bones, and this house did.  It was built in 1983 and it must have been exquisite back in the day. It had lots of crown moulding, wallpaper and hardwood floors.  The four-bedroom house was in a small and quiet neighborhood close to schools, shopping and recreation.

The house was filled with love over the years. It had been home to a small family: a father, a mother and a daughter.  The dad, a great provider for the family, and the mom was epitome of a doting mother. Their only daughter had special needs and had the attention of not only her mother and father, but the whole neighborhood.  Everyone knew her and watched out for her as she biked or walked around the neighborhood.

The daughter lived into early adulthood, but died at a relatively early age. In 2018 both the father and mother also passed away.  With no next of kin, the attorney needed to sell the home to close the estate.

Good Bones

When I first learned about the house, it’s features and location, I was excited and knew it would sell quickly in Carmel. But you know you cannot judge a book by it’s cover, nor can you judge a house by it’s cover.  From the outside it looked perfect, but on the inside the story was dramatically different.  The homeowners had been in poor health at the end of their lives and neglected many of the necessary maintenance items. And to top it off, they had both been smokers.  The house wreaked of smoke and the walls, ceilings and cabinetry were covered with yellow smoke stains.

Renovate or Not?

So the attorney was left with the million dollar question: to renovate or not. Because of the house’s condition, there was no way we could list it for sale at the going market rate. It would have sold at a very discounted price and negatively impacted the competitive market data for the small neighborhood. The estate attorney was Jennifer Rozelle, Hunter Estate & Elder Law, and she has a big heart.  She knew that it would be unfair to the rest of the neighborhood if we sold the house a deeply discounted price. And she also knew that updating the house, making it move-in ready for the next family and selling it at fair market value would impact the financials of the estate in a positive manner.

Per my normal protocol for sellers, we had the house inspected to identify all of the mechanical, structural, health or safety items that need to be addressed before we sell it.  Additionally, I made a list of cosmetic items that would need to be replaced to remove the smoke odor.  The attorney agreed and gave me the go ahead to get started on our inspection and clean-up lists.

The biggest deficiency on the inspection list was the windows, which had many broken seals and rotted frames. While the homeowners were in good health, they took exceptional care of the house and property. The mechanicals were in really good shape. We had to replace a small amount of rotted cedar siding on the front of the house and repaired the front stoop that had settled and sank over the years.

On the other hand, our list of cosmetic renos to remove the smoke odor was very long. We started with ripping out 100% of the flooring and wallpaper.  We sanded, sealed and painted all of the woodwork and cabinetry throughout. We replaced all of the interior hardware, including door knobs, switch plates and lighting fixtures. We replaced the garage door opener and a couple of appliances that were broken. We gave the overgrown landscape a facelift, but kept the footprint the same and we painted the exterior of the home.

Throughout the project, we worked tirelessly to stay on a limited budget and only repaired urgent items or items that had the best chance of increasing our sale price.  All of our contractors have a history of providing good workmanship and great value for the price and because we got such great deals, we were able to replace the countertops, backsplash and the kitchen sink & faucet.

Do I Know You?

Even though I never met the original family that made this house their home, I felt like I got to know them throughout the renovation process.  I included a redbud tree in the landscape, which had been one of the husband’s favorite trees, and I painted the walls in the master bedroom the same color as the curtains that once hung there. The wife enjoyed cooking and baking, so we updated her kitchen with a classic subway tile backsplash and a new cooktop and microwave/oven combo wall unit.

Worth the Wait

The window and paint expenses rivaled each other and were the two biggest financial investments of the project.  The wallpaper removal, sanding/sealing/painting all of the woodwork was very labor intensive and took way longer than the painters planned, but it turned out beautifully and was worth the expense and the wait.

In the end our renovation plan came together beautifully. We listed the house for the actual going market rate, preserving the competitive market data for the small neighborhood, and after just seven days on the market, we accepted a full-list offer!

When I walked into the house the first time, I knew it had good bones, but it was in really sad shape.  I fell in love with the house more and more every day as the transformation unfolded.  I got excited thinking about the next and unknown family that would eventually buy this house and, once again, fill it with love for many years to come.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to project manage the renovations and assist with the sale of this home.  I absolutely love my job!

You can contact Jennifer Rozelle, Hunter Estate & Elder Law, by emailing her at  Additional resources and referrals for downsizing and senior movers are listed under the Buying & Selling tab on my website. And please contact me directly for a free buying or selling consultation!