December 4, 2016: Hola everyone! Winter has arrived in Milwaukee and there are snow flurries today. Despite several hard freezes remarkably my "spikes" in two of my patio planters have absolutely refused to die. The rosemary and thyme plants I nursed inside the house through last winter spent the summer in their pot outside next to the side stoop off the driveway, where they get plenty of sunshine all day long. I transplanted them into a cozy sheltered spot right next to the stoop in October and they are still green and growing, too! With the delay in getting the drywall patching done in the relatively minor "reconstruction" work I had done in my kitchen, I am way behind my time in getting the house decorated. But yesterday I got my wreath decked out with extra lights and dressed the front door of the house, and my battery-operated traditional candles were put up on the window sills all around the house Friday evening. It becomes a ritual to go around at dusk and turn the tops to the right to turn the candles "on" and at bedtime to go around and turn the tops to the left to turn the candles "off." Today I put some "glittery" throw pillow covers purchased new last month from H&M on three of my sofa pillows to glam things up a bit in the living room and add some sparkle. Later on, after I sufficiently fuel myself up with wine and snacks and probably to distract myself while I listen to the Packers game on the radio, I will huff and puff and pull my artificial tree up from storage in the basement. I will decorate it simply this year. Every year I say that, and every year I end up throwing just about everything except the kitchen sink on the tree. I am very proud of myself this year, though. I did not buy a single new ornament or Christmas doo-dad for the house (throw pillow covers don't count!!!) Happy Holidays to all, with hope and fervent prayers for 2017. I've a feeling we're all going to need a lot of help from Goddess in the coming year. Jan

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Shopping for A New House: House 3

The small brick ranch on Allerton was Plan C that got bumped up to Plan B when the house that was potentially Plan B (4002 S. 74) was not able to be viewed.  But I was feeling uncertain about Allerton and kept looking.  I checked the listings every day to see if anything new had come on the market.

This little brick house, with a family room addition added later at the back, was built in 1939 and is situated on a huge lot.  I wanted to see it because I've walked past this house five or six days a week for nearly 24 years now.  I always thought it looked like a little fair tale cottage and admired its classic lines.

Oh, I know I know.  Crazy.  It was the exact opposite of what I wanted -- a smaller lot, a move-in ready house!  Oy!  But this house tugged at my heart strings.

The house was foreclosed, unfortunately.  The young couple that had lived there were gone.  Fourth of July decorations still hang from the coverless roof frame over the patio on the west side of the house, looking forlorn.  The property is now owned by a bank, and banks could care less about maintaining foreclosed property.  This house is on the market for $146,900:



Yes, that is grass growing out of wood gutters that I would think are original to the house.  Nobody has wood gutters anymore - but this house does.

The brickwork is in excellent shape, did not appear to be any mortar missing or step cracks.  Original woodwork is intact in the original part of the house (except for a disastrous kitchen remodel), but the varnish is crackled and bubbled, the wood dried out.  The house needs a new roof.  The windows, so pretty from a distance, up close have rotting frames and are single paned glass.  It would take extensive repairs to replace the original window framing, repair the rot, and provide storm/screen over-windows to protect the original divided light windows that dress the front of the house.  The wood floors on the first floor are intact, but need refinishing.  All of the rooms in the main part of the house are small, except for the kitchen, which is a bit disjointed.  The best updating was done in the small main floor bathroom.

There is a garage built out of concrete block.  It too needs a new roof and its wood frame holding the garage door is rotting from the ground up.  Because of the family room addition that was put on the back of the house, the garage is less than 2 feet away from the back wall of the house!  I don't think a regular size compact car would fit in that garage.  Better to tear it down and build a new one further away from the house; the lot is plenty large!



Above, side view of the house showing the one story family room addition at the back of the house, and the little amount of space left between the addition and the concrete block garage.  I do not think a modern-day car would fit into that garage, LOL.  But, there is plenty of space on the lot to build a 2 to 3 car garage.

The family room - no framing around the windows and no insulation tucked in (or foam sprayed to seal cracks to keep out cold damp air, snow and rain), so cold air was leaking into the house all winter long; the house felt very damp and very cold.  Here is a picture of the family room from the listing:



The carpet is "inset" into the floor; it is thick, good quality carpeting, and filthy.  The rest of the floor is laminate.  I puzzled as to why until I realized that the people who used to live there used the side door (not seen in this photo, on the left) as the main entrance into the house, and the laminate was their answer to having an easy-to-clean floor.  The area is open to the kitchen, up two steps.  Part of the back wall of the house in its original brick is exposed to this room and it adds a lot of charm.  You can see the rot around the inside of the uncased windows.  Oh my.

The basement looked sound - concrete block looked to be in good shape and while cold and damp, I did not see any overt signs of excessive water penetration.  The water heater is old, the furnace still has life to it. There was only one stationary tub and no washer or dryer comes with the property. 

Here is the disjointed kitchen.  As you can see, the prior owners took the appliances with them when they left.  The floor is ceramic tile - better you don't see a close-up of it because it is - ugly.  There is also a partial tile backsplash around the room -- you can see part of it above the lower cabinet run on the left.  The door on the right is the back hall entrance, which is disabled so you can't use it, and the staircase to the basement.  Door on the right leads to a small hallway from which you can access the small bathroom (behind the left kitchen wall), the back bedroom, the door and narrow staircase to the upper finished space and attic, the front bedroom, and the front or living room.  That entrance door is also disabled.



The kitchen is a good size, and there is enough cabinet space for storage, but there is no clear area for eating/dining.  The arrangement is not functional.



Above, the front room, facing east, just out of view on the left wall is the main (disabled) front entrance.  The original windows from 1939 are intact!  Unfortunately, they have not been maintained over the years and are single pane glass.  You can also see the original hardwood floors and finish.  This room appears to be the original plaster over lath.  It is long - 17' - but narrow - 10'.



Above is the front bedroom, it opens right off the front/living room.  The back window faces west.  You can see the original woodwork is intact, as is the hardwood floor.  In my imagination, I envisioned the wall separating this space from the front/livng room removed, and the walls lined with bookshelves, a library table and a couple of cozy wing chairs huddled in the center of the space.  In the other part of the front/living room, I would open up the staircase wall on the south wall (the front of the house faces north) and put a small cushy sofa on the east wall, two Martha Washington style chairs one on the south wall, and one facing the sofa, and hang a flat screen t.v. on the north wall on the east side of the window.  On the west side of the window (the wall space next to the front entry door) I would install a tall grandfather clock, but since I cannot afford such a thing, I would hang a small battery-operated case-enclosed pendulum clock and set a small drop-down secretary and suitably scaled chair to finish the space.

Here is the upstairs space:



It is actually large, since it runs the length of the original brick structure.  Staircase is on the left.  Straight ahead, you can see that the prior owners framed in a closet, but did not finish it off.  In the background is a generous-sized bedroom.  No bathroom area was framed in on the upper level.  When I viewed the property, the partially assembled dresser in the background and the case on the right side were gone; the space was empty, except for a tube t.v. left in one of the attic storage spaces.

The walls were drywalled and nicely finished but the ceilings - oh my -- they look like they were made out of cardboard.  You can clearly see the seams.  One further issue, I would want a structural engineer to check whether the attic floor joists were sturdy enough to support people walking around and furniture placed in the attic above the living space below.  I did notice some ceiling cracks in the front room and especially the front bedroom on the main floor below.  As you know, satisfactorily patching cracked plaster is rather difficult...

Here is the one bathroom in the property:



The prior owners installed beautiful black and white hexagonal tiling, very time appropriate.  They also installed a new toilet and jetted bathtub.  There was a vanity with sink at one time, but as you can see, it was removed, and the owners did not clean-up after themselves when they removed it.  The walls are painted a pale stylish grey, the wood trim is painted white.  There is a bathroom window which, unfortunately, was replaced with glass block.  Arggghhhhh!

The house will sit on the market at this price until it falls apart. What a shame! It needs a new roof and extensive repairs to window frames/framing and/or new windows altogether (which would be a shame, to junk the original windows, but restoration is an expensive proposition). The garage is a tear-down. A new garage would probably cost $15,000 to $20,000, depending upon the size and materials chosen. A buyer will need to bring in a refrigerator, a stove/range, a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, and a bathroom sink/vanity.

The house has such potential, but it would take a lot of work, time and money and, more than anything else, dedication to a restoration vision.  I am not skilled enough to do the work myself, I don't have the time to devote to this kind of renovation, nor the strength/energy, and I sure don't have the money!  So, reluctantly, I said a lingering goodbye to this fairy tale brick Cape Code style cottage.  I hope that another young couple with skills and money will come along and see the potential in this house, and restore it with love and care.  At $146,900, the house has sat on the market for months.  Evidently the bank's REO Department is determined not to negotiate a lower price.  This just makes me so sad.  I love that little house.  I cannot buy that little house.  It would kill me. 

After seeing 8001 Coldspring I realized more than ever that I had slim pickings.  Available houses in my target area were either priced too high for my budget, needed a lot of work, or both!  I also wanted to downsize my yard, not just my square footage.  All the properties I looked at in Greenfield had lots as large as or larger than my current home, which is, at this point in my life, given my health issues, larger than I can reasonably handle on my own.  And, unfortunately, I do not have funds available to hire people to do it for me.

And so, that was the impetus for putting in the offer on the brick ranch on Allerton a week ago today.  The price drop had made it a more attractive option, but I determined that I only wanted to pay between $135,000 and $138,000 for the place because the kitchen and main bathroom would need so much work.  So, I set my bidding strategy and submitted an offer for $131,000, knowing it would be rejected but wanting to see what kind of give the seller would have.  Allerton has been sitting on the market for several months, too.  I also included in the offer that I wanted seller to remove all of the old appliances from the home, leaving only the newer refrigerator.

The seller got angry!  Well, I don't blame him.  I've been on the receiving end of what I considered insulting offers when I had Maison Newton on the market in 2009, so I understood.  But I have to do what is best for me, not what is likely to spare a seller's feelings.  It was a hard learned lesson from 2009 - not to take things personally. The seller, a POA for the owner who is now in assisted living, did counter-offer at $142,000.

But, as I said, I was having misgivings about trying to buy Allerton.  Two good friends rightly pointed out that with the amount of work that needed to be done to the place to make it livable by current standards, by the time all the costs were added to the purchase price I would have spent nearly as much as buying a home in turn-key condition.  And I would either have to postpone moving in while renovation work was going on, incurring rent charges for an apartment and storage fees for my belongings, or move into a construction zone. 

My friends were right. I did not want to do that.  I would have a cute new kitchen and bathroom (hopefully), but not a bit of extra square footage.  Hell, Allerton is even smaller than the cute little fairy tale brick cottage which, after all, has a somewhat finished attic master suite!

So, even as the counter-offer was coming into my broker, I contacted her and asked her to set up a viewing of 4002 S. 74 -- the property that I had wanted to see weeks before, right after I looked at 4029 S. 74, but the scheduled viewing had been cancelled because the seller was ill.   She has a chronic debilitating illness and is often not up to par.

And, in the meantime, a new property had come on the market -- 3982 S. 74.  After looking at the listing and seeing that it had an essentially identical floor plan and the same square footage as 4002 S. 74 and 4029 S. 74, I asked my broker to schedule a viewing.

I had made up my mind.  Allerton would fall by the wayside.  I would buy either 4002 OR 3982 S. 74.  I just needed to view them in person to make my decision.

I WANT TO BE DONE WITH THIS!

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