“I want you to be able to do this, but it will bankrupt you. It’s not that it’s a tight budget, it’s an order of magnitude more than you can afford.”
I know he’s right. My uncle has changed his plans to be in Detroit today for an hour and see the one in Woodbridge. He has a tremendous amount of experience in real estate and investing. This, he assures me, is out of my grasp. I counter with my community and friends, their offers to help. Just last night, a member of Icrontic offered to fly out with his father for a week to assist with renovations. “Even with free labor, the materials will easily exceed what you can afford, and you’ll need licensed electricians and plumbers. You’re looking at three to six months of renovation.”
The insurance agent stops by to take pictures. He’s skeptical I can get insurance until the electrical, kitchen, and bathroom are finished. I understand. My uncle heads out again, clearly disappointed that the property is in the state it is.
I’m left alone in the house and the cold is seeping into me again. I can see my breath as I listen to the house, wandering the first floor. I inspect the barricade against the dining room door and see a single die sitting alone on the chest. I don’t remember it being there before, and no one else has been in the house since I built the barricade.
I roll the die around in my hand a bit, and cast it onto the chest a few times before pocketing it and going back to my car to warm up. I think about the bizarre probability of being in this position.
As a student in college, I ran one of the departments in Campus Technology Services. I had a staff of 12 and significant budget; it was a legit management position within the college hierarchy. Being young, I’d often work up a head of steam about some policy or decision that I thought was stupid. Before I could charge down the hall to demand changes, my boss would sometimes pull me aside and ask “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Sometimes assaulting and capturing the hill you are focused on isn’t worth the losses you would take to do it. In academia politics, just as in investing or home buying, you must pick your battles carefully. Getting into the wrong fight could mean being mortally wounded.
Is this the hill I want to die on?
I walk the blocks to Woodbridge Pub for bourbon and soup. I need dollar amounts and schedules. There is no use in arguing my uncle’s words; they are realistic and correct. The only avenue open is an equally realistic counter-plan. As I wait for the contractor to arrive, I feel the dream slipping from me. I predict even worse news coming, and I’m not sure I have another Plan B in me.
Well better to be shot down when in the beginning than to be shot down in the middle. The first is heart breaking and discouraging. The second is the same but the sense of failure added in. I've been there. My first house was in need of some TLC. I never imagined how much until we were neck high in debt, deciding which bills to fully pay and which ones to make half payments on, and realizing that the house would not pay off our debt without finishing it... So to get out we had to go in deeper. All said and done, it was a wash. We made the house look and function like champ. We probably lost money on the 3 year endeavor but I did learn alot about budget, remodeling, and how far I can be pushed before breaking.
I'm not saying bail just because it might be a tough road with the possibility of failure. I'm saying, see what you can do to make it livable, insurable, and if those can done and not break you and have the house be worth as much as you put into it... then the risk is not so bad. It's not necessarily a 100% remodel or bail prospect. There may be grants available, low interest loans for remodeling old homes, there might be deals on labor since the market is so bad... Look at Craigslist...
Chin up, Lincoln... You ~DO~ have an awesome trump card in all of your friends.