It was a harrowing experience. From the shady general contractor we mistakenly thought was the real deal. To the department of buildings which, unbeknownst to us, required not only a final but also rough inspections. Despite the fact that we pulled what’s known as an easy permit. And were told by a close colleague before we started the rehab that we wouldn’t need rough inspections. Well guess what? We did need these inspections. And we found out too late.
The house was already under contract by the time we finished renovations.
Buyers wanted to close a month later. Christmas holidays were upon us and we were completely stoked to have a house sell so fast, without even being listed on the MLS. It was cold outside and snow was inevitable. We knew the market would slow down–at least for a bit–so we were eager to bring this to the closing table as quickly as possible.
Project Kenneth seemed like any other project.
At first. Another 100+ year old brick bungalow in a fabulous little hidden pocket of town. One of our favorite locations on the NW side of Chicago. Still in the city limits but super close to a 39-acre forest preserve and 16 mile bike trail that create an ambiance of suburbia. Target, Starbucks, and top notch schools all at your fingertips. There’s definitely something special about North Mayfair. Not to mention, plentiful parking, a decent sized back yard, and easy access to highways that take you right to Downtown Chicago.
Renovations began officially in October 2020.
When we bought this house our intention was to do a gut rehab and add a full 2nd story. We embarked on full architectural plans. Yet somewhere around early to mid September 2020, shortly after the sellers moved out, we had a change of heart. The market was so hot and we wanted to take advantage of that. We had another full gut rehab in the works and knew it would be months before we could sell that one. To save time, we decided not to proceed with the initial plans. And instead do a more cosmetic rehab, leaving the original bungalow fully intact, as it had been for more than a hundred years.
We updated the electrical & plumbing fixtures, installed new windows & a brand new roof, painted the whole interior, sanded and refinished the original hard wood floors, upgraded the furnace & a/c unit, added new gutters and downspouts, and cleaned up the landscaping along with pouring a new concrete patio in the back. Kitchen and bathrooms were totally remodeled and we tried to stick to a vintage farmhouse theme throughout. Maintaining as much integrity of the original house while making it feel new and practical for today’s more discerning buyer.
As people who truly love people we always try to do what’s right.
We completed the project on December 11, 2020. The house went under contract on Dec 14, 2020. We scheduled our final inspection with the city. And that’s where the story really begins. Out of seemingly nowhere we received 3 calls from the city. Each one from a major mechanical department, telling us we needed to schedule rough inspections before we could schedule a final inspection.
But the house is already done! And it looks amazing. It IS amazing. Plus we were told we didn’t need rough inspections along the way so we never scheduled them. BIG MISTAKE. We cried, we pleaded, we begged. We tried anything we possibly could to get the city to understand what happened and why.
Left with no choice we scheduled all the necessary rough inspections and did what we could to expedite. But, well, if you’ve ever worked with the city you know they are quite busy, and backed up, and it may take a couple weeks to get your inspection scheduled. (NOTE TO SELF AND OTHERS: Schedule your inspections a week or two ahead of time!)
We managed to get all the necessary inspections, make all the necessary repairs, and close on the property 30 days late.
Yep, you read that correctly. A lot more happened in the interim that I don’t care to go into here. Suffice to say that we were taken completely off guard by the majority–if not all–of it. We came to learn that our contractor had hired unlicensed tradesmen to do some of the work. We had to undo that work, rehire our own licensed tradesmen, adjust the permit to reflect that, and redo the projects. The buyers mortgage contingency was also put into effect, which meant if they didn’t close in a certain timeframe, they would have not been able to buy the house. The clock was running and time was not on our side.
This devastated us on so many levels.
How could we have let the buyers down? This isn’t US. This isn’t who we are. We don’t take shortcuts. We focus on doing things the right way. Even if the right way costs more. We knew how much they loved the house, from the moment they walked in. How could we let this happen?
Were we going to lose this sale? We had already been holding this property since July 2020. We had a 9-month loan term on the purchase that needed to be repaid. We didn’t want to extend the loan or worse, default on it. It was time to move on from this project. Physically and mentally. Yet there were so many factors working against us, it seemed. It took every bit of strength & resilience we could muster up to hold on and see this through to the finish line.
As long as we could keep the buyers happy and abreast of what was going on–and the mortgage company at bay by paying contingency fees–we were hopeful that the sale would go through. Having a rock solid attorney on your side means everything in times like these.
And it did. Finally. One month late. And several thousands of extra dollars spent.
If there’s one lesson we learned from this all–and we learned MANY–it’s to have a solid team in place. Your partner, employees, attorney, real estate agent, and other team members are EVERYTHING. We simply cannot do this alone, and this experience made that all the more evident. We learned a lot about the city. Their inspectors. General contractors. And humanity on the whole. I’ll admit, there’s a part of me that became extremely cynical and bitter through all of this. Non trusting of anyone. So much so that we have changed our entire vetting and due diligence process for contractors moving forward. These new methods might seem tedious to the outside observer. But to prevent us from ever going through anything like this again, we felt this was necessary.
In the end, the buyers moved in. And we moved on.
They were still in love with the house. And we were thrilled that–despite all of the chaos that ensued–everything worked out in the end. Welcome to your new home. <3