The Plan

We knew the process of renovation was going to require a daunting amount of time, patience and, of course, money. This ongoing project would probably consume much of our lives for many years to come. However, we were fortunate that some good friends had just bought a house in a similar state of disrepair, and they recommended a unique type of home loan--the FHA 203(k)--that would not only allow for the approved purchase of a house in below-average condition, but would also provide us with the funds to jump start our restoration.

The 203(k) program provides the opportunity to add a sizable amount of money into a mortgage, over and above the agreed purchase price of the home. For example, if a house were sold for $100,000, but the buyer estimated an additional $20,000 needed for renovation, the mortgage could be arranged for $120,000--giving the buyer immediate access to a $20,000 fund which would then be paid back with interest over the term of the loan.
This sounded perfect for us, as we could see the incredible potential in the house but weren't crazy about living in it for 5 to 10 years (or longer) before fully realizing that potential. Our friends had nothing but praise for the 203(k) process, and they were putting the finishing touches on their house around the time we applied for the program. We were approved and had taken one giant step toward becoming homeowners.
So it seemed the time had come to put our minds to work--figuring out how we would actually change this house to make it our own. Our exposure to mid-century modern homes was fairly limited, so we began to research the history of this style, studying the most influential architects of the period, and grasping the core principles of their design. Our goal is to update this house responsibly--a desire that has apparently not been shared by some of its previous owners.

For example:

Our top priorities include remodeling the kitchen and master bathroom, replacing the boiler (the house has a slab foundation with radiant heat in the concrete floor), updating finishes and fixtures throughout the house, replacing the roof, and improving the facade.
More to come.


Discovering MCM

Akron is full of beautiful homes that were built in the early 20th century. Every street is lined with American Foursquare, Arts & Crafts, Bungalow, Tudor and Colonial Revival homes. The house we were renting at the time we began our search was a recently renovated Colonial Revival, almost identical to the home I grew up in three blocks away (except for the fact that our rental was a duplex, adjoined on one side by its mirrored twin). Naturally, our house-hunting was dominated by lists, drive-by's, and walk-through's of these types of homes.

We liked many of these houses and have always been charmed by their rich character--hardwood floors, thick mouldings, large rooms with high ceilings, etc. Some had been carefully maintained, others grossly neglected. But the more we searched, the more they all felt the same. Nothing stood out. We started to yearn for something unique, a home that would allow us more freedom to renovate creatively.

That's when we began to notice small pockets of Post-War homes scattered throughout the area. Most of these were the ranches and split-levels we had previously browsed over or driven past without giving a second glance. Until this point, they had seemed bland in comparison to the grand structures built forty or fifty years earlier. But here and there, one would catch our attention with its natural stone facade, floor-to-ceiling windows or wide-open floor plan. Our interest was piqued.

Unfortunately, there was a slim portion of mid-century homes that we found intriguing. And few of those were for sale. At one point, we thought we had found "the one," only to learn it had sold the day before we were scheduled to walk through it (we later found out that the buyer was a friend's mother, which eased the pain). The outlook was grim on the prospect of discovering our dream home in Akron.

Then we found it.

Wait, really? That one? That weird box thing? But it has a flat roof. It must leak like a sieve! And what's with all this AstroTurf--outside?!

Eh, okay, maybe. It does have the huge windows we like, and the open floor plan. That stone wall in the living room is pretty sweet.

It was so ugly. There was no getting around that. From the street, it resembled one of those trailers you see parked next to a construction site. But once you were inside, it was so cool! The property was gorgeous. The neighborhood was peaceful. The search was over.

We were hooked on Mid-Century Modern.

(Sorry for the poor quality photo. We haven't taken any of our own yet.)


And So It Begins

My wife and I began the search for our first home during the early months of 2009, with the hope of making our monumental purchase at some point in the summer. We had gotten married the previous June and were renting a house in the Highland Square neighborhood of Akron.

We found our rented home to be very comfortable, affordable and beautiful, and we originally intended to continue renting for a few years after our wedding; but the supply of houses for sale seemed ripe for the picking, home prices were dropping, and news of the first-time home buyer tax credit convinced us that we need not wait any longer.

Besides, we were both eager to put our skills to good use . . .

My wife, Hannah, is a graduate of the Interior Design program at Kent State University. She works for FirstEnergy, a locally-headquartered energy provider. On most days, she enjoys her job and finds her duties as a designer of corporate workspace to be fulfilling. Ultimately, however, she yearns for opportunities to fully utilize her creativity, unrestrained by the limitations of corporate guidelines.

I graduated from Malone University with a degree in Bible & Theology. Being uncertain of the direction I wanted to go with that, and having always been interested in the trades, I decided to take a construction job at Nantucket Homes in Hudson. I originally thought this would be a temporary pause on my journey toward a "real career." But after three years, I know I want to do this work for many years to come.

And Hannah and I have learned that we share a passion for renovation.

Thus we began our search. It made sense to buy a house now--we both held reliable jobs in the Akron area, lived close to family, and enjoyed being part of a vibrant community of friends in the area.

But as the hunt drove us around West Akron on chilly, rainy Saturday mornings, it was our eagerness to renovate that would really get our blood flowing (that, and the tax credit that would drop an extra $8,000 into our renovation fund).

We would finally get the chance to pour our skills, our ideas, our hard work into a project that we wouldn't have to leave in the dust after it was complete. On the contrary, we would probably be living right in the middle of the dust for quite a while.