Project Snowbird: Balcony Renovation DIY

So here I am – a Canadian and newly minted Florida snowbird having just purchased my first property.  While the purchase process was a challenge and exciting at the same time, I was quickly faced with the renovation project.  I needed to have the space done within 8 weeks.  Where to start?  Every room needed a lot of work.  Well, I started with the space I liked most, and the reason I purchased the property. The balcony.

Up high on my priority list was a large outdoor sunny space (see my last post on condo shopping).   Normally the outdoor space is the last area of attention, but I really did not want to overlook it.  I have a south-facing unit, which affords me sunshine most of the day.  Given that Florida beach weather can be cold in the Winter months (even for a Canadian snowbird), having a sunny outdoor space in the condo unit was important to me.

Budget-wise, the outdoor furniture could not be given attention.  I have major renovations to do (I will cover these in future posts), so I needed to do this as cheaply as possible.  Having this space done first was also important, to be a sanctuary from the chaos that was about to begin within the apartment.

The previous owner left me with some old beaten-up patio furniture, so I figured a DIY was in order.   Since the furniture design was modern and the structure solid, I decided to refinish and buy some new cushions.  Here is what I needed, all purchased at the Home Depot:

  • Sanding sponge and paper                                         
  • Scraper
  • Metallic Spray Paint (Aluminum)
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Protective gloves, mask, & drop cloths

 This was an easy process, with most of the work in the preparation.  Just need to scrape, sand and spray the furniture.  We used the blue painter’s tape to protect the slats.  Just be sure to protect yourself and work in a well-ventilated area.

For the cushions, I worked with the great folks at Patio Furniture Warehouse in Hallandale.  They were fantastic to help select standard cushion sizes to fit the frames of my existing furniture.  I was able to get a custom look for an off-the-shelf price.  I highly recommend.  While at the store, I also picked up a great new outdoor dining set to match from Suncoast Furniture.

Check out my before and after – I love this space.  My balcony also benefited from the building’s concrete restoration project, taken care of by my condo association. More on this adventure in a future post !

A Canadian Condo Shopping in Florida

Once I decided to move forward and buy a condo in Florida, I started to plan how to do it.  As a Canadian, it can be daunting.  How will I find a property, what are the laws, how will I get financing, how will I ever get it renovated? You can quickly talk yourself out of it.

The best advice is to speak to friends and family who may have contacts or recommendations for a great real estate agent.  Once you have this relationship set, begin the process to build a list of properties you would like to visit.  I spent several weeks with my good friend, Godfather, and agent Domenic Pedicelli —  to prepare and identify these properties.   There are great sites such as and to help the search.  We exchanged countless emails and discussions.  We decided to eliminate “short sales” from our list.  These properties require bank approval for the sale, and the process can be lengthy and fail.  I decided to get up-front financing through my bank in Montreal, so that I was prepared to make an “all-cash” offer with written proof of financing.  I planned a one-week trip to Hollywood Florida, with all viewings lined up - and we started the viewing process.  What I witnessed was scary.  Many properties were in major disrepair and in dire need of renovation.  Initially, my goal was to own an oceanfront property.  Budget reality soon set in, and I opted to narrow my search to the intracoastal side of the A1A.

South-facing properties with a large balcony were criteria, as a sunny outdoor space was a priority.  I also needed to assure that I could rent the property freely without too many restrictions.  Many condo associations post their monthly newsletters, so this is an insightful way to assess the state of affairs.  Building structural issues or severe financial assessments are often addressed in these newsletters.  Setting your priorities up front helps with the selection process.  Another tip is to be prepared to make renovations. The Hallandale condo I decided to buy was a MESS.  Domenic helped me look beyond the old pink carpet, popcorn ceilings, and 1970s decor, to see that the space had loads of potential and was basically already a functional space.  Most condos in the Hollywood and Hallandale area were built in the 1970s, so you have to KEEP AN OPEN MIND.  

A Great View

Balcony – Needs some TLC

Pretty In Pink – Living Room

Pretty In Pink – Dining Room

Kitchen Disaster

Guest Bedroom – Not Very Welcoming

Master Bedroom

Master Bathroom – Wallpaper Heaven

Guest Bathroom and More Wallpaper….

With a few changes, you can transform the property into the vacation home of your dreams. Stick around, and I will walk you through my renovations, share my tips, so you can see just how I did it!

RIP Lefty – you will be missed.

Happy Place

This is what South Florida (and particularly Hollywood Beach) is to me.



My first memories are from 1975, when I tagged along with my grandparents – snowbirds who spent each winter in Hollywood escaping Montreal’s harsh weather.  I have my best memories of this happy place and time.  Rolling down the A1A, mesmerized by the royal palm trees, without a care in the world. I sampled the best orange juice, walked along Hollywood Broadwalk, and mostly spent quality time with my grandparents  - whether at the beach or in the garden tending to the citrus fruits and vegetables. My grandfather and I had a very special relationship, and our time in Florida will be remembered forever.
 I think many young people like myself want to return to that feeling. My longtime dream was to have a place of my own in South Florida and live the snowbird lifestyle. Maybe rekindle that feeling. The favorable Canadian exchange rate and real estate situation in 2009 were factors in my decision to take the plunge and buy.  Maybe actually enjoy my investment dollars!
 As an engineer, I figured I could project manage anything – this would be a no-brainer. I watched enough HGTV to actually believe I could transform and renovate the space overnight. Well … let’s just say the process was definitely a challenge. I am happy to say that what started as an investment has transformed into a real second home for myself and my family.
I decided to write this blog to share my experiences as a Canadian purchasing and renovating a vacation property in South Florida.  I’ll share some of my lessons-learned and hopefully inspire you to create the vacation home of your dreams — and find your own happy place!

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