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    Remodeling an abandoned house

    By Fernando Félix Chú, Architect.

    It was the first time at the property on a previously schedule appointment with one of our Coldwell Banker Riveras agent and a potential buyer. They needed a professional house inspection with a very clear request: “Should we buy it or not”? When I first met the house I thought: why?, why me? My technical point of view was what really mattered for this encounter.

    After we introduced each other and a handshake from both of my clients, we took a look at the house from the outside, I had no idea what to think about it, it was dirty and destroyed; a very bleak overview, indeed. The general construction showed us a broken iron door and fences, stained boundary walls, a few rusted iron bars popping out from some cornices, a bunch of broken or nonexistent concrete roof tiles, a very damaged traditional concrete fountain, and so. That was not a happy place at all. In fact, kind of scary.

    After our quick outside inspection, we came downstairs to the main level, I immediately realized that my expectation was a reality. Clearly, the intense Odile hurricane on 2014 had come into the house and destroyed everything on its way. It was almost two years later with the sun, wind and salty weather exposure. No peace of mind for me at that point.

    The house inspection had begun. We came into the house thru those broken wooden doors. Destruction and moisture odor inside confirmed my last minutes feelings. Dirty clay floors with dried mud converted back to dust, Peeled plastered walls with sand on them and nonexistent windows made me feel even more disappointed. Some wooden cabinets and doors with teared hinges, lots of broken window framing and glass, the spoiled kitchen and a half bathroom by the entrance with old decorative tiles and that was it. Nervous laughs and a VERY POSITIVE attitude on the client´s faces joined me around the house made me think, what else would I see?. But anyway, I was there as part of the sales team to make the clients feel comfortable.

    “Achievable”, the new word on my mind then. A new perspective came to me, when I looked at a stunning ocean view in front of me, with a perfect mixture of blues and greens rising on top of a white concrete railing by the main terrace. A whole “new start” all over again. The clients were smiling again, actually they never stopped. It was me, who was distracted, that´s why I had not noticed it. The renovation was feasible, I still was standing on those clay tiles under an amazing red brick dome; dusted and filthy, but still amazing. Following with the inspection, we came to this room they called “Master Bedroom”, they knew that was the best spot for the main bedroom of the house, next to the great room and on the main level. The ocean view confirmed that it was a good idea. Same situation as the rest of the house, dust, destruction and moisture; but it didn’t matter to me anymore. The ocean view was the superstar now. Main level was finished, it was time to go downstairs passing a wooden handrail barely standing by the stairway leading us to the guest bedrooms. It was worse than the upper level, same items to be quoted. My perspective had changed, I had a good feeling about the whole situation.

    My enthusiastic tour partners helped me to understand why they were interested on the property, the sale price was not relevant to me. Renovation works for a “house in ruins” processes were priority for me. There is a lot to remove and then to build. Took a look on the ocean view again and immediately “the question” came to me: – How much does it cost to fix it?, took a deep breath and said -“I don´t know, but give me some time to put some numbers together”, I was anxious, excited and compromised for the challenge to have a proposal soon. Then we talked about my past projects and experience. The meeting was finished. Handshake and gratitude words were exchanged. When I came to my computer, with my “tornado” head, i downloaded all the pictures I had on my phone, there were tons of things to think, measure, draw, propose and quote. My clients were waiting for a rough number so they would take a decision to put an offer or not.

    Certainly, it took me longer to get them the rough estimate, since every time I was at the house I found new items to be quoted. Reaching the final number wasn´t an easy task. I knew it was a challenge and a great responsibility to talk about general numbers, my clients also knew it. At last, after a lot of trips back and forth along with a few estimates and numbers, they closed the deal for the house, the restoration budget was hired and the works were executed.

    For the final result, I have to say: “The best comment will come from the owners”.

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