Monday, April 18th, 2011
Back in January, I posted about my lust for a specific, adorable 1940s house, which has since sold to an – I hope – worthy buyer. I compared said lust to cheating on my house, and the more I think about it, the more what I have with my house feels like a marriage. There are temptations – potentially greener pastures – and you might wonder, but in a marriage, you come back to the realization that the pasture you’ve got is plenty green, and probably has more wildflowers.
My latest temptation is this absolutely fabulous Victorian house, in a nearby town, for the low low low price of $75,000. Of course, one must leave room in the budget to repair a porch rotting from the ground up (from this link, sill replacement looks pretty complicated and expensive, not to mention the side steps are completely missing). And, though the front rooms of the house look breathtakingly perfect, there is a lot of rot around the back porch, and the kitchen and bathrooms are almost guaranteed to need total renovation.
This house was brought to our attention by new friends S and A, who live across the street from it in a lovely 1836 colossus. They share our passion for old houses, and A in particular seems to share my impulse to “save” houses in need.
We met at their house for a picnic (great fun, watching our two 10-month-olds climbing on each other and stealing one another’s food), and they pointed out the empty Victorian for sale across the street. “It’s down to 75 now,” A said, in that coaxing tone we old house proselytizers use. “We think there’s still room for a flip! The porch is falling down, but you could probably fix it up for 25.”
After that sales pitch, and after standing on the sidewalk a while debating how it would look painted a Victorian olive green, how could we resist dashing across the street for a peek in the windows?
From a safe distance, it was merely a lovely curiosity. I knew we weren’t moving to Greensboro, which would mean a 15-minute farther commute for D, but hey, why not look? What was the harm, I thought, ignoring the fact this was the same thinking that got me into trouble with the 1940s house.
Inevitably, I was hooked with my first glimpse of the spacious interior, the dark-stained woodwork as far as the eye could see, the wainscot, the pocket doors, the mirrored mantels, the staircase, the fretwork! oh the fretwork!, even possibly-original light fixtures! I felt that familiar stomach flip as I drank in the gorgeousness, and even D, a step behind me, sighed, “Ohhhh,” when he looked through the other window.
There’s just something about an empty house – all the architecture and potential out on display, unlike in our own house, where furniture and clutter and just our daily acquaintance with it render it less stunning.
We examined the damage on the porch and noticed it has the exact same screen door as the one we rescued from our attic and put on the front door. D downplayed the porch damage, and by the time we’d made it around to the back of the house was saying, “We could build a car shed back here.” Surprised, I said, “What, are you wanting to move here now?” and he quickly denied it but still, he didn’t discourage my chatter the rest of the day about down payments and who we could get to do the work and how much we might be able to sell it for one day. He even said, “If you can get it for $60,000, you can have it.”
At one point, he asked, “What would you do with this house if we had it?” and the truth sprang to my lips before I’d even realized it was true: “The idea would be to sell it, but I would probably get too attached.”
Truly, I am tempted to buy it, fix it and resell it, even if we only made a few bucks on the deal, but by then, would letting it go be heartbreaking? Or would it be enough to see it clean and fixed and ready to go another 100 years, as long as it had new owners who appreciated it?
I don’t really want to move there myself, even as gorgeous as it is, because the yard is smaller, there’s no park across the street, and most importantly that pesky commuting problem. And my house is plenty pretty, too, plenty spacious, and it already has all my furniture in it.
We’ve been having work done on our own house recently – a new metal roof on the workshop, carport, and kitchen/office/laundry wing, a new gutter on the way (finally!), and repairs to the porch coming soon. It has been slightly painful writing all those checks, but the satisfaction of seeing completed work, and knowing we are protecting our house, soothes the pain. We look around our house now and feel pleased instead of guilty. We are the custodians of this house, and it is worth the money to do that job well.
So that feeling might be enough for the Greensboro house, too, right? And if we could make a few bucks in the process … ? Or should I just stop looking at real estate and stop peeking in windows, since I barely have time to eat all the food already on my plate?