Monday, June 30, 2008

Movin’ on Out!

Eventually, we have to move everything out or to the basement because all the floors will be refinished but till then, we get one large bedroom, small bathroom, and the kitchen. Everything else had to be boxed-up and moved out to Canton Self Storage. I wanted to hire movers to do the heavy lifting but Steve had an even better idea (though I was skeptical at first). We rented an in-town U-Haul and hired 3 day-workers from Casa de Maryland. Pedro, Jose, and Hector were awesome! They were extremely respectful, polite, and they worked really hard. They had all the stuff we had ready to go, moved out and into storage in less than 3 hours! And we were paying them hourly. Communication wasn’t too bad, their English was much better than our Spanish! Casa is a great organization. They provide help and services to the immigrant population of Baltimore and DC and provide a safe way for the day-workers to find work.

The move; however, is not over. My procrastinator of a husband had hardly any of his stuff boxed up and ready to go when Pedro, Jose, and Hector were helping us so we-correction-he- should be making trips to the storage bin to get the stuff out of the way of the contractors. But we’ve been busy with the neighborhood, new godsons, and work. So in the meantime the house is a bit chaotic as you can probably tell from the photos.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


I hate moving. After moving into this house, Steve and I both swore we'd never move again (Steve even claimed he wanted to be buried in the basement). And yet I found myself packing boxes a couple weekends ago.

A new front door, no packing or moving required. A nearly whole house renovation, you gotta move. Where does all the crap come from? Neither of us are big shoppers and we never bothered decorating or buying furniture cause we new we’d be having renovations done. We took one pick-up truck full to Goodwill, set some old cheapie furniture out on the sidewalk for free (gone in two hours!), and sold couches and a TV on Craig’s List (also gone in a matter of hours!). Yet box after box piled up full of our belongings.

Friday, June 27, 2008


So we thought we were in the clear by submitting the tax credit applications in early March. Expecting a 60-day review from the State of Maryland, we would be on track for a May demolition start. Wrong. We overlooked the time involved in one minor step…Financing. Bradford Bank, a local Baltimore bank, manages the Healthy Neighborhoods program. Our loan process was smooth, but it is not an overnight process. Our loan officers at Bradford were great and we meandered the great valley of future debt without any problems. A flawless closing in early June put us well on our way to our June demolition start. So with the Baltimore summer heat upon us, let’s start tearing up this old house!

Money smart

We didn't buy at the bottom of the market (nor at the top, thankfully) so how are we able to put so much money into improvements??

1. We are fortunate to live on a Healthy Neighborhoods target block When I first heard about this program, I, like many, thought it was too good to be true. By putting a minimum of $40k into home improvements, which must include exterior improvements, we’re eligible to roll the construction loan and our existing mortgage into a new 30-yr-fixed mortgage at the published Fannie Mae 60 Day Rate minus 100 basis points (1 percentage point). And there’s no catch...seriously! So we applied and were approved for the program in winter 2008.

2. Next step was to apply for the Maryland Historic Tax Credit. Maryland values its historic properties and Patterson Park is a national historic district. By incorporating some historic elements into the design and maintaining existing historic elements, we're eligible to receive 20% of the rehab (not as in Betty Ford...yet) costs back as a state income tax credit. Words of caution...the application was complicated so we subbed that out to our good friend Todd at Trace; you can't perform any work at all to the house prior to submitting and while you're application is under review; and finally, their website says 30 days to review...they'll tell you they need 60 days, and they'll take 70 days. We were counting on the 30 so this was the first delay...

3. City property taxes, won't dwell on these, but our assessment is "frozen" for ten years such that we're not penalized tax-wise for improving the property. City tax review was complete in 30 days.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Getting you up to speed...

Sometime in late 2006 we began our home renovation project. With the help of Todd Connelly at Trace Architects,, we came up with plans for the second and third floors that we love! In early 2007 we turned the plans over to a contractor to receive a quote…things were going great! And then, by August 2007 things fell through with that contractor. They couldn’t take on the project! After getting over the sense of frustration of losing 8 months, we went out for new bids in November 2007 and decided to go with Baltimore Green Construction