Friday, August 26, 2005

Spooky, spooky!

Right after we bought the house, we decided to completely document it in the state in which we found it. We did this for several reasons: we knew it would never again look just the way it did when the previous family lived there, and we wanted to get a good idea of what items were in the house and where they had been located before. I won't get into the other reasons. They're not that exciting (For that matter, maybe reasons #1 and 2 weren't that exciting, either. Live with it.).

Anyway, I ended up planning to go alone on Sunday because V was working on school stuff. On Saturday night I had a fairly spooky dream...I dreamt that I was walking through the house with a video camera and that as I walked past one of the mirrors upstairs, I looked in and saw my face plus another face looking back at me. Egads! I woke up in a cold sweat. What was weird is that it wasn't so much that the face was threatening or anything, more than anything it was the mere fact of being startled.

It was enough to compel me to introduce myself to the house when I went on Sunday (of course I still went!). I walked in and realized that this was the first time ever I'd been alone in the place. So, I took a deep breath and told the house that V and I had just bought it and that if there were any residents still hanging around, they were more than welcome to stay as long as we could all get along. The house feels happy. It just really has a peaceful vibe to it, so I didn't figure we'd be besieged with ghouls and goblins or anything. But I did think it was fair and right to say hello and be polite, just in case. I told the house how much we love it and how incredibly lucky we feel to have found it, and that we hope we will be as happy there as the family who had owned it for so many years.

That day I did indeed videotape the entire house, and what do you know--no spooky faces in mirrors. I'm not saying that my little introduction turned the tide, but maybe it didn't hurt!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Buy, buy, buy!

Picking up where we left off . . . we went for visit #2 and it was every bit as charming, original, and sound as we'd remembered. So we put in a bid. Those of you who have bought houses know how this feels. You offer to buy a house, the sellers counter your offer, you (probably) counter their counter, and so on. Eventually, ideally, everyone ends up feeling like he or she got a fair deal, but the process can really wear a body down.

In our case the negotiation was awfully easy. We drew up an offer immediately following visit #2. The seller countered with a more-than-reasonable price, and we took it! Wow, so painless. Hopefully they feel like they got a fair shake; we sure know we did. This is really our dream house from a rehabilitation perspective. It needs a lot of work, to be sure, but we can go at our speed and do things right and well.

I digress . . . back to the house. It was being sold to settle the family's estate, and the sellers were concerned that the house should go to someone who appreciates it. Who better than a preservationist and an urban planner? There were a few things, however, that we weren't really willing to tackle ourselves. The house had knob-and-tube wiring throughout, so we had an electrical crew come and and rewire bottom to top for us. They did a great job, fishing through the cellar, walls, and attic in order to preserve the maximum amount of plaster. And they finished ON TIME and in budget. Surprised? So were we, I assure you! The house had a very, very old HVAC system, so we had a contractor replace that. He had to cut the main unit apart with a blow torch to get it out of the cellar. Once all the old stuff was out, he brought in a much smaller unit that, frankly, looks more like a furnace and less like some sci-fi metal octopus! Contractor #2, on time, on budget. We probably shouldn't get too used to this, I'm guessing!

Monday, August 08, 2005

The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round......

When we finally made the decision to scrap our efforts toward the grey house and pursue this one, we thought for sure it would no longer be on the market. Turns out maybe it was meant to be ours. At least one previous offer had fallen through because the buyers wanted the sellers to fix all sorts of things, one of which was to tear off and replace the perfectly functional slate roof. I know, I know, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up too. Other offers had not gotten any further than the negotiation stage--the sellers had a definite idea as to the types of buyers they wanted for their family home, and why not? It's gorgeous, and they wanted to make sure that it stays that way!

So I called the realtor, sure she'd tell me it was officially off the market. Instead, she mentions that the offer that had been on it had fallen through that very morning. Coincidence? We think not. We asked if we could see it again, and decided that if we still had the same good feelings about it we'd make an offer.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

How'd we get here?

Since I've already written a little about the "here," I figured I'd mention the various weirdness and coincidental occurences that enabled us to buy this house.

We'd been looking for some time, but our requirements were pretty particular. We wanted something with a little land. We wanted something OLD. We wanted something that hadn't been "updated" to within an inch of its life. Basically, we wanted something that hadn't been touched. Ever. Well, at least not for a long time.

Fast forward several months, to the day we offered on a grey farmhouse that we both loved. It was built around 1850 and, on the surface anyway, appeared to be in pretty good shape. What an eye-opener the home inspection turned out to be! Bad roof, moisture in the walls (to the point where the wallpaper in one corner was thumbtacked to the stud because the drywall had disintegrated...the sellers had thoughtfully covered this up with a fairly large and heavy piece of furniture--thank goodness we had a strong home inspector who felt that moving furniture was part of the job), drainage issues, you name it. The house had been cosmetically kept up but the major systems had been left to go downhill. We were still seriously considering it: after all, we were wanting a project house, weren't we? But in the end we couldn't make it work, so we walked away.

Funny thing is, we'd looked at the house we eventually bought earlier and had decided it required a tad too much work. So we had turned our attention to the grey house. Talk about irony! Our Victorian farmhouse is in great shape structurally. It's fairly plumb, and the sandstone foundation is laid with absolutely lovely, knife-thin mortar joints. Lovely, I tell you.

Let me tell you a little bit about what attracted us to this place. It sits at the highest point on 4 beautiful rolling acres, yet it feels completely secluded. When we initially called the realtor for a showing, she described a bit about its history, all of which made us positively salivate. Then she dropped the real bombshell: the house was being offered with all of its contents, whatever they may be, as a separate negotiable item. I'm sorry, did you say ALL of its contents? Zowie.

Here's the house:

Nice, eh? It sits on a hill (good drainage--definitely a plus) and is just surrounded by lovely mature trees. Gorgeous! It's a fairly simple Victorian farmhouse with just a hint of gingerbread. It's enough for us. We love the layout, the details inside, and the setting that we practically drooled over.

Welcome to our home!

And here's (for me) what clinched the house. The kitchen. No, I'm not kidding. I'm entirely serious about this. Most historic homes have new kitchens that look new. Nothing against nice, new kitchens, but in my opinion they don't belong in houses like this. We're waiting awhile before we do anything with this, mostly because it will probably cost big bucks, but also because we'd like to do any major work like this sensitively and using appropriate materials. Yes, we're probably crazy. Crazy about this old house! :)

Monday, August 01, 2005

So here we are

I never, ever (ever) thought I'd be a blogger. But here I am, blogging. Maybe it's because I finally feel like I have something worth blogging about! It's our new old house. We bought it in July of this year after lots of looking for something of its type. You see, we wanted a project house...something we could live in while rehabilitating it. We're not restoring it to a particular period, because we still need to be able to live in it, and I'll admit it--I'm not into cooking with wood. Nor am I into going outside to use the toilet, although the original outhouse came with the property.

Rehabilitation means that we're bringing it up to code while doing as absolutely little damage as possible. We'll rewire, do some plumbing updates, and update the HVAC system that was installed in the 40s (and which has not been changed since). Other than that, we'll make changes that are sympathetic and in keeping with the style of the house.

Well, that's it. I've blogged. Catch you later!