Monday, October 31, 2005

If the Truth be Told.

This comment was left on Sunday morning;

The amount of work you're willing to undertake is absolutely amazing. I just have to ask why???? It just seems there's so much work to be done on an old home why not buy a "nicer, newer" home that you don't have to do so much work to? I personally can't afford to move to a nicer, newer neighborhood so if/when I buy I'd have to do the work myself. Why choose to do it when you really don't have to?

My reply is this;

We are not wealthy people. In fact we are a one income family getting by with two mortgage payments. We do not have car payments or extensive credit card debt though, so we get by. We live in a city where housing is very affordable. The city of Dayton continues to subsidize "low income" households by building them "affordable housing" at around $160,000 a pop and giving incentives and low interest or zero interest mortgages to those who "qualify". We however can not afford to buy a $160,000 home. We don't qualify because we net a couple $1000 more than the poor people with their big screen TV's and cable. We can't afford cable TV.

I bought a nice old house before we were married in an average neighborhood and put a lot of money down and assumed a mortgage. I knew that this was not going to be a house that I would live the rest of my life in though. I did it to build equity in a property. Houses sell for between $70,000 and $90,000 on average in this neighborhood.
One day in February 2001, before we were married, Deborah and I took a walk around the neighborhood and spotted the "Crack House" just 3 blocks away from our residence. It had a "for sale" sign on the fence and Deborah called about it and was surprised to learn that the owner wanted less than $100,000 for it. Within 3 weeks it was ours. We knew that this particular house could be a "keeper" and it could be turned into a showplace. The size on the tax rolls was 3970 sq. ft. If you add the third floor and the basement which could be converted into living space we have 6900 sq. ft. The yard is 2 X the size of adjoining lots. We estimated that the material cost to fix the place up would be about $20,000 over 5 years, maybe even as high as $30,000 depending on what we did. If we had to pay contractors to do work it would be about $150,000. The resale value of the renovated house, based on the other ones in our neighborhood would be almost $250,000. Not that we would ever sell it. So the math was simple. We could have a house that would cost us $500,000 if it was located outside of the City limits for about one fifth the cost if I was willing to addy up, kick in and do the work. The experience that I now have, people pay for by going to trade school. I could start my own home remodeling business if I wanted to at this point.

You are absolutely right. I don't have to do the "amazing" amount of work that I am doing. In fact, I don't have to do any work since I have the other house and it is almost in finished condition. I could do nothing and have nothing more than I already have. I could waste my money on a new car and cable TV with a surround sound system and become a master of movie trivia like those people who qualify for those $160,000 HUD built homes. I won't do that because I have to stay busy. I have said it before on this Blog. I have what I have because I do what I do. We don't make the kind of money that would purchase a home like this already finished, but I can still have the home, I just have to finish it myself. Most people aren't like me. Most people aren't willing to do the work that I am willing to do to get what I want. This house was just about the last of the Victorian "Mansions" needing to be renovated on the East side of Dayton. We saw an opportunity and jumped on it. There are going to be a few people who looked at this place when it was for sale, kicking themselves for not buying it when they had the chance because it will be off the market for at least the next 30 years. In a few years I will be able to say that I have this house because I was willing to pay the price for it. Not in $$$ but in toil and sweat and a few drops of blood. Oh and the odd fingernail or two....


Ms. P in Jackson said...


Many of us on the houseblog roll are doing very much the same as you are doing, or at least trying to :) My dream has always to been to own an old house. Mine was very cheap and is quite plain but old just the same and worth the elbow grease I'll use to fix her up. I don't have a mortgage on this house (I bought it outright) but I'm still paying one for a 'dead duck' in Arlington, Texas and until that sells, our funds are severely limited. Also, used cars (that are paid for) and no credit cards is the only way to go if you really want to save $$$.

Anonymous said...


We're in a different situation, in terms of it not being "necessary" financially for us to fix up an old house, so our answer is that we don't WANT a "newer" house because to us, they are not "nicer". We actually looked for a house for over 2 years until we found just the right ancient, dirty, and somewhat crumbling "brokedown palace" that was just crying out for our attention and love.
Like you, we fully expect our neighbors to envy us when we have finished our work on this place...not to mention the fact that we will have doubled the value of the home within the first couple of years. And it will be uniquely ours. Every surface of this house will have been touched by our hands before long. Sometimes lovingly, sometimes not so lovingly! LOL!

I say BRAVO to all of us out there who are willing to invest this type of sweat equity. A house is just a house, but a true *home* is built one improvement at a time, at least to me.

SmilingJudy said...

Makes you wonder why 'Anonymous' is even reading your blog. Some people just don't get it.

K said...

Preach it, Gary! I am the opposite of your anonymous commenter. I don't get why people buy new houses! People are always saying how with an old house, there's always something to fix up. Get one thing fixed, another breaks, etc. But I've seen the same thing happen with every new house I know.

My opinion is why pay twice as much for a new house that has less charm, less space and the SAME problems?

Aunt Jo said...

Well said! Some folks just don't have the old house bug and believe that newer has to be better.

chris said...

I have seen the "newer" home that must be "nicer." My sister is a vet, my bro-in-law a dentist. They have a nice bank roll and paid over 200k for some siding and fake brick. Its well over 2500 sq feet, but has NO charm whatsoever. The house looks the same as every other house in the "stamped" neighborhood. Funny thing is, in 30 years after sweating a little and accruing some scrapes and dents to my body, our houses might be worth the same, maybe mine even more. We are a disposable society that cares nothing of the past. I just couldnt see someone disposing of my house. So yes, Kudos to us for updating old homes and keeping them a part of our future.