Sue Fox, @Properties. Direct 773.816.1788
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I love bungalows. As the former owner of a 1913 Craftsman bungalow, I know well the joys of living in a cozy house with old oak floors and built-in bookshelves flanking the fireplace. Entire neighborhoods of bungalows were built in Chicago in the 1920s and ’30s, and today — thanks to the efforts of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association — most are still standing and many have been updated in keeping with their historic charm.
But many have not! About six months ago, I helped my buyers Anne and Mark Diffenderffer find a rundown brick bungalow on Warwick Ave. in Portage Park. The house had great bones — and it was on a double lot — but it had been neglected. The hardwood floors were badly scuffed and stained, the kitchen was very outdated, and even the walls seemed dirty.
“We were like, uggghhh. It was overwhelming,” Anne said. “We knew we had a lot of work to do.” So they called in a painter and some hardwood floor restoration companies to get estimates before they even closed. Then they had the floors sanded and refinished, all the rooms and some exterior trim repainted, some ceilings patched and doors refinished, and they added beadboard wainscoting to the kitchen.
So far, the new owners have spent about $6,000 on the house. But I would say that they have added at least $20,000 in value, because now their bungalow sparkles rather than sags. When you walk in the door, you see gorgeous hardwood floors and fresh paint coloring the walls. It looks beautiful!
“It definitely feels like a nice, new house,” Anne said this week. She advises other buyers to try to look past the grimy walls, floors, and furniture that so often dulls the shine of older homes. “If everything just needs a fresh touch, that is not a huge investment to make in a house. You don’t have to be a genius at home improvement,” she said.
Even better, now that the house looks lovely, the change has boosted the owners’ spirits so that future upgrades and repairs now feel more manageable. “Once the aesthetics are taken care of, the rest of it seems totally doable,” Anne said. “There’s some psychological impact it has that makes you have more stamina.”
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