Archive for September, 2014

Making a Contact

My last entry a few days ago contained mention of an old farmhouse I’ve had my eye on for over a year now. I pass by it at least a couple times per month, always wondering who owns it and what the story is behind it. I stopped to shoot a few pictures to share in the previous entry to point out my tastes in old houses.

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Even as I was writing, the wheels started turning. My sleep became erratic. I knew I wasn’t going to rest until I got the bottom of the mystery.

Friday morning, I drove out to see my great-uncle Glenn. He knows everyone around, and he thought he knew who the owner was, but wasn’t entirely sure. But a cousin of mine lives just right down the road from the old house and her husband Johnny runs a big farm there. As luck would have it, Johnny was unloading a dump truck load of seed corn when I stopped by. He knew immediately which house I was talking about and who the owner was. I started to go then, but for some reason I decided to wait, and think it over. I needed to reflect on what I should say.

The house wasn’t for sale, so how do you approach someone and ask if they’d be interested in selling, without the conversation turning into a gruff “No, now get out of here!!”? ¬†Well, sometimes, that’s just going to happen. I had to be careful to exhibit the right amount of interest. Not too much, or they’d likely ask too much money, but not disinterested, either, or they wouldn’t care about selling.

I went back Saturday afternoon and there was no one home at the owner’s house. I went back to the old house down the road and found the grass freshly mowed. Obviously, I’d just missed him. I decided to hang out and shoot a few more pictures. I was just finishing when I heard the clatter of a diesel engine and saw a tractor pull in and stop. A man hopped down and I asked if his name was Ralph (the owner’s name). He was, and shook my hand and I introduced myself and simply said I was interested in the house and wanted to know if he’d ever considered selling it.

We had a very pleasant conversation, over an hour, and he isn’t the only owner, ownership is divided among five members of the family. And it wasn’t clear whether they’d have interest in selling at all. The contents of the deceased owners were still inside and the family wasn’t sure what to do with all that. They didn’t have room in their homes for all of it, but apparently they weren’t ready to sell the belongings, either.

Ralph agreed, the house was reaching the point of needing serious attention. I got the overall impression he might be very willing to consider it, the house plus about a third to a half acre. But it would take getting a consensus from all five owners, plus some kind of disposition in place for the old furniture and belongings inside. He mentioned there had just been two break-ins recently, and some high value furniture items were stolen.

My guess is that is a plus in my favor. When a house has been targeted like that, it is often revisited and more things stolen. Hopefully, that might be an impetus for them to consider disposition of the property. It is not a high-crime area at all, just rural and secluded.

So, I wrote a nice letter today, thanking him for his time and hospitality in speaking with me about the house. I reiterated my desire to place a fair-market offer on the house, sometime after the first of the year, and I would work with them to alleviate any concerns they might have. I will mail it tomorrow afternoon and see what happens.

Likely, nothing will. But like my father always said (didn’t everyone’s father?), “The worst that can happen is they say no.”

For now, I wait and see…

Planning Time

I restarted this blog yesterday, indicating it was a hiatus time for me, no longer owning the house I poured blood, sweat and tears into. I’m helping take care of my grandmother, living in a small, cute rental beside her. But my girlfriend and I are making plans to buy our own place.

That really opens up the doors labeled “Possibility.” It also opens a fair number of cans of worms as well.

I absolutely adore and love my girlfriend. She’s smart, funny, keeps me smiling and laughing, and I honestly couldn’t have picked a better person.

But while we see eye-to-eye on most things, she isn’t a fan of old. Or, a better way of saying it, she doesn’t want a project. Whether new or old, she wants it to be more or less move-in ready, minor upgrades such as countertops or faucets acceptable. Me? I’m up for a total gut job, putting in new walls, insulation, refinishing floors and such. Somewhere there is a middle ground, we just have to find it.

But that doesn’t mean any old house will do. I am not a fan of plain brick ranch homes, for example. They look boxy, unadorned and often without the kind of character that I appreciate. I’m glad my better half agrees on this. There are some fantastic ranch designs, however, that aren’t plain and boxy. They are just above our price range, for the most part.

So, what do I like?

I’m a fan of the turn-of-the-century Victorian designs and early century Craftsman designs. They often have peaks and gables that add interest and character to the roof line, and their eclectic flow and tall ceilings give the houses a sense of large size, even when they aren’t very big at all.

Here is a quintessential, archetypical Victorian design that actually has some elements of Craftsman design, as well.

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Notice the roof lines and the dormer window. And the large pillars on the porch. This is a very well-built country farmhouse not far from where I live.

More views:

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The house is unoccupied and has been for many years. The front door is padlocked. Someone is obviously mowing the grass, but no real care is being given the the house. The front porch has a place where the roof is leaking badly and the porch ceiling roof has rotted. Still, the house isn’t sagging or badly damaged in any way the I can see. Even the awesome chimneys look to be in great shape.

It is not for sale, sadly. But I’m hoping that may change…

In short, this is a hunkering down, taking stock and planning time. What will the budget be? How much can we afford? What do we want?

A lot of possibilities…

Hiatus Time

I haven’t updated this blog in quite a while, so I thought I’d better do that. First, the big news: I moved. A lot of reasons but my grandmother turned 100 last year and I felt the need to be closer to her. With no job anymore (I’m on disability) I decided it was time to move. I finished up the remaining few details and finally the house was sold.

It wasn’t an easy decision. Buying that house on my own, with no help from anyone, had been a personal triumph for me. I had lost a previous home due to my father’s business going under and having to rebuild my credit from scratch. So it really meant a lot that I was able to make the purchase and have a roof over my head. In the end, however, family and other concerns won out.

And yes, I lost a lot of money. One thing that surprised me was how much the crash had devalued my property. Comps were misleading: I had tax values but very few recent sales to compare it to. So instead of breaking even I lost money. It’s hard to be too pessimistic when everyone else is in the same boat, though.

So, I relocated to my late mother’s hometown of Mooresville, NC, and moved in with my grandmother, over 175 miles to the west. One of her late sisters had an in-law suite built onto the house and I stayed there. Very cramped quarters but it worked for awhile. Then I found out the cute little house next door was for rent, and the lady across the street owns it. We met and spoke about it, and though she was adamant at first that no pets were allowed, I begged her to consider just my cats. She relented and I moved in exactly one year ago. There have been a few issues with the house, a tiny 786-square-foot cottage, but it is tightly built and cozy. Very well cared-for, as well. A short walk through the woods and I am at my grandmother’s house so that is a perfect situation.

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So what’s next? That is a good question.

My my goal at present is to buy a house, hopefully an older one with lots of charm and character. You won’t find me in a cookie cutter subdivision. If I had unlimited funds, I’d buy a vintage Victorian mansion and spend my time sanding and refinishing it until it looks like knew. Unless someone is giving one away, I’d say that’s somewhere in the distant future, if it ever happens at all. More likely is finding an older house with a lot of character, within my budget, and making it my forever home. Because honestly, I don’t ever want to move again.

In the meantime, I will refocus the blog on various homes I see and like, and discuss them as they capture my interest. Stay tuned, and we’ll see what happens…

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