If you missed last week,

by francine Hardaway on August 5, 2004

If you missed last week, I�m remodeling a 1955 house. Because it was so neglected, it was a long time before I did anything to the house that I could actually see. But I�m at the point where I can see the fruits of my efforts, and I�m ready to share information. All you need is one of these houses to teach you all the lessons, but if you are only going to apply them to your own home, it�s nice to know them in advance. So here�s the �rest of the story.�

First everybody crawled around the attic for a week, installing the new air conditioning, running CATV, stereo speaker and Ethernet cables, and re-wiring outlets, bringing a fifty-year-old electrical system up to current day code. I wanted to put the same structured wiring in this historic home that is being offered in new homes, because I figured any buyer would want it. And once you are in the attic, you might as well do everything you can all at once. So I had the high voltage consultant and the low voltage consultant. The walls are now crammed full of cables and wires; the house could probably be turned into a data center. But if the buyer wants speakers on the bedroom ceiling (or any other media device), the infrastructure is there.

The rewiring taught me some interesting lessons about electricity. I had always assumed that all modern outlets were grounded, and I was going to ground everything in the house, but the electrician told me that 1) grounding isn’t really necessary for lights and switches and 2) outlets with grounds allow increased electrical pollution to enter the house, aggravating all kinds of potential illnesses from asthma to diabetes. He sent me to a site called www.electricalpollution.com, which also convinced me to have my existing home’s pollution levels checked. There�s also a site for radio wave sickness.

I’m not sure I believed all the stuff about electrical pollution, but how would I feel if someone bought my house and got sick? And what about the fact that I’m a licensed real estate agent and could probably be sued? So I’ve got the pollution levels of both houses down to acceptable levels; I bet I’m the first person in the neighborhood to do that. However, the electrician tells me that the AMA is supposed to come out with a big article on radio wave pollution in October (just as everyone is adopting RFID technologies). He says all this illness started in the �70s, when radio waves became much more prominent in our lives.

Another lesson worth sharing: get three bids on every job. The first air conditioning company bid $5200. The second one bid $3800. The third one did the job for $3000. Same unit, same job. Had I not been using OPM, I probably would have accepted the first bidder, but my “investor” is an attorney, although also my daughter, and I felt compelled to stay on budget.

That was true for all aspects of the remodel. You can, for example, buy surplus paint and tile from a place on the west side of Phoenix where homebuilders cash in their unused supplies. This gives you the latest trendy colors and finishes, at about a third of the price of Home Depot. At 86 cents a foot, tile is actually the same price as carpet. And carpet is also all over the map: I ended up paying $600 for three bedrooms of carpet, padding, and installation.

But I still love Home Depot, although I�m also hooked on this idea of not paying retail. I got a contractor�s card after spending days walking up and down the aisles looking for things like screws and thresholds. A contractor�s card not only gives you a $10,000 line of credit, but it also enables you to fax your order in to the store and let someone else walk around finding stuff. And it gives you professional discounts. So now I guess I�ve changed careers again inadvertently.

By the end of the week, this remodel will be complete, and I�ve already listed the house on www.fsbo.com, the for sale by owner site. This is another experiment. It�s listing #69761, so I�m not exactly the first person to do this. And did I stay on budget? Not on your life. I�m over by $4000. Pray that the house sells. And don�t tell my daughter.

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