My husband and I bought a row home in the East Passyunk neighborhood of Philadelphia in May 2018, in really crummy condition ready to start a renovation ourselves. Then, four days before we closed on our new home, we found out we were pregnant.
Since then, we’ve been balancing parenthood with making this place a home for all of us. While we had planned to both work on the house, parenthood threw a big wrench in those plans. With all the time (and money) spent working on this house, researching materials and methods, AND making tons of mistakes, we have learned so much about what makes a home for us, and why doing a DIY renovation was the best and only option for us. Our home is still very much a work in progress, but my husband has built a home for us that is a huge source of pride.
If you’re thinking about doing a DIY renovation in your home, read on for our reasons for pursuing this challenging but oh-so-rewarding path.
Staying Debt Free while Building Equity
Our primary goal while making changes to our home was to not take on any additional debt. At the time when we purchased our home, we had zero credit card debt, and one car loan for our primary car purchased in 2017. Since then, we have made some incredible changes to our home and paid off our car. By not taking on credit card debt to make changes, the equity we’ve built has been “free and clear” – meaning we haven’t paid extra to a bank through credit card interest in the process.
We have put some purchases on a credit card while taking advantage of cashback offers, as well as special rewards. We have a credit card that gives extra cashback on purchases from specific places – like Lowe’s and Home Depot.
If you’d like to start your own DIY renovations in part to avoid any additional debt, you can still strategically use a credit card to find some additional savings.
We plan to get our home reappraised soon in order to drop our PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance). Because we put down less than 20% initially at the purchase of our home, we still carry mortgage insurance. Once it is reappraised, we are really confident that we’ll be able to eliminate our PMI, and have some additional equity in our home.
Bringing Higher Design Elements into Reach
There are so many things we have in our home that would not have been possible for us financially if my husband hadn’t created them out of thin air. We have new solid wood floors on our first floor, an electric fireplace/heater with faux brick paneling, and a privacy fence in our backyard.
Had we paid a “professional” or “artisan” instead, our renovation costs would have been 3-4 times higher than what we paid. Again, we weren’t willing to take on credit card debt or another loan to make these changes. And although admittedly, sustainability didn’t hold the primary concern, we made many choices that reflect our approach to doing things slowly & sustainably.
Gaining Knowledge for All our Future Projects
Do we all know the parable about teaching a man to fish? My husband got a top-notch education at YouTube University, followed by extensive higher learning on the job. He renovated our only bathroom – twice. I made poor decisions about materials and finishes, and we had to live with them until we saved up enough to make updates. We’ve learned where we should seek out bargains, where materials costs are similar across the board, and where we want to save up for something really special. What we lack in funds, we make up for in know-how, learn-how, and sheer stubbornness.
We Feel Lucky as Hell
Nearly 35% of Americans don’t own the homes in which they live. If you have the means to purchase a home of any kind, in any state of repair, you may find that leading with gratitude can adjust your perspective in the, particularly tough moments during a renovation. Despite the many things I would do differently now and the many setbacks and frustrations, I am very thankful that we are lucky enough and privileged to have a home we call our own. The visibility of our efforts, and living inside the process has made me care from this home in a different way. Every piece of our home has been touched by my husband’s hands. Our friends and family helped him install wood floors, our back patio, and redid our entire roof on a day of 100+ degree weather. I do believe that our home was deeply in need of the care and attention that we have given it, and we are lucky enough to be the family who now gets to enjoy it.