Home Living

The Property Brothers Were Right

Have you all ever watched an episode of The Property Brothers? If you have, then you will understand exactly what our home-buying experience was like this summer!


Scott and I have been big-time HGTV junkies forever, and one of our favorite shows is The Property Brothers. The original one, not all their various spin-offs. Each episode follows a fairly rigid formula. The brothers meet up with a client–a couple, a family, some group specifically chosen to have the brothers help them with a total house transformation so they can get their dream home. During this process, they interview the couple about their dream home wish list, and then they show them a dream home, ready to go. The clients walk through the house in awe, looking at all the things they’ve always wanted in their dream home…only to then learn the price of said dream home. Sometimes it’s double their budget. Sometimes more.

Shocked and chagrinned, the clients ask why the brothers would show them such a thing. And it’s usually because their taste far outstrips their budget, and they can’t get their taste ready to go. However {and let’s cue the HGTV drama, because what is this but soaps for DIY junkies} if the clients go for a fixer upper and let the brothers transform it, they can have all the elements of their dream home in the home they buy. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Right. Until the clients tour the home. We, having seen many of these episodes before, know that Drew and Jonathan will do amazing things to the house and these clients will likely get their dream home {and honestly, sometimes the clients are so obnoxious it’s hard to care, but we stay for the reno anyway}. They gasp at the unsightly carpet, the awful wallpaper, the weird architectural details. How will this ever become their dream home?

Spoiler: it does. But that’s one of the things it helps to keep in mind when you’re buying a new home. Especially when your taste far outstrips our budget.

Like us.

The pictures you’re seeing throughout this post are not pictures of the house we bought. No, these pictures are from an absolutely gorgeous model home we toured at the Isles of Lake Nona, a new planned luxury community going in just south of where my in-laws live, one we considered for a while.

The house pictured is gorgeous. It has all the latest finishes and fixtures, ranges from 3-5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, starts at 2800 square feet, and goes on premium lots. And Isles of Lake Nona prides itself on putting everyone it can on some kind of a water view. Absolutely gorgeous, right?

Then you start looking at the price. It starts–starts–at the very top end of our budget. That’s for the bare bones model without all the upgrades you see in the model home you tour. Builder basics. Nice finishes, but not the things that took your breath away on the tour. And the lot? Basic lot. Not the big waterfront lot, and definitely not with the pool you see in the tour.

You look at the finished price for the house that you’re looking at, and consider that that’s just the features, not all the little updates a professional interior designer made to the house, and you choke a little, and you crave the house, and you start thinking about whether or not you’d be willing to give up having a car and eat ramen–the college ramen kind and not the new expensive gourmet ramen kind–for a couple meals a day to have the house.

Spoiler again: there is no value in being house poor. You’ll only hate yourself or hate your house for taking away your ability to do anything but, you know, stay in your house. So instead of buying said house, you consider a fixer upper.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that after looking at the beautiful model homes at the Isles of Lake Nona, some of the houses we toured at Laureate Park, and a lot of things we looked at on Zillow and Realtor and Redfin that were at the top end of our budget, we had beautiful house hangovers by the time we toured houses.

Scott had a big case of house hangover when we visited the house that would eventually become our house. On paper, it looked great. It was a beautiful big 3700 square foot house with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a bonus room, a giant kitchen, and a paver lanai that looked out over a gorgeous golf course.

Then when we got to the house itself, it became pretty evident that it didn’t come with all the modern features, the beautiful bright modern touches, the lightness that we had loved about the model houses we toured.

It was a house that had clearly been loved and clearly been a home. But the walls were a kind of dark pinky brown that, coupled with the very yellow bulbs in all the really old fixtures, felt extremely dark. Even though the couple who owned it wasn’t all that old, everything in the house felt extremely old, and very much not our style.

So, we had all the makings of a Property Brothers house here. Awful tile {we love the wood-look herringbone tile, it’s the brown mottled tile we don’t love}. Weird colors. Odd architectural details. A space that feels dark and cramped and not us.

But it’s a space that has potential. A lot of potential. It’s 3700 square feet in a pretty high end golf course community with a lake at the end of the road, and it backs right up to the golf course itself. Walking in and seeing the view of the course out our large sliding glass doors, I could see potential. And I wanted to sit out on this covered lanai in the morning with my coffee and watch the sun come up over the giant oaks and the tee box.

This is our backyard. This is the photo – and the view when we saw it in person – that sold the house.

All we had to do was think a little bit like the Property Brothers. We could do the same thing that Drew and Jonathan promise every episode, take all the features that we loved from the model houses and put them into our new house.

It’s not impossible when you look at the data {and that’s what I do, I’m a data scientist}. The ceiling heights are the same. The room construction is about the same size, albeit with some odd angles and bump-outs here and there. There are plenty of outlets, wall jacks, faucets, toilets, and all the other necessary pieces needed to make our house function like the house of our dreams.

With that considered, it’s all cosmetic from there! And that’s the kind of stuff that Scott and I can tackle in our sleep!

I’m not afraid of a little old styling, outdated fixtures, and a whole lot of pink and brown. Not when we have ceiling height and layout and decent floors and crown molding to work with. And fortunately I was able to talk Scott into giving it a chance and letting us try to turn it into our dream home. Especially when, in this super competitive market, we could get it for a price that was practically a steal.

We’ve already done a lot to the house and we haven’t even moved in yet {still waiting to schedule our household goods delivery!}. But this time we have the time to get things prepped and ready before we start bringing in furniture.

Here’s a few things we did:

  • We brought in Stanley Steemer to give the floors some serious love. They came in and did a deep cleaning that seriously lightened the floor by about three shades, including a treatment that removes allergens from grout! If you’re looking for quality treatment in Orlando, we recommend them highly.
  • We hired iQ Cleaning to come in and deep clean the house – including the cabinets, oven, and fridge – before we brought in our furniture, and they did an outstanding job! No more dust, no more mess, nothing that will be hidden away under furniture that we won’t be able to clean later.
  • We hired CRED Services to come paint the house. You got it, no more pinky brown walls! Instead, we’re going with a really, really light sand color {it’s the Sherwin Williams equivalent of Backdrop’s Harvest Moon – I have to look it up} and it looks SO much better! Again, if you’re looking for quality folks in the Orlando area, we definitely recommend them!

We also took down all the curtains and curtain rods and we’re prepping for updated window treatments. And we met with an awesome contractor in the area about doing a total renovation on our kitchen. I’ve never been in a position to create my dream kitchen before, and now we not only have the resources, but we bought a house with a builder basic kitchen that I don’t have to feel guilty about pulling out. Although there will be no cabinet smashing here. Everything we can salvage will get donated to our local ReStore.

Just so you all know, Habitat For Humanity is one of my passion projects. I’ve organized volunteer builds for about every unit I’ve served with and I’m looking forward to COVID allowing us to volunteer to go build together again.

So, basically, the house doesn’t look quite like this anymore. But it still has a long way to go before it’s where we want it to be.

It really isn’t all that far to get from what you see above…

…to what you see below!

Forget the slightly different layout between these two bonus room spaces. What do you need to create this space? Paint. Better curtains. Recessed lighting. Embedded speakers. Updated storage. A feature wall. Sleek, non-lumpy, non-baggy furniture.

It’s not that hard. The designer part of me is extremely excited to get started making this Before into an After, and I can’t wait to see what kind of a home we’ll turn this beautiful place into! The vision is crystallizing in my head the more I’m in the place, and while I know it will evolve once we’re living in it, I know we’re going to create something pretty amazing here!

So I think it’s safe to say that the Property Brothers know their stuff. Let’s see how this house turns out, to see if we know ours!

What do you all think? Can you see the potential?

About the ChefKristin

Career Army officer with a tendency toward workaholism. On the side, self taught cook, carpenter, and gardener, working to build a beautiful life for my family. Trying to tilt my balance in the right direction.

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