04/09/14 10:30am

First day of demo

After six months of legal wrangling, eviction notices, numerous stays on those notices and calls, the tenant I inherited finally moved a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, she was living in the owner’s unit (I have been living in one of the rentals). Since then it has been non-stop work at the house. The day after the tenant vacated my contractor started the demo work, above, and the following week he was onto framing.

Now, I’m not one to complain about a contractor working fast but I want to make sure that the quality of the work holds and that we have time to plan things out. The latter issue is one I created: For example, I did absolutely nothing about selecting lighting until the electrician showed up on Saturday morning asking for the lighting plan. Umm, I want a ceiling fan here and a chandelier here…oh wait on second thought. Yes, now I know why contractors get frustrated with their clients. (more…)

01/16/14 11:00am


When I told people I was buying a fixer upper in Bed Stuy, one of the more popular responses was a warning about horrible contractor experiences. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about the entire prospect of finding a reputable contractor. 

Choosing a contractor with a 203K loan is a bit of a process. First the 203K consultant will come and write up a report on the amount of work that needs to be completed. Work such as electrical and plumbing upgrades, and a new roof (if needed) would be the work that would come first in the consultant’s estimate. Next is the work that you want to complete — cosmetic things like new kitchens, new bathrooms, and flooring. Cosmetic upgrades will really depend on the loan amount and the amount of structural, plumbing, electrical and roofing work that needs to be done. Next, the consultant will give you two reports. One report will have all the work outlined along with the estimated costs. The other report will have only the outline of the work without the costs. This is the version you will give to contractors to bid against. 

I sent out bid requests to three contractors but really any number you feel comfortable with is fine. One contractor was recommended by my architect, one recommend by my real estate agent and one by the Brownstoner Forum.   (more…)

12/12/13 11:30am


From the contractor’s perspective, the 203K inspection is probably the single most important part of the 203K process. The contractor doesn’t get paid for his work until an inspection actually takes place.

But let’s take a step back. The 203K inspection is the official FHA inspection of the property, and it can only be done by the 203K consultant. When applying for the 203K loan, you are required to select a consultant. Based on budget and the scope of work, the consultant determines the number of “draws.” Draws are the total number of payments and inspections.

My project has a total of five draws. I selected my consultant based on the feedback I got on Brownstoner Forum last year. My consultant has been great and even gave tips to make the process go more smoothly.

When to schedule a draw? How it works is that your contractor will complain to you about how he’s low on cash and then you will tell him he needs to finish more stuff before you call the consultant. (I’m only slightly joking about this.) Prior to the first inspection, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. (more…)

11/18/13 10:30am


Editor’s note: We are very excited to present a new series about a renovation taking place in Bed Stuy that is being financed with a 203K loan. We know a lot of our readers are looking in Bed Stuy or similar neighborhoods and wondering if they should buy a fixer upper and finance the repairs with a 203K loan. We hope this series will answer some questions about the process, such how to find a good contractor willing to work with the program and when the added costs are worth it. 

In August, I closed on a house in Bed Stuy that needed work with a 203K loan to pay for the renovation. I plan to blog here about the renovation, including how the 203K process goes.

But first, a little bit about my story: If money were not an issue then I would have loved to search for a large brownstone in Fort Greene, which is where I’m currently renting. But without unlimited funds I widened my search to Bed Stuy. I was looking for a two- or three-family Brownstone that specifically needed work. Most of the renovated houses I viewed were pretty awful and I didn’t want to pay for someone else’s bad renovation job.

I moved to New York about three years ago planning to rent for a year and then buy. I had previously owned a few places in other cities and in those experiences, buying was cheaper than renting. I started looking at houses in Brooklyn after my one year mark but didn’t pull the trigger because I felt the market still needed a price correction. Boy was I wrong. I passed on some really good deals because I thought they were overpriced at the time. But you know what they say about hindsight. (more…)

11/04/13 11:00am


We had some grand plans to paint the bedroom and other rooms, put moldings back into place, strip the kitchen woodwork, and plaster throughout the house. We did strip the bedroom in June, and so it was completely empty and ready to paint. But then we got bedbugs from a hotel. All renovation came to a standstill. We had to put all our possessions in black garbage bags, which completely filled the empty room. The bedbugs are gone, but we are still sorting through the black bags. And now we’re $3,000 poorer.

06/18/13 11:00am

You won’t believe what they’ve been dealing with over at the Astoria renovation. Click here to read about unexpected setbacks caused by the DOB’s new sprinkler regulations. And they’re moving in a few weeks — but the floors and walls are still open, waiting for inspection. If you’re planning a major renovation, you’ve got to read this first.

05/02/13 10:15am

The Astoria Reno faces down more significant challenges — but the windows are in! And very cute windows they are! Check them out — perfect for a little 1930s Tudor. They add so much character to the building. Meanwhile, the house doesn’t yet have any mechanicals, and the owners hope to move in in only three months. Think they’ll make it? Read all about it here.

01/28/13 11:30am

The cabinet to the left will be a large pantry, and the cabinet to the right will house the washer and dryer. The fridge, stove and cabinets will go along the wall and an island will be in the center.

We are pushing right along with our 5th Ave reno. Adding an addition and renovating the entire existing floor has proven to be just as stressful and just as over-budget as all renovators say, but we continue to push forward knowing that the end result will be wonderful.

Now that the demo is done and sheetrock and plastering are complete, we must put my home back together again! This is by far my favorite part of the reno. This is where I am able to have a clear idea of how it will all look.  So where shall we start? Let’s start at the heart of the home, the kitchen! (more…)