House Stalkers! How we found our fixer-upper.


Once the house hunt was official two things quickly became apparent:

1. We wanted to live in the Cottage Home neighborhood.

2. We needed to find a “project” house in order to achieve our financial goals.

This left us with a small territory of land and a finite number of houses to work with.  We first exhausted the short list of houses for sale. When those houses didn’t meet our needs we began networking. We talked with friends who live in the neighborhood asking if they knew of anyone thinking of putting their house on the market. Then we moved on to strangers. I met a lot of people in the neighborhood this way, emailing the neighborhood association and looking up people on Facebook. This produced some leads but no positive results.

Determined to find the right house our search evolved into some deeper sleuth work. We made a list of all the houses in the neighborhood that appeared as if they were vacant. Like detectives, we peeked into windows and crept into backyards. We tried door handles and even waltzed into a gutted home with an open door to find out about the owner from construction guys. Some houses were completely boarded up and others simply always had the blinds shut. I contacted the county assessor’s office and collected names and phone numbers associated with the properties.

“Hi, you don’t know me, but would you like to sell your house?”

Sometimes people answered the phone and sometimes they didn’t. We were persistent and determined to find just the right house and at an agreeable price. We even called some homes where people did live whom we knew in the past had thought about selling.  At one point we had so many houses in play that the hunt became hard to keep track of.  We drew color illustrations of houses on index cards and wrote notes on the back about who I had talked to and what they had said.

There was one house in particular that we kept coming back to because of the size, location, and historic charm potential, but we could not get the owner to call us back.  According to neighbors it had been vacant and boarded up for years. We wondered why someone would be holding onto it. We didn’t know if it was gutted, condemned, or what. It was a mystery and we were going to get to the bottom of it.

A Mystery house

I began making weekly phone calls and after the third week the owner called me back. Turns out, he bought the house 11 years ago as an investment property. He had already put a new roof on the house, installed a new electrical box, and completed a few other small jobs.  He said he might be interested in selling. We held our breath.

Several phone conversations later we were finally standing inside this freezing and dark house.

The first room we saw inside the mystery house

As we continued the tour we were surprised to see original woodwork, level hardwood floors, beautiful doors, working original windows, and plaster walls in decent shape.  The house was more intact than anything else we had looked at and had great potential.

Getting a Tour

Sure it needed A LOT of work (beginning with all new plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc.) but we had seen many other houses that had much less charm, needed even more work, and cost even more money.  To get a second opinion we looked at the house one more time with our good friend (and experienced rehabber) and a local contractor.  Both concurred that the house was in surprising good shape for it’s age and that the house had been very well preserved!  It was a fair deal on a solid house and we had a vision, so we moved quickly to figure out some “creative” financing options. (Sidenote: We learned just how difficult it is to get a bank loan to renovate a house.  No wonder so many homes remain abandoned for so long!)

We were afraid that the seller was going to change his mind before we could close the deal.  Two weeks later we scheduled a closing.

It was official. The house was ours.

Coming soon, the “BEFORE” tour…


Follow our story and read the next post: A BEFORE House Tour.

Read the previous post here: 10 Things We Love About Cottage Home

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