Recently I helped some first-time buyers explore a historic home that has fallen on hard times. You might call it a damsel in distress seeking a knight in shining armor. (A knight with a big wallet.)
These buyers had been thinking about this property for a long time and they had big stars in their eyes. And who could blame them when each room offered so much potential, from the classic double parlors, pocket doors and original hardwood floors to craftsman-embellished fireplaces, clawfoot tubs and grand staircases.
I hate to be the buzz killer in these situations, but this type of house, in this kind of condition, is not for someone who is struggling to come up with 3.5 percent for an FHA downpayment, let alone a conventional buyer.
And the chance of a house in this condition qualifying for FHA is located somewhere in the neighborhood of slim and none.
You’ll be dealing with replacement of the electrical system (goodbye knob and tube wiring); adding HVAC (that charming boiler will have to go); repairing the animal-attacked roof; shivering through winter with single-pane windows; refinishing floors; stripping wallpaper; adding an entire kitchen to that large room where you found an original farmhouse sink but nothing else; installing plumbing to code; repairing crumbling plaster and so much more.
Who should buy an historic home in disrepair? Someone with a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of patience. (Refer to the underrated Tom Hanks move, “The Money Pit” for an excellent example. It must be on Netflix.)
Much like the Lorelei whose beautiful siren song caused sailors to wreck their ships on the ancient shoals, homes like this one call out to nice people and cause them to make decisions that are not always in their best interest.”Fix me. Make me beautiful again,” she winks. “I know you can do it. It won’t take much. Really. Would I lie?”
The moral? If you’re determined to rescue an historic home, and you have plenty of funds to sink into the project, call me. We can find a good candidate that will give you a lot of satisfaction and a possible return on your investment. If you have very little money, let’s talk instead about finding a nice house that will require less rehab, less ongoing maintenance and will help you stay within your realistic budget.
After all, the goal is for you to own a house — not for a house to own you.