New Jersey couple spends 5 years renovating $435,000 house, selling it for $649,000 – Business Insider

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The couple initially planned to continue renting, so they started looking at one-bedroom and one-and-a-half-bedroom apartments in the area.
“As we looked at different apartments, we realized how expensive they were. In many cases, they were the same price as having a mortgage if we were to buy a house,” Rogers told Insider. “So we started looking to buy a house instead.”
Both of them were working in Manhattan back then and their priority was to have an easy commute to their offices that took less than 40 minutes, Rogers said. Her husband is a software engineer and she works in healthcare.
“We basically took a map and started drawing little circles around the different train stations and looking at the towns with direct trains,” she added. “That’s how we found Bloomfield — the town we live in now. And we liked it because it has a 30-minute direct train to Manhattan as well as Hoboken.”
“I was in our apartment in Jersey City, scrolling Zillow, when we saw our current home come up,” Rogers said. “It was just an outside photo of the house and looked like a photo from someone’s phone — it wasn’t even a professional photo.” 
Right then her phone rang: It turns out that Gesualdo, who was on his commute home from work, had spotted the listing at the same moment she did and was calling to tell her about it.
“It was a moment of fate,” Rogers said.
Gesualdo went on his own to view the house with their agent first, she said. The couple agreed that if he liked it, then Rogers would take the train from work to the house to see what the commute was like.
“It was such an easy commute. I get off the train, I walk two blocks down the street and I see the house. We both instantly decided that this was it,” she added.
“We have this very ornate staircase with lots of spindles,” Rogers said. “And on our first floor, we have these inlay wood floors with detailed borders.”
The floors in each room have a different design and it was unlike any other house that they’ve seen before, she said.
“The house is a Dutch Colonial Revival and I’ve had a few people from the Netherlands ask me what makes it Dutch,” Rogers said. “Honestly, the only thing that makes it Dutch is that the style of home was built by Dutch settlers in New Jersey and New York.”
This style of house has a very distinct gambrel roof that resembles that of a barn, with interiors set like an American Foursquare, she said.
“There are no long hallways or anything like that. It’s just four rooms. We had toured bigger houses, but this house feels larger than it is because of the layout,” she added.
“I think in the past 20 years alone, we are the fifth family that has owned the house,” Rogers said. “You could tell different renovations that people did in different time periods, so it was a mishmash kind of style.”
The couple already knew that they wanted to renovate the house when they moved in, and this gave them an opportunity to restore some of the features that the previous occupants had torn out or boarded over.
“We wanted to be able to make the house feel a bit more like ours,” Rogers added.
They weren’t intending to DIY anything at first, but changed their mind after having bad experiences with their contractors.
“We hired people to refinish the treads on the stairs as well as the wood floors on the second-floor hallway,” Rogers said. “And it was bad — I had to have the owner of the company come back to fix it.”
The floors didn’t look like they had any finish, and the contractors they hired ended up bumping into all of the walls and the built-in closet with the sander.
“They had taken chunks out of it with the sander,” she added. “It was bad.”
“We had ripped up the wall-to-wall carpet in the library and underneath were wooden floors that looked horrific — you could tell why someone covered them with carpet,” Rogers said.
The wooden floorboards were covered in paint, glue, and even nails, but the couple wanted to fix as much as they could.
“We had the floor finishers take a look at that as well, but they declined to do it because they said the floorboards were too thin,” she said.
“We figured that the floors couldn’t get worse than the condition they were already in,” Rogers added. “If it doesn’t work out we’ll replace the floors or put carpet down.”
The floors turned out quite well for a first-time project, and that’s when the couple realized they wanted to continue doing projects on their own.
“I would say consistently for the past five and a half years, there has been at least one project in the house that we have been working on,” Rogers said.
Since they both had full-time jobs, they were only able to chip away at their projects in the evenings or on the weekends.
The only real constraints of a home renovation were time and money, Rogers said.
“I think a renovation ends when the person who owns the house decides it ends,” she said. “It could last forever if you keep changing and updating things, or it could end when you feel good about how it is right now. “
Prior to this home, the two of them did not have any experience with such projects.
“We were in a small apartment that we didn’t own before. We didn’t even paint the walls. This is the first time we owned anything and could make modifications to it,” Rogers said.
But they didn’t set out to be content creators when they first started documenting their experience, Rogers said.
“Our friends and family were always asking us about what we were working on and they wanted to see photos of what we had done, so we thought the easiest way to let everyone know would be to post photos online,” Rogers said of their Instagram account.
She didn’t realize that there was an entire community of Instagram users who have accounts dedicated to their homes — and specifically, restoring old houses.
“I started becoming friends with some of those people online and the account just kept growing,” she added. “It’s definitely shocking when I realize how many people follow us and our house because we’re not influencers. We have full-time jobs completely unrelated to home and DIY.”
The couple was new to this, but Rogers chanced upon an old Harvard yearbook that helped them uncover the identity of the original owner of their home.
“According to the yearbook, a man named Wilfred Newsom Stull was listed as living here in 1907, which is the year that our house was built. So we figured that he must be the first person that owned the house,” Rogers said.
The two of them ended up naming their Instagram handle — Wilfred House — after him, she added. 
“We happened to find through Google another article stating that Wilfred’s father John lived here and died in our house. It was just a brief little blurb, and that was it. That was all we had,” Rogers said.
However, more than a year after they moved in, the couple received an anonymous package in the mail containing old photos and real estate listings of their house dating back to as early as the 1930s, Rogers said.
It was interesting to see that the documents captured features that are still in the house today, including the parquet floors, she added.
“One day we were sitting on our front porch when a car pulls up,” Rogers said. “This guy gets out and says that he grew up in this house and that his dad owned the place for 30 years.”
While the couple was initially skeptical, they soon warmed up to the stranger when he was able to describe the interiors of their home and all the renovations that his father had done.
“He happened to be a major history buff, and basically as a gift to his father, he was doing all this research on the house’s history,” Rogers said. “And he started sending us all the things he found about our house and the owners, including Wilfred and Wilfred’s family who lived here.”
“The photos that we have, I think they would be considered quite rare because they’re mostly candid photos — people laughing on the front porch or a baby wearing a silly hat,” Rogers said. “That was really cool because you can see what rooms the photos were taken in.”
The couple believes that Stull was the one who took the photos, thanks to some old Kodak boxes and chemical bottles that they found underneath the floorboards in one of the rooms.
“Wilfred was a chemist and so we have a theory that he used the third-floor closet as a dark room to develop the photos that we now have,” Rogers said. “He had to have been the one taking the photos of his family because they’re so candid and they’re of daily life.”
“Buying secondhand and buying locally has always been a thing that we’ve done because it reduces material waste,” Rogers said. “Old things are made differently — they’re often much better quality than mass-produced items and a lot more affordable.”
The area that the couple lives in also has a practice known as “freecycling,” where people put usable things that they no longer want out on their curb for others to take, she said.
“We very strategically take our dog out for a walk on the freecycle night and that’s how we’ve gotten a lot of things in our house,” she added. “Some of them we fixed up and others were perfect the way they were.”
One of the main reasons why the couple bought the house was because of how convenient it was for them to commute to work, Rogers said. But after the pandemic, everything changed.
“Our jobs went full-time remote, and all of a sudden we weren’t in New York City anymore, ever,” Rogers said. “And we started thinking about if there was somewhere else that we could live.”
Even though they live in an area with lots of conveniences nearby, including the grocery store, coffee shops, and even bars, it wasn’t the same as being in the city, she said.
“It was a really big shift for us to just be in our home and in the suburbs 24/7,” Rogers said. “So we made the decision that we think we could have a better quality of life somewhere else and we’ve decided to sell the house.”
The property will be coming unfurnished, although they’ll be holding a sale to sell off the furniture items that they can’t bring with them to their next place, she added.
“We picked the handle because we thought it would be a permanent thing, because we planned to live here forever. We never imagined we would be selling the house,” Rogers said.
Although their account started out about the home, it has since grown to be a space where the couple shares snippets of their daily life as well. 
“I realized over time that people don’t just follow our account for our house, they also follow it for us,” Rogers said.
“Obviously an aspect of our Instagram is our house, but when you look at it, so much of our house is us too. We are in it, our stuff is in it. And when a new family lives here, it’s going to look like a different home,” she added.
“Technically, it probably would have been called the Stull House, which is Wilfred’s last name,” Rogers said.
The couple is planning to move into an apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, while they figure out their next steps.
“We plan to keep the account to document the moving process and our next old house — whenever that happens,” she added.
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