This is something I meant to write quite some time ago. Long time readers will know that we suffered long in searching for a new place to live, and then, having found it, spent another long while waiting for it to be fixed up the way we wanted it. Despite the struggles and frustrations that are part and parcel of those types of endeavors, I have to say that we were really very lucky, and that by and large things went about as smoothly as one could expect.
That sort of thing does not happen unless you have good people to help you out. And I have to say that we were blessed in our choices from beginning to end. This post is to name the names of the people that helped us out, and the recommend them to others who might be in a place to use them. Mostly then, this is a post that will apply to folks in the Austin, Texas area. But not entirely. You shall see.
I suppose one should start at the beginning. With the internet, you generally no longer really need a realtor to search the MLS listings for you. But a good one can give you information that no MLS will have on it, and can point out things about a prospective house you would never notice -- both good and bad. They can help you through the legal part of the process, plus do legwork on things like pricing that you could do yourself -- if you had hours and hours to spend looking at other houses in the area like yours. Save yourself some time and let a pro handle it. Better yet, let Barbara Hilliard handle it. She's also very patient, a good thing when on extended searches that go into double-overtime, like ours did…
Having bought the house with Barbara's help, we were then faced with the task of remodeling it. Replacing carpet with tile, repainting all the rooms, converting the garage, that sort of thing. In stepped Trish's sister Leslie Hamilton (not to be confused with Terminator star Linda Hamilton's twin sister). She flew in from Los Angeles, and we schlepped all over Austin looking at paint, tile, and other knicknacks. And she was a huge help. As goofy as it can sound sometimes, there really are a couple of million different colors of white paint, and the wrong one will look awful. She helped us get the right one, plus the floor tile, and for good measure painted our hall bathroom with a cool underwater scene.
Another thing she did was help us pick out a contractor. It's possible that we could have pieced the jobs out ourselves, but with all the back and forth going on, it seemed to make sense to have someone else who did this for a living handle the scheduling. We had talked with 3-4 different possibilities, and she pointed out one of them had some serious issues with the bid, and things to look for in the others.
We chose Bobby Zirkel of Shelter Design and Construction, a certified Green Builder. Bobby was not the cheapest, but his subcontractors were solid and he worked with us to get what we wanted within a reasonable cost and time frame. Here and there he also steered us away from boondoggles and towards things we might not have considered on our own.
The major subcontractors were Jan's Solar Heating and Electric, Forte (pronounced fortee) Rodriguez (tile), and Marvin Allen (paint and drywall). Jon Shannon of Concrete by Design did some concrete staining for us, and Mike Dunn sealed and stained our grout lines.
Ryan Gossen, a certified arborist, trims our trees and has provided much useful advice on taking care of them. Colleen Dieter of Red Wheelbarrow also gave us landscaping advice and improved the soil of a really dead area. Steve Nelson of Nelson Engineering provided a lot of useful information about foundations and foundation repair relevant to Central Texas. The folks at All Year Heating and Cooling provided suggestions on improving energy efficiency and installed our spiffy little one room AC unit for the study. Jaye Starke of Austin Mason Man took apart my grandad's old petrified wood fireplace hearth and jigsaw puzzled it back together again in our dining room, where it looks smashing.
Yep, all in all, we had some spectacular good fortune in the folks who made our house what it is now. I linked to those I know have web pages. For the others, if you can't find them in the phone book, drop me an email and I'll send you their contact information.