Budgets and Buzzkills: Our Remodel Emotional Roller Coaster

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meeting the team of engineers...

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When we started planning our home remodel, we gathered our team to discuss design options and costs. This early collaboration is important even for smaller remodels, because you need to know what you can afford. It is also somewhat rare.

From what we’ve seen, the general order of operations is: 1) hire an architect or designer and draft your plan, 2) submit those plans to your city or county for approval and permits, 3) choose two or three contractors to bid on your project, and 4) select your contractor and begin construction.

The problem with this scenario is that bids are often higher than your expectations and budget. And by the time you realize this, you are hopelessly in love with the vaulted ceiling and skylights your designer has drawn. At that point, change is emotionally hard.

Here are our suggestions for being able to afford your remodel:

Hold a planning meeting with your designer and a potential contractor. You might pay a fee for this service, but we think it is better to invest $500-$1,000 up front to avoid expensive surprises at bid time. A good contractor will have ideas about cost-saving strategies and materials that might save money and time. And you will know upfront what those splurge items will cost, so you can pick and choose.

Pick your splurges. Not everything needs to be top-of-the line, but a house should have a few big moments. Prioritize your lists of needs and wants to make your must-haves clear. We chose a dramatic vaulted ceiling in our kitchen/living/dining space and a large glass slider into the backyard. Luckily we let go of a few things early, before we ever saw them in drawings and pictures. By then, we would have been tempted to raid the 401(k) for the midcentury chandelier that we just had to have. This process of prioritizing saved us from ourselves.

Prepare to compromise. Some of our compromises were shortening the planned kitchen island, buying a counter-depth fridge instead of a paneled built-in one, and adjusting our floor plan to take advantage of an existing structural wall.

Find creative solutions. We used less expensive slider doors for our master bedroom and kitchen. Because you will never see them up against our expensive backyard slider, we decided to mix and match manufacturers. That switch alone saved us over $5,000. We also decided to keep and skim coat over an existing patio instead of demolishing it and starting from scratch.

Protect no sacred cows. We were determined to design our house around our dining room table, which reflects our style and holds many happy memories. In our planned open-concept living room/dining room/kitchen it just didn’t fit. It was too big, too rectangular, and it blocked the open feel no matter where you put it. That meant considering costly work-arounds to try to accommodate it. Once we realized that was crazy, we had a brief mourning period and then we moved on. You really can’t design a house around one piece of furniture. You have to approach the process with an open mindset and let function and your overall goals lead the way.

Reuse creatively. That same table, with a few modifications, is going to make a perfect his-and-hers desk in our new office. Hooray! We are also working with existing door and window openings where possible to save money on demolition and framing.

Start with traditional, proven technologies. Because our goal is zero net energy, we evaluated all kinds of expensive technologies like ductless mini splits, heat recovery systems, and spray foam insulation. What we found by modeling these options is that, with our climate, we can achieve our goal with a conventional furnace, traditional insulation, and a smart approach to what we call home systems integration. There is no need to over-engineer if you take a systematic approach to planning.

Size your heating and air conditioning correctly. Our house is less than 2,000 square feet. With new insulation and windows we will need a 2.5 ton furnace. The existing furnace: seven tons! More isn’t always better and it is certainly more expensive.

When you are on a budget, there will always be buzzkills during the remodel process. We really wanted a decadent bathtub and a larger back patio. But will we miss them when we are staring at our vaulted ceiling or enjoying the view through our large sliding door? I doubt it.

Holland & Nick Brown are on a quest for a Net Zero Nest: remodeling a house (on a mainstream budget) into a home that makes efficient use of energy and water.

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Black Friday and Beyond: Appliance Deals Abound

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Durable Goods

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Associated Press

By BobVila.com

Black Friday: It’s the busiest shopping day in America, with the most eager consumers starting just after midnight. Like so many others, you may have planned to capitalize on the deep discounts to buy gifts for the whole family.

But if you’re a homeowner with a new microwave, stainless steel fridge or other major appliance on your wishlist, be sure to save room for it in your budget. There’s no better time of year to buy. Here’s why.

Holiday weekend sales

You’ve seen the ads online, in the newspaper and on television. Hardly a holiday weekend seems to pass without a sale. What makes Thanksgiving weekend different is that regular prices are cut so dramatically.

At the same time, savvy shoppers know that on Black Friday and the days immediately following, salespeople are uncommonly willing to negotiate. For consumers, that means it’s an ideal time to make a deal, particularly on a package of appliances.

End of the month

A salesperson in an appliance store — like salespeople almost everywhere else — works on commission. And on Black Friday, the paycheck he or she is working toward is likely to be the last (or next to last) before Christmas. So while you may be motivated to make a deal, remember: your salesperson is motivated too.

New model arrivals

You may already know that in the automotive industry, new models are unveiled in September and October. Appliance manufacturers operate on the same schedule. So when Black Friday hits in late November, stores are eager to move last year’s models.

For that reason, showroom salespeople are open to negotiate deals on “outdated” appliances. Best of all, any deal you strike builds on the Black Friday discount already running storewide.

Year-end clearance

There’s only about a month left in 2014, and stores know that most shoppers have earmarked a portion of their disposable income for gifts and entertaining. At the same time, those stores are under pressure to sell merchandise remaining from the previous 10 months.

Sales or no, smart consumers do their homework. If possible, follow pricing for a month prior to your purchase so you know the difference between a deep discount and a sales pitch.

Remember, too, that prices in showrooms are often flexible, and on Black Friday, circumstances conspire to make them particularly malleable. So make something special happen this weekend. For once, you and your salesperson may actually want the same thing — which might very well be a new double oven in your kitchen.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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$385,000 :: 1060 KENNESAW, Birmingham MI, 48009

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3 beds, 1 full, 1 part baths
Home size: 1,791 sq ft
Lot Size: 11,761 sq ft
Added: 10/02/14, Last Updated: 11/26/14
Property Type: 2 Story, Residential
MLS Number: 31214791
Community: Birmingham (63192)
Tract: HIGHLAND VIEW ADD NO 3
Status: Sold

Beautiful Mid Century 3 Bedroom Colonial In Desirable Poppleton Park. Hardwood Floors, Updated Kitchen, Renovated bathrooms, Charming Fireplace In Lr, Great Yard, Florida Room (Not Included In Sq. Ftg.) Furnace 2009/Ac 2010. Extra Large Lot. Room To Expand. Close To Schools And Downtown Birmingham. Great Neighborhood To Raise Your Family

Listed with City Management Group, Inc.


Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at www.JanetandThomas.com!


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$385,000 :: 1060 KENNESAW, Birmingham MI, 48009

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Property Photo

3 beds, 1 full, 1 part baths
Home size: 1,791 sq ft
Lot Size: 11,761 sq ft
Added: 10/02/14, Last Updated: 11/26/14
Property Type: 2 Story, Residential
MLS Number: 31214791
Community: Birmingham (63192)
Tract: HIGHLAND VIEW ADD NO 3
Status: Sold

Beautiful Mid Century 3 Bedroom Colonial In Desirable Poppleton Park. Hardwood Floors, Updated Kitchen, Renovated bathrooms, Charming Fireplace In Lr, Great Yard, Florida Room (Not Included In Sq. Ftg.) Furnace 2009/Ac 2010. Extra Large Lot. Room To Expand. Close To Schools And Downtown Birmingham. Great Neighborhood To Raise Your Family

Listed with City Management Group, Inc.


Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at www.JanetandThomas.com!


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$198,221 :: 2135 Manchester, Birmingham MI, 48009-5892

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Property Photo

3 beds, 1 full bath
Home size: 1,114 sq ft
Lot Size: 7,405 sq ft
Added: 08/29/14, Last Updated: 11/25/14
Property Type: 1 1/2 Story, Residential
MLS Number: 31209827
Community: Birmingham (63192)
Tract: Pembrook Manor Sub – Birmingham
Status: Sold

HUD Home. Super cute three bedroom bungalow in a great location. Newer, eat in, kitchen with cherry cabinets, hardwood flooring and ceramic tile backsplash. Updated ceramic tile bathroom. Upper bedroom with built in cabinet space great for extra storage. Full finished basement with extra half bath. This home also features a cozy Florida room off the back of the house that leads to the spacious deck and fenced yard. Great landscaping, one car garage and much more. Bids due 9-7-14

Listed with Inside Realty, LLC


Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at www.JanetandThomas.com!


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How to Make a Chic Centerpiece With Simple Objects

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Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

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Kerrie Kelly Design Lab via ZillowA perfect piece of fruit from the farmers market can become part of your tableau, and glass makes simple things sparkle.

By Kerrie Kelly

As the holidays approach and friends and family gather, we often are tasked with bringing together all the elements for the celebration. Luckily, when it comes to centerpieces, there are many ways to dress your table without splurging on new dishes and linens. Instead, you can look to items from nature, affordable finds and items you may already have to create a fresh and effortless look without a lot of shopping. Check out these five chic ideas that will make you “celebration ready” for the season.

Get woodsy

A single branch can be dramatic and sophisticated, setting the tone for your table scene. A more substantial branch can be laid down the center of the table and dressed with unscented votives to create some organic ambiance. Don’t hesitate to paint the branch white, gold or silver depending on your table’s palette. Alternatively, you can go vertical, filling a glass vase with one stunning arched branch of foliage or berries. Arrange berries or small scale branches at each place setting and nestle in a place card for a more formal aesthetic.

Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab
Kerrie Kelly Design Lab via ZillowBranches and greenery from your yard can help stretch an inexpensive bouquet from the grocery store into several.

Go with glass

Forgetting the flowers and candles can be a great way to create an extraordinary tabletop. A few simple glass apothecary jars filled with acorns, pinecones, candy — or at Christmas, ornaments that didn’t reach the tree — can create a beautiful centerpiece. Choose varying jar heights to create visual interest, and consider filling them with something that guests may be able to enjoy, like biscotti or another treat.

For interactive fun, have Thanksgiving guests write down what they are thankful for and drop the message in an empty table jar. When dinner is served, guests can take turns pulling out the messages and reading them aloud.

Double duty

Decorate your holiday table with something that not only looks good, but tastes good too. At Christmas, let crafty friends, family and kids make gingerbread houses for your holiday centerpiece. You can choose to make this in advance using a kit or your own recipe, or you can use the activity as a way to entertain guests while you take care of cocktails and dinner. Encourage guests to break off a piece of the gingerbread while at the table after dinner. For an element of surprise, fill up the edible house with more goodies or simply scoop up bowls of vanilla ice cream to pair with the treat.

Farm fresh

Nothing is more striking than the rich color of seasonal produce, so let your market finds take center stage when you set the table. Place a perfect pear, pomegranate, gourd or persimmon at each place setting, fill a bowl with figs, or create a heaping pile of colorful squash down your table runner for a striking look. These items last longer than flowers and give a nod to the season without breaking the bank. Stick to one type of fruit or vegetable for the most dramatic effect.

Repurpose it

Consider repurposing pieces found at flea markets, antiques stores and even a beloved granny’s attic. An old trough can make a great statement when filled with moss or ground cover.

If you have enough time, consider planting white narcissus bulbs in a found container. They will be in bloom for your December and New Year’s table. The flowers not only offer a heavenly scent, they share the promise that spring is just around the corner.

See more of Kerrie Kelly’s holiday decor on Zillow Digs.

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$542,500 :: 1363 Humphrey, Birmingham MI, 48009

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Property Photo

3 beds, 2 full, 1 part baths
Home size: 2,223 sq ft
Lot Size: 4,791 sq ft
Added: 08/29/14, Last Updated: 11/20/14
Property Type: 2 Story, Residential
MLS Number: 31209756
Community: Birmingham (63192)
Tract: Leinbach-Humphrey’s Woodward Ave.
The price of this listing was last reduced on 9/29/2014 by 0%
Status: Sold

Another Awesome New Construction Home from T G Homes – Open Floor Plan – Features Include: 9′ 1st Floor Ceilings, 8′ Solid Interior Doors, High End Trim Package – Gorgeous Kitchen w/Custom Cabinets, High End Stainless Steel Appliances & Hood Fan – Hardwood Floors – Fantastic Family Room w/Stone Fireplace, Bar Area w/Wine Frig. & Door Wall that Leads to Outside Deck – Huge Master Suite is a “Must See” – 2nd Floor Laundry – 1st Floor Mud Room – Fabulous 2.5 Baths – Sod, Sprinklers – Home is Almost Finished!!!

Listed with Keller Williams Central Market


Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at www.JanetandThomas.com!


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$542,500 :: 1363 Humphrey, Birmingham MI, 48009

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Property Photo

3 beds, 2 full, 1 part baths
Home size: 2,223 sq ft
Lot Size: 4,791 sq ft
Added: 08/29/14, Last Updated: 11/20/14
Property Type: 2 Story, Residential
MLS Number: 31209756
Community: Birmingham (63192)
Tract: Leinbach-Humphrey’s Woodward Ave.
The price of this listing was last reduced on 9/29/2014 by 0%
Status: Sold

Another Awesome New Construction Home from T G Homes – Open Floor Plan – Features Include: 9′ 1st Floor Ceilings, 8′ Solid Interior Doors, High End Trim Package – Gorgeous Kitchen w/Custom Cabinets, High End Stainless Steel Appliances & Hood Fan – Hardwood Floors – Fantastic Family Room w/Stone Fireplace, Bar Area w/Wine Frig. & Door Wall that Leads to Outside Deck – Huge Master Suite is a “Must See” – 2nd Floor Laundry – 1st Floor Mud Room – Fabulous 2.5 Baths – Sod, Sprinklers – Home is Almost Finished!!!

Listed with Keller Williams Central Market


Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at www.JanetandThomas.com!


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$542,500 :: 1363 Humphrey, Birmingham MI, 48009

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Property Photo

3 beds, 2 full, 1 part baths
Home size: 2,223 sq ft
Lot Size: 4,791 sq ft
Added: 08/29/14, Last Updated: 11/20/14
Property Type: 2 Story, Residential
MLS Number: 31209756
Community: Birmingham (63192)
Tract: Leinbach-Humphrey’s Woodward Ave.
The price of this listing was last reduced on 9/29/2014 by 0%
Status: Sold

Another Awesome New Construction Home from T G Homes – Open Floor Plan – Features Include: 9′ 1st Floor Ceilings, 8′ Solid Interior Doors, High End Trim Package – Gorgeous Kitchen w/Custom Cabinets, High End Stainless Steel Appliances & Hood Fan – Hardwood Floors – Fantastic Family Room w/Stone Fireplace, Bar Area w/Wine Frig. & Door Wall that Leads to Outside Deck – Huge Master Suite is a “Must See” – 2nd Floor Laundry – 1st Floor Mud Room – Fabulous 2.5 Baths – Sod, Sprinklers – Home is Almost Finished!!!

Listed with Keller Williams Central Market


Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at www.JanetandThomas.com!


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$3,500 :: 1175 E Lincoln, Birmingham MI, 48009

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Property Photo

3 beds, 3 full, 1 part baths
Home size: 2,194 sq ft
Lot Size: 4,791 sq ft
Added: 10/11/14, Last Updated: 11/20/14
Property Type: 2 Story, Residential
MLS Number: 31216166
Community: Birmingham (63192)
Tract: Leinbach-Humphreys Woodward Ave
Status: Sold

Live in the yellow house with the white picket fenceā€¦ Steps away from downtown Birmingham. Completely updated with an open floor plan, this 3 bedroom, 3 full baths and 1 half bath home features hardwood floors and granite countertops throughout. All bedrooms have walk-in closets. Master bedroom with 2-way fireplace is also enjoyed from master bath. Convenient 2nd floor laundry. Additional living and entertaining space in finished basement with egress window and full bath.

Listed with RE/MAX Metropolitan


Brought to you by Janet Hull and Thomas Bush, Real Estate One, Inc.. Call me today at 1-855-Janet-Tom, or visit my website at www.JanetandThomas.com!


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