When I was a kid, I spent most of my summers on a farm owned by my grandparents, so I grew up surrounded by wheat fields. If anyone at school asked what I did for the summer, I’d talk about droughts, dugouts, and treehouses while everyone else talked camping. What I remember the most are the birds singing at 5 am, and when I grew up and moved to the West Coast and lived in the city, I missed that most of all.
Although my husband didn’t grow up with access to a farm, we both knew that owning a piece of land was always in the game plan. He likes to ride dirt bikes and trail ride, I love animals and wanted a place for the kids to build treehouses and have rope swings like I did. When we began looking a few years ago, we thought it would be simple to find a place out in the valley of the Lower Mainland, but we couldn’t have been more wrong.
The best prices on acreages out here meant 1 acre or sometimes less with a good house or 5 acres with a house that was falling apart. That means you have to choose what you’d rather have—a livable home right away or accept the fact that it’s the land you want. It’s a difficult choice, especially with a family, but just like every real estate agent will tell you, sometimes a property comes along that makes you say, “OK, this is it.”
That’s exactly what happened with us, and the property we couldn’t pass up was 12 acres of farmland with a small, 1000 square foot 1920’s farmhouse. We knew the house had sagging floors and needed a lot of work, but it was a cute house with an amazing front porch so we thought it would be OK. Like a lot of things in life, this didn’t go according to plan, but I’ll get into that a bit later.
For the next few weeks I’ll be talking renos, and if you’re about to start renovating an older home or move into a house you plan on changing and you’re wondering how the process works, read on. From the planning stages to tips on turning your home into a smart home, I’ve either been there or am in the process of being there, and what I’ve found is that renovations aren’t as scary when you’ve got someone else’s experiences to compare to.
Creating a renovation game plan
We had to move out of our house in May, and we couldn’t take possession of the new place until mid-June. This left us in a lurch for about six weeks, but it also gave us time to sit down and plan what we were going to do with the house.
We knew that the house was small, but with a lot of windows and a very ‘cabin in the woods’ type of feel, we also knew that it would be a nice place to live for a while if it had new floors and our furniture. Although some people start with blueprints drawn up by an architect, we couldn’t go this route because we didn’t have access to the property after we made our offer.
Going by memory and the few room measurements we had, we used our tablet and an app called Interior Design for iPad. I highly recommend it, especially since you can create your layout and take a walk through it in 3D. I wouldn’t say that having an app can replace an architect or good contractor, but when you can’t do anything but wait and plan, it will be a lifesaver.
Choose your appliances
Yes, this is going to sound like it’s jumping the gun a bit, but I highly recommend choosing and buying your appliances before you move into the home you plan on rehabbing. Buying every single appliance before we took possession of the acreage is actually one of the only things I don’t regret at this point.
There are a lot of reasons why you should move your new appliances with you. To start, any older home you’re going to buy probably isn’t going to have the latest kitchen or laundry all set up. You may even purchase a place like I did with a very tiny, two burner gas oven that in no shape or form could hold your Thanksgiving turkey or even a tray of chicken strips. Or how about a washing machine that actually does both the washing and the drying all in one? With a capacity for about 3 pairs of socks and a couple of t-shirts, it wasn’t going to hold up to a family of six.
Having new appliances to move right in will take that stress away. Your kitchen might not look exactly how you want it to, but with the new appliances you’ll still be able to cook, store your groceries, and do your laundry without the stress of working with older appliances. It also gives you the opportunity to plan your renovation around your appliances.
Take the Samsung 36” French Door Refrigerator I choose as example—I picked it because my older fridge was never large enough to hold all of my kid’s lunches, and in my other house I had to have a backup fridge for milk, drinks, and extra things I wanted to put in the freezer. I knew this house wouldn’t have the space for that, so I wanted one large fridge that would do the job of two. I might not have a proper kitchen in the house yet, but I still smile every time I open my refrigerator.
I feel the same way about my range, microwave, and dishwasher. The hardest thing I had to leave behind at my old house was a slide in stove, so I knew I couldn’t make do with a tiny stove for any length of time. Having my new Samsung Smooth Top Convection Range meant that big meals could be made and cookies could still be baked with my daughter.
Choosing your appliances first also takes them out of the renovation budget, so if you go over (like everyone seems to), you won’t have to skimp on the appliances you really want. They’ll be there, ready and waiting until you can renovate your kitchen.
Research your rebates
Because I had some time on my hands between when I moved out to when I moved in and began renovating, I was able to brush up the various rebates offered by BC Hydro and Fortis, the gas and electric companies in British Columbia. To my surprise, there are a lot of them. The appliances I purchased were good for a $50 to $100 rebate for each, and that really adds up.
You can also find other renovation rebates. Our house had no insulation, so we knew unless we wanted to freeze to death, we’d be insulating it. That’s why it’s nice to know there are rebates for insulating, putting in energy star windows, and draft proofing. Just do a search for your municipality and find out how to get some money back on your home renovation.
As far as our renovations are concerned, our planning stages were just the tip of the iceberg. Next week I’ll skip through the part where I learnt how to talk all things pine and cedar, gloss over my shock that we have termites in BC, and head straight to the fun stuff: planning and installing smart home devices. In the meantime, check out these Energy Star rated appliances and you can get a head start on your own home renovation.
Energy star rated fridges save you money and store everything you need
You’ll never have to worry about whether you can fit in your turkey with a gas range
Do larger loads and save energy too with front load washing machine pairs