Rochester Renovation

You may have noticed that Mike has been writing a lot of our articles lately. That isn’t because I’ve been too busy rehabbing my leg or too out of it from two surgeries in one week. It is because I have been totally consumed with buying, remodeling, and furnishing a house in Rochester New York.

So much work was required on this project, that we are splitting this article into two parts. 

Buying a House Sight Unseen

One of our sons will be in Rochester for the next 4 to 5 years going to medical school. So naturally, we have been looking at ways for him to save money. The typical rent is about $750 per month. Back in May, Mike said, “what if we lend him the money to buy a house?” So that started the investigation. When we found out that we could buy a house for under $200k, we started looking in earnest. A friend in Rochester recommended a realtor and we quickly narrowed our search down to neighborhoods near the medical school.

The realtor did video tours of several houses and we decided to target duplexes or multi-unit properties. The advantage for our son is that there is a separate unit that provides rental income without multiple roommates. He would still need one roommate but not two or three roommates.

Within the first two weeks, we found a duplex that we really liked in a good neighborhood. There were two offers in front of us that both fell out, so we jumped on it. The house is really clean overall for a 120-year-old house but there were some things that needed to be done, especially to the 2nd-floor kitchen. Before we knew it, we were under contract.


Anyone who has bought a house knows that closing is always fraught with anxiety and unpleasant surprises. In New York, all real estate transactions are handled by private attorneys. They do things differently than the title companies out west. We didn’t get the final amount until the day before we were supposed to close. Then we had trouble with the wire transfer of the money. When we tried to wire money from one brokerage account, they told us that they had to vet the recipient. But it wasn’t ok when they told us that would take several days, which wouldn’t work for us.

Plan B was to wire the money from another account at a different brokerage, but we couldn’t do that online. Thus began the 3+ hours on hold just to talk to a service rep. We had to drop the call a couple of times after 40 minutes on hold because I had to go to PT. Finally, at about 4:30 in the afternoon West Coast time, we got someone on the phone who could wire the money that day.

Amazingly, the money did arrive the following morning so we could close on the house on time. Closing on time was critical because our son planned to drive with his (read, my) cat to Rochester on the closing day and get into the house that night. The drive went much better than expected, especially the cat part of the drive. He was really glad that he didn’t have to spend the night in a hotel. In the end, the closing and the drive went about as well as possible.

Remodeling from Afar

Of course with any home you buy, there are improvements you want to make, at least for me. In addition to painting the turquoise walls in the living room, the kitchen had “lots” of yellow and white tile that definitely had to go. (Both of the tile guys that came to estimate the work were shocked that we would want to take off the super expensive tile, yet we did it anyway.)

Mike says “carpets mean drapes,” so naturally we (I) also decided to replace the countertops with nice durable granite. With the help of the realtor, we got estimates for the paint, tile, new countertops, and the fridge.

Remodeling always has its challenges but especially when done from afar. On the plus side, the painter was able to do most of the 2nd floor (our son’s apartment) a week earlier than planned. On the minus side, the refrigerator was delayed a week and the granite was pushed out almost 4 weeks after the closing date. Anyone who knows about construction knows that things need to go in a particular order. So first, the granite, sink, and new faucet are installed, then the tile backsplash goes. Finally, the painter comes back to finish the kitchen. The entire project should be done by the time classes start in mid-August.

Now you might be asking how I picked granite, tile, and paint from Scottsdale. The answer is trips to Benjamin Moore paints, Lowes and Home Depot, and then scouring the internet. I did have to select the granite using pictures of slabs taken by the realtor, so I have my fingers crossed that it all comes together.

First Week Blues

When our son arrived in Rochester, it was 95 degrees with very high humidity. So the first thing he did after letting the cat out of her carrier was work on the air conditioning. We saw window units in the basement during the video walkthrough, so he brought one upstairs. I would imagine that it was pretty heavy but he really had to cool things down.

The next day things got interesting. The painter arrived early the next morning to start work along with the tile guy. In the meantime, all of the furniture, dishes, and other boxes had to be dragged up the stairs to the 2nd-floor apartment. But the worst part was when the appliance guys called and said the refrigerator would be delayed by a week.

However, I’m happy to report that after more than one bout of heatstroke everyone seems to be adjusting. In the next article, I’ll tell you about our adventures furnishing from afar and finishing the remodel.

So, what has been keeping you busy lately?

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  1. OMG – who paints their living room turquoise? The yellow kitchen tile I could live with, but I’m sure it will be better with the changes you are making. So much for your leisure retirement! Why did you have two surgeries?

  2. About the tile, it ran from the floor to chest height all around the room. About the operations, on Monday they removed the old hardware and on Friday they re-broke my leg and put in the new hardware.

  3. Hello,
    Wow your plate has been full. After all these surgeries we hope you are able to enjoy hiking again soon. Will you be back to CA ?

    Hope to see you soon and take care

  4. I graduated from RIT down the road many years ago. Summers are pleasant, but winters are a lot colder than California!! 🙂

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