A couple weeks ago, we moved into our
new old home. Unlike most folks, we look for homes in need of a little TLC. I don’t care about granite counters or remodeled bathrooms. I’ll get to that in a moment though.
A New Town
We hastily moved into our last neighborhood in April of 2012 and couldn’t stand it. We knew almost immediately that we weren’t going to stay and our inclination was to high-tail it back to Wisconsin where we had moved from. Our home went on the market, but didn’t sell. We decided to explore other parts of the state and found a town we really liked. The people seemed good and the town just felt right. We decided to live near the older part of town, near the main street. The homes are older, but the city is very walkable in this area. So, we had figured out where we wanted to be, but we still wanted to wait for the old home to sell before buying another one. Finally, last month, we closed on the sale.
The next step was to find the next home to live in. This wasn’t so easy. It seemed that everyone else wanted to live in our chosen town, too. The housing market was on fire. Often, homes would be under contract within a couple hours of hitting the market. Bidding wars broke out for nice homes in the right area.
The first day we went house hunting, I didn’t really like any of the homes, but there was one that I kept thinking about. Certain things stuck out in my mind. While old, it was half the age of many of the others and better built. The house was amazing ugly, but had a new, high efficiency furnace and even air conditioning, which many homes lack here. All of the floors of the home were nice and flat, unlike many of the older homes where floors were noticeably uneven from sagging beams and settling issues. The house had a huge garage. Many of the other homes had a 1 car, detached garage if they had one at all. What really got me was the area though. The street is a mixed bag. Someone is building a $1,000,000 home at the end of the street and a couple of the other homes in the immediate area had recently sold for $500K+. On the other hand, some of the others weren’t well maintained and were in various states of disrepair (including this one).
What I quickly concluded was that the neighborhood was on the upswing. People who don’t want to pay the premium to live in the most expensive part of town are buying just a little farther out, where the same home can be had for hundreds of thousands less. We were amazed at the difference a couple blocks made. Same town, same schools, etc. We’re just not quite as close to the city center. Bingo! We had found our new place.
Here is what I look for in a home:
Of course, location is everything in real estate. I’d rather own a not-so-nice home in the good part of town than a really nice place elsewhere. What makes a part of town good varies from person to person. What I really like is an area that is on the upswing. It may not be as desirable as the best part of town, but you’re going to save a bundle too and there is greater potential for price appreciation.
My favorite areas are like the one we just moved to. I can see the area is turning over. In 15 years, our street will look completely different. The really old folks and the guy down the street with the axle in his front yard will have moved on.
Our home had sat for a month in an ultra-hot market because of superficial problems. On the surface, the home looks just terrible. The previous owners had taken most of the appliances. The bathroom is really ugly, clearly having been last remodeled in the disco era (anyone want shower doors with stripes and mirrors?). Same goes for what is left of the kitchen. From the street, the home has no curb appeal whatsoever. The lawn is dead. The trees that aren’t dead desperately need trimming and house is just plain ugly. It makes me nauseous just looking at it.
However, I looked a little deeper. Structurally, the home is solid. I went in the crawl space and everything was straight and had been built correctly. The furnace, water heater and air conditioner were almost new. The roof had also just been replaced. All of the problems are cosmetic and won’t even cost me that much to fix. I’ll gut the kitchen and bathroom, install some new tile and fixtures, and the place will look like a million bucks! Well, actually I’m hoping it will look like $250,000 bucks.
The next 6 months will be a bit hectic. In addition to remodeling that old bath and kitchen, I’ll be adding a second bath and a 3rd bedroom. I’ll also be playing around a bit with the roof-line to give the house a new look. Finally, I’ll be putting in new windows and siding. I estimate I’ll have to spend about $25,000 on it, but I’ll be increasing the value substantially because of my sweat equity. But all of that is a post for another day.
Here is a current picture of the home along with a Google Sketchup drawing that I whipped up of an idea floating around in my noggin:
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