...because home doesn't happen overnight.
04.29.11 / The Underdog

I dropped the “we found another house!” bomb yesterday.  And as R8chel so elegantly put it in the comments section, “What?! I don’t want to talk about estate sales when you just bought a new house!! :) Tell us more!“…I’m dying to tell you all about it.  That’s meant to be a warning.  THIS WILL BE LONG AND WORDY!  Stay with me.

As you know, we’ve been looking to downsize.  Truth be told, we’ve looked at over 20 houses in our search for a home that will lead us to financial freedom and, ultimately, a career change for me.  Most of them were foreclosures, HUD homes and short sales.  I even shared a few of the standouts here on H*T.  {In case you missed ‘em, click here, here, here and here.} You know, all House Hunters-like where they narrow down their choices to the main contenders.  On the day we found ‘the house,’ we had already seen 4 homes that day.  This home was the last on the list.  We didn’t know a thing about it except that it was an estate sale being sold as-is.  That meant no disclosures would be given and any necessary repairs would not be completed by the seller.  Sort of like a foreclosure but it was a privately-owned property, not a bank-owned property.  I had actually found the listing online myself and asked our realtor {who also happens to be my cousin} to schedule us a showing.  From the listing picture, all I could see were huge, overgrown trees and what looked to be a squatty ranch hidden behind them.  Before the showing, I tried using Google maps to see the street view of the house but it was a no go.  Not because the house hadn’t been photographed but because there were ginormous trees surrounding the property.  So many so that you couldn’t really see the house from the road.  I did pan out and noticed that the other homes in the neighborhood looked decent.  Even nice.  Which was a welcome surprise.  Up until that point, a main problem with most of the homes we liked had been the neighborhoods.  Either they were on busy four-lane roads, were next to rental apartment buildings, had unkempt homes or questionable neighbors.  We cringed at the idea of living in a home for 5 years just to pay it off and then want out because we were unhappy with our surroundings.  So discovering that this estate sale seemed to be located in a quaint little community piqued our interest…despite the fact that we had no idea what the home looked like inside or out.  And the listing price was within our budget so we thought, “Eh, why not?”

I still remember driving into the neighborhood that day thinking, “Oh my gosh.  What a beautiful, quiet, modest neighborhood hidden in the city!”  Honestly, I was expecting to drive through the area into a less desirable part of town to find the estate.  But that didn’t happen.  The estate was right in the middle of this mature neighborhood.  And it was surrounded by overgrown trees like the listing and street view had shown. Inside, the entire life contents of the previous owner were strewn about:  towels, knick-knacks, miniature dolls, dozens of paintings, dead houseplants, bed linens, etc.  It was pretty evident that an elderly person had lived there and passed away and that the estate holder had come in, grabbed what they wanted, then left.  We’re good at seeing past clutter, so although stuff was everywhere, we were able to get a good feel for the house and its layout.  The house and its fixtures looked to be original although many of the windows had been replaced.  Sagging, stained kitchen cabinets?  Check.  Matted shag green, gold and rust colored carpet?  Check.  Pink tiled bathroom?  Check.  Faded, peeling paint on the walls?  Check.  Original 1958 electrical box and service?  Check.  No central air?  Check.  In fact, other than several {but not all} windows having been replaced, it didn’t look like anything had been updated from the late 50’s.

During our showing, another realtor was bringing through a younger couple to look at the same house.  I giggled to myself watching them hold their breath and raise their eyebrows in complete silence.  Handy Hubby and I could tell they were having nothing to do with the house and smiled at each other.  Handy Hubby and I didn’t talk much about what we were seeing and thinking.  We like to take things in individually at first and then discuss pros and cons together afterwards.  Which is exactly what we did.  On the way home, we took a weaving detour through the neighborhood checking things over.  It really was a lovely little neighborhood.

Two days went by before we made the decision to put in an offer.  Even though the home was completely outdated, it looked to be structurally sound, had a good flow to it and was on a decent sized lot.  Had it been in any other neighborhood, we maybe would have passed.  It was obviously the black sheep of the ‘hood.  We put in an offer $14,000 below the asking price {which was already below the appraisal value and within our budget but we had nothing to lose} and waited.  We were told by the listing agent that the estate holders lived in North Carolina and it would take a few days to hear back.  Two days later, our offer was accepted.  Just like that.  The only stipulation was the closing date.  They needed more time to organize an estate sale and we obliged.  Besides we had another home to sell anyways.

Once the sales contract was signed, we had a professional home inspector inspect the house.  As we guessed, there were issues with the home because of its age and condition:  termite damage {although nothing that compromised the stability of the structure}, a few small roof leaks, outdated electrical service, no bathroom fans, a dryer that vented into the attic, insufficient attic insulation, exterior tripping hazards, a cracking driveway, and large trees dangerously close to the structure.  We also had a radon test run which revealed higher than recommended levels of radon in the home.  One good thing we discovered…we had the entire house professionally tested for lead contamination {since it had been built in the 50’s} which came back completely negative.  This was great news as neither Handy Hubby or I wanted to expose our kids to toxic levels of lead.  We would have taken special precautions to keep them away from construction dust, but the findings of this lead test would make projects so much easier…and healthier.  Which is awesome because we have big plans for this little house.

Are you ready to see it?  Our next house?  Remember we weren’t looking for our dream house but rather the house in which to pursue our dreams.  Here she be…

{the house actually extends another 20 feet to the right but all those darn trees in the front yard make picture taking difficult!}

Is she everything you thought she’d be and more?!  Hehe.  Yes, those are wood shutters.  She’s an all brick, 3 bedroom, 2 full bath ranch with roughly 1,670 square feet of living space.  Never in my life did I think we’d ever end up in a ranch. {Handy Hubby prefers bedrooms on the second floor.} But there you go.  There’s also an attached 2-car garage. The lot is about 0.4 acres, so a little less than a half acre.  She needs a lot of work – which I’ll detail in a future post – but she’s got a lot of potential too.  She’s ‘The Underdog.’  She doesn’t have a lot of character or charming features, but we’re pretty sure she’ll shine up nicely.  Unlike many of the other older homes that we toured, this one hasn’t been touched.  While upgrades are nice to look at, we’re always a little leery of hidden, subpar home improvement projects.  We’d rather do it ourselves or pay someone we trust to do it so that we know for sure it was done correctly.  And we like the fact that we are free to put our mark on this gal and make her ours.  And did I mention that she’s well within our budget…even with the repairs and upgrades needed?  Fantastic.

There is one caveat.  We have yet to sell our current home.  We’ve had 5 open houses, over a dozen showings, tons of interest and even one offer.  The offer actually came to us within a week of listing, but it fell through when the potential buyer realized his quad-cab truck wouldn’t fit into the garage lengthwise.  Wanna know the part where my jaw dropped?  He admitted to only driving the big ol’ truck two times per year…on vacation and at Christmas.  To me, that seemed like an easy fix:  sell the gas hog and put the $$ towards the mortgage!  Or, at the least, just park it in the driveway.  But we all have our things.  Some of us like house stuff and some of us like to own big trucks that we drive twice a year and keep cozy in a custom garage the other 350+ days of the year.  Who am I to judge?  So, we’re diligently working at selling our current home…by owner.  We clean, we put up for sale signs, we distribute flyers, we put ads in local papers, we hold open houses every Sunday that we can, we re-put up signs every other day when storms blow them down, sometimes we fish said mossy signs out of ponds and creeks and restake them, we email local realtors and we sometimes work and sleep.  Fortunately, we are lucky enough to be able to afford our current house payment and new house payment {which is peanuts really} simultaneously if we have to.  The idea of living in our current home while some of the more major projects are completed in the ‘new’ home does appeal to us.  But if we are forced out of our current home before then, we have options:  living in a mess, my Dad’s basement, or renting.  I guess we’ll cross that bridge when and if we get to it.

Right now, we’re just really excited about taking over ownership of ‘The Underdog’ on Monday!  And having all of those ridiculously overgrown trees taken out.  Oh!  And taking pictures of the house empty inside for you all to see.  The idea of posting pictures of a deceased person’s belongings all over the internet seemed a tad disrespectful.  So stay tuned for shag carpet, pink bathrooms and peeling paint…

image:  Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

39 Comments

29.April.2011

this is all too exciting. i can’t wait to see!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! congrats!

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29.April.2011

Love the ranch! There is so much you can do with it. DH and I are in the midst of remodeling… it has gotten to be a REALLY slow process.

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29.April.2011

Congrats!! It looks like a great house and soon you will make it into your home! I can’t wait to see all the befores and afters! Best of luck selling your current home!
Kelly

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29.April.2011

Soooooo dang exciting! Congrats on a fantastic project! I cannot wait to see progress!

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29.April.2011

Congratulations on your new house! I look forward to following your progress. As another Cincinnatian, I am wondering what neighborhood you selected? There are some gems out there.

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replied on April 29th, 2011

Heather – We’re actually moving a little further north, so we’ll be closer to Dayton. Handy Hubby works north of Dayton, so his commute will be shorter.

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29.April.2011

Congratulations Dana! I can’t wait to see the inside. And I love how you call it “the house to pursue our dreams.” It’s perfect.

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29.April.2011

Yes – where are you moving to??? Hopefully not far!

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29.April.2011

That’s awesome. Your comment about the home not being your dream home but the one you can pursue your dreams in is so great! I really like that way of thinking and need to think that way more about my house! Congrats and hope you guys sell your current home soon!

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That’s so exciting! Congrats! And good luck with selling your current house!

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29.April.2011

we live in a 1950s-era home, too, modestly sized and great for a family of 4! How exciting for you, I hope you can have a little overlap between purchase and sale, it will be much easier and safer for the boys…but not too long, either! A number of our friends who’ve moved have leased their homes when they moved out of the area, hoping to wait out the price/sales slump…

Will you have to downsize furniture, too, or will what you have now work in the new home?

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replied on April 29th, 2011

Carole – We will have to let go of many furniture pieces just because we aren’t going to have the square footage for it. We’re in the process of figuring out what pieces will make the move and which won’t. Lots of measuring!

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This sounds identical to our homebuying experience. My husband and I just turned 28 years old and we bought our first home last May. It was an estate sale because the elderly lady who owned it passed away. We bid way under the asking price and got it (much to the real estate agent’s surprise). It was built in 1928 and we’re only the 3rd owners in 82 years. We’re going on 11 months of renovating and removing the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s decor to make it our own. We’re young but we could see the gem of a house under the old decor and clutter. My hubby’s a carpenter and so we went straight to work on the place. It’s been a hard but fun process. Can’t wait to see the “before” pictures of your house soon!

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29.April.2011

I’m so happy for you. But to be perfectly honest, I’m so happy for ME! As the owner of my own 50’s ranch, I cannot wait to see what you do with it. Bring on the inspiration!

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Congrats!!! I totally applaud your decision to downsize! It’s an idea I’ve toyed around with a few times myself. Can’t wait to see what you do with this house!

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29.April.2011

We just moved from a ranch (ours was 1200sf) to a two story. While I am excited to move to my “dream” home (with a dream price thanks to the market) I do miss the simplicity of a ranch. There is a reason why so many ranches are built. They are easy to maintain and work! Congratulations. I love your blog so I’m looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

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Dana this is so awesome!!! Congrats to you & your family. Now you can follow your dreams….best part. Lots of luck to you & your family. Can’t wait to follow your journey!

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29.April.2011

Very exciting! Congratulations! I’m looking forward to seeing the woes & wonders of a renovation. I think you found a gem. Good luck on selling your current home.

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29.April.2011

I grew up in a brick ranch house and love them. I can’t wait to see you & HH work your magic on her. She’s classic!

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29.April.2011

Oh my goodness Im so excited to see the before & after pics! We live in a home similar & have for a year & we are just now getting around to working on it & making it “our own” I cant wait to get some inspiration from you on your much smaller home!

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30.April.2011

Congratulations!!! I can’t wait to see what you do with her….

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exciting!!! Can’t wait to see more!!!

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30.April.2011

Congrats again on your new home! It sounds like just the perfect project house for your family — it’ll allow you to do the renovations that you really WANT to do, be in an awesome neighborhood, and ultimately reach your goal of a paid-off house. What a huge blessing!

Joseph and I are in the process of purchasing our first home. It has many similarities to yours, though in a different part of the state. It’s definitely older, though well maintained. Eventually we’ll be doing all the things you mentioned — replacing that lovely carpet, replacing windows, lots and lots of paint … new kitchen and bathrooms. But we’re excited. I can’t wait to follow your journey and get inspiration for my own home!

Emma
City Roots, Country Life

PS — I’m already planning on implementing that kitchen towel hanger idea you posted a while back … what a great idea!

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30.April.2011

Congrats on finding the house, I am so happy for you.

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30.April.2011

Congrats!! I never thought I’d want a ranch either, but my hubby and I ended up buying a 1250 square foot brick ranch as our first home. Enjoy the adventures ahead!!

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30.April.2011

Congrats and let the “FUN” begin! Wishing you a Happy house fixing up…
K

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30.April.2011

Congrats! We bought a 50’s ranch (or rambler as we call them here in Minnesota :) as our starter home, thinking we’d be in it for less than five years. Eight years later, three kids, and we’re still here! It’s a definitely a challenge making a small house work for a modern family, but I’m actually starting to enjoy it – I hope you do too! (Also, if you’re looking for inspiration http://www.retrorenovation.com is one of my faves for 50’s houses.) Can’t wait to see what you do with yours!

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30.April.2011

So excited to see photos of the inside, and, more importantly, to see what you guys do with the place! Very exciting!

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30.April.2011

yay!!! congrats! i bet it feels so good to finally know where you are heading next! :)

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I bet you will do great things with it…how fun!!! Looking forward to seeing the transition ;)

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01.May.2011

Congrats on the new home!! I’ve been following your blog for a while now and am a BIG fan. Can’t wait to read all your future posts about making this one perfect for your family.

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01.May.2011

Hi Dana, Check out this ranch style:
http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/384903?utm_campaign=updates&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery0&d=0&w=228483

great inspiring ideas
Desiree

Houzz Tour: Restored Eichler on the Waterfront

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replied on May 1st, 2011

Desiree – That’s a pretty amazing ranch!! I love the way it’s connected to the outdoors. Those vaulted ceilings don’t hurt either. Not sure we could afford all that…but it is a great inspiration.

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01.May.2011

So excited for you! Can’t wait to see what you start with and what you end up doing!

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01.May.2011

So excited to see what you do with it! It’s bursting with potential!

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22.November.2011

Beautiful! Being from MI, I absolutely love brick houses.

Having suffered from (continuing) serious environmental health issues as a result of a home I lived in 2 years ago–I have one concern about the as is/no disclosures aspect of the sale. There is a saying that environmental inspectors have: “Where there is water, there is mold.” You mentioned leaks from the roof (water damage) and an improperly ventilated dryer (air which is moist, going into an attic–definitely fodder for mold growth), as well as unventilated bathrooms, but didn’t mention having had a mold inspection for mold growth/biotoxin levels. Mold neurotoxins and toxic black mold (which most often is invisible) are just as as dangerous and hazardous as lead (if not more so), both for adults and children alike.

3 years ago, I was in perfect health and I, too thought I had found my dream home (which was only 7 years old), which had no visible growth or smell in it, whatsoever–but ended up being loaded with stachybotris black mold which had me hospitalized 5 times and nearly killed me. Even today, after 2 years of recovery, I have sustained numerous health problems and damage to all systems (including neurological, cardiovascular and immune) which may never fully heal, as a result of mold biotoxin poisoning. I cannot return to the field of work I loved dearly, and my life has irrevocably changed, in infinite ways. The lesson I learned from that house? To listen to my body, and: “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.”

Out of concern for your highest and best interest–I highly recommend having not just the generic spore count, but specific tests done for tricothecene (specific mold biotoxin) levels, as well as vacuum tests being done in the walls, ceilings and ventilation systems. Since you are on a cement slab, that takes away the petri dish raised foundation danger–but unless you plan on completely replacing the roof and tearing down the walls, I highly recommend that you get these checked, for the health, safety and well-being of your family. That way, if it is needed, you can properly remediate your new home so that it can be a safe space and truly embody and be a vehicle for your dreams.

Check out the book “Mold Warriors,” by Dr. Richard Shoemaker and “Mold Illness and Remediation Made Simple,” by Dr. James Schaller. (Which has a great checklist of symptoms, as well as photos of what to look for in structures, etc.) Dr. Shoemaker’s site: http://www.survivingmold.com/, is also a great resource.

Wishing you healthy and joyous experiences in your new home, for years to come!

Many blessings to you, and thank you for your loving service to humanity via the endless creativity and inspiration you offer through your wonderful site.

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22.November.2011

By the way, forgot to mention that the leaks don’t need to be active for there to be growth, nor does the space need to be wet. All there needs to be is initial water damage for the spores to grow and then organic material present, like wood, paper, drywall or earth, etc., and they can continue to grow for decades. Darkness and lack of ventilation can expedite the process, but isn’t always necessary.

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Is the house 1670 square feet on the main level? Or does that include the basement?

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replied on May 22nd, 2012

The 1,670 sq ft is the main level only as the house does not have a basement. That does include the garage which is not inhabitable! So, we’re talking less than 1,500 sq ft total living space.

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