Megan and Scott: A West Side Makeover

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Back in March, Megan and Scott closed on a three-unit home on the West Side. The upper two units were move-in-ready. The first floor unit was, well, not. They moved in upstairs and spent months renovating the first floor to their taste. They wound up with a perfectly cozy home, full of light and color. Check out their story below! 

How did you make the decision to buy a home? 

Megan: I hated our landlord at the time and we had been casually talking about it for awhile but one night in November we just kind of forced ourselves to jump in. 

Scott: We were tentatively planning to buy a house at some point in 2018. In no way did I ever think we would be a home owner by March. As we started dipping our toes into the market, it did not seem like we would find anything quickly but then the right one came along...

You were debating between a single family or a multi family home. How did you ultimately decide on a multi-family? 

Megan: Scott's dad owns several multi-family homes and Buffalo is unique where there are multiple owner occupied properties. It seemed like the perfect stepping stone to home ownership and investing in real estate. 

Scott: Buffalo has a really interesting selection of properties with rental opportunity. We wanted something that would feel like home in the short term but would help us move towards our long term goals as well. Additionally, so many houses in Buffalo are huge from a square footage perspective and we don't take up too much space. It's nice to be able to turn some of that extra space into cash flow!

You focused exclusively on the West Side. What do you love about that neighborhood?

Megan: It's walkable. The established trees. This just felt like home. We've lived within the same 6 blocks in Buffalo since we moved here four years ago and it just made sense. 

Scott: The West Side has always embodied the culture of Buffalo we like best. While it is still an up and coming area, there are a number of great restaurants in our backyard and just a short jump to downtown or Hertel. 

What stood out about the house you chose? 

Megan: It had a unit perfect for renovations and not one BUT two income opportunities that had already been rehabbed by the previous owner. 

Scott: The condition of the property was one of the best overall we had seen at the price point we were looking at.The first floor unit was in rough shape, but from the first time we walked in, we could both see the vision of what our future home would look like. 

A terrifying "before" shot of the first floor.

A terrifying "before" shot of the first floor.

What kind of renovations did you do on the first floor unit? 

Megan: What kind of renovations didn't we do? It was basically a gut job. The unit was incredibly sad. I remember walking into the property and it being so dark and small. We hired great contractors, Aaron & Gabe, who tore most of the unit down to studs. We tore out everything existing down to the baseboards and made it brand new. 

What's the hardest thing about doing a home remodel? 

Megan: The waiting game. Seeing bits of our house ready and waiting and not being able to live there. 

Scott: The length and complexity of the project. The process can feel like it is never going to end, but the results are so satisfying when you finally get there. Additionally, make sure you are always thinking a few steps ahead and looking out for your best interests. A project timeline can quickly extend because of poor planning. Make sure to understand what inter-dependencies exist in your renovation plan and do everything you can to make the sequence flow smoothly.

Now that the work is (almost) done, what do you love most about your home? 

Megan: I love my bathroom. It's the smallest bathroom I've ever had but we were able to make the space completely ours. Aaron, our contractor, created a pony wall within he space of the bathtub that's great for extra storage and installed a giant glass block window that allows for a ton of natural light. 

Scott: Seeing the vision come to life. When you look at the first floor unit originally, I'm sure you would've thought we were crazy, but honestly I didn't ever see it as anything but the way it is now. It feels so natural to be in the space that looks just like our mental picture for the last three months. 

What's the best part of homeownership? What's the worst part? 

Megan: Best part, everything is ours. Worst part, Home Depot trips. 

Scott: Best part, the creative autonomy to do what you want without the fear of losing your Security deposit! Worst part, you always have more projects then you have time or money for. 

What advice do you have for people thinking about buying a home - especially those thinking about buying a fixer-upper? 

Megan: Do it. There is no perfect time to do anything. If something goes wrong it's not the end of the world. Try to stay local with who you hire but also know that small businesses aren't always looking out for you but the money that goes in their pocket. A great contractor is key to making the process go smoothly as possible and will sometimes double as a good therapist.

Scott: Don't be afraid to dive in, but make sure to do you homework first. Make sure to think about the economics of your decision to be sure it will pay off in the long run. Model out a few different scenarios to really vet out whether the decision makes sense. Also, be careful who you work with. Good help is hard to find and honestly, we got so lucky overall with who we chose to work with. These seemingly small decisions can be the difference-maker in your homeownership and renovation experience!

Margaret Healy