Friday, January 11, 2013

Where it all began...

This old ranch style home was abandoned...discarded just like an old pair of running shoes. I try but cannot understand why people treat their houses so poorly. These wood or concrete structures start out as houses but become our homes. We LIVE in them, we create families, marriages, babies, and memories. We leave them to travel and explore but we always yearn for that familiar feeling of home. Coming home from a long day of work to my home, my sanctuary, or as my husband says, "our sacred place", makes me happy.

The abandoned three bedroom, two bathroom house had no flooring, no kitchen, no air conditioning, and to many people who looked at it, no potential. This was the first home I purchased for myself to live in... and at 21 years old I had a major project in front of me. My friends called me crazy but I had a vision and knew that I could make it a home.

My family had been in the construction industry for many years. All of my uncles on my mother's side of the family owned and operated their own businesses and they learned the trade from their father, my grandfather. Thus, I was a third generation family member with building and design coursing through my veins. At this time I worked for a construction company handling all of the accounting, payroll, financial reporting, and helped organize the project managers and construction schedules. I guess it really was in my blood because I enjoyed watching projects go from conceptualization to realization. I would watch 300 plus single family home communities being built at an alarming rate but without creative focus. So, once the structures were up, I started to pay close attention to the finishing details, often wondering why builders weren't more involved in what I thought was the most interesting But, these builders were rushing to finish to move onto the next job. They were more interested in getting the project done quickly and as inexpensively as possible. In their speed, they missed so many design elements that would benefit the buyer tremendously yet still wouldn't cost a lot of extra money.

So...back to the ugly brown house in the above picture. When I purchased the home I had decided that I would renoavte it little by little starting with a new air conditioner and some flooring. Whenever I had enough money to add something else I would. The next project was windows and doors, then the kitchen (I did dishes in the bathtub for quite some time), the new bathrooms, and finally the exterior. The process to most would seem frustrating and annoying but I found it fun and exciting. I was amazed at every transformation and how much the house would change after each new installation.

Finally, the finished product. When my friends and family saw the end result they all said the same thing, "Wow! I would have never had the vision for this!" This of course was quite a few houses ago and there have been many design challenges and lesson since. However, this small ranch home will always hold a special place in my heart because it was where I discovered my love of transformation. 

I continued to work in the residential and commercial construction industry for several years. I would occasionally purchase a home and renovate it then resell it. What set me apart from other "house flippers" was that I would really think about the end user and how they would live in the home for years to come. After too many years in a taxing South Florida commercial construction industry, I knew that I was not happy and it was time to do something I would truly love. I decided to find partners to work with and started to purchase distressed properties, renovating and reselling them as a full time career. 

Today, I continue to work in the distressed residential renovation and development market with my investors who insist, and with whom I agree, on turning a profit with a quality product. Additionally, I assist individual clients/homeowners who want to develop their own renovation and design visions. With my background in high end construction and real estate and my connections to obtain exclusive materials and have it expertly installed, I am able to create homes, not just houses, and on a budget. 

I love what I do. I learn something new everyday. This industry is both challenging and satisfying and my work days are filled with hard work and passion. And at the end of the day, I am able to go home to my own "sacred place". 

Blog post by Aja De Los Santos, GM & Head Designer at Investcove Properties

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