Making Moves in Jersey City, NJ

14. February 2021 House Renovation 0

Whenever we searched “3+ bedrooms, 1+ bath, outdoor space, public transportation” in Jersey City against our budget, results dwindled; it didn’t seem like we would move out of Harlem any time soon. During the day, we would text each other listings we found but nothing seemed to stick.

Jersey City is rich in history and has a lot of old dwellings. If the house was under our budget, it was run down; the thought of renovating scared the shit out of us since we’ve watched too many Grand Designs episodes. If it was newly renovated, we didn’t like the layout or the materials used; we would have to renovate anyway.

A single-family house that recently dropped in price caught Alec’s eye. It sits on a narrow but deep lot on a quiet street that’s also a block and a half away from the Light Rail. It was the first property that we considered to having potential. It looked like it will require a lot of work–listing and staging photos only fool you so much–but for the first time, our thinking switched from fear to, What if we can build our forever home according to our specs?

Jersey City sketch study

As I wrote in my previous post, the Bergen-Lafayette area is going through a lot of changes. Making an offer on this house means we will bet on the improvements down the line; it will mean making an investment on a neighborhood we’ve only done research on but never spent time in. When Alec and I felt comfortable about the possibilities, we reached out to the agent and scheduled a virtual tour over Zoom with the seller. 

We imagined what and how the house could be. We did more homework and interviewed different contractors to talk about our plan and vision. A lot of them were gung-ho to sign up and do the work, but none made me feel as comfortable as Tam of Houseplay Renovations. We signed up for her homebuyer support Zoom service and then scheduled an in-person visit to see the house. She guided us while Alec measured everything she needed and I pointed my phone’s camera wherever she instructed. Afterwards, she was always on-point with scheduling time to talk that worked for all of us. I never had to follow-up–she was always beating me to it. It’s the project manager-kind of thinking that I was able to relate to.

In the meantime, there has been a lot of emails, phone calls, and Zoom meetings with different banks and real estate lawyers. When we were confident enough that we can afford the house and the level of gut renovations it required for us to consider it move-in ready, we got our finances ready and we let our agent know that we were ready to make an offer.