Sweat-eq­uity OP­POR­TU­NITY

Rent-to-own ar­range­ment suits sin­gle mom just fine

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES -

SHAN­NON had dreamed of be­ing a home­owner since her daugh­ter was born. Pre­vi­ously a renter, the sin­gle mom wanted a place that she and her daugh­ter could re­ally call home — a house with a yard, lots of space to play and the free­dom to dec­o­rate to suit their tastes.

Five years later, when a change in cir­cum­stances forced her hand, op­por­tu­nity came knock­ing — knock­ing on an old, drafty door, but it came knock­ing just the same.

For many young peo­ple to­day, own­ing a home is a far-off dream. Hous­ing prices are very high, even for smaller prop­er­ties. Luck­ily, Shan­non (not her real name) found a rent-to-own op­por­tu­nity that suited her needs and bud­get.

A Win­nipeg cou­ple had pur­chased a small St. James home as an in­vest­ment. The house was in need of ma­jor ren­o­va­tions, which was re­flected in the pur­chase price. The own­ers planned to gut it com­pletely and of­fered Shan­non a rent-to-own agree­ment that in­cluded some sweat eq­uity on her part dur­ing the ren­o­va­tion process. The project was ex­ten­sive — com­plete re­moval of the in­te­rior plas­ter-and-lath walls, a new heat­ing sys­tem, up­dated elec­tri­cal ser­vice in­clud­ing much-needed ad­di­tional light­ing, a new bath­room, up­dated plumb­ing, a com­pletely ren­o­vated kitchen with new cab­i­nets and ap­pli­ances, new win­dows through­out, and new floor­ing and doors.

Shan­non jumped in with both feet, work­ing along­side var­i­ous contractors ev­ery step of the way. Friends and fam­ily pitched in as well.

Be­ing di­rectly in­volved in the ren­o­va­tion process al­lowed her some op­tions. Shan­non was able to choose her own floor­ing, cab­i­netry and even the ap­pli­ances that were to be pur­chased for her new home. She also got to choose her paint colours — like the dra­matic tomato red in the kitchen and the soft, golden wheat colour in the liv­ing room — and spent many evenings paint­ing the walls af­ter the contractors had left for the day. mi­crowave pro­vide lots of work­ing space and stor­age in a small space.

There are a few fin­ish­ing touches left to be done. The cabi­net han­dles and drawer pulls have yet to be in­stalled and the win­dow trim and base­boards aren’t in yet, but the kitchen is al­ready beau­ti­ful and func­tional. The orig­i­nal open­ing be­tween the kitchen and liv­ing room was widened to make the en­tire space feel open and airy.

Two large win­dows in the long, rec­tan­gu­lar liv­ing room were re­placed, with one larger than the orig­i­nal, al­low­ing tons of nat­u­ral light. A drop ceil­ing of yet more acous­tic tiles was re­moved to re­store height to the space. A se­ries of inset pot lights were in­stalled to rec­tify a lack of ceil­ing light­ing.

The unique de­sign of the orig­i­nal hard­wood lay­out in the liv­ing room is an­other charm­ing fea­ture of this older home. Shan­non re­fin­ished the floors her­self, which took a lot of work but was worth the ef­fort. She also re­moved the heavy, wrought-iron heat­ing vent grates, had them sand­blasted and painted them matte-black, which was a lot cheaper than try­ing to pur­chase vin­tage re­place­ments.

The bath­room re­quired a to­tal gut, with a new one-piece tub/shower unit (com­plete with light­ing) re­plac­ing the old bath­tub. A new toi­let was in­stalled, and Shan­non chose to go with a pedestal sink in or­der to keep the floor space as open as pos­si­ble.

The orig­i­nal bath­room had a door that ob­structed a tiny hall­way when open. This was re­placed with a pocket door that now takes up no space at all but still pro­vides nec­es­sary pri­vacy for the small bath­room.

Shan­non worked hard to cre­ate a spe­cial bed­room for her daugh­ter. Since the room was quite small, she opted for a loft bunk bed and hung a gauzy cur­tain on the lower part to cre­ate a se­cret play space com­plete with large floor pil­lows and a toy chest. She pur­chased a taller dresser for the same rea­sons. Her daugh­ter loves her new home and her unique bed­room.

The main bed­room wasn’t very large ei­ther, so Shan­non chose a light mauve wall colour to keep it feel­ing open and airy. A low-pro­file plat­form bed makes the room feel a lit­tle larger as well. The small closet is a chal­lenge, but she’s mak­ing do.

As with most ren­o­va­tions, there were a few glitches along the way, Shan­non says.

The two pic­ture win­dows ar­rived on time, but were two inches too big for the open­ings. The prob­lem was soon rec­ti­fied and the nat­u­ral light is a wel­come fea­ture of this for­merly dim room.

“There was laugh­ter and tears through­out the process,” she said, not­ing there were a few sur­prises, too. “The house was un­kempt and the pre­vi­ous own­ers had two cats. There was so much fur in the heat­ing vents that we thought they left a cat be­hind.”

Shan­non still has a few fin­ish­ing touches to do, like hang­ing art­work, but is in no rush now that she’s in her new home. It will all come in time.

The bath­room is a sim­ple re­place­ment of ex­ist­ing fix­tures but trans­forms the old, tired bath into some­thing fresh and new. The inset shows the bath in progress.

Top: Shan non (not her real name) works at de­mol­ish­ing the kitchen. Bot­tom: the

fin­ished kitchen is re­splen­dent in tomato red.

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