From Ghastly to Green – A foreclosure purchase story…

From Ghastly to Green – A foreclosure purchase story…

Well hello and welcome to our very first blog post!  My name is Shannon Tate,
a sustainable design and green building enthusiast and newby here at Beyond Green Construction.  (That’s me over there on the left.)  Here at BGC we are passionate about doing our part to make the world a better place and healing this planet!…we feel the best way to do this is through education.  We think the best form of education that we could share would be to give you all the nitty gritty, good, bad, ugly details of our present Deep energy Retrofit projects.  It’s not easy work for us or the homeowners, but it is incredibly rewarding and life changing in the end.  Our approach is to be 100% transparent with you.  No holding back, no sugar coating.  Our blog will be presenting the real deal.  It’s especially exciting for us because we are starting our blog love with a really HUGE project that we just began work on in Deerfield.  So here we go.  Happy reading.

Meet the Marrapese family…Jennifer, Bill, their two little girls and sweet pup.  Jennifer is the Executive Director of NESEA, the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association and Bill is a nurse in Brattleboro, VT.   (This photo was taken outside their current rental in Deerfield, where they anxiously await the completion of their new home.)

Jennifer and Bill, who moved here a year ago with their family, recently purchased a 1977 ranch in foreclosure just a few blocks from their rental property in Deerfield.  The house is a fixer upper…to put it lightly.

“Sean and the inspector were with us and everyone suspected that there was going to be major work to be done”, says Bill.

“That being said…we knew it was in rough shape but it’s turned out to be in worse shape then we thought” says Jennifer.

The homes most substantial problem stems from the fact that it’s built on a high water table and “it seems that the slab was never insulated against the water coming up from underneath.  The slab was acting like a straw to suck the water up into the foundation and the walls”, says Bill.

As the reader you may be asking yourself, “why the heck didn’t they find all this out before they bought the place?”  The answer is, when purchasing a property in foreclosure, there are many things you can’t do during a home inspection.  You can’t lift up carpets, you can’t do anything that is invasive, where you’re peeling anything open or examining something from within…you can only look at the surface and take it as your eyes perceive it.  So it wasn’t until after the purchase went through that the damage could truly be assessed.  Carpets ripped up, beams exposed, and mold in clear view, everywhere.  Mold was found in the insulation, roofing, walls, carpet, tack strips, everywhere.  “I think the homeowners believed at the time of purchase that they could do a lot of the demo work themselves, but once they started removing carpet, they realized how dangerous that would be,” says Jeffords.

A secondary problem of the home is that it has a sunroom addition on the back which was done extremely poorly.  Bill calling it a “Ham and egg job….or I’ll give you a pizza, you give me an addition.”  That explains it pretty perfectly.  After the purchase went through, the BGC team came in and realized that adding to the already lengthy list of problems, the floor in the addition was about to cave in as well. 

Even with all of its problems, this home does have its charms.  The homeowners had their hearts set on this neighborhood and this particular street when their search began.  They were serendipitously invited to a barbecue on an earlier visit, which happened to be on the very street they purchased on.  “We met a lot of people on the street who we ended up clicking with” says Jennifer.  “It’s a dead end street, it’s sunny so immediately we both looked at each other and said this is the street we want to live on.  So when the house came up in foreclosure, we thought it was the perfect opportunity, especially since we knew we wanted to do energy work and we didn’t want to pay extra for a house that we were going to have to rip up anyway.”  There were also many other plus’s on Jennifer and Bill’s list.  “We have some land, it’s perfectly suited for solar and we paid probably $45K less than if we had purchased it from an owner, ” Bill says of the house.  Jennifer adds “and there’s farmland behind the property and it’s protected”  “It’s still a little bit of a scary investment”, she admits.

The couple says that although they wouldn’t call themselves “sustainability experts”, that for a very long time, sustainability has been a part of their daily practice and a part of their values.  “We’re really excited to take this project as an opportunity to explore and live into that”, says Jennifer.

Even with all of the lists of “green building experts” at her disposal through NESEA, Jennifer says that they really “didn’t do a lot of interviews for the job” and that she chose the BGC team “largely on reputation within the community” and that Jeffords was very familiar with how to go about finding monetary incentives through the energy companies, theirs being Western Mass Electric…which the couple will be receiving $19K in incentive money from.  (If you’re interested in looking into incentives for your green project, go to to learn more.)

The couple closed on the house in April with hopes to acquire a building permit quickly and start work with the BGC team.  But, like many projects, things didn’t move along as quickly as hoped.  The couple, along with the BGC team lost 6 weeks of time after the building inspector thought they needed to bring the project plans to the conservation committee for additional approval.  He came to this conclusion because the home has an intermittent stream on the property and they needed to be sure wasn’t a part of the wetlands.  They eventually were given a negative determination and could move forward without any additional approvals, but that was 6 weeks lost.  The Marrapese’s found this difficult as they were already paying the mortgage and had to add on two additional months in their rental…not to mention that Jeffords had his team ready to go.  It was a set back, but they put that time to good use, making sure all their plans were in place and were sure of exactly how they would proceed with the project.

The plans are a pretty huge undertaking in and of themselves.  After determining how extensive the moisture problems were and that the source was the foundation, BGC’s engineer, Chris Vreeland from Precision Decisions Inc. devised a plan to actually lift the house off of the foundation with a series of jacks that will be attached to the foundation wall and a piece of “4x”6 angle iron bolted into each and every wall stud.  The house will be lifted 8 inches off the slab and then a moisture and thermal barrier will be created with high-density foam topped with 4 inches of concrete that has radiant floor tubing imbedded into it.  This will stop the mold and moisture problems at their source, so that when they re-insulate the house and tighten it all up, the indoor air quality will be healthy for the family.  Also included in the plans are the installation of a Solar Thermal System with electric back-up and a wood stove for an alternative heat source on the off chance that they would lose electricity because of a storm or power outage.

As you can imagine, this is not a cheap project.  We have a budget to work with of $100 per square foot (brand new builds on average are $150 + per square foot) and with the home at nearly two thousand square-feet, we’re nearing $200K.  That being said the couple says they’re just “makin’ it happen”, doing what they have to do with  their own saved money, a line of credit, borrowing from family…they are determined to make it happen within their budget.

Their budget is being helped greatly with the resource of the Eco Building Bargains in Springfield, where they bought used solid oak kitchen cabinets and laminate countertops for only $1400.  They plan on getting their bathroom fixtures from there as well and found a great deal on flooring through Hampton Carpet.

In the end the Marrapese’s will have a super energy efficient, healthy house for their family.

With the August 31st move in date quickly approaching the BGC team needs to work smart and fast.  We’ll give you more of the details next week!  Until then, have a good one.




Posted on

January 2, 2016

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