One of the main reasons I decided to start this blog was to help people who love the idea of living in an old house, perhaps a fixer-upper, but are not sure where to start. This was me a few years ago. I had been living out of the Dayton area for several years after college, but my civilian career with the Air Force was bringing me back home and I was beyond ready to buy my first place. After watching way too many episodes of Rehab Addict, I fell in love with Craftsman style bungalows from the 1920s. There were more than a few places around Dayton that would fit this bill, but none more so than Oakwood. After driving around, I was enthralled with the level of architectural detail in all the homes; even the more modest homes at the southern end of town feature amazing brickwork. I had also convinced myself that I wanted a fixer-upper. I knew I was not particularly handy (not yet), but I was willing to learn. Oh, did I have some things to learn…
When I started my house-hunting trip, I started with a list of about 10 houses. By the time I had driven out from Virginia, two of these homes were already off the market. Things were selling FAST! Along with me, I had brought my mom, to help me envision my future home, and my dad, who looked out for all practical matters. We met my Realtor the next morning at the first house on my list, which of course was my favorite of all those I had found online. It was your standard four-square with a wood-burning fireplace, original woodwork, and so much potential! Oh goodness…. We walked in the front door and out the back. There was a squatter on the front porch, the inside was a wreck, and it REEKED of cigarette smoke. I was heart-broken, but we pressed on.
The next house was a foreclosure. The list price was well within my budget and even left some room for renovations. The only concern I had at that point was the taxes associated with the property. With the house being considered a distressed property, the mortgage and renovation costs may have been within my budget, which can make these properties a good deal. However, due to the size and assessed value of the house, the property taxes would have been significantly more than what I would pay on a more modest house. Tax concerns aside, I was still considering it. What had caught my attention on this listing was the grandeur of the master bedroom. This room sat directly above the living room and matched it in size and had a fireplace and many windows. What eventually turned me off to this house, was finding the kitchen ceiling on the floor and looking directly into the second-floor bathroom. Overall, the amount of work needed, and the taxes made this property more than I can handle. After living in Oakwood for a few months, I was happy to see that this property had been purchased and the new owners seem to be giving it the care it so needed.
The next few houses were in better shape than the first on the list, but they offered less impressive architectural details. My mom suggested adding one more house to our list. I had originally left it off as it had one less bedroom than I wanted, and I just was not impressed with the online profile. However, given how the day had progressed, I decided to give it a try.
It was a little brick bungalow with clipped gables (ugh…) built in 1930. We entered the house through the backdoor, which brought us into the kitchen. There were newer cherry cabinets and basic solid-surface counter tops. When it came to kitchens, I preferred either old (not necessarily original, as kitchens weren’t built then like they are today), or nicely updated. This was neither; it was newly updated, but not in a way that I liked. Next, we walked into the dining room with its orange-red walls… original triple single-hung windows, trim, and French doors leading into the living room. In the living room, was the fireplace (not operable, but with potential) flanked with glass-front bookcases, and, again, a large triple window in the front and a double along the side. It was also then I noticed the ceiling height and crown molding (not original, but pretty). It was standing in that room, that my mind started to turn. Despite the kitchen, I was beginning to like this house.
The bedrooms, bath, and stairs were just off the dining room. The bathroom… usually I’m not one to get excited about a bathroom (especially not one this tiny), but the tile. Oh, the tile; original marble basket weave. Be still my beating heart. The bedrooms were small and the closets smaller, but that comes with the territory. If there’s sufficient living space, I don’t mind small bedrooms. The stairs to the half-story were STEEP and the space up there was nothing special, but it had potential, and I can work with that. The basement was a large, unfinished space, which I knew would be perfect for my future puppy.
We looked at several houses that day, but given a little time to mull it over, I knew this was the place for me. It wasn’t the house that I had thought I wanted, but in the end, it was the house that worked best for me. My Realtor helped me through making the offer, and after a little negotiating back and forth, we were on contract by the end of house-hunting day one. I then had about 10 days to complete all necessary inspections, which turned up only a few minor concerns. We eventually closed, and I finally got to move in and start making it mine. My Realtor was amazing; she made sure I stayed focused and helped me understand what was important. Now, as a Realtor myself, that is what drives me; making sure my clients understand what is going on, helping the process move smoothly, and making these old homes – that so often come with big scary unknowns – more approachable for those who can truly appreciate them.