Whether you’re a humble homeowner on a budget, or a seasoned property developer on a schedule, renovating old homes has one similarity: The project will undoubtedly take longer and be more expensive than you first imagined. But when it’s finished and the house is singing with a renewed sense of purpose, the feeling of relief is mixed with one of immense satisfaction.

Commercial developer Tom Cote wouldn’t have necessarily ripped the condo in an old South End brownstone apart to create his own fantasy home. It was always destined to be someone else’s dream space. Nevertheless, Cote says the process and resulting emotions of relief and pleasure for are comparable.

“Every project is different,” says Cote, who is president of North Atlantic Construction. “They never go as quickly as you’d like. It’s one thing assessing what has to be done at the beginning, but the hidden extras are what hold things up.”

That’s especially true of old Boston houses, which haven’t been renovated in decades. Cote admits that even as a professional contractor, this apartment, pictured here, which hadn’t been touched since the early 1980s — “which means it looked 1970s,” he laughs — caught him off-guard.


“I wasn’t aware of some things going in,” he says. “I admit I was blindsided because it was my first project like this, so I was a little excited.”

That statement will sound very familiar to rehabbing homeowners, as will this concluding one.

“I learned a lot, and going forward these lessons will hopefully help me in the future.”

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