This Old Money Pit

Renovating an old house can be rewarding, as well as stressful. Be prepared to work on your communication skills—especially where there’s a small explosion…

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That became a problem for Milburn and Campbell, who clashed with their contractor partly because he wanted to do the entire job. Campbell, however, is handy, so after three previous renovations, he knew when to speak up when a job was not done to his liking.

“I worked as hard as the contractors did while they were here,” he says.

Now that systems are in place, Campbell is doing much of the remaining work, running to Home Depot up to three times a day. When the time comes to do the outside, the couple will go back to getting bids.

Be prepared for the long haul. Milburn and Campbell purchased their home in October 2008. They didn’t move in till last May, and there’s still more work to do. The process can put stress on a marriage. Be willing to talk about your feelings, Simon says. Know that, at times, one of you will be stubborn, so the other has to give.

And keep your priorities in order. “As it turns out,” Simon says, “you need to value the relationship more than the house.”