Monday, December 26, 2011

House Hunters

Marc Gup of Keller Williams and Edie
Do you watch that show on HGTV?  Do you think that finding the right house really just means looking at 3 different properties and picking the right one?  Ha!  That’s not the way it works in real life.  Despite having a great realtor - Marc Gup with Keller Williams - we’ve seen some doozies.  We think of them as the good, the bad and the ugly – but mostly ugly!  Remember, we don’t want to buy a nice house.  We want one that needs fixing up and will allow a profit margin.  So we tend to look at the dogs of the market.  Houses that have been sitting for a long time or are too scary to generate much traffic.    Here are some highlights:

The Hoarders – We looked at a two unit on a busy street, that supposedly had a great rental history.  But when we got inside, we felt like we were in an episode of A&E’s Hoarders TV show.  The owner’s daughter chain-smoked cigarettes next to a baby in a play pen as we meandered through a narrow aisle formed by boxes stacked 4 feet high.  Marc pointed out a fireplace…..but it was tough to find it behind the boxes of Hummels and other tchotchkes. The bedroom ceilings had so much joint compound troweled on them, it looked like stalactites dripping down.  But the lowlight was the basement.  After wandering down a dark, nasty hallway, we found an illegal apartment that looked like it had been ransacked by a wandering band of Vikings.  Papers, boxes and their contents were strewn across the floor.  The bathroom was too scary to enter.  Marc said it wasn’t the worst house he’s ever seen – but it was 2nd worst! We’re glad we didn’t have the pleasure of seeing that one! We thought we’d take a pass on the ‘Hoarder Horror.’

Short Sale 

We saw a short sale that we liked.  It had a nice floor plan with a big kitchen.  There was also a first floor bedroom with bath.  It had real potential. But there were a few quirks as well.  There was an interesting deck with a drop off to nowhere (maybe a link to an old ghetto pool - definition:  sad, above ground pool that's long past its useful life).  And as we checked with the town on past permits and zoning, we discovered the previous owners had a permit to grow mushrooms in the basement…..really?  Is that a big business opportunity?  How wet and dark must a basement be for mushroom cultivation?  Go figure.  And yet despite admonitions from bankers, lawyers and accountants about the difficulties inherent in short sales, we still made an offer on this one. Ultimately, an earlier bidder got the house.

The Tear Down - We looked at a small house in a great location – right across the street from the beach.  It had been in the same family for generations and they were ready to sell.  But those generations had never thrown anything away and this was a close second to the other hoarder’s home.  But what really made it a ‘no’?  Joist spacing ranged from 20 – 28”, creating structural issues and bouncy floors.  And did I mention the water in the basement?  Not just a damp corner or two.  Water, flowing, with a sump pump in the corner that can’t keep up.  The owner’s response – the basement is below sea level.  You have to expect that.  We decided against this one as well and kept looking.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Are we Crazy?

We love to renovate houses.  We’ve done it lots of times – including a 1790’s colonial farmhouse in Maryland, an Arts and Crafts home in New Jersey and a Georgian mansion in Maine.  Our kids can’t remember life without a shop vac in plain sight.  This is a passion that we want to indulge.

But can we make a business of it?  We’ve quit our jobs, moved to Maine and are giving it a try.  We started SoPo Cottage LLC and are looking for the perfect property to get started.

And we thought we’d chronicle our adventures.  We look forward to sharing our experience and hearing your thoughts (and hopefully encouragement) along the way.

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