It is happening!

The first floor framing has been done!

While the changes are more or less limited to the newer portions of the house, the whole house feels transformed.

Here are a few pictures and dimensions.

Kitchen: 15’6″ x 12’8″ 

Through that cased opening/door is the kitchen. (From this vantage point you’re looking across what will be the dining room.) The kitchen will have a center island, and several large windows to keep it nice and bright!

Master Bath: 11’8″ x 9’7″
Master Closet: 5’10” x 8’5″

The two pictures above are the hallway leading to the master bath, with the closet on the right and then the bath itself. The closet is larger than what we had in our last house. Considering that this is a historic home, as well as only 2200 ft.², it is also really cool to have a walk-in closet. 

The bathroom also feels large too. The door you see in the picture will be replaced by a window over the bath tub. 

Mudroom/casual dining: 11’5″ x 12’8″

This is the trickiest room in the house, besides the master bedroom. It’s the room behind the kitchen that will lead to the backyard, and will hold a powder room, laundry, and a small casual seating area. While I didn’t take any pics, I did confirm we can fit all of that in the space!

    That’s it for now! Off to the space planning websites, I go!

     As always, thanks for reading!

    ~ Jennifer


    Meetings, delays and details, oh my!

    Hey there, everyone!

    I feel like it has been ages since I blogged, but it has only been a week.

    A crazy, busy, fun, intense week!

    The number of things that have to get sorted out to take advantage of my international assignment is sizable.

    • Immigration applications
    • Tax implications in Ireland
    • Tax implications in the US
    • Housing in Ireland
    • Coverage for my work in the US
    • The scope of my Ireland work.
    • How to enroll in virtual education in the US while living abroad.  (Turns out, this is not going to happen.  The boys will be coming back to Jacksonville at the start of the school year, so that we don’t lose their spots at their school.  They’ll be traveling with me only for the first month.)

    We now know that we are going to be living in Dublin 8, near St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  The apartment is a 20 minute commute (against traffic) to my office, and near a ton of stores, restaurants and pubs.

    We had an amazing friend offer to take the dog for the month we are all gone (How amazing is that?!?), and my mom is going to take the fish tanks.  Josh’s dad is noodling coming for a visit while we are there and I hope we can make it happen.

    As for Dorothy…

    • I’d hoped to have pictures of our new roof, but the rain has kept the roofers away.
    • I had hoped to have pictures of the newly framed rooms, but we have had delays in getting the space laid out.
    • I had hoped to see the front of the house ripped off, but we haven’t got the permit approved.

    Dorothy is a bit lighter, as we removed damaged wood, old insulation in the attic and any remaining ceilings in the house.  The dumpster has been delivered and we are ready to start putting her back together, at least on the inside.

    I have picked most of the finishes for the house, including oil-rubbed bronze faucets and white subway tile for the baths, as well as white quartz counters and gray cabinets for the kitchen. (Still no decision on exterior paint colors, though.)

    We met Jim and George, the two guys who bought the 1900’s Greek Revival house next to ours.  It has not been occupied in 20 years!  They just drove cross-country from Seattle to take on their complete renovation. We are going to head over the house on Sunday to hopefully take pictures of the new framing and meet our new neighbors.  What a difference it will be to our little part of Springfield in the coming months!

    There is so much to look forward to in the next few weeks.  (I haven’t even begun to consider the quick trips to Raleigh, Austin and Dallas/Ft. Worth that all take place before we leave in July.)  From getting rain gear to setting up my international cell phone plan, the list of details keeps getting longer, but it will be SO worth it.

    Thanks for reading.





    Our fresh faced gal

    We have new elevations showing the front exterior of Dorothy!

    Since last I wrote, there have been a few developments at the new house. The most exciting of these is surely this.

    This is what Dorothy looks like now.  (Actually, that’s not true.  I have not taken a photo of the 15 paint colors we tested on her front façade…but I digress.)


    And this is what she’ll look like before the year is out.


    When we purchased the house, we were able to take advantage of the Certificate of Appropriateness that was secured by the sellers which gives us the approval from the historic planning commission to restore many of the features of the house to their original design.

    The biggest change will be ripping off the first floor front wall so we’ll have a front porch again.


    Yay, for porches!

    We will also remove the asbestos shingles on the second story of the house, and restore the wood lap siding.  We’ll build a new porch rail and reinstall all three of the columns.  Finally, we’ll build a new wider staircase that will be great for sittin’ and chattin’ and what not.

    Our design was submitted to the City this week along with our applications for permits. Now, we wait for approval.

    That’s it for now.  Hope you have a great weekend!

    As always, thanks for reading.

    ~ Jennifer

    How are we going to pay for all of this? (A 203K loan story.)

    Looking at Dorothy, you might be wondering how we are going to pay for the repairs and upgrades.  I was wondering the same thing when we toured the bare bones for the first time.  Having used mostly cash to do our last renovation, it seemed impossible to self-finance such a big project.

    Then our realtor told us about the 203K loan, also known as a “renovation loan.”

    What is a 203K loan?

    A 203K loan is a specialized renovation or construction loan, offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). It is available to both buyers and refinancing households, and combines the traditional “home improvement” loan with a standard FHA mortgage, allowing homeowners to borrow their renovation costs.

    Unlike a regular mortgage which bases the loan amount on the current appraisal of the home, a 203K loan is calculated on the appraised value of the home or condo at the conclusion of the renovation.

    There are two types of 203K loans.

    The Standard 203(k) and the “Limited” also known as a Streamline 203k.

    The Standard 203(k) Mortgage is used for major remodeling, repairs and structural changes with a minimum repair cost of $5,000.  A 203(k) Consultant is required.  Consultants work to oversee the process and assist with communication between the lender, the borrower (us) and the general contractor.

    The Limited 203(k) may be used for cosmetic improvements, appliances and minor remodeling. The total rehabilitation cost must not exceed $35,000 and there is no minimum rehabilitation cost.  No consultants are required for this type.

    How is it like a regular mortgage?

    A 203k Loan still requires credit approval and proof of reliable income, similar to any other regular home loan,  And like most loans, you’ll need money down, but the requirement is fairly low.  At the time we contracted for Dorothy, our down payment requirement was 3.5% of the final loan amount.

    However, there are some restrictions that are different.

    • With the Standard 203(k), you must use a validated general contractor to manage the improvements and renovations. However, the buyer gets to select his/her own general contractor to use.
    • If you use the standard 3.5% down payment, you will have to carry Private Mortgage Insurance for the life of the loan, regardless of the loan to value ratio.  You could choose to refinance out of PMI in the future, but generally there are refinance costs associated with that. If you put 10% down payment then the  PMI can be removed in 11 years.
    • You’ll have to cover the costs of the loan consultant. However, all renovation costs are rolled into the loan since they are part of the “cost of renovation”.
    • You are required to do the work outlined in the scope of work that the appraisal was based on.  In other words, you need to be 100% confident that you want to do everything you get the funding to do unless something unforeseen causes a change.
    • You are required to fund a contingency budget above and beyond the scope of work.  If you don’t use it, it gets credited back to the principal balance of the loan.  This shortens the life of your loan, but doesn’t affect the payment.

    You can learn more about it on the HUD website.

    Our story.

    For Dorothy, we secured a Standard 203K home loan.  We purchased the home as-is for $76,000 and we expect to invest more than $144,000 to fix her up.  Our lender required a 15% contingency (since the utilities were not active), bringing the total to about $240,000.  (The final number was adjusted for closing costs and our down payment, but you get the drift.)  Hopefully, we’ll be able to avoid using the whole contingency, since we are not expecting much in the way of surprises with the house already being gutted to the studs.

    Our appraisal came in at $251,600, so away we went!

    As we move along in the process, we’ll share more about this kind of financing works for us.  So far, the process has been painless!

    As always, thanks for reading!

    ~ Jennifer

    Dorothy – FAQs


    Thanks to everyone who has offered their congratulations and well wishes on this adventure we are taking.  In fact, many folks have shared that they too are considering a move to Springfield, a renovation, or a big change of some kind!  We are buoyed by the enthusiasm to see our progress and would love to have compadres for the journey!

    There have also been questions…lots and lots of questions. So here are a few answers for you!

    Are you doing the work yourself?

    As most of you know, Josh has become quite handy.  He has been running a business doing home improvement projects since late 2015 and he will likely trade in some of the hours he had been working for others to work on Dorothy.  However, in order to do some special financing for the house (more on that in another post), we had to hire a licensed general contractor.  We interviewed several who are skilled in historic homes, and have hired a firm we feel really good about.  (I will also post about the process of interviewing and hiring a GC in a future post. 🙂 )  The GC will handle the big stuff for us, including hiring subcontractors for plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing and structural work.

    When do you plan to get started?   We are already underway!

    As of last week, Josh has already started removing a drop ceiling in the 1960’s portion of the house and is getting ready to repair the pocket doors near the front of the house.

    JC getting his hands dirty
    I don’t mind that my handsome hubby is getting dirty with Dorothy.

    In the meantime, our permit for a new roof is getting filed today (I hope!) We have picked a color for the roof and now I am on the Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore websites every night trying to decide what colors we want to paint Dorothy’s exterior.

    Simultaneously, the structural engineering/architecture firm is putting the finishing touches on the drawings/elevations for the front of the house which will be submitted with our permits.  (Cannot wait to show you what’s in store!)

    When do you hope to move in?

    I am almost afraid to answer this question in writing.

    We have been told:

    • Whatever the GC told you, double it.
    • Good luck if you get into it in one year.
    • Ha, ha, ha!!  You want to know when you’ll move?!?

    Our hope is to get into the house in the fall – late September/early October would be lovely.   I am an optimist, so I am going with it.

    That’s it for now.

    As always, thanks for reading.




    Tour time!

    A first glimpse of Dorothy, our historic home under renovation in Springfield.

    Happy Friday, all!

    I am so excited to finally take you on a walk through of Dorothy!

    When you come in the front door, you step into the front addition that was being used as a reception area for the FVC.  The original front door was removed so there is a large opening where the front of the house would have been 100 years ago. There are barred bay windows and a window A/C unit.  

    Turnaround from this space and you are in the foyer, where you are greeted with a giant opening with stairs to the second floor. I luuuuuurv this entrance!

    In addition to the original hardwoods, which appeared to have been kept in better condition because of a covering of industrial carpet for the last 30 years, the stair case banister has some really neat carvings.   We’ll have to test for lead paint before we do anything, but I am excited to see this beautiful work restored to its original splendor.

    Bonus: two handsome fellas!


    The main living area is to the right.  I am super excited that there are 10 foot high ceilings in this space!  There is a fireplace, but it is coal burning. Even if we go down the path of restoring it, a coal-burning firebox is too shallow for wood fires, so we’d have to convert it to a gas fireplace.  No plans to do that right now. 

    The dining area is to the left of that with a lovely trio of windows. 

     Step to the back of the dining room, and there is bedroom off the dining area.  The new framing was added by the sellers in the last year. 

    Behind the staircase is a room that could serve as a bath or closet down the road.  (It was being used as a laundry room when it was the FVC.)  


    Next up is the kitchen, where there is significant water damage to the walls and floor, but when we toured the place for the first time, all I was really focused on was the exposed brick!  How cool is that?!?


    There is a separate entrance to the back of the house behind the kitchen.  It is not original and only accesses the newest additions that are along the back side of the house. These back rooms could have been an apartment or office, but oddly, there is no evidence of where a bathroom was on the first floor, unless we have the placement of the kitchen wrong…  Anything is possible. 🙂


    For the second floor, there are 4 bedrooms, two closets (one on the main hallway and one inside one of the bedrooms) and a bathroom.   A room for every boy and one to spare!  Yay!

    The bathroom on this level has similar water damage to the first floor below.  It will need to be shored up and new subfloor will have to be laid down.  


    The house also has a significant attic space, but it is unfinished and there are no stairs up to the attic right now so no pics to share there.  

    Then, there is the yard.  It is deep.  In the pic below, it goes another 15 feet beyond the fence!

    Hope you enjoyed your fist look at our new home.  

    As always, thanks for reading!  


    Meet Dorothy

    One hand-written note, stuffed in a file at the SPAR office, dates our new house to 1904.  The original 1,500 sq. ft. house was a two-story vernacular structure with a cantilevered second story that hung over the first floor open-air porch. While there are no photos of the house until the 1950’s, SPAR documents detail various owners as far back as 1912. Owners include two widows, the Bryson Family and the Watson family (both pillars of early Florida).  The house sits on a stretched lot only 36 feet wide, but 203 deep.  One survey shows the house had a garage (or more likely, a stable), but it has since been demolished.

    Wearing a dowdy awning in the 1950’s.

    There have been a series of additions and changes to the house in the last 50 years. In 1962, an owner added a first floor addition to the back of the house increasing the size to 2157 SF.   The property was purchased in the 1970’s by an organization called “Church Women United.”  From what we can decipher, the Church Women converted it to commercial office space and at some point, enclosed the front porch to create a reception area. Adios porch! At least they installed a bay window with lovely burglar bars.  They covered the original wood siding with rectangular shingles and added a set of stairs that provided an exit from the second floor to the west side of the house.

    In 1995, the Church Women allowed an agency called the Family Visitation Center (FVC) to use the house so foster kids could have supervised visits with biological parents.  In 1999, the Church Women donated the house to the FVC. A grant from the City of Jacksonville funded a renovation that included a new roof, refinished floors and wall repairs.  That was the last time anything was done to improve the house.


    After sitting empty in recent years, the house was put up for sale in 2016. Lucky for us (and the house), two veteran Springfielders bought it with the intention of renovating it.  They began the process of painstakingly undoing decades of odd improvements and commercial changes.  By the time we saw the place for the first time, they had removed the plumbing, taken out the busted HVAC system, and stripped the house down to the studs.  It was basically a giant wooden box with a roof, a hodge-podge of windows (some in tact, some not) and a few doors.  At least it was easy see the original 113-year old wood!  The lumber at Lowe’s and Home Depot would blush in embarrassment if they ever met up with this wood.

    Shortly after buying, the new owners found their dream house on the St. Johns River.  Rather than take on two house renovations, they decided to find someone else who might want to bring this house back to her former glory. Our realtor, who also lives in Springfield, told us about the house before it came on the market.  I wasn’t interested.  We had not fully committed to Springfield and frankly, the house looked, well, ugly.  I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.   A few weeks later, our friend Jamie (featured here) suggested we give her a look anyhow.

    When I walked inside, I started to see what this house could be.  The space is fairly open.  The hardwood floors are amazing.  The roof hasn’t leaked.  That’s a start, right?

    Thanks to our friends for helping us name the house.  There were many terrific ideas, (Pearl, Marge, Gretchen, and Rose were some of our favorites), but in the end, Dorothy sounded right.  Dorothy was one of the top girl names of 1904 and is most well known for being the name of the lead character in the Wizard of Oz.

    Which is cool, because…

    Dorothy is going to show this family that there is no place like home.

    Next post: We are gearing up for a tour!