Woman transforms 'rotting' house into modern home worth over £157k more

Woman transforms 'rotting' house into modern home worth over £157k more

06/13/2021

A woman has breathed new life into a ‘rotting’ and ‘water-damaged’ property, increasing the value by $222,000 (over £157,300) in just six months.

Carla Morrone, 37, from Minneapolis, US, moved to Savannah, Georgia in 2018 to start renovating and flipping houses.

‘For me, homes are living things,’ she said.

‘They need care, they need updates – they deserve it.

‘What I love most about (old) houses is that they’re usually a pretty good version of what they should be.

‘Listen to it, work with it.’

Carla, 37, bought her fifth home, a late 1800s Victorian duplex, in May 2020 for $353,000 with plans to revamp the place and make it look as good as new.

The downstairs holds two bedrooms and one bathroom, while the upstairs has three bedrooms and one bathroom.

Carla said the kitchen was ‘a dump’ she described the bathroom as a ‘worst case scenario’ as it had water damage and rotted joists.

She started her renovation there, removing the floorboards and ripped out the tiles on the walls, where she found a secret window that had been covered up.

Next, she retiled the floor and installed plasterboards on the walls, as well as adding a new bathtub, a mirror with lights and repainting the walls white and pastel blue.

In the bathroom, she kept the original vanity sink, which saved her thousands of dollars, and completed the room for £8,000 in total.

‘The bathroom was the biggest project and definitely a worst case scenario,’ she said.

‘We had to replace everything down to the joists.

‘One thing I learned in this process was to build out estimates and budgets for a worst-case scenario.

‘That way, instead of things being a disappointment and reconfiguration as we demo-ed, it was just a slight setback.

‘Replacing joists also gave me an opportunity to move things around to suit my needs.

‘Toilets and showers were rearranged and in ripping walls out, we even discovered locations of original windows that had been boarded over.

‘I made it a point to save as much as possible, for example the upstairs unit bathroom still has the original vanity sink.

‘It’s a little quirky and sits lower than ideal, and people either love it or hate it – but it didn’t disrupt the new design, so I kept it and saved thousands.’

In the downstairs bathroom, Carla replaced the vanity with a wall-mounted marble piece, ripped the wooden flooring, retiled the floor and replaced the toilet and sink.

She also fitted in a glass shower door and repainted the walls, while adding new wall tiles on the bottom half of the walls and decorating the space with a mirror, modern lighting and decorations such as flowers, photo frames and shelves.

All told, changes to that room cost £6,000.

When she tackled the kitchen, she has a rodent to thank in part for how it ended up.

Carla knocked down a wall between the kitchen and the living room because the little critter was trapped inside the wall, and that ended up creating a lot more space and brightness in the room.

She said: ‘My kitchen was a dump – the house had been neglected for decades.

‘I had always thought about opening the wall between the kitchen and the laundry room to make one large room and thanks to Ratatouille, it’s what happened!

‘I drew inspiration from European cafés, lots of texture and neutrals.

‘My last kitchen was green, and I wanted something more feminine, sweet – with a little grit.’

She DIY-ed most of the work in the kitchen herself, hiring professionals for some of the bigger jobs, such as an electrician, a plumber and a tiler to level the floors.

Carla she also bought new cabinets – and painted them – marble countertops, a kitchen sink and flooring, sourced directly through a manufacturer.

A carpenter made custom shelves above the cabinets, but Carla painted and tiled everything, saving herself the equivalent of hundreds of pounds.

The property flipper is beyond pleased with the result, with the kitchen costing $14,000 (approximately £9,923 in total).

She said: ‘Listen, these things take a village. I don’t care what anyone says!

‘I hired a number of people to help with things I just couldn’t do on my own, whether based on my skill set or because I had a full time job during the biggest part of the renovation.

‘The design and decor side, however, was all me.’

The entire process took Carla six months and cost around $40,000 (approx £28,353).

Thanks to the work done, $222,000 (£157,363.10) has been added to the value of the home.

She said: ‘I am so proud of the work I was able to do myself and the design choices I made throughout the house – but the most enjoyable part always comes a couple of weeks after a project is done, when the dust has cleared, and it really feels like the house is just as it should be.

‘Project fatigue is real, but the hardest part of this particular renovation was having to use the bathroom in the upstairs unit for the first two months that I lived here, since my unit’s bathroom was basically a shell that looked into the crawlspace.

‘Using my own toilet for the first time was a pretty great day.

‘I just refinanced the house, and it appraised for almost $575,000, so I’d say the work was worth it.

‘And while I am very much enjoying living in a finished space again, I am itching for my next project.

‘The internet is a magical place filled with information about how to do things on your own and even if you decide not to do them yourself, it’s been such a valuable journey to understand the process of each renovation.’

For anyone looking to make similar large-scale changes, Carla also shared a key piece of advice, saying: ‘I took recommendations from friends for almost everyone that I worked with and had a general contractor stop in after each of those steps were completed.

‘If you are worried about being ripped off or diving into a project you know little about, this is a great system.

‘I was able to pay someone I already trusted a consulting hourly rate to make sure things were executed per my plan – it was a creative way for me to save money but ensure the work.

‘When I do hire contractors, I ask a lot of questions.

‘I’m also willing to do a lot of the work myself to fit my budget.

‘Don’t be afraid to ask people if they’ll be willing to do steps A and B so that you can do C.’

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