With its promise of year-round sunshine, palm-lined beaches, booming metropolises, and cultural diversity, California has an undoubtedly competitive real estate market. As a result, many homeowners find it more feasible to renovate a fixer-upper rather than buy their dream home outright. Below, we highlight five homeowners in California who have made impressive changes with budgets ranging from $63,000 to $196,000—from the transformation of an industrial loft in Oakland to a bohemian-inspired revamp of a Mission Viejo bungalow.
Michelle Morrison started saving to purchase her own home before she turned 30. She was dreaming of her own industrial live/work space, and after 10 years in San Francisco, she started to look in Oakland for a warehouse space that she could convert. After being outbid on multiple spaces, she finally upped her budget as much as she could afford and hit the jackpot—winning a 1,300-square-foot former coffee and produce warehouse in Oakland’s waterfront warehouse district. The space was exactly what she was looking for—something she could break down and build back up. Feeling empowered by her purchase, Morrison set her sights on an even loftier goal: to convert the space into her dream home with just a $125,000 budget. With Siol Studios and Elliott Build in tow, the results came in on time and exactly within her budget—and she was able to move in just seven months after closing. The super-efficient team met Michelle’s goals in budget-friendly ways with creative hacks that gave Morrison the flexibility in her budget to splurge on priority pieces.
At first glance, Kathryn Heller and Kevin Short knew that they’d found what they were looking for, even though surface impressions of the Mission District loft were deceiving. "The interiors were ugly, stained, and completely outdated," the couple tell Dwell. However, with the unit's prime location and lack of structural or exterior problems, the couple—she’s a designer and he’s an architect at Tiny Monster Design—knew that they had found their own urban loft fantasy. And with a combination of their own sweat equity and some creative solutions, they were able to keep their budget to $70,000.
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This 1973 home in Encinitas, California, was overwhelmed by a lackluster kitchen which still had its original, dark wood cabinets. Interior designer Corine Maggio's team gutted it in a complete remodel, which also included opening up the main level, installing hardwood floors throughout, and refinishing the fireplace in the living room. A 500-square-foot addition to the second floor now hosts a master suite, including a bathroom and custom closet, with new stairs connecting the two levels—all for $196,000.
After being repeatedly outbid while house hunting, a young family in the San Francisco Bay Area shifted their strategy and set their sights on more affordable homes that would require some work. The lower price tag meant that they would be able to put more money towards a renovation. Eventually, they found a midcentury, ranch-style home and decided that their top priority was to transform the cramped, dated kitchen into a functional, modern space with the help of Ayesha Sikandar of MA Dimensions. Ultimately, the family went a little over budget because they decided to opt for top-of-the-line cabinetry and high-end appliances—but because these elements are always on display in their open-plan living space, the splurge was well worth it.
By the time lifestyle blogger Janelle Burnett and her husband George were ready to remodel their 2,000-square-foot bungalow in Mission Viejo, California, Janelle was two months pregnant. Undaunted, she rolled up her sleeves and—with help from Google and YouTube—dove headfirst into a gut renovation that finished just in time for them to welcome their daughter. Despite not having any previous experience, the creative couple was able to transform their home on a budget of just $63,000.
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