Knowing Our Neighbors: Marie Bagunu

“The plan was to move away from the Heights, but I got used to everything being so near. If I need milk, I’ll walk across the street. It’s so easy. And I’ve met so many people that I like. If I move, I’ll have to start over. I have a really great support system in Jersey City. If I need someone to look after my son for just a couple of hours, that’s easy. I can’t see myself in another town or city.

“This house was on the market for a long time. It’s strange that no one wanted to buy it – it has a backyard and a driveway for the car. I think it had some problems. It was flea infested when we first bought it. I got bitten all over my body for like a month. I had big red spots all over my body. We had it fumigated twice. That was a nightmare.

“The house was built in 1920 – 1910? – something like that. We discovered a love letter when we took down the walls. ‘I will come back for you,’ it said, ‘Please wait for me.’ I wish we still had it. It got lost in the shuffle.

“We found our contractor on BuildZoom. We interviewed about four of them. They all came here and gave us estimates. We liked Gio. Some of the contractors, when they came in, looked around and had a lot of complaints. As if the job was so hard. But Gio made us feel so secure.

“Sometimes you see HGTV shows where couples cry because they’re living in a house during the renovation. Maybe they’re exaggerating – but it really is hard with all the dust. Everything gets dirty. You really have to decide if you’re willing to live in a construction zone. You have to decide that as a couple. Especially if you have children. It’s not for everyone.

“When you go home, you go home to a dusty, dirty place. We hung plastic sheets up but when you pass through, the dust comes with you. And you feel like you’re inhaling dust. The walls were open. There were nails… It wasn’t really safe so I had to look after my son all the time. He was three.

“My husband doesn’t want to do it at all. Ever again.

“It’s never smooth sailing when you’re doing a renovation. The contractor will tell you the exact amount, but when you break up the ceilings and discover a beautiful tin ceiling, you might want to save it. That kind of restoration costs a lot of money.

“And it seems like there’s a lot of decisions involved in the renovation process. Sometimes you just don’t want to make another decision.

“I feel like I will never be done. We haven’t done anything to the kitchen and we plan to. And right now I don’t have a washer/dryer because we have low water pressure that we have to deal with. We’ve talked to three plumbers. Apparently it’s an issue with the service pipe – that’s a big job.

“But overall it worked out well. Gio was very good. Our arrangement was that we would buy the materials (well, he would buy it so we could use his discount but we would pay for it) so all we had to pay for was the labor. He didn’t add on 20% to every light switch or beam.

And when we do the kitchen, we’re going to use the same contractor. So that says something.”

Marie Bagunu is originally from Manila, Philippines. She moved to Boston in 2008, and then Jersey City Heights in 2011. She works as a realtor, and has a video blog at

Keep reading? Meet Barbara, Jessica, & Angel. Or click on the “Jersey City” category and see who you know!

Posted by

Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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