Thursday, March 12, 2009

Buy My House, part 2: Saving, but not saving

We have, in this space, applauded the many ways folks are getting ahead of these difficult times by reexamining their budgets - and their lives - for savings.

Sometimes, it doesn't work out quite the way we intend.

Like many homeowners in Charlotte, the Squeeze household is confronting a stagnant housing market and difficult choices. Last week, we began helping you navigate those issues by telling you the story of one house. My house.

(Our promise: We won't exploit this very public venue for any actual deal-making.)

Our story is a familiar one in Charlotte. We purchased our home in the University area in late 2004. Our mortgage was a five-year adjustable rate, and today we are less than a year from that adjustment, facing a decision to bear the expense of refinancing or take a chance and put the house on the market (risking a future refinance.) Thanks to readers for some good discussion on the possibilities. An update is coming soon.

Meanwhile, there's some primping needed on our home - including the countertops, which were once a sprightly white, but no more. They also were laminate countertops, which a Realtor friend suggested put us at a disadvantage against other homes in Charlotte.

Granite countertops, however, are not inexpensive, so after receiving the estimate and negotiating a free sink, I wondered if there was any other way to lower the price.

"You could tear out the old countertops," the salesperson suggested. The savings: $250.

This seemed doable. When we purchased the house, I'd torn out some hardwood flooring that needed to be replaced. I also once delivered and installed appliances for a summer job. I consider myself handy ... enough.

So, armed with a hammer and reciprocating saw (yes, I had to look that up), I went at the surprisingly compliant countertops. Soon enough, I was alone with a cast iron sink to move. I nudged it to check the weight. The garage was only 20 feet away...

I'm proud to say I've recently completed my last physical therapy appointment. I had 10 overall - a fairly quick rehabilitation for a herniated disc. That was the diagnosis after going mano a mano with the cast iron sink.

The cost of that diagnosis and treatment? Let's just say it dwarfs my do-it-yourself countertop discount.

The lessons here? Several. Don't overestimate your abilities, first of all. But also, especially in these difficult times, make sure your savings efforts actually result in savings.

Have you ever tried to save money - on a home improvement or anything else - only to have it backfire?

Tell us about it.


Anonymous said...

Why did you not just go with Granite Transformations? They put granite over your existing laminate countertops for a fraction of the price. You would have saved your body AND your pocketbook! Perhaps others looking at upgrading their laminate can learn from your lesson.

Anonymous said...

You should have peeled that laminate off and tiled the counter tops for a fraction of the price of granite. I did it in a home I sold for under 400 dollars and the house sold in 1 month! Very inexpensive way to make those counter tops look fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Good luck selling your University area home....poor planning, bad rezoning decisions and an inability to really connect UNCC with the area has turned what was once a promising vision into a bunch of cracker box houses,cheap condos and apartments all surrounded by big box (1/2 empty) shopping centers