1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Secretly for Sale

Friday night Neighbor D gave me a tour of a vacant Victorian house down the road (and provided me dinner afterward ... thanks, D&K). The house has been empty for about five years and has suffered the consequences. Leaky roof led to ruined ceilings led to damaged floors. But most of the house - minus the vines creeping through the gaps in the windows - is actually in decent shape and hasn't been altered much from its original form.

This house, like many in Eutaw, is secretly for sale. There's a strange tendency in Eutaw to not list your house with a real estate agent, not put a sign in the yard, and not advertise in any way. People are just supposed to know your house is for sale. Seems like nine out of 10 home sales in Eutaw are done by word of mouth, even ones to out-of-town buyers (recently, a house sold to a couple from Texas ... without the benefit of a realtor or the Internet).

Weird, huh? Very Mayberry.

The reason - from what I hear - is that most of the vacant/secretly-for-sale houses in Eutaw are inheritance houses. The current owners fondly remember Sunday dinners at Granny's or Auntie's house, and they simply can't bear the thought of selling the house.

Strange that the fondness doesn't extend to keeping the house from falling down. I'm as sentimental about objects and houses as the next person - probably more - but even I don't understand that. Why is it better to let the house disintegrate before our very eyes than to let new owners come in and take care of it, love it?

Most of these houses are filled with junk from the previous owners, covered with dirt and probably crawling with bugs and rodents. One of them recently sold, and the new owners found ROTTED FOOD still in the refrigerator and CRUSTY LAUNDRY still in the washing machine. Everything was left as it was after the owner died FIVE YEARS AGO.

Somebody tell me how that makes sense.

Our Victorian was also an inheritance house. But the owners, whose parents lived here for 30 years, knew they would better honor their parents' wishes - and their love for the house - by finding new people to take care of the house.

Their only cautious request? Please don't paint over the woodwork their mother stripped. Don't worry, we assured them. That one unpainted room is our favorite in the house, and we'll be continuing the work in other rooms.

I hope that made them feel better. I hope they know they made the right decision.

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2 Comments:

John said...

It's not just where you are, and it makes no sense to me either.

Atkins, Arkansas, (where I live) is like that too. My wife and I made several offers on homes in Atkins before the Queen, and either they weren't interested or they couldn't bare to part with the property.

My favorite one was an old brick building with a dirt floor, no plumbing or wiring, and the roof had completely fallen in.

We sent them an offer through a realtor we know. Their response was something like, "Well, it belongs to dad and he's 92 and in a nursing home. We just can't sell it."

A week later a sign appeared on the building, "For Rent, Great for Storage." It's been siting empty ever since.

8:21 AM  
Mary said...

I'm so relieved that I'm not alone in finding the whole inheritance home atmosphere a bit disconcerting. I have a 1925 bungalow that I bought from the 70 year old children of the original owner. The same guy lived in this house until he died in the late 1990s and I bought the house. Only later did I realize how strange it was that my house was "publicly" on the market. The neighboring house was vacant for three years - though the elderly owners would visit it from time to time.

When I found the online and searchable records for property transfers in my county, I found that very few of the houses in my neighborhood are actually sold to "strangers". Even when they do sell the houses, they tend to be bought by the next generation of people from this same town!

Characterizing your town as Mayberry-like is kinder than I've been - I tend to see my town as more of a Twilight Zone situation!

2:57 AM  

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