I love old houses, but...

Maybe it’s because the house I grew up in was a grand old 1917 Victorian, lush gardens with hydrangeas and roses, porte cochere over front stairs, stucco; plaster walls, 10’ ceilings, wood floors with patterns around room perimeters, fluted walnut columns at entry to DR and also music room, DR with skilled millwork on the wood paneling up to the plate rack, as well as a wood coffered ceiling, grand staircase from foyer to 2nd floor, second staircase from kitchen to 2nd floor, heavy wood pocket doors with true divided lights at entry to formal LR, large windows welcoming lots of sunlight except when the drapes were closed to keep out drafts, etc,
or maybe the old houses are just intrinsically more attractive, but I sure do love them.

Anyway, I’m currently renting, and checking zillow every day just in case something appropriate for purchase turns up, and a couple of days ago a perfect house popped up:

  • Built in 1910, all brick, large windows, transoms and sidelights where the glass is comprised of small beveled pieces (similar to stained glass, except all the glass is clear and not colored), grand staircase, all the woodwork that’s typical of high-end houses of that era, etc
  • Perfect location, just a few blocks from downtown (very easy walk), on a tree-lined street where most of the other historic houses have been converted to law offices on the 1st floor with apartments upstairs, or multi-family; but a few (including this one) are still single family.
  • 2-car garage (in not great shape) in back, with room to replace it with a 3-car garage for DH.

I was thinking it wouldn’t take much to bring it up to its potential:

  • New kitchen, new bathrooms, move laundry to 2nd floor; can all be done while preserving the original wood features. Except, I would remove the wall between the LR and the kitchen, and expand the opening between the DR and the kitchen, so those room-to-room transitions would have to be re-done, and carefully, to look attractive and true to the existing style of the house. Modern floor plan and vintage charm, best of both worlds.
  • Woodwork needs a good cleaning. A few years ago, before putting my 1950’s house on the market, I cleaned all the knotty pine paneling in the basement with hot water, Simple Green, and a scrub brush. Rinsed with clear water. Wiped with Old English furniture oil. Looked great. So, I could do that here, one section at a time, over the course of many months. Spend mornings cleaning, and afternoons hammering out new floor plans on paper.
  • Existing landscaping is blah, so that would all have to be redone.

Anyway, about a year cleaning and planning, another year under construction, and the result would be glorious! A house I’d be thrilled to live in, at least until I can’t do stairs any more. Well, there is a 1st floor library, that if push comes to shove could be converted to a BR…

But then reality set in. I put a lot of elbow grease into all the houses I’ve lived in so far, but do I want to do that again? No, not really.
Plus, it would be expensive. It would wipe out most of our savings, and/or saddle us with a huge mortgage. For what? A fantasy. I’ve done enough projects over the years that started out small, that seemed simple in concept, and then grew in time, effort, and expense, that I know by now that I can’t just envision something and wave a magic wand. This isn’t HGTV.
I’ve also done enough projects to know that I never recoup the expense on resale. Sure, the house looks great and sells quickly, and for more than it would otherwise, but not enough to pay for the improvements. Not to mention, I never get my time back.

So, DH & I are pretty much agreed: he’ll never have his dream car, and I’ll never have my dream house. Old age is just one door after another closing. * sigh *

The house I grew up in? When my parents bought it, the previous owner left all the furniture, said, “So long, house!” then went to live with his daughter. Died within a year.


Some people enjoy buying a fixer upper and improving it. It can be lots of work. Or require a healthy budget. I think thats for the young or at least young at heart.

Theres something to be said for a move in quality home. Much fewer hassles. And no hurry. Plenty of time to take on improvements when you are ready.

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Yeah, even DIY it can be expensive. I agree that it isn’t worth sinking your life savings into it, because then what would you have to live on?

Maybe you could find your dream home in a lower cost of living area?