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Seeing potential in an older home
Renovations can make house feel fresh and new
0109Gaines After kitchen
Originally three rooms, Margaret and Neil Gaines had the center wall removed to make one large room instead of three small rooms. They also added a kitchen island. - photo by AMANDA HEAD

In the mornings, Winter Cox sits with a cup of tea and her two dogs, finding solace in her new cedar-planked sunroom that overlooks her spacious backyard.

The sunroom is a new addition to her 1967 house on Blue Ridge Drive. The space isn’t the only change Cox and her husband, Clayton Cox, have made since purchasing the home in March. The house has a whole new floor plan.

Renovating an existing house has become an easier way for homebuyers to find the home they want in the location they want.

“I think (renovating) gives (homebuyers) a chance to put their own stamp on the property and make it their own and make it work and function the way they want it to,” real estate agent CJ Greene said.

Wanting to downsize and wanting to stay in the city, the Coxes found out buying the right home was stressful. But once the Gainesville pair found a house with their desired yard, they didn’t let a wall stand in their way — literally. 

“I loved the backyard and I could just see me gardening and future grandchildren playing outside,” she said.

Cox said she originally wanted to do a basic remodel of the older home, but it morphed into a bigger project. She said she practically built a new house.

Living in the basement during the main floor construction, the Coxes removed walls, erected other walls and built whole rooms, such as the sunroom.

Though loving their new home, Cox said leaving their home of 20 years last year wasn’t easy.

“That was the home where we reared all four children and had built many happy memories,” she said. “However, we are now enjoying making memories in a new place.”

Even though the Coxes drastically changed their new house, not all remodeling has to change the floor plan.

Gainesville residents Margaret Gaines and her husband, Neil, loved the location of their new home off of Parkhill Place, but knew it needed work.

Along with the help of Greene, the Gaineses were able to envision the changes.

“We wanted to make the floor plan more open, so we knocked out a big wall,” Gaines said. “Instead of having three separate small rooms, now it is one large room.”

Having one large room will help Gaines keep an eye on her 2-year-old daughter as well as her future family addition. Gaines is expected to deliver her second child this coming week.

In the kitchen, the Gaineses added an island and replaced the appliances and countertops. The couple also replaced the flooring throughout the home and painted the inside and outside. A new roof was added and the basement was converted into a play room.

“It was the most affordable way to make (the house) feel newer,” she said.

Greene explained homeowners have to obtain the right financing or have personal funds to renovate a home.

Hayden Couch, a mortgage loan originator with Homestar Financial Corp., said renovating a home is great for first-time homebuyers.

Couch explained loans are packaged into the mortgage. With government loans, it is a one-time closing and one-time underwriting making the buying process easy for people who have never owned a home, he said.

But renovating loans are not just for first-timers. Current homeowners who may want to change or upgrade their current home may apply as well.

“Instead of having to come up with $35,000 in cash for an asset, (homeowners) are able to refinance their mortgage with a renovation loan incorporated,” she said.

As with any loan, restrictions and certain requirements apply. But Couch tries to ensure her clients are well educated of the loan process and their own personal loans.

Reality TV shows, such as “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “Hidden Potential,” make renovating seem easy and fun. But the truth is remodeling takes time and can be frustrating.

For three months, seven days a week, the Coxes had contractors and subcontractors remodeling their home from 7 in the morning until dark.

“It was a headache,” Winter Cox said.

The Gainesville woman tried to use local businesses as much as possible. But sometimes she had to use companies from Atlanta, which proved to be more troublesome, she said.

“The countertop people, from day one we didn’t feel like they honored what they said they would do,” Cox said. “We ordered honed (countertops) and they came polished. They still haven’t sealed it right.”

Reaching out to local businesses such as Martin Furniture and Design, Gainesville Flooring and City Plumbing and Electric proved to be convenient for Cox. She walked into their businesses and saw the displays. Along with that, she was assured they had her order correct, she said.

During renovation of the Gaines’ home, the family had to stay at another family member’s home in the basement.

“It was stressful,” she said.

Wanting to hurry and get into the house, Gaines said they waited a few months to remodel their basement because it wasn’t as urgent as the main part of the house.

With two different family structures and two different budgets, the Gaineses and Coxes made something old, new again. Both women advised future renovators to be patient with the process, because it is truly worth the wait.