Help Build Accessible Home for Maria

$6,050 of $75k goal

Raised by 25 people in 41 months
Michael Csele  JERICHO, VT
I need your help! My partner Maria is paralyzed from the shoulders down as the result of a diving accident. She needs a custom house. As a result of being confined to a power wheelchair, the house must be completely accessible. Some of these items include a roll-in shower, track lift, accessible kitchen counters and desk, remote control lighting, automated doors, etc.

Selling my house in SC barely covered the price of the land here in VT. We looked at buying a house or having one built by a contractor but both options were out of our budget.

The only way I could get a house for Maria was to be my own general contractor and build it. I secured a construction loan with an 8-month term. I planned to sub out the major work and do as much as I could myself. In order to save money, we parked an old RV on the property that I modified so I could do Maria's care in it (she needs care every 4 hours).

I knew we were off to a bad start when the processing of the loan took longer than we expected and the money was not released until the last week of September. Rough weather in the fall turned the property into a mud pit. Excavation took considerably longer than originally estimated and the cost ran almost $10K over budget.

Between mud season, hunting season, holidays and some nasty weather, the framer did not get started in earnest until January. In April, the roof was finally put on the building. The exterior still lacks windows, doors and siding. At this point, the construction ground to a halt.

Walking across the floor, I thought it strange that it had "bounce" to it. Engineering software from the manufacturer of the floor joists and beams showed to my dismay that the main beams, floor joists, door headers and window headers are all undersized and do not meet building code. This is a very serious problem and requires major work.

The framer has already exceeded his labor estimate by $10,000. Any contingency money we had set aside, including money for accessibility items, is now being used to purchase materials to bring the house up to code. With no money left in the framing budget for labor, I am doing the work myself. It is slow going!

This has created a new problem. The construction loan runs up at the the end of May. I have requested an extension which the bank is considering and most likely will grant. However they have given me a strong warning to "get it done".

The original budget was based on me doing much of the work after framing (wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, trim, kitchen installation, flooring, bathroom tiling, etc.) Working at my present pace (early morning until long into the night), it has become obvious to me there is no way I will complete the house within the bank's time frame and thus risk losing it to the bank. However, there is not enough money in the budget to hire tradesmen for every task in order to complete the house on time. Hence this appeal for help.

Living in the RV on site since last September has been a story of survival. Water lines have frozen and burst. The furnace and propane system have both failed. Sewage has had to be transferred in containers each week from the RV to the septic system across the yard. Even a simple task like filling the RV's tank with water was made difficult by the extremely cold winter temperatures (hoses had to be thawed and used quickly before they froze again).

The last several months have been hard on Maria. The RV is extremely cramped and affords her little room to maneuver her wheelchair. Her leg was broken in an unfortunate accident in January. She has spent much more time in her chair not wanting to be "helpless" in bed while I am outside working on the house. This has led to multiple pressure sores that cause her a great deal of pain. These in turn have now caused me to take more time from the building process in order to care for her additional health needs.

I am doing my best to get the house completed but I can no longer do it by myself. I DESPERATELY NEED YOUR HELP! Areas of need include: donations of money, building materials and skilled labor

Please share this site with friends or anyone you think may be able to help.

We will continue to document the rest of the project here until the house is complete.

Thanks so much.

Mike
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Update 24
32 months ago

It's official! On Friday afternoon, we signed papers for our new mortgage!

It was a crazy week where everything happened at the last hour. On Monday we were told by the bank to install a railing for the stairs and to cap the LED string lights in the living room and office. On Tuesday, Mike accomplished this with the builder and took pictures for the bank.

On Wednesday the appraisal came back positive and we were finally given approval by the underwriter for a loan given certain conditions which included property insurance and a certificate of occupancy. This was the first time we heard both items were required for closing. When we originally asked about insurance, it sounded like the current insurance we had for the building process was good enough for coverage.

The bank had never mentioned the Certificate of Occupancy and we did no hear about this until the end of the day on Wednesday. We panicked as the gentleman who handles the inspection only works three days a week and Friday morning would be our only opportunity to meet with him otherwise the closing would have had to be postponed and our construction loan extended and additional money paid out.

We are truly blessed to live in a town that really believes in helping each other. We filed the required Energy Efficiency paperwork on Thursday and spoke with the Planning Office who let us pay for the Certificate of Occupancy that day and promised they would send the zoning inspector out Friday morning so we could meet our closing deadline. Thank you Jennifer Murray for making that happen!

All of Thursday we spent time calling for quotes on property insurance. We decided to go with Allstate who we currently have our vehicles with. They valued our house high enough for us to be able to replace it if need be and also gave us a great rate that could not be beat. We confirmed the insurance on the phone at 5pm only to receive a confirmation e-mail at 9pm which indicated the insurance would not be effective until Saturday. If the insurance was not in place before the closing on Friday, we would not be able to go through with the closing!

So Friday morning was hectic making calls to Allstate to have our insurance made effective immediately AND having the zoning inspector come and view the house. We can't thank John Zwick enough for his availability, for complimenting all the work we've done and for processing the Certificate of Occupancy so quickly!

Our 2pm appointment with the bank was moved to 4pm. The delay was appreciated as Mike had to jump my van for the upteenth time that week and so we used the extra time to stop by Interstate Battery and have a new battery installed. At 4pm, we met with the bank and signed all the paperwork to make our loan official.

I'm happy to say that we have spent the weekend sleeping in and enjoying the freedom of not having the bank holding a deadline over our heads.

Thank you! Thank you to all our dear friends and family who got us through these 18 months with prayers and support.

We are no means done the project, so please continue to stay tuned for updates, but this was a major hurdle for us to get over.

Our next project is installing a temporary ramp to get me in the bottom floor of the house and having the fork lift delivered so we can begin work on the platform lift!
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Update 23
32 months ago

We thought we would have good news to share with you by now but we are still in limbo with the bank and appraiser. The appraiser showed up on Monday and quickly scanned the house and took pictures. We could sense the result might not be good when she started naming everything that was unfinished instead of looking at everything we had accomplished.

After she left, we requested the original appraisal from the bank and to our surprise, the appraiser had included the workshop and appliances in the original appraisal estimate. We were also shocked to see that she only gave a value for the finished 2,777 square feet of $74/sq ft and nothing to the rest of the 2100 square feet. The average cost per square foot for 2 bedroom homes in Vermont is between $125-$150 per square foot.

We have not been given an updated number by the bank, nor have we been given a list of what needs to be completed. We are hoping that all will be ok in the end, but did you ever have a bad feeling about something? We just have this feeling that the appraiser is going to undervalue the house and we will need to file some sort of appeal.

As we used $50,000 of our own money on the house, we are hoping the house appraises high enough for us to take some cash back, otherwise we will not be able to build the workshop. If we can't build the workshop, we can't unload the tractor trailer. If we don't unload the tractor trailer, Mike will not be able to make any money and we will have to buy the trailer back from the person who bought it from us. Hence our perpetual bout of nausea until we hear from the bank.

We actually would consider going to another bank and having a new appraisal done, except for the fact that our construction loan must be paid off by the end of the month. So we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Meanwhile, we can no longer afford the labor, so Mike will need to finish the remaining work himself. Unfortunately, all our tools have decided to fall apart at the 11th hour. So instead of paying for labor this week, it will have to go towards tools!

If all goes well with the bank, we can hopefully start looking towards moving in! Until next time!
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Update 22
32 months ago

The bank appraiser is coming today! Mike worked day and night this weekend installing toilets and sinks, in an attempt to complete the house for the appraiser who is arriving at 1:00 p.m.

The builders are installing the stair treads this morning. We have a few other small details that we were not able to complete, but we have the materials on site and are hoping we have done enough to get the bank's approval.

So please pray for us and send us positive vibes around 1:00 p.m. for a successful appraisal. Thank you!
Finished kitchen without sink yet
The gorgeous railing we designed/built.
A glimpse at the flooring (covered).
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Update 21
33 months ago

Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family! I hope you will understand that we did not have time to get cards out this year. We have not even bought each other a gift. As the song says, "All I want for Christmas is"¦a house!" Or at least that's what I've been singing as we draw closer to the finish line.

Many of you have asked if we are in the house yet. We are not. It has been a total of 16 months in the RV and what a year it has been! We've had flooding, record lows and now an ice storm! Last winter we lost our furnace. This year we have frozen and broken all the main water lines to the RV and the hot water tank has gone on the fritz. To say it's been a rough time of it would be an understatement. But we are still plugging along!

With the need to roll the bank loan into a mortgage as soon as possible, we cannot afford to waste time moving into the house. We are out straight - going to bed each night at 1:00 am and waking up at 6:00 am.

The builder did not show up the month of October, so although the bank granted us a three-month extension (ending January 1) we once again felt crunched for time. We have one week left and we have several items left to complete, including: building countertops for the kitchen, master bath and two half-baths; installing sinks and toilets, installing doors, installing baseboard trim, staining and installing stair treads and building a railing for the stairs. We also have about one day's worth of electrical as well.

Again, labor has cost us more than anticipated due to the urgency of completion. We have spent more of our savings than anticipated and have now started to use credit cards (something we wanted to avoid at all costs). We are at the point where we just grin and bear it after each check we write "“ knowing that the end is near (at least for labor).

The bank insists on 100% completion. We have tried to save some time by putting up unstained trim and cheap light fixtures (because we cannot decide on the fly). Once the loan rolls into a mortgage, Mike can take his time to stain the trim and put in proper light fixtures. He also can begin work on the elevator. I can't tell you how good it will feel to not be under the gun anymore with the bank. I'm praying it comes soon!

Thank you to everyone who have supported us this year. We are very blessed to have you in our lives.

And may all of you have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!
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$6,050 of $75k goal

Raised by 25 people in 41 months
Created May 6, 2013
LA
$50
Lynn Andre
32 months ago (Offline Donation)
BR
$2,000
Betsy and Ruth
36 months ago (Offline Donation)
GV
$100
George Voland
36 months ago

I wish, more than anything, that I could help you out more financially, Michael and Maria. You're so amazing individually and as a couple. You inspire me. Thank you.

A
$100
Anonymous
37 months ago (Offline Donation)
AA
$100
Anonymous Anonymous
37 months ago
A
$100
Anonymous
39 months ago (Offline Donation)
$50
Anonymous
39 months ago
LA
$50
Lynn Andre
39 months ago (Offline Donation)
$100
Anonymous
39 months ago
A
$500
Anonymous
39 months ago (Offline Donation)
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