Friday 3 January 2014

There Is Always Hope

Not everyone is entering 2014 with life going along just hunky dory.  And, for those who feel that their problems are overwhelming right now, I'm sharing the story of the renovation of my sister's little cottage.  I asked her if she minded if I explained a little bit about how she came to buy the house and assured her I would use discretion and tell as little as possible; just enough have it all make sense.  My goal was to show that any house can become a home, without spending a great deal of money. Even when it seems it never will, life can get better.

She said, "If you think it may help someone, tell it all".  That was very courageous of her and I thank her for it.

This is the house when she bought it.  It's not a beauty and a little overgrown. ~

For all that, it was still an answer to a prayer for her.  A decade before, her husband had been injured at work.  He was on sick leave for awhile and it ran out.  He went on long term disability and that ran out. Their only income was what my sister brought in from her job as manager of a real estate office.  His benefits were cancelled and his drug bill per month was more than she earned.  While they fought their way through the system, debts began to mount. They were sinking fast.

With little left in the way of emotional or physical reserves, they had the ultimate nightmare happen.  Their son was killed in a senseless shooting at a party.  Life had literally collapsed around them.

They sold their home for just enough to pay their debts and moved in with my parents. It was intended to be a temporary situation. My sister stayed on in her job for a couple of years, until the stress became too much to handle.  My brother in law lost his claim and was left with a small disability pension to live on.  My dad died of cancer, Mom developed Alzheimer's and had to go into a nursing home.  My parent's house had to be sold and my sister had to find a home where she could have her pets and that was affordable on a very small income.

A friend of my mother's, a widow, wanted to sell her rental property.  A single man had been living in it for a dozen years and he was moving out.  She named an amount that was insanely low.  Knowing they couldn't qualify for a mortgage, my sister asked if she would hold one for her and sell without a down payment. She agreed.  So, the house was sold without my sister ever seeing inside.  The vendor hadn't been in it since the single man moved in.

On closing day, everyone was in for a big shock!

The kitchen taps have corroded so badly, they don't function. ~

Everyone expected the place to need a little cleaning, but have you ever seen dust an inch thick on a floor where someone was living? ~

Most of the windows and doors aren't functioning anymore and it looks like the roof has been leaking. Upstairs is pretty rough, too. ~

But, the killer was the bathroom!  Not the toilet nor the sink nor the bathtub worked.  In short, there was no water in the house.

Yes, that is what you think it is in the toilet.  There's also a whole roll of toilet paper in there. ~

Keep in mind that there is no money to renovate this place.  The only answer to getting the house in a livable state was to open a Home Depot account.  They were able to combine that with a little bit of credit card money and some government energy grants to offset the cost of replacing the furnace, windows and doors. The total budget would be $10,000.

Demolition began. Out came the rotten kitchen floor. ~

My sister bailed that toilet out and I helped her carry it outside.  Gross!  This is our baby brother starting work on the bathroom.  Normally, he's and computer guy. ~

In the next post, I'll show you the how the little house looks today.

Just so no one has nightmares from what you've seen, here's a much nicer bathroom. ~

Everything had to be budget friendly and the the only tradesmen that could be hired were for furnace and window and door installation.  All the rest would be DIY.

I bet you are feeling better already.  You don't have to face making this house livable!


  1. Wow! That was disgusting! I've only seen the "after". The work involved in this transformation must have been brutal! Talk about strength of character in your family! Great job! xo wendy

  2. This is such a heart-felt story. Your story is one of hope and inspiration and how your sister and family persevered despite all the difficulties and obstacles. Thanks Maureen for sharing this especially this time of the year. This represents a new beginning for all of us who dwell on the little insignificant stuff we face when others are enduring hardships we can't possibly imagine.

  3. okay so I really want to know if this reno is finished, on-going....where is it at? Amazing Maureen. Did the community come in to help? So many questions?

  4. I can't imagine living like that...I'm so glad your sister saved this house, I'll be back to see more! The bathroom is so pretty!

  5. This is just the right kind of New Year story. Looking forward to the happy ending. And thank you for the last photo, but I'm not sure I will recover right away.

  6. First of all I'm so sorry for what your sister and her husband have been through. Life can be so difficult at times. Second, I don't know how anyone can live like the former tenant did but I guess he had his own issues to deal with as well. Third, this transformation on such a tight budget is amazing. It sure helps when family and friends can chip in and provide the needed expertise for major renovations like this. I can't wait to see the rest of the changes! All the best to your sister and brother-in-law as they start over. God bless them! Thanks for sharing. There is always hope!

  7. WOW!!! This truly is inspirational. Sometimes it's hard to get out of the "funk" and move on. Especially with the holidays and then the "holiday hangover" it's important to remember what is truly important.
    Please thank your sister for allowing you to share. I'm looking forward to reading more!

  8. I was gagging there a couple of times. Is this the house on Middleport Road? (did the bachelor's name start with a "K"?). I cannot believe the state you all found that house in. It must have been so heartbreaking for all. Your family seriously just gets things done, don't you. I can't wait to see the after.

  9. Oh my, there are just no words! Truly amazing that someone could actually function in there and the fact that the owner did nothing about wonder she was so agreeable! Looking forward to the next post. Definitely a story of courage! Cathy

  10. I am glad you did the post - it was hard for even me to read. The answer to Terry is yes to both questions. May I say this has become of dream home and we love it even though there are still a few things to fix up. The previous owner offered to release us from the deal when she saw the shape it was in. I am so glad we chose to to this on. There is always hope for new beginnings for everyone and everything.
    Love Lynn

  11. WOW ... that house is more "than a pretty rough" .... Sorry for all that your Sister and hubby has been going through. They are so blessed to have family members that are willing to help. I am glad the house is coming along nicely and they will have a nice place to live. Just wish the best for them. Hugs to you and your brother for helping.
    May 2014 be a good year for everyone.
    Audrey Z. @ Timeless Treasures

  12. oh my. I do not know what to say -- hope things are easier for your sister and brother-in-law these days. (did the owners realize how bad it was?)

  13. Oh goodness...I sure hope this has a happy ending. Oh how sad that there is so many obstacles in their life. Losing their son is beyond comprehension! And your parents...Oh my, you have me on the edge of my seat!


  14. Thank your Sister for the courage to let you tell us her story! What a horrible mess and a situation where you had to make it work! Family that can come together and help each other out makes it even a better story! Looking forward to the change that were made!

  15. Wow what a difference, I saw part of the before and all of the after and was there for the in between. Lynn has had quite the path and its nice to know she is happy now, it gives me hope.

  16. Oh Maureen! That is the saddest story and I'm so sorry for your sister. The best part of that story is the fact that she has YOU for a sister! And a wonderful family that pitches in. I can't wait to see the rest of it and yeah...I feel tons better. Tons. No more whining for me.

  17. I was in an incredulous trance reading this! Still blinking back tears. Your sister is brave. I wish her the best because she deserves it. How fortunate she has a creative, caring family helping her.

    This is how landlords get a bad name.

    Happy New Year to you and your whole extended family, Maureen. Thanks for this post, part 1!

  18. There is always hope, but there are also great families like yours to rally round and help those in need. Your sister's story is indeed overwhelming but it looks like things are heading in the right direction. I hope 2014 holds better things for her and your brother-in-law and I'm looking forward to more of the after photos !

  19. Wow!!! Holy Moly! Look what they did! I think the house is just charming now! What a great story... and what a great ending.


  20. FAR OUT!! I've been feeling down about my place the last few weeks but all of a sudden it's looking like a "mansion"

  21. Oh. My. GOD!!! It's amazing how some people will let a house disintegrate. But that last photo gives me hope!!

  22. Oh my goodness. I can't even believe how that house was left. That is disgusting. Your sister definitely saved that house. I can't even believe the transformation.