My Next Move

Guts and Vision Transform a Home


It takes a lot of vision--and more than a little chutzpah--to do what New Jersey homeowners Jeremy and Christina Gulish did. Where other house hunters saw only drab décor and outdated plumbing in their four-bedroom fixer-upper, this recently married couple saw opportunity.

"The house was pretty bland," says Jeremy about the Morristown, N.J., home. "It needed some upgrades, but we saw a lot of potential in it." Thanks to their keen instincts, that underwhelming house today is a bright and loving home for the couple and their newborn daughter.

When it comes to savvy real estate decisions, this wasn't the first time the Gulishes went against the grain.

After marrying in 2007, they were in the market for their first home when they found a charming two-bedroom "workman's cottage." There was just one catch: It was part of a two-unit, multifamily property, which meant that with their first home purchase, they would also become landlords.

"Right off the bat, I think both of us had a lot of trepidation about buying and being first-time homeowners and first-time landlords, because it meant the day we bought the house we also had to rent the back house," Jeremy says.

Despite the responsibilities that go along with being a homeowner/landlord, they took the plunge and actually came out ahead.

"From a financial standpoint, the tenants shared the mortgage payments with us, " Jeremy says. "It allowed us to buy more home than we would have been able to on our own."

Eventually, though, they needed more space for their growing family. The expectant parents would find their solution in a 4 bedroom, 2.5-bath house just a half-mile from their first home.

"The house was very functional, but it had no personality," Jeremy says. But that would work in the couple's favor, as it meant they'd face less competition on the offer. The only real obstacle awaited them on the day of the closing.

"When we showed up for the walk-through, the house was a nightmare," he says. "There were boxes everywhere, stuff throughout the house, movers... It was in nowhere near condition to be closed that day."

By holding out on the final paperwork until the house was brought up to snuff, Jeremy was able to close the following day. After that, it was only a matter of realizing their vision.

They upgraded the kitchen, painted all the walls, redid all the plumbing and added some cosmetic fixes throughout the house. After all was said and done, they spent around $25,000 on upgrades, but Jeremy says the renovations were well worth the price tag.

"While the real estate market isn't great right now, we know down the road it's going to pay off, because we're not looking to sell anytime soon," he says.

The greatest addition to the home by far, though, says the happy couple, is their new baby girl Eliana.

To see their full story (and adorable photos of Eliana), watch the video.

And for advice on the best home improvements to consider in your new home, check out our expert Q&A with renovation consultant and former executive producer for "This Old House," Bruce Irving.

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