A year and a half ago, Mike and Lex Sawtelle moved into a 3,600-square-foot home in one of Gilbert’s horse property communities. They'd spent three months renovating it. Five days later, their son Rudy was born.
“We’ve always wanted to end up on this street because we’d drive by and we loved it,” said Lex, a labor and delivery nurse.
One day, while going over to her sister’s house down the street, she saw the house for sale, a rare event in that neighborhood. The home was listed at $417,000, and there were five offers on the first day.
Mike, who owns a pest control company out of Chicago, was out of town for work. The couple put in an offer of $440,000 without him seeing the property beforehand.
“It has everything we want bones wise. But it wasn’t very nice inside,” Lex said of their 1985 home. “We completely gutted it. It was dark, dated. I like bright and open.”
In particular, there was a wall down the middle of the house and very few windows. The dark colors on the walls added to the stuffy feel of the house.
The Sawtelles renovated much of the house prior to moving in. Contractors assured them they could get the work done within a couple of weeks, as the homeowners were pressed to move in before the baby arrived.
Instead, it took three months, partly because the couple kept adding to the original plans.
“Once you start one thing, it just keeps going,” Lex said. “It’s just like the TV shows. It’s always more money and time than what you expected.”
Besides, Mike said, “everyone we talked to said get it all done now, because you’re not gonna do it or it’s going to cost more later."
“And we kept adding things as we went along,” Mike said. “Well, if we’re going to do the floor here, we might as well paint there."
Mike used software called SketchUp to create a mock-up of what their main room would look like.
“It allowed us to build our home digitally and play with scenarios of moving walls and potential kitchen layouts,” Mike said. “It helped us visualize a ton of possibilities and mimic TV shows where they show homeowners different ideas.”
The couple had initially planned to work on many of the renovations themselves. But they quickly were overwhelmed, and ended up hiring a contractor.
“In our mind, we started small, thinking we could do a lot of the remodeling ourselves and save money," Mike said. "We had planned on spending about $50,000 to $75,000.”
They've spent about $170,000 so far. Most of it went to the main room and kitchen, with $35,000 of that for front yard alone.
And the homeowners, who are very involved and passionate about shaping their house, still have many other projects in mind. These include renovating the master bedroom and bathroom, redoing the basement and the swimming pool, and potentially building a guest house on their one-acre property.
“For us, part of the joy of living out here is that we can have projects forever,” Mike said.