Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

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Topic Author
elrc21
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Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by elrc21 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm

We are thinking about moving from a subdivision on the edge of town (small college town, pop = 70k) to an older home in the historic district of the "downtown" area. Here is our current financial situation and the pros/cons of making this move, as I see it. I would love to read any comments you may have. Thank you!

Finances:
- Family of four. Ages 37/36/5/2
- LCOL area
- Very close to paying off all debt except mortgage. ~$10k left but most of that is at 0%
- Total income is $165k/yr (actual paychecks total $8300/mo)
- Currently $27k/yr to 401ks (counting employer matches) (planned to increase this)
- Maxing $12k/yr to roths
- At least $5-10k/yr to savings (just started this, planned to increase this)
- Owe $170k on house worth $315k, so we could walk away with ~$125k (more if I don't use a realtor)
- $6k in savings now
- ~$480k in retirement accounts now
- The two cars we own should be good for the next 8-10yrs
- His/Her jobs are stable with 3-5% raise every year
- Three years of daycare ($11k/yr) left on the youngest
- Currently we are three years in to a 15yr mortgage, paying $1,700/mo
- Would expect to pay ~$500k for the downtown home and put ~$125k down, so a payment of ~$2,170/mo on a 30yr note
- After playing with the numbers, I think we could make extra payments and have it paid off in 17yrs, realistically

Pros of moving:
- The downtown house would be walking distance to His job, kids elementary school, best park in town, best "nightlife" street in town, University sporting events, lots of restaurants/coffee/etc., and one block from an amazing bike path. Our current home has nothing within walking distance.
- It's a pretty amazing historic home. Same size as current house (2700 sqft). Already upgraded enough for foreseeable future. New kitchen/HVAC/bathrooms
- Our current subdivision has a solid POA and almost all homes (over 100 of them) are well kept and the neighborhood looks nice, but we do have some rougher neighborhoods nearby that are loud and we have had some theft (get into unlocked cars or steal packages from porch)
- We have more homes being rented each year
- Our side of town is becoming the college kids rental area
- The main road toward our subdivision is scheduled for three years worth of construction, after which it will be really nice but this is going to be bad
- Our current house is just now 14 years old, so I expect roof/water heater/etc will soon need replaced?

Cons of moving:
- The payment on the 30yr mortgage seems high for our income, right? ($2170/$8300 = 26% of our monthly take-home pay)
- Paying $600/month more in mortgage interest sucks
- Our current home has needed minimal maintenance (but will need some soon?). Will this "historic" (1870's) home need a lot? UPDATE: I’ve learned the house was taken down to the studs in 1997 and all electrical and plumbing was replaced. Brand new HVAC system. Roof is 2003 so probably needs replaced soon.
- Our current home is single story. The three bedrooms in the downtown home are all on second story
- There is no garage at the downtown house and the driveway starts with a steep upward pitch. There is space to build a garage if we wanted to
- Visitors would need to park on the street and walk up ~28 steps to get to our front door

I really appreciate any advice, comments, food for thought, etc
Last edited by elrc21 on Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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unclescrooge
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by unclescrooge » Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:38 pm

Life is a series of trade-offs.

Is having a historic home in an interesting part of town more valuable to you than living in soulless suburbia?

It sounds like it is. Would you be willing to work an extra 5 or 10 years to offset this extra cost?

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midareff
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by midareff » Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:40 pm

The downtown house would be walking distance to His job, kids elementary school, best park in town, best "nightlife" street in town, University sporting events, lots of restaurants/coffee/etc., and one block from an amazing bike path. Our current home has nothing within walking distance.
- It's a pretty amazing historic home. Same size as current house (2700 sqft). Already upgraded enough for foreseeable future. New kitchen/HVAC/bathrooms

and it seems you can afford it, I'd jump.

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El Greco
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by El Greco » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:25 pm

It sounds like you would really prefer to live in the historic home, and from your description, I don't blame you. So do it! Your financial situation seems good. When I was a little younger than you I bought a large, updated 1920's home with a lot of style and beautiful craftsmanship. It was over our price range and we had to borrow from family to swing it in addition to a 10% APR mortgage, but our income and career prospects were good, so we did it. We always joke that we bought our second home first.

We still live in the same home 30 years later and have not regretted it for one minute. In a couple of years we will be selling to move to a lower cost of living area in a warmer state and will doubtlessly be buying a new or relatively new home. I think we will be happy but I know we will always look back fondly at our old "beauty".

fru-gal
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by fru-gal » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:45 pm

Leap on it.

delamer
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by delamer » Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:07 pm

How much noise and nuisance crimes would you expect being closer to the university and downtown? It could be that the noise and minor crimes wouldn’t diminish.

Could you get zoning permission to build a garage? And what’s the weather like? How inconvenient would a lack of garage be in the winter or rainy season?

It’s likely that the older home will be more expensive to maintain. And possibly higher utilities depending on insulation and window quality.

Despite all the questions above, I understand the appeal of the move.

Good luck with your decision.

Vanguard Fan 1367
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by Vanguard Fan 1367 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:23 pm

My wife and I decided we had to have an historic home downtown, built in 1924.

After a while we decided that too much needed replacing to meet my wife's high standards. The amount we would need to put into fixing would be far above what we could get out of it including the original house purchase price.

So thankfully as a Boglehead I hate to pour money down a hole so we found a 10 year old house that met her high standards. She is much happier in this house than in the older one needing lots of upgrades.

You say that your proposed historic house is well updated. I would recommend that you research that thoroughly. After we bought the house the nationally known insurance company cancelled our insurance because our plumbing and electricity was 1960 vintage and that was too old for them. I wish they would have thought of that before we bought the house but they did what they did. After some initial panic we did find a lesser known company that would insure the white elephant.

PhilosophyAndrew
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by PhilosophyAndrew » Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:36 pm

OP, based on your description it seems clear that you would prefer to live in the other home. A few questions:

+Does the rest of your family agree with your preference?

+For how long are you likely to remain in this area?

+Are you likely to want to “trade up” houses again?

+ How solid is your understanding of the maintenance needs of the historic house? How easy will it be for you to meet those needs, both financially and logistically?

+ What are your financial plans if either you or your spouse is laid off and can’t find work for some months? Could your family remain in the historic house? What about your current house?

+ How commonly do interesting houses come on the market in the downtown area that interests you? Have you considered waiting for a less expensive historic home in that area?

I hope these questions are useful to you!


Andy.

Olemiss540
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by Olemiss540 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:40 pm

6K in savings and 10k in debt? Nope

Turn this into 50k in savings and 0 in debt and you should be good to go. I would try to bump retirement savings rates up a bit to the 50k arena but if you want to work to 60+, than I can understand prioritizing a house. Honestly, you seem on track, but a move like this can easily cipher 30k from your net worth by the time you have finished the transaction and you just cant stomach that with your small pile of cash IMO.

Keep pushing for 3 years and I am sure you will be easily able to pull the trigger!
I hold index funds because I do not overestimate my ability to pick stocks OR stock pickers.

Compound
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by Compound » Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:09 pm

I’m hearing a lot of plans for increased savings, but those plans haven’t materialized yet. I’d be much more comfortable with the plan if you’d already executed those increased savings plans over a couple of years and then made the housing move.

While the finances seem doable, I’m not liking this move based on what I’m hearing. This new house sounds very much like a want rather than a need. As such, I’d treat it as discretionary spending with a very high threshold for pulling the trigger.

mortfree
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by mortfree » Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:18 pm

Lead paint?

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F150HD
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by F150HD » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:03 pm

an older home in the historic district
no garage..... :(

having owned a 100+ year old home, you may want to prime yourself on maintenance of such property before taking any leap. On old old homes one cannot just walk into 'Home Depot' buy part "X" and go home and install it to fix problem "Y". It just doesn't work that way.

Things that come to mind: knob and tube wiring (hard to insure, if at all), galvanized piping (bad), insufficient roof ventilation (no formal soffits etc), and old newspaper for insulation (if that), foundation is made of....? (important, as is drainage). Maybe 'all' of this was remedied at some point hopefully....but worth thinking about.

But, if an old home is your thing, and one doesn't mind the time investment to work on it, give it due consideration.

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MP123
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by MP123 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:07 pm

You have $6k in savings? Emergency fund?

That's concerning. Perhaps a typo, the rest of your situation sounds reasonable.

A house built in the 1870s is likely to require much more maintenance than your current home. Of course the walkability factor makes up for some of that.

You should think about whether you're prepared to pay bills in the many thousands of dollars range to maintain the place. A new roof or heating system will be waaaay more than $6k.

If the savings number is correct I think you need to wait until you have more. Good job on the retirement accounts and the rest that you're doing.

WS1
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by WS1 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:22 pm

DO IT

Maybe 2% of Americans have the opportunity to live in a truly walkable community that fits their desired level of safety and school quality.

But maybe I’m biased because I think everything developed post WW2 was a mistake and needs a do-over.

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elrc21
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by elrc21 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:54 pm

Thank you all for the replies so far. This has been helpful. My wife and I viewed the downtown house tonight and it isn't perfect. Updates include the kitchen (really nice), bathrooms (nice but small, and that's ok), HVAC (all new system and metal ducts), plumbing (I don't have details on this yet), water heater,
unclescrooge wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:38 pm
Would you be willing to work an extra 5 or 10 years to offset this extra cost?
My spreadsheet tells me we would need to work at least 2-3 more years to reach a comfortable FI number. But honestly we both like our jobs and I don't see a problem with this trade off.
delamer wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:07 pm
How much noise and nuisance crimes would you expect being closer to the university and downtown? It could be that the noise and minor crimes wouldn’t diminish.

Could you get zoning permission to build a garage? And what’s the weather like? How inconvenient would a lack of garage be in the winter or rainy season?

It’s likely that the older home will be more expensive to maintain. And possibly higher utilities depending on insulation and window quality.

Despite all the questions above, I understand the appeal of the move.

Good luck with your decision.
These are all good questions. Noise could be an issue here but we would expect that living downtown. The house sits about 35' above street level so my guess is that people will hesitate to hike up the hill and check our car doors, for example. Other types of crime I'm not sure about. This house is surrounded by other historic homes and a large church. The street in front is busy and there are apartments not far away.

I have no idea about a permit for a garage. I may call the city tomorrow to inquire - thank you. We occasionally get snow in the winter. Ice storms are more likely. We have a garage now and don't park in it, if that tells you anything. The downtown home has a decent sized shed and unfinished basement with exterior door, so can store lawn mower and much more.
Vanguard Fan 1367 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:23 pm
After a while we decided that too much needed replacing to meet my wife's high standards. The amount we would need to put into fixing would be far above what we could get out of it including the original house purchase price.

So thankfully as a Boglehead I hate to pour money down a hole so we found a 10 year old house that met her high standards. She is much happier in this house than in the older one needing lots of upgrades.

You say that your proposed historic house is well updated. I would recommend that you research that thoroughly. After we bought the house the nationally known insurance company cancelled our insurance because our plumbing and electricity was 1960 vintage and that was too old for them. I wish they would have thought of that before we bought the house but they did what they did. After some initial panic we did find a lesser known company that would insure the white elephant.
I'm really glad you posted this. My wife and I have been having a deep discussion about what she would expect, budget wise, for updates in the first few years. It's definitely an issue for us.
I wonder if I could have someone from our insurance company come look at the house? I have some report from the inspection shown to them to make sure they have no issue with anything?
PhilosophyAndrew wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:36 pm
+Does the rest of your family agree with your preference?

+For how long are you likely to remain in this area?

+Are you likely to want to “trade up” houses again?

+ How solid is your understanding of the maintenance needs of the historic house? How easy will it be for you to meet those needs, both financially and logistically?

+ What are your financial plans if either you or your spouse is laid off and can’t find work for some months? Could your family remain in the historic house? What about your current house?

+ How commonly do interesting houses come on the market in the downtown area that interests you? Have you considered waiting for a less expensive historic home in that area?
-Wife loves it too. We've been in our current house for almost 9 years and this is the first house we've gone to look at. It makes us both a little nervous to jump to a new house without shopping around (we haven't looked at any other houses) but at the moment I don't see any others for sale that we interested in.

-We will be involved with the elementary school (2 blocks away) for the next 8 years. I don't see why we would move, even after the kids move out. It isn't huge but perhaps we downsize at some point if it makes sense to do it.

-No trading up in our future. We don't want a huge house. And you can't beat this location.

-I've watched a few episodes of "this old house" but really don't have a solid understanding of maintenance. I'm fairly handy though. I installed (glued down) 1800 sqft of engineered hardwood floors in our current house, for example. And I have a good friend that is the executive director of a massive restoration project in a nearby historic community.

-I know stuff happens, but we have both been in our current jobs for 13-14yrs. Counting Roth IRA contributions, we will have $30k emergency funds at the end of this year. After two more years we will have $75k. Five years from now we will have $165k. That's the plan anyway. So if we got laid off right after buying it we would be in a bind. Should be ok after 3-4yrs.

-They do pop up occasionally (one every 2-3 months?). We see one that sold for $540 this past April that is nicer than the one we're looking at now. Most of them are in the $600-800k range. A handful are between $300-500k but are really outdated and/or not historic. Like, 1960's vintage homes with bad layouts and zero curb appeal.

Thanks! really helpful.
Olemiss540 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:40 pm
6K in savings and 10k in debt? Nope

Turn this into 50k in savings and 0 in debt and you should be good to go. I would try to bump retirement savings rates up a bit to the 50k arena but if you want to work to 60+, than I can understand prioritizing a house. Honestly, you seem on track, but a move like this can easily cipher 30k from your net worth by the time you have finished the transaction and you just cant stomach that with your small pile of cash IMO.

Keep pushing for 3 years and I am sure you will be easily able to pull the trigger!
I hear you. Until we started looking at this house we were laser focused on debt. Our older daughter starts at public school next week so that's an extra $1k/mo we have to work with, so maybe it's already burning a hole in my pocket. But, looking at my spreadsheet, even if we pull the trigger on this house we should have a $30k emergency fund at the end of this year (counting IRA contributions that could be withdrawn penalty free - not ideal but accessible in an emergency). I agree that a large amount will be ciphered off our net worth. The agent selling the house (we just met her tonight and she is not our agent, yet) offered to sell ours for no commission if we use her to buy the new house. We would still need to pay a buyer agent when selling ours, however. Seems like a good deal? that would save us $10k. We may, in fact, wait for a few years as you suggest. I can't decide.
F150HD wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:03 pm
an older home in the historic district
no garage..... :(

having owned a 100+ year old home, you may want to prime yourself on maintenance of such property before taking any leap. On old old homes one cannot just walk into 'Home Depot' buy part "X" and go home and install it to fix problem "Y". It just doesn't work that way.

Things that come to mind: knob and tube wiring (hard to insure, if at all), galvanized piping (bad), insufficient roof ventilation (no formal soffits etc), and old newspaper for insulation (if that), foundation is made of....? (important, as is drainage). Maybe 'all' of this was remedied at some point hopefully....but worth thinking about.

But, if an old home is your thing, and one doesn't mind the time investment to work on it, give it due consideration.
All good points. I'm pretty ignorant of all this. I need to find out about wiring and piping (gas?) in the home. She mentioned a lot of work was done to the fire places and they all now have working gas units, so it's possible they updated piping. The roof looks pretty old - I didn't notice ventilation. Not sure about insulation, will ask. The current owners had some piers installed in the basement to help support foundation. The agent said this was just a precaution and not installed due to foundation issues. Obviously I'll have an inspection done and take a close look at this. The basement was completely dry - I didn't see any drainage issues but would want this inspected, for sure. Thank you!

Topic Author
elrc21
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by elrc21 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:03 pm

MP123 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:07 pm
You have $6k in savings? Emergency fund?

That's concerning. Perhaps a typo, the rest of your situation sounds reasonable.

A house built in the 1870s is likely to require much more maintenance than your current home. Of course the walkability factor makes up for some of that.

You should think about whether you're prepared to pay bills in the many thousands of dollars range to maintain the place. A new roof or heating system will be waaaay more than $6k.

If the savings number is correct I think you need to wait until you have more. Good job on the retirement accounts and the rest that you're doing.
Not a typo :|

We have put all of our cash toward debt and Roth IRA for the last couple years. And daycare has been brutal for almost three years now ($23k/yr!!!). The $6k was enough to cover one month in an emergency and then the plan was to pull from IRA contributions if absolutely necessary. If we buy this house, and no emergency happens before 2020, we will have a $30k emergency fund (counting IRA cont). That number will go up quickly now that bad debt is gone and daycare is cut in half.

rascott
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by rascott » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:39 pm

I've owned a 25yr old home, a brand new home, and two homes that are nearing 100 years old (including my current one).

The 25 year old one was the worst....as I got to be the one to do all the boring upgrades. The old homes have been noticeably better built....and most of the big $ stuff (mechanical, exterior work, windows, etc) had been modernized.

The brand new home was the worst built....I sold it 3 years after it was built. Maybe wrong, but really hard for me to see how it will be even standing in 100 years.

Point being....old houses CAN end up costing more, but if it's already been updated with your mechanicals (plumbing/electrical) there is no reason it should be more costly than any other home.

I would go for it, assuming you aren't walking into a money pit that needs all of these things upgraded. We have loved living in a mature, old area filled with history and being centrally located. Price appreciation has done much, much better than suburbia too....the trend is definitely towards re-urbanization.

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Watty
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by Watty » Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:18 pm

Aside from all the questions about if you should buy it I would really doubt that you could make the deal work if you wanted to.

The problem is that it would likely take you a couple of months to get your current house on the market and get it sold(at best) and you don't have any obvious way to buy the next house before you sell your current house.

In most areas an offer to buy a home that is contingent on the sale of your house will not be accepted especially if your current house is not already under contract.

How would you make the deal work?

smectym
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by smectym » Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:09 am

“Historic” and “Walkable” are marketing cliches. I wouldn’t fall for them. Stay in the blah subdivision: that’s where real life is lived.

Northern Flicker
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by Northern Flicker » Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:20 am

Do you really need 2700 sq ft? I doubt families of 4 lived in homes anywhere near that size when those historic homes were built. But being able to walk to coffee shops, libraries, parks, and other neighborhood amenities meant that they did not have to provide for every possible need in their own home.

Embrace the full lifestyle of the neighborhood by not trying to bring the suburban home structure with you. Live a little more outside your home, where you will be more in touch with the neighborhood and town. Move there, but into a smaller home that will not reduce your savings rate as much. My $.02 anyway.

fru-gal
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by fru-gal » Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:10 am

I'm a little worried by this talk of updating. Yes, correct plumbing and insulation if it needs it, but don't tear out a clawfoot bathtub and an antique pedestal sink in a vintage bathroom to put in something modern. Don't rip out vintage cabinets and appliances in a kitchen to put in stainless steel modern crap.

That's destroying the historic character of the house. If you or your wife must have that stuff, don't buy this house, don't destroy it.

There is probably a local historic preservation group that would be a great resource, would have someone willing to go through the house with you and discuss it and its history.

bayview
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by bayview » Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:44 am

smectym wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:09 am
“Historic” and “Walkable” are marketing cliches. I wouldn’t fall for them. Stay in the blah subdivision: that’s where real life is lived.
Well, I have to disagree. We live in a historic and walkable area, and it's very lively.

Friends recently moved here to a fancy subdivision ("fancy" = $700k+ for a two-story multi-gabled house with vinyl siding[!] and brick foundation below) from the West Coast, and while we were getting their house ready, we observed that their street was deader than dead. I saw one car turn into a driveway and vanish into the garage, with no subsequent sign of life. Meanwhile, it's very rare to go more than 5 minutes sitting on our front porch without seeing dog-walkers, families with kids, and young adults on their way to restaurants etc. going by.

I'm sure that there is life going on in that subdivision, but most of it seems to occur indoors.
The continuous execution of a sound strategy gives you the benefit of the strategy. That's what it's all about. --Rick Ferri

dharma student
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by dharma student » Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:48 am

If rentals were increasing in my subdivision, I would be looking to leave. Plus HOA or POAs, whatever, are very fluid. They efficacy can change based on who is in it.

How is the parking if no garage? That is the day to day factor you may wish to consider.

Personally, I am huge fan of older, historic homes. NO love for McMansions and new construction.

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fire5soon
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by fire5soon » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:03 am

My apologies if I'm repeating something someone has already said. Historical homes often come with city restrictions to keep them period specific. For example you can't paint your house the color you want, it has to be on a city approved list of colors. Or you can't alter the exterior look of the home with additions or modifications. This may not be your situation but something to look in to.

Now I'm off to make weekend repairs to my own house...
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do. - Bob Dylan

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F150HD
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by F150HD » Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:24 am

elrc21 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm
F150HD wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:03 pm
an older home in the historic district
no garage..... :(

having owned a 100+ year old home, you may want to prime yourself on maintenance of such property before taking any leap. On old old homes one cannot just walk into 'Home Depot' buy part "X" and go home and install it to fix problem "Y". It just doesn't work that way.

Things that come to mind: knob and tube wiring (hard to insure, if at all), galvanized piping (bad), insufficient roof ventilation (no formal soffits etc), and old newspaper for insulation (if that), foundation is made of....? (important, as is drainage). Maybe 'all' of this was remedied at some point hopefully....but worth thinking about.

But, if an old home is your thing, and one doesn't mind the time investment to work on it, give it due consideration.
All good points. I'm pretty ignorant of all this. I need to find out about wiring and piping (gas?) in the home. She mentioned a lot of work was done to the fire places and they all now have working gas units, so it's possible they updated piping. The roof looks pretty old - I didn't notice ventilation. Not sure about insulation, will ask. The current owners had some piers installed in the basement to help support foundation. The agent said this was just a precaution and not installed due to foundation issues. Obviously I'll have an inspection done and take a close look at this. The basement was completely dry - I didn't see any drainage issues but would want this inspected, for sure. Thank you!
if you do go forward, don't just hire the inspector your Realtor recommends, or some company off a Google search, it'd need to be a company familiar w/ older builds. I've found many inspectors struggle w/ current homes let alone older ones and issues that arise.

I loved the character of my old home- all oak woodwork, hardwood, it had a sense of history, but plumbing/electric/foundation/roof & ventilation are a huge deal in an older home.

As silly as it sounds, may want to knock on the door next door to this home and ask about the house you're interested in. Neighbors see whats going on, they may provide valuable intel for whats been done to the home, some of its history etc, common issues in their home build (which is prob similar to this one). A thought anyway.

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F150HD
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by F150HD » Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:31 am

fru-gal wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:10 am
I'm a little worried by this talk of updating. Yes, correct plumbing and insulation if it needs it, but don't tear out a clawfoot bathtub and an antique pedestal sink in a vintage bathroom to put in something modern. Don't rip out vintage cabinets and appliances in a kitchen to put in stainless steel modern crap.

That's destroying the historic character of the house. If you or your wife must have that stuff, don't buy this house, don't destroy it.

There is probably a local historic preservation group that would be a great resource, would have someone willing to go through the house with you and discuss it and its history.
+100 I hate when people/builders do that. why buy an old home then rip everything out and put in Home Depot fixtures? Esp a clawfoot tub. I had one, and am not a bath fan, but in no way did I ever consider getting rid of it (it had a shower attachment thankfully)

One realtor I had (when selling) said the kitchen needed updating...it had the original old huge farm sink and one wall of cabinets. It was pretty simple and there really wasn't much one could do to change it due to gas piping (cant move the stove to diff location), windows on one wall etc, still unclear what he meant. People like that destroy character of old homes.

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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by BernardShakey » Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:41 am

We've made this move. We decided in 2012 when kids were in middle school to leave the bland, unfriendly, and soul-lacking tract neighborhood and move cross-town into a more historic, closer to downtown area. Absolutely no regrets. The neighborhood is alive and you feel more connected to people. One difference...the house I bought was already upgraded in terms of piping, electrical, etc. so it has not been a money pit.

You really need to have a detailed understanding of what you might be walking into here in terms of repair and maintenance. 150-year old house! I love it, but it could be a love/hate relationship and you don't have the cash on hand to manage the "hate" part. To me, that's your biggest concern.

Your handyman / DIY skills are a plus, but with your financial (cash on hand) situation really quite tight, you and your spouse will really need to be on the same page in terms of major improvements/repairs, etc. While this purchase can be viewed as a "want" and not a "need" --- I can see lots more more "want" vs "need" discussions regarding how to maintain / improve this property once you move in. If you can really look under the hood and understand your risks with this property and also be on the same page with spouse on what you will and will not do in terms of repairs & improvements over next few years, I think it could be a great move. Sounds like you will end up with a very unique and distinctive property in an area you all will enjoy and that's worth a lot. Good luck!

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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by stlutz » Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:51 am

How many other areas in your city fit your general desired criteria? Have you been looking for a while? The question I'm obviously getting at is clarifying whether it needs to be this house or if seeing this house has revealed that it's worth looking around for something different than you currently have now.

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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by Goal33 » Sat Aug 10, 2019 10:01 am

My SIL and BIL did this but it was an improvement in zones elementary schools too.
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by KlingKlang » Sat Aug 10, 2019 10:09 am

elrc21 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm
We are thinking about moving from a subdivision on the edge of town (small college town, pop = 70k) to an older home in the historic district of the "downtown" area.
- Family of four. Ages 37/36/5/2
elrc21 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm
- Our current home has needed minimal maintenance (but will need some soon?). Will this "historic" (1870's) home need a lot?
- Our current home is single story. The three bedrooms in the downtown home are all on second story
- There is no garage at the downtown house and the driveway starts with a steep upward pitch. There is space to build a garage if we wanted to
- Visitors would need to park on the street and walk up ~28 steps to get to our front door
Another point that I don't think anyone has mentioned: At your current ages I'm sure that this maintenance and step climbing is nothing to you. In twenty years when the kids are gone and you are in your mid-fifties you may have a different opinion.

Make sure you check out how much noise and activity there really is in the center of this college town. You may want to park on the street after midnight on the weekend and observe what is happening in the neighborhood.

dart330
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by dart330 » Sat Aug 10, 2019 10:52 am

We did this about 10 years ago and have had several friends in other cities do the same since. The quality of life dramatically improves and you meet so many neighbors since people aren’t just driving everywhere. Some of our best friends we met randomly while out walking dogs. It really is a neighborhood, not a subdivision. I will never again live in a post WW2 development.

The historic restriction argument is valid, but only if you are truly looking in an officially registered historic district, which most neighborhoods are not. Our house is not in one and we don’t have an HOA, it is great!

If plumbing and electrical have been updated, they really aren’t more expensive to maintain. It can be harder to find people to work on it since you can’t get direct replacements at a big box store. Whatever you do, don’t rip out the original windows, repair the old wooden ones and they will last another 100+ years.

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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by jharkin » Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:11 pm

You guys are in great shape financially... I’d jump on it in a heartbeat. Old houses have such character, once you live in one you will never want blah blah souless new construction ever again.


Oh and 1870 is not that old. It will have recognizable stud framing,etc. maybe an old brick or stone foundation, but otherwise fairly straightforward and easily adaptable to modern materials. It’s only when you get pre-civil war timber framing that thing really get interesting.

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elrc21
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by elrc21 » Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:47 pm

Watty wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:18 pm
Aside from all the questions about if you should buy it I would really doubt that you could make the deal work if you wanted to.

The problem is that it would likely take you a couple of months to get your current house on the market and get it sold(at best) and you don't have any obvious way to buy the next house before you sell your current house.

In most areas an offer to buy a home that is contingent on the sale of your house will not be accepted especially if your current house is not already under contract.

How would you make the deal work?
The house has been on the market for seven months and the agent acted like making the deal contingent on our house was not a problem. They just dropped the price, which is what got us interested. Houses in our neighborhood seem to be selling well if the price is right. But you're right - I need a lot of things to work out in order to make the deal work. If it does fall through, hopefully we learn from the process and get our ducks in a row for the next house that comes along. That wouldn't be the end of the world.
smectym wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:09 am
“Historic” and “Walkable” are marketing cliches. I wouldn’t fall for them. Stay in the blah subdivision: that’s where real life is lived.
:P jokes I hope
Northern Flicker wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:20 am
Do you really need 2700 sq ft? I doubt families of 4 lived in homes anywhere near that size when those historic homes were built. But being able to walk to coffee shops, libraries, parks, and other neighborhood amenities meant that they did not have to provide for every possible need in their own home.

Embrace the full lifestyle of the neighborhood by not trying to bring the suburban home structure with you. Live a little more outside your home, where you will be more in touch with the neighborhood and town. Move there, but into a smaller home that will not reduce your savings rate as much. My $.02 anyway.
We would be fine with less space. This is a good point. I really like your comment about living more outside the house and connecting with the area. Thank you.
fru-gal wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:10 am
I'm a little worried by this talk of updating. Yes, correct plumbing and insulation if it needs it, but don't tear out a clawfoot bathtub and an antique pedestal sink in a vintage bathroom to put in something modern. Don't rip out vintage cabinets and appliances in a kitchen to put in stainless steel modern crap.

That's destroying the historic character of the house. If you or your wife must have that stuff, don't buy this house, don't destroy it.

There is probably a local historic preservation group that would be a great resource, would have someone willing to go through the house with you and discuss it and its history.
I absolutely agree. The updates we are discussing include removing the mini blinds and painting the walls. The bathrooms and kitchens are already updated. Bathrooms still have clawfoot tub and pedestal sinks. The kitchen does have new countertops and stainless appliances already. But the windows, cabinets, ceiling, etc are still original and we would never change that. Any real updates that we do will preserve and/or restore things properly. We do know a couple people in the historic preservation arena.
bayview wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:44 am
smectym wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 12:09 am
“Historic” and “Walkable” are marketing cliches. I wouldn’t fall for them. Stay in the blah subdivision: that’s where real life is lived.
Well, I have to disagree. We live in a historic and walkable area, and it's very lively.

Friends recently moved here to a fancy subdivision ("fancy" = $700k+ for a two-story multi-gabled house with vinyl siding[!] and brick foundation below) from the West Coast, and while we were getting their house ready, we observed that their street was deader than dead. I saw one car turn into a driveway and vanish into the garage, with no subsequent sign of life. Meanwhile, it's very rare to go more than 5 minutes sitting on our front porch without seeing dog-walkers, families with kids, and young adults on their way to restaurants etc. going by.

I'm sure that there is life going on in that subdivision, but most of it seems to occur indoors.
This is a good description on our subdivision and the downtown area. Although we do have some cool neighbors across the street that we stand outside and visit with a lot. And the kids play together. And we do have kids riding bike around and people walking dogs.
dharma student wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 7:48 am
If rentals were increasing in my subdivision, I would be looking to leave. Plus HOA or POAs, whatever, are very fluid. They efficacy can change based on who is in it.

How is the parking if no garage? That is the day to day factor you may wish to consider.

Personally, I am huge fan of older, historic homes. NO love for McMansions and new construction.
Good point.

There is space for four cars at the top of the driveway and we would get two residential spots on the street from the city.

No love for McMansions here either, even though I live in (a smaller) one. I see a lot of "architectural" features on new houses that make me cringe. That may sound snooty.
KlingKlang wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 10:09 am
elrc21 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm
We are thinking about moving from a subdivision on the edge of town (small college town, pop = 70k) to an older home in the historic district of the "downtown" area.
- Family of four. Ages 37/36/5/2
elrc21 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm
- Our current home has needed minimal maintenance (but will need some soon?). Will this "historic" (1870's) home need a lot?
- Our current home is single story. The three bedrooms in the downtown home are all on second story
- There is no garage at the downtown house and the driveway starts with a steep upward pitch. There is space to build a garage if we wanted to
- Visitors would need to park on the street and walk up ~28 steps to get to our front door
Another point that I don't think anyone has mentioned: At your current ages I'm sure that this maintenance and step climbing is nothing to you. In twenty years when the kids are gone and you are in your mid-fifties you may have a different opinion.

Make sure you check out how much noise and activity there really is in the center of this college town. You may want to park on the street after midnight on the weekend and observe what is happening in the neighborhood.
I really hope the stair climbing isn't an issue that early in our life! We do a lot to stay fit now and hope to continue that. Health is wealth, right? Sickness or injury could change all of that, of course.

This is a good comment. I may drive there tonight after the kids are asleep. I went to college here so I know what the "nightlife" street is like, but I'm not sure how much of that spills over toward this house.
dart330 wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 10:52 am
We did this about 10 years ago and have had several friends in other cities do the same since. The quality of life dramatically improves and you meet so many neighbors since people aren’t just driving everywhere. Some of our best friends we met randomly while out walking dogs. It really is a neighborhood, not a subdivision. I will never again live in a post WW2 development.

The historic restriction argument is valid, but only if you are truly looking in an officially registered historic district, which most neighborhoods are not. Our house is not in one and we don’t have an HOA, it is great!

If plumbing and electrical have been updated, they really aren’t more expensive to maintain. It can be harder to find people to work on it since you can’t get direct replacements at a big box store. Whatever you do, don’t rip out the original windows, repair the old wooden ones and they will last another 100+ years.
Nice! That's what we want. I don't think there are historic restrictions but our city is really conservative about development. I'll have to check this out. We will restore everything we can, for sure. Thanks for the comment!

And thank you to everyone for all of the thoughtful comments! I now have a long list of things to research and ask the realtor about.

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celia
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by celia » Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:08 pm

elrc21 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm
We are thinking about moving from a subdivision on the edge of town (small college town, pop = 70k) to an older home in the historic district. . .
Is the "historic district" officially recognized or some of the buildings in it? If so, there may be specific rules pertaining to changing anything on your house, particularly outside.

I have a friend who lives in an "historic district" who needs approval for even repainting the house the same color or replacing a leaky roof. Getting approval slows everything down (and sometimes you don't get it). Then someone has to come out and confirm you did exactly what you proposed. Of course, there are extra fees to pay for upholding these rules.

Then there are the times you aren't doing anything to your house, and the inspector knocks on your door since a neighbor suspects you are making a change inside and he wants to see it. Sometimes he is at the wrong house. But sometimes it is neighbor-nosie-ness if repairmen come and go.

Does this complication seem agreeable to you? Do you even know if the house would be under these constraints?

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teen persuasion
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by teen persuasion » Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:48 pm

As owner of an 1840s farmhouse, here are some things I'd be looking at if buying another old house, in no particular order:

What kind of roof does it have? If it's something unique, like slate, consider future costs to repair - harder to get supplies, and to find someone qualified to do the work. If the modern standard asphalt shingles, when was it last replaced? I'd guess you get up to about 20 years for an asphalt shingle roof. In my area, metal sheet roofing is quickly becoming the new norm (we replaced this time with metal). I've heard it's not common or cost effective in other areas, so :confused . Also, how complex is the roof? For 1870 era I'm thinking Victorian style, which liked complex roofs with intersecting valleys, dormers, turrets, etc. Complexity adds to the labor costs.

What is the exterior? If it's the original clapboard siding, figure you will need to have it painted regularly. If it's vinyl :annoyed what is it hiding? Was the siding perhaps replaced with the new concrete clapboard siding? That should look better than vinyl, and hold paint better than wood.

What's the foundation made of? Probably too early for poured concrete, maybe cinder block, maybe field stone? Ours is field stone (with flat ashlar cut stone on the front) with soft limestone mortar. We've been having trouble finding someone familiar with limestone mortar - modern mortar uses Portland cement, which is much harder, so it eventually ruins the limestone portions due to the different flexibility.

Are interior walls still plaster, or new drywall? Plaster will dampen sound better than drywall, but upgrades to electric/water/insulation may make replacement necessary.

Is it insulated, at all, and when/what kind of insulation? How effective is it?

What kind of heating system? Some of the old Victorian steam systems could still be in use (with a new boiler). I personally find forced air furnaces drafty and less desirable than baseboard hot water systems, if a steam system wasn't there. What's the fuel? We don't have natural gas down our road, so we have an oil-fired boiler; I'd much rather we had access to natural gas, it's become much less expensive than oil.

Is the electrical panel rated high enough for a modern household's electric usage? We had to upgrade the line coming in.

Septic or public sewer?

Request the energy bills for the past year for the house, so there's no surprises if the heating is higher than you pay in your suburban home, or electric is higher because of a difference like gas vs electric stove/water tank, etc.

Make sure you know which schools your kids will attend - sometimes it's not the nearest one. Also ask if there are any long range plans for redistricting - our district reconfigured its schools from 2 K-6 elementary schools plus one JrSr HS to one each of preK - 4 elementary, 5 - 8 middle, 9 - 12 HS. So my kids swapped to different buildings/campuses - our elementary was now 7 miles away instead of 3.

We loved renting old Victorians in the city, but street parking was a pain, especially if it swaps sides mid-week, and when special events draw lots of non-residents to the area. In our case it was the annual Corporate Challenge Race in a nearby park - the attendees used up all the street parking before locals got home from work, or parked illegally across driveways blocking out/in those few who did have off-street parking. So investigate how many events of this type might occur regularly - in a college town it could be frequent (move in, move out, graduation, sports events, etc.).

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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by Sandtrap » Sat Aug 10, 2019 5:35 pm

Considerations: (a random list).

1. Ice on the driveway and steps.
2. Carrying groceries from the driveway up the stairs to the house up the stairs. . .on a dark and stormy night.
3. Something on the upper floor is dripping through the ceiling downstairs and it smells funny.
4. The basement foundation seems to be settling further. An ongoing issue that was thought to be resolved. A contractor said shoring things up and putting new concrete base pads will be pricey.
5. Though most of the electrical has been redone to modern code, it is discovered that the wiring in some of the walls is very old.
6. There is the smell of mice or rats in the attic at certain times of the year, sometimes in the basement.
7. Most of the plumbing drain lines have been upgraded to ABS where exposed. It is found to be rusty leaking cast iron is areas that are tough to get to. What's that smell? Yep. The toilet water closet connection in the floor is cast iron with lead forms.
8. Most of the water lines have been upgraded to copper and/or pex. However, in the walls where it was not so accessible, the pipes are galvanized and starting to drip.
9. It costs a fortune to heat the house during the winter and cool it down during the summer.
10. Etc.
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Watty
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by Watty » Sat Aug 10, 2019 6:33 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 5:35 pm
Considerations: (a random list).

1. Ice on the driveway and steps.
2. Carrying groceries from the driveway up the stairs to the house up the stairs. . .on a dark and stormy night.
3. Something on the upper floor is dripping through the ceiling downstairs and it smells funny.
4. The basement foundation seems to be settling further. An ongoing issue that was thought to be resolved. A contractor said shoring things up and putting new concrete base pads will be pricey.
5. Though most of the electrical has been redone to modern code, it is discovered that the wiring in some of the walls is very old.
6. There is the smell of mice or rats in the attic at certain times of the year, sometimes in the basement.
7. Most of the plumbing drain lines have been upgraded to ABS where exposed. It is found to be rusty leaking cast iron is areas that are tough to get to. What's that smell? Yep. The toilet water closet connection in the floor is cast iron with lead forms.
8. Most of the water lines have been upgraded to copper and/or pex. However, in the walls where it was not so accessible, the pipes are galvanized and starting to drip.
9. It costs a fortune to heat the house during the winter and cool it down during the summer.
10. Etc.
elrc21 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm
small college town, pop = 70k
One related challenge may be that in a small town there may be few contractors that that know or are even willing to work on systems that have not be used in 50 years.

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elrc21
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by elrc21 » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:20 pm

teen persuasion wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:48 pm
As owner of an 1840s farmhouse, here are some things I'd be looking at if buying another old house, in no particular order:

What kind of roof does it have? If it's something unique, like slate, consider future costs to repair - harder to get supplies, and to find someone qualified to do the work. If the modern standard asphalt shingles, when was it last replaced? I'd guess you get up to about 20 years for an asphalt shingle roof. In my area, metal sheet roofing is quickly becoming the new norm (we replaced this time with metal). I've heard it's not common or cost effective in other areas, so :confused . Also, how complex is the roof? For 1870 era I'm thinking Victorian style, which liked complex roofs with intersecting valleys, dormers, turrets, etc. Complexity adds to the labor costs.

What is the exterior? If it's the original clapboard siding, figure you will need to have it painted regularly. If it's vinyl :annoyed what is it hiding? Was the siding perhaps replaced with the new concrete clapboard siding? That should look better than vinyl, and hold paint better than wood.

What's the foundation made of? Probably too early for poured concrete, maybe cinder block, maybe field stone? Ours is field stone (with flat ashlar cut stone on the front) with soft limestone mortar. We've been having trouble finding someone familiar with limestone mortar - modern mortar uses Portland cement, which is much harder, so it eventually ruins the limestone portions due to the different flexibility.

Are interior walls still plaster, or new drywall? Plaster will dampen sound better than drywall, but upgrades to electric/water/insulation may make replacement necessary.

Is it insulated, at all, and when/what kind of insulation? How effective is it?

What kind of heating system? Some of the old Victorian steam systems could still be in use (with a new boiler). I personally find forced air furnaces drafty and less desirable than baseboard hot water systems, if a steam system wasn't there. What's the fuel? We don't have natural gas down our road, so we have an oil-fired boiler; I'd much rather we had access to natural gas, it's become much less expensive than oil.

Is the electrical panel rated high enough for a modern household's electric usage? We had to upgrade the line coming in.

Septic or public sewer?

Request the energy bills for the past year for the house, so there's no surprises if the heating is higher than you pay in your suburban home, or electric is higher because of a difference like gas vs electric stove/water tank, etc.

Make sure you know which schools your kids will attend - sometimes it's not the nearest one. Also ask if there are any long range plans for redistricting - our district reconfigured its schools from 2 K-6 elementary schools plus one JrSr HS to one each of preK - 4 elementary, 5 - 8 middle, 9 - 12 HS. So my kids swapped to different buildings/campuses - our elementary was now 7 miles away instead of 3.

We loved renting old Victorians in the city, but street parking was a pain, especially if it swaps sides mid-week, and when special events draw lots of non-residents to the area. In our case it was the annual Corporate Challenge Race in a nearby park - the attendees used up all the street parking before locals got home from work, or parked illegally across driveways blocking out/in those few who did have off-street parking. So investigate how many events of this type might occur regularly - in a college town it could be frequent (move in, move out, graduation, sports events, etc.).
This is good stuff - thank you.

The roof is very simple with asphalt shingles. The exterior is vinyl I’m pretty sure. There is stone around the base of the house and it has a large crawl space/basement with wood beams and piers (I think? I’m going off memory and didn’t really know what to look for). What kind of foundation is that?

I learned today that the house was taken down to the studs in 1997 and all wiring and plumbing was replaced. Surely they installed insulation at this point. There is a brand new HVAC system with a gas furnace in the basement. I assume electrical system meets 1997 codes, so enough for modern appliances. Public sewer with plumbing at both showers and toilets updated recently for “efficient flow” and “really good water pressure.”

I’m told AC bills are $90-110 and heat is $70. That was the answer to my question, “what do AC/heat bills get up to in the summer/winter.” That seems low. Maybe I can get copies of the actual bills.

We have already done an “in-district transfer” to get my child into the nearby elementary school. It was the most convenient location relative to my office and one of the best in town. We should be good even if they moved district lines. But really good thought!

There are big events that will likely cause parking headaches. Hopefully our driveway doesn’t get blocked - that is the only reason we would get super annoyed.

Topic Author
elrc21
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by elrc21 » Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:23 pm

celia wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:08 pm
elrc21 wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:34 pm
We are thinking about moving from a subdivision on the edge of town (small college town, pop = 70k) to an older home in the historic district. . .
Is the "historic district" officially recognized or some of the buildings in it? If so, there may be specific rules pertaining to changing anything on your house, particularly outside.

I have a friend who lives in an "historic district" who needs approval for even repainting the house the same color or replacing a leaky roof. Getting approval slows everything down (and sometimes you don't get it). Then someone has to come out and confirm you did exactly what you proposed. Of course, there are extra fees to pay for upholding these rules.

Then there are the times you aren't doing anything to your house, and the inspector knocks on your door since a neighbor suspects you are making a change inside and he wants to see it. Sometimes he is at the wrong house. But sometimes it is neighbor-nosie-ness if repairmen come and go.

Does this complication seem agreeable to you? Do you even know if the house would be under these constraints?
I do not believe it is this type of official historic district but I will inquire. Thank you. That sounds like a situation I’m not interested in dealing with.

dart330
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by dart330 » Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:35 pm

elrc21 wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:20 pm
I’m told AC bills are $90-110 and heat is $70. That was the answer to my question, “what do AC/heat bills get up to in the summer/winter.” That seems low. Maybe I can get copies of the actual bills.
This is very normal for older well built houses. I am always shocked how high utility bills are for large suburban homes. It’s not uncommon for my co-workers to say they pay $500-700 a month in electricity. All those vaulted ceilings and pool pumps really add up.

dbr
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Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by dbr » Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:41 am

I think it is a no brainer to move given your overall situation, wants, and needs.

The one red flag is your cash savings are woefully inadequate, especially in contemplation of owning an older home. I assume the plan might be to keep some cash back from the sale of your current home before making down payment on the new one. I wouldn't own a home like that without at least $20,000 that could be spent overnight on whatever comes up. An example in our neighborhood is when the times comes around for street/water/sewer replacement and everyone is docked about $10,000 by the city for cost. In spite of recent renovations an electrical, plumbing, painting, or flooding problem can cost $10k in a heartbeat. I just a read an article about a town assessing a section of homeowners $16,000 for erosion abatement near the homes. Stuff like that happens. Of course one can borrow from a 401k, but that is not a great idea.

You might also start doing some research on the resources for maintenance and repair of older homes. In our neighborhood that is a well established cottage industry of local trades and craftsmen, but it is not always so.

usagi
Posts: 58
Joined: Wed Jun 05, 2019 1:08 am

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by usagi » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:05 pm

I would suggest you very carefully evaluate the trends in your city toward historic homes. I sold some I held years ago after correctly surmising the city would force designate the homes part of a historic district and require over site and approval of all maintenance activities including using historic materials and techniques which greatly drove up the cost of maintenance and inhibited your ability to modernize the home.

Just one example, a broken window pane, instead of being repaired with a standard pane of glass it had to be hand blown, imperfect glass and then lead soldered into the window. So a S12 piece of glass and $75 of labor becomes a $450 repair for 10 inch by 6 inch piece of glass and $75 of inspection fees by the historic commission.

I saw this coming by attending the local historic commission meetings and saw all the soon to be retired busybodies heading up the committees(who supported the Mayor) and thought, oh boy, time to get out of Dodge. I honestly feel sorry for the suckers, I mean families, I sold the homes to.

Once again you need to evaluate the community in terms of what may be verses what may already exist, Personally I love historic homes, I am just cautious about the community they are located in.

TallBoy29er
Posts: 643
Joined: Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:06 pm

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by TallBoy29er » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:11 pm

Skipped all of the other posters. I promise, there are a lot of naysayers.

Go for it. It didn't look like you factored in your salary growth over time. I would bet that will happen, and help.

Live somewhere you like. Being able to walk to events/parks/get togethers/bars/restaurants/etc is huge.

I live in a 111 year old house. There are occasional issues. But the fact is, the damn thing has been around a lot longer than I have. So yeah, there'll be things to do, but chances are, it's gonna keep standing no matter what.

Also, about the roof. Are the shingles architectural? It may be a 30 year roof. That'd help w/ delayed maint.

smithbt2
Posts: 38
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:44 pm

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by smithbt2 » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:30 pm

rascott wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:39 pm
I've owned a 25yr old home, a brand new home, and two homes that are nearing 100 years old (including my current one).

The 25 year old one was the worst....as I got to be the one to do all the boring upgrades. The old homes have been noticeably better built....and most of the big $ stuff (mechanical, exterior work, windows, etc) had been modernized.

The brand new home was the worst built....I sold it 3 years after it was built. Maybe wrong, but really hard for me to see how it will be even standing in 100 years.

Point being....old houses CAN end up costing more, but if it's already been updated with your mechanicals (plumbing/electrical) there is no reason it should be more costly than any other home.

I would go for it, assuming you aren't walking into a money pit that needs all of these things upgraded. We have loved living in a mature, old area filled with history and being centrally located. Price appreciation has done much, much better than suburbia too....the trend is definitely towards re-urbanization.
This post really stands out to me. I purchased a brand new townhouse in December 2018 and I too question how it will be standing in 100 years. I have had nothing but problems and I have filed many warranty requests, but they only make things worse! These new homes are built poorly with horrible craftsmanship. And they want $300-400K for townhouses in my area and upwards of $900K for single family homes. :(

rascott
Posts: 485
Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:53 am

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by rascott » Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:48 pm

smithbt2 wrote:
Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:30 pm
rascott wrote:
Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:39 pm
I've owned a 25yr old home, a brand new home, and two homes that are nearing 100 years old (including my current one).

The 25 year old one was the worst....as I got to be the one to do all the boring upgrades. The old homes have been noticeably better built....and most of the big $ stuff (mechanical, exterior work, windows, etc) had been modernized.

The brand new home was the worst built....I sold it 3 years after it was built. Maybe wrong, but really hard for me to see how it will be even standing in 100 years.

Point being....old houses CAN end up costing more, but if it's already been updated with your mechanicals (plumbing/electrical) there is no reason it should be more costly than any other home.

I would go for it, assuming you aren't walking into a money pit that needs all of these things upgraded. We have loved living in a mature, old area filled with history and being centrally located. Price appreciation has done much, much better than suburbia too....the trend is definitely towards re-urbanization.
This post really stands out to me. I purchased a brand new townhouse in December 2018 and I too question how it will be standing in 100 years. I have had nothing but problems and I have filed many warranty requests, but they only make things worse! These new homes are built poorly with horrible craftsmanship. And they want $300-400K for townhouses in my area and upwards of $900K for single family homes. :(
Yep it's sad and true. I watched them build the thing....this was not an entry level home either, but "semi-custom"....which means semi-garbage. I never really had any issues with the house, the inspectors were diligent (both mine and the city)....and I'm sure it's fine. But you could just tell by the grade of lumber they used, always felt like you could get a running start and run through every wall in the place.

mariezzz
Posts: 763
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:02 pm

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by mariezzz » Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:39 pm

Lot size on each? Historic lot might be smaller - if yes, can you live with neighbors being closer? Noise, privacy issues there.
Doesn't sound like you're moving far enough to expect a reduction in the crime you're currently experiencing - at least not for long. If the city isn't doing anything about the noise from rentals, and crime, do you want to stay in the area at all? (There are other places to move other than to an expensive historic home. Maybe it's right for you. Maybe not.)

"This old house" teaches you little about the difficulties of repairing older homes. Others have raised concerns about the financial situation you presented. What happens if the real estate market tanks in a couple years? What if you have to move for a job? What if you have to sell the house for 20% less than you paid for it?
The agent selling the house (we just met her tonight and she is not our agent, yet) offered to sell ours for no commission if we use her to buy the new house. We would still need to pay a buyer agent when selling ours, however. Seems like a good deal? that would save us $10k. We may, in fact, wait for a few years as you suggest. I can't decide.
Be sure to look at the specifics of something like this. In most areas, the buying agent and selling agent split the commission. A buying agent isn't going to be very motivated to bring buyers to you if they're not getting a commission.

Furthermore, the selling agent would have a conflict of interest if she also represented you. Her loyalty is to the seller first. She'd also have information about you that the seller probably shouldn't know. You might end up paying $10K more for the house than you have to.

mariezzz
Posts: 763
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2017 11:02 pm

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by mariezzz » Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:58 pm

teen persuasion wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:48 pm
What's the foundation made of? Probably too early for poured concrete, maybe cinder block, maybe field stone? Ours is field stone (with flat ashlar cut stone on the front) with soft limestone mortar. We've been having trouble finding someone familiar with limestone mortar - modern mortar uses Portland cement, which is much harder, so it eventually ruins the limestone portions due to the different flexibility.
Lime mortar is still used in England in historic houses. You might do some research and decide to familiarize yourself with lime mortar.
There are people knowledgeable in the US too.

rascott
Posts: 485
Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:53 am

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by rascott » Mon Aug 12, 2019 11:53 pm

mariezzz wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:39 pm
Lot size on each? Historic lot might be smaller - if yes, can you live with neighbors being closer? Noise, privacy issues there.
Doesn't sound like you're moving far enough to expect a reduction in the crime you're currently experiencing - at least not for long. If the city isn't doing anything about the noise from rentals, and crime, do you want to stay in the area at all? (There are other places to move other than to an expensive historic home. Maybe it's right for you. Maybe not.)

"This old house" teaches you little about the difficulties of repairing older homes. Others have raised concerns about the financial situation you presented. What happens if the real estate market tanks in a couple years? What if you have to move for a job? What if you have to sell the house for 20% less than you paid for it?
The agent selling the house (we just met her tonight and she is not our agent, yet) offered to sell ours for no commission if we use her to buy the new house. We would still need to pay a buyer agent when selling ours, however. Seems like a good deal? that would save us $10k. We may, in fact, wait for a few years as you suggest. I can't decide.
Be sure to look at the specifics of something like this. In most areas, the buying agent and selling agent split the commission. A buying agent isn't going to be very motivated to bring buyers to you if they're not getting a commission.

Furthermore, the selling agent would have a conflict of interest if she also represented you. Her loyalty is to the seller first. She'd also have information about you that the seller probably shouldn't know. You might end up paying $10K more for the house than you have to.

You misread the part about the Realtors.

They made a deal that the Realtor wouldn't charge them a listing fee for being the listing agent if they agreed to use her for to be the selling agent on their new purchase. They would still be offering a buyers agent (selling agent is what it's technically called) the normal commission.

That's a reasonable deal as one makes a lot more being a selling agent over a listing agent (typically). This agent is going to do the listing for free knowing they will make a big nut when OP buys.

Topic Author
elrc21
Posts: 10
Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2018 10:23 am

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by elrc21 » Tue Aug 13, 2019 1:19 pm

dart330 wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 9:35 pm
elrc21 wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 8:20 pm
I’m told AC bills are $90-110 and heat is $70. That was the answer to my question, “what do AC/heat bills get up to in the summer/winter.” That seems low. Maybe I can get copies of the actual bills.
This is very normal for older well built houses. I am always shocked how high utility bills are for large suburban homes. It’s not uncommon for my co-workers to say they pay $500-700 a month in electricity. All those vaulted ceilings and pool pumps really add up.
Wow - that's good to hear. I assumed the opposite.
dbr wrote:
Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:41 am
I think it is a no brainer to move given your overall situation, wants, and needs.

The one red flag is your cash savings are woefully inadequate, especially in contemplation of owning an older home. I assume the plan might be to keep some cash back from the sale of your current home before making down payment on the new one. I wouldn't own a home like that without at least $20,000 that could be spent overnight on whatever comes up. An example in our neighborhood is when the times comes around for street/water/sewer replacement and everyone is docked about $10,000 by the city for cost. In spite of recent renovations an electrical, plumbing, painting, or flooding problem can cost $10k in a heartbeat. I just a read an article about a town assessing a section of homeowners $16,000 for erosion abatement near the homes. Stuff like that happens. Of course one can borrow from a 401k, but that is not a great idea.

You might also start doing some research on the resources for maintenance and repair of older homes. In our neighborhood that is a well established cottage industry of local trades and craftsmen, but it is not always so.
Yes, I think our plan now would be to walk away from our current house with ~$130k and then put $100k down on the new home and $25-30k in savings. Having the city charge for new utilities sounds terrible.
usagi wrote:
Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:05 pm
I would suggest you very carefully evaluate the trends in your city toward historic homes. I sold some I held years ago after correctly surmising the city would force designate the homes part of a historic district and require over site and approval of all maintenance activities including using historic materials and techniques which greatly drove up the cost of maintenance and inhibited your ability to modernize the home.

Just one example, a broken window pane, instead of being repaired with a standard pane of glass it had to be hand blown, imperfect glass and then lead soldered into the window. So a S12 piece of glass and $75 of labor becomes a $450 repair for 10 inch by 6 inch piece of glass and $75 of inspection fees by the historic commission.

I saw this coming by attending the local historic commission meetings and saw all the soon to be retired busybodies heading up the committees(who supported the Mayor) and thought, oh boy, time to get out of Dodge. I honestly feel sorry for the suckers, I mean families, I sold the homes to.

Once again you need to evaluate the community in terms of what may be verses what may already exist, Personally I love historic homes, I am just cautious about the community they are located in.
I've looked into this and we would be outside of the official historic districts in town. And the historic districts that do exists, "place no obligations on private property owners. National Register Historic Districts are subject to no regulations except the City's Unified Development Code. It’s the community’s responsibility to preserve its past and protect its story."
TallBoy29er wrote:
Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:11 pm
Skipped all of the other posters. I promise, there are a lot of naysayers.

Go for it. It didn't look like you factored in your salary growth over time. I would bet that will happen, and help.

Live somewhere you like. Being able to walk to events/parks/get togethers/bars/restaurants/etc is huge.

I live in a 111 year old house. There are occasional issues. But the fact is, the damn thing has been around a lot longer than I have. So yeah, there'll be things to do, but chances are, it's gonna keep standing no matter what.

Also, about the roof. Are the shingles architectural? It may be a 30 year roof. That'd help w/ delayed maint.
Thanks for this! This was kind of my thinking too - the house has been around for a long time already. And we have researched the repairmen/companies that the current owner hired for work (eg restoration of the chimneys) and each time, they used the most reputable. The house is not run down.
The current owner tells me it's a 25 year roof.
mariezzz wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:39 pm
Lot size on each? Historic lot might be smaller - if yes, can you live with neighbors being closer? Noise, privacy issues there.
Doesn't sound like you're moving far enough to expect a reduction in the crime you're currently experiencing - at least not for long. If the city isn't doing anything about the noise from rentals, and crime, do you want to stay in the area at all? (There are other places to move other than to an expensive historic home. Maybe it's right for you. Maybe not.)

"This old house" teaches you little about the difficulties of repairing older homes. Others have raised concerns about the financial situation you presented. What happens if the real estate market tanks in a couple years? What if you have to move for a job? What if you have to sell the house for 20% less than you paid for it?
The agent selling the house (we just met her tonight and she is not our agent, yet) offered to sell ours for no commission if we use her to buy the new house. We would still need to pay a buyer agent when selling ours, however. Seems like a good deal? that would save us $10k. We may, in fact, wait for a few years as you suggest. I can't decide.
Be sure to look at the specifics of something like this. In most areas, the buying agent and selling agent split the commission. A buying agent isn't going to be very motivated to bring buyers to you if they're not getting a commission.

Furthermore, the selling agent would have a conflict of interest if she also represented you. Her loyalty is to the seller first. She'd also have information about you that the seller probably shouldn't know. You might end up paying $10K more for the house than you have to.
We've been in our jobs for almost 15 years. She could find another job easily, if needed. I would have a harder time but I do have options.
The historic home has a bigger lot. 0.25 acre vs 0.45 acre, so neighbors would be further away. And the lot behind the historic home is wooded with no home.
I do realize using the same agent may mean that she shares information with the seller that I don't want them to know. I haven't told her much so far. If I use her it just simplifies the process for me (I don't have to find an agent and then communicate through them) and I know she is super motivated to sell my house - and I won't have to pay her a commission on that sale. I will pay the buyers agent when selling my home (3%).
rascott wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 11:53 pm
mariezzz wrote:
Mon Aug 12, 2019 9:39 pm
Lot size on each? Historic lot might be smaller - if yes, can you live with neighbors being closer? Noise, privacy issues there.
Doesn't sound like you're moving far enough to expect a reduction in the crime you're currently experiencing - at least not for long. If the city isn't doing anything about the noise from rentals, and crime, do you want to stay in the area at all? (There are other places to move other than to an expensive historic home. Maybe it's right for you. Maybe not.)

"This old house" teaches you little about the difficulties of repairing older homes. Others have raised concerns about the financial situation you presented. What happens if the real estate market tanks in a couple years? What if you have to move for a job? What if you have to sell the house for 20% less than you paid for it?
The agent selling the house (we just met her tonight and she is not our agent, yet) offered to sell ours for no commission if we use her to buy the new house. We would still need to pay a buyer agent when selling ours, however. Seems like a good deal? that would save us $10k. We may, in fact, wait for a few years as you suggest. I can't decide.
Be sure to look at the specifics of something like this. In most areas, the buying agent and selling agent split the commission. A buying agent isn't going to be very motivated to bring buyers to you if they're not getting a commission.

Furthermore, the selling agent would have a conflict of interest if she also represented you. Her loyalty is to the seller first. She'd also have information about you that the seller probably shouldn't know. You might end up paying $10K more for the house than you have to.

You misread the part about the Realtors.

They made a deal that the Realtor wouldn't charge them a listing fee for being the listing agent if they agreed to use her for to be the selling agent on their new purchase. They would still be offering a buyers agent (selling agent is what it's technically called) the normal commission.

That's a reasonable deal as one makes a lot more being a selling agent over a listing agent (typically). This agent is going to do the listing for free knowing they will make a big nut when OP buys.
Correct. Thank you!

jharkin
Posts: 2288
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:14 am
Location: Boston suburbs

Re: Buy historic, walkable home or stay in blah subdivision with short commute?

Post by jharkin » Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:49 am

usagi wrote:
Sun Aug 11, 2019 8:05 pm
Just one example, a broken window pane, instead of being repaired with a standard pane of glass it had to be hand blown, imperfect glass and then lead soldered into the window. So a S12 piece of glass and $75 of labor becomes a $450 repair for 10 inch by 6 inch piece of glass and $75 of inspection fees by the historic commission.

I saw this coming by attending the local historic commission meetings and saw all the soon to be retired busybodies heading up the committees(who supported the Mayor) and thought, oh boy, time to get out of Dodge. I honestly feel sorry for the suckers, I mean families, I sold the homes to.
And this is where everyone's priorities are different. As someone who loves older homes I really appreciate the protections of historic districts stopping homeowners from destroying the character of the (few and fewer every year) un-remuddled old houses that are left. Some of us actually enjoy doing the restoration work properly and actually DO buy them for the period look/charm/originality.

Where I live, historic commission is toothless and a lot of grand old houses get gutted and covered up with vinyl....

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