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Tuesday, June 01, 2010


There's bad news and good news about the recession.

The bad news, is . . . well, everybody knows the bad news. We live it everyday, right?

The good news is that interest rates on lending are lower than they have been in years. And, everyone is looking for work.

I've been on the phone and online most of the day, talking to the folks who do renovation and looking at their work online.

Ms. Conroy and I have been seriously considering renovating Llangollen, our wee cottage on Rehoboth Bay. We thought we'd wait a year or so, but it seems wise to begin to move ahead in this current climate.

We had always thought that we'd simply sell the old prefab house, raise the foundation to bring it more in code with the new FEMA regs for Flood Zones, and put on a new house.

Now, I'm much more excited about renovation.

First of all, I love the layout of this house. It's got great Feng Sui, which, translated literally from Chinese means "wind-water".

Perfect for a house on the water, right?

The house needs serious upgrades. All the kitchen appliances need to be replaced - or will need it in a couple of years, so why not now?

The kitchen cabinets are sort of 'Early-Americana' which are outdated and, frankly, just not my style. The wallpaper in the bedrooms also carry that theme.

I mean, really! Do I look like an 'Early Americana' kinda gal? Besides, they simply don't go with the whole ocean theme we've been working on creating in the living room and in the sun room. You know?

The siding, doors and windows will all need to be replaced, eventually. Certainly within the next couple of years. When we do that, we get up to an $8,000 tax credit because of the energy we'll be saving.

The sun room is a hand-made structure which has great character, but it has definitely seen better days. It will, most assuredly, need to be replaced. And, with that, the deck, of course. Finally, the yard needs some simple landscaping care and tending and, well, design.

You're thinking - "Okay, so she's talking Big Bucks here."

And, I'm saying - "You don't know Delaware."

All this renovation is going to cost us LESS THAN HALF of what we'd pay for a BRAND NEW prefab.

Yes way.

I have to tell you that the young man I spoke with at the renovation place was perfectly delightful. This is a family business so they already had my heart. When I found them online and saw who I was talking to, my heart melted.

These boys could be my uncles and cousins. Ms. Conroy calls them, "Workermen."

Let me give you a visual: Flannel shirts. Baggy jeans. Knit/baseball caps. Long hair and beards. And lots and lots of ink.

I spoke with Brian who was just as nice as nice could be. When I explained my profession and limited income he said, "Not to worry, Ma'am. We understand. We'll give you good quality work and a good finished product we'll both be proud of. We're used to working on a budget. Heck, we all live on pretty tight budgets ourselves."

Can you tell I'm in love?

Oh, of course I'm checking other businesses and getting comparative prices. I'm thinking this one just might be worth it.

I meet with him next week. He's bringing over his dad, because, "Well, he's my best friend, you know? He picks up things I miss and I do the same for him."

Before we got off the phone, he said he was going to "hand me over to my Aunt Betty. She really runs the show and keeps me organized. You're gonna love her."

He was right. We must have talked for another five minutes after we set up my appointment. We talked about the new 'Harris Teeter' Grocery Store in Long Beach. She says their cheese section is the best.

I can't wait to meet them - Brian and his dad. I'm going to make a coffee cake or muffins or something - enough to take back to Aunt Betty in the office and the boys on the crew.

It's going to be a couple of hours. There are conversations to be had and stories to be told before you get into the measuring of windows and doors, you know?

It's the way things are done in LSD = Lower, Slower Delaware.

What I really love is the whole idea of renovation. Improving an existing structure. Making something you love even better.

Re. Novation.

I'm thinking that there's something decidedly Christian in that notion.

Besides, it's our own "stimulus package".

For the economy and the spirit.

That's really good news.


suzanne said...

I'm sure you've already thought of this but check the Better Business Bureau in De.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Done and they checked out fine, but you know, I'm never quite sure of the reliability of the BBB. I mean, I think you've either got to be very petty or really , really pissed off to report someone.

These guys have done many jobs in my housing development and everyone LOVES their work and recommends them highly.

What's been your experience with the BBB?

susankay said...

Sorry to say that I found out that people/companies PAY for BBB listings. I briefly ran an HMO in Albuquerque and was assaulted by BBB commissioned salespeople telling me that unless I paid to join, I wouldn't be listed as BBB approved.

And, with regard to your re-novators -- deep envy.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Susankay - I didn't know that about BBB but somehow I'm not surprised.

Please don't be envious. It's just our time. Yours will come, just like ours did. I do believe it happens for us all, eventually.

LVTfan said...

Make sure you know what the renovation will do to your property tax. As a new homeowner in RB, I've spent some time digging through the tax records. Those who build really get dinged. Yes, the taxes are still much lower than NYC metro, but they do penalize those who improve their property! (I'm a Georgist, after Henry George, who regarded the land value as our common treasure, and saw that we could create a society with opportunity and access for all by taxing land value, just land value. See for a quick explanation.

suzanne said...

My husband works in this segment of construction, i.e. home repair and remodeling, and is forever going behind some fly by night group or person and cleaning up messes. He has checked the BBB, and you're right sometimes it is hit or miss. But, you've done the best thing to get personal referrals. Maybe I'll call them to come up north to do the jobs I can't get done. I'm the cobblers wife you know.

Cathy said...

Elizabeth, your "wee cottage on Rehoboth Bay" sounds wonderful, and a sanctuary, renovated or not. I'm wishing I had one now...