I <3 Catastrophic Renovations

A friend told me this morning about a NY Times article she read, about the Giffels family from Akron, Ohio, that reminded her of me and sent me the links. The couple, David and Gina Giffels, had bought an almost-condemned home in Akron 12 years before and had spent the years following attempting to restore the house to its former glory. David, a columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal, wrote a book about the process that was published last year.

The article had an accompanying slideshow of pictures, and while his 1913 Tudor house with six fireplaces and a solarium has almost nothing in common with my kitschy little 1950s Ranch, the before and after effects were still very, very awesome.






Some of my favorite tips of his from the story, which have definitely proven true so far, are:

  • “Be cognizant of the fact the last 10 percent of any project takes as long as the first 90 percent — it’s all in the details.”
  • “Allow yourself to believe that some things can wait, even if you don’t believe it.”
  • “Do not begin one project until you finish another.”

I’m really excited to find and read his book. Have you found any extreme renovations on the web? Show them to me!

3 thoughts on “I <3 Catastrophic Renovations”

  1. I don’t know of any catastrophic renovations offhand. There’s the catastrophic renovation that A. told me was absolutely not an option, the worst house our agent had ever seen in 15 years of working in the city, and which we’ve come to refer to as the mold house. It is a nice 1950 Cape Cod on 3/4 of an acre in Shaker Heights, which has one of the best school systems in the area. It has nice street presence, a massive patio with a wood-fired bbq and a shuffleboard court on the second floor. It also happens to have a porn movie bathroom. The downside is that it appears that the radiator pipes burst during the winter and the PO didn’t have insurance on the property at the time.

    For someone who could do the labor themselves, I think that the house represents an incredible value. The total materials cost to fix all the code violations and get it habitable should be under $10,000. Of course, if you hired out the labor, it’d probably be closer to $150,000. When we saw it in July, our agent thought that we could have it for somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000. This is for a house that sold in 2002 for $430,000.

    We agreed to disagree on the house – her because of the mold issues – me because I couldn’t figure out how to afford the property taxes on it once we’d finished fixing it up.

    I’ve read Mr. Gieffels book. It held a special appeal for me, both as the owner of a Tudor of similar size, and as a resident of the Cleveland-Akron area. As I read it, I kept thinking “wow, he really paid too much for that house”. There were so many passages that I wanted to read to A., to prove that I wasn’t nearly as crazy as this guy in Akron.

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    Oh man, that place had so much potential! I can definitely understand your wife not wanting to deal with all of the mold, though. From my own experience of coughing up blood, it’s not always worth it.

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