When it comes to old houses, a deal is in the eye of the beholder

By Tom Gocze, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 06, 2010, at 8:59 p.m.

For some sick, twisted reason, I have to look at houses for sale whether I am in the market for one or not. Fortunately, my wife shares this compulsion and we scout properties.

A couple of years ago there was a house built in the 1700s in Castine with its own family graveyard. Does it get any better than that? We were ready to sell our current, newly renovated home and take on this project. We did not go into the house; we just stopped by the side of the road and peered at it with the sick desire of people who like old houses and want to work on them.

This one would’ve required a lot of work. From the side of the road, I could see the sills were shot, there was rot in the walls that had permeated out into the siding, and the windows were in various states of disrepair. And this was from the roadside.

It was a thing of beauty, though.

We went by there a couple of weeks ago. The barn, which was connected to the house, is now gone. I suspect it was riddled with carpenter ants, rot and mold — all good old-house fun.

A friend called me a week ago to check out some plumbing that he thought had been leaking. It appears as though someone had walked into the kitchen of this building before it was renovated 15 years ago and fell through the rotted floor. They only fell about 8 inches to the slab underneath, but I am sure it still was a shock.

God, I love old houses.

We have been perusing realtor.com for the past several weeks to check out what is on the market. I am amazed at the way real estate prices have continued to adjust downward.

This makes this the proverbial buyer’s market for anyone who is looking for a home.

I like to look for the deals that are out there. Now, what I consider a deal and what you might consider a deal could be completely different. I want a house with bad wiring, plumbing, insulation, heating and cosmetics. These are things that I like to mess with. I am looking for “good bones” and a good location. It is expensive to change locations, and a good one is important.

Kitchens and bathrooms don’t bother me either. These are fun projects and I want a new bathroom that starts out new with me. That is probably a peculiar thought, but I can live in anything if it has a new bathroom!

As we look at houses, we have been peeking in the windows of single-wide and double-wide mobile homes as well as modulars. My wife loves the idea of a new house. I pine for something old that I can rebuild. She reminds me that we are both getting older and might not want to take on all the projects we tackled even as recently as 10 years ago.

She is probably right, but there are so many cool things that an old house brings to the table. Of course, it has to be the right old house for the person who is taking on the project.

If you ever saw the movie “The Money Pit” and have done over an old home, you know that the movie is more fact than fiction.

We have entertained the notion of a couple of houses that are real handyman specials. They are really rough. The “bones” are good, but everything else is going to be a project.

The cost to get such properties can be quite low, but you really need to look at it with open eyes. If you are ever going to invest money in a project house, you need a good house inspection — a good house inspection by someone who has a lot of experience.

Perhaps there are perfect deals out there, but there are always issues with older homes.

Can you live in a rehabilitation site for a couple years and-or spend two or more times what you estimated you could spend?

Steven Spielberg made that movie from personal experience, and it was more a reality show than one might think.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/08/06/living/when-it-comes-to-old-houses-a-deal-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder/ printed on July 26, 2014