Gambling with Emotions (& Money)

catsI’m selling my house not because I want a new one, but because I want a particular new one – a 1915 Craftsman-style home, for which I’m currently under contract contingent upon mine selling. (It may have been the yard art – among other things – that made me love it).

I’ve decided to go ahead on Tuesday with the inspection on my potential new home because there’s a distinct possibility that, although I love way the house looks superficially (OK – I love the way it could look, with a decade or so of work), it needs more than I can handle in terms of skill, or funds to pay those who have them. I’ve decided it’s best to have things checked out now by an expert; if the house needs more work than I think it does and I wait for mine to go under contract to discover that, I could end up homeless.

The object of my affections has many problems that are easy to identify with even the most cursory of looks (which in hindsight is typical of many of my former objects of affection).

Some of the soffits and fascia boards are rotted or completely missing; I need to find out if any additional problems (an entrenched raccoon colony, for example, or worse, rotted joists) lurk behind the visible damage.

All the box gutters that I can see from the windows need relining, and one of them is detached from the roof edge. There doesn’t appear to be water damage on the wall beneath, but if there is, there goes the budget.

The roof almost certainly needs replacing.

There’s a hole hacked in a kitchen wall through which one can see a hole in what I think is a waste vent stack (better than in the waste stack itself, I suppose); I’m pretty sure that pipe hole can’t be patched – but how difficult (read expensive) that pipe is to replace, I’ve no idea. And really, I’ve no idea if that pipe is connected to anything at all. (The plaster patching? Easy.)

And there are other smaller (at least I think they’re smaller) visible issues for which I need an expert to dig (metaphorically or actually) below the surface.

I hope my realtor doesn't see this; he would not be happy about having his backside on display.

I hope my realtor doesn’t see this; he would not be happy about having his backside on display.

But there’s one big potential downfall – literally. The back of the house is, somewhat oddly for the style and location, constructed on pillars. I’ve checked the Sanborn maps (thank you Cincinnati public library for making them accessible online), and this appears to be the original footprint and construction. The side fenestrations in that part of the structure are out of square, so the windows can’t completely close (I’d have to come up with some creative solutions…beyond remaking all the windows out of square). There are obviously some settling issues – but I don’t know how bad they are, or if they’re likely to be exacerbated with frightening celerity. It doesn’t help that the pillars are clad in wood; I can’t see what they’re made of or what’s going on beneath.

There are also some stair-step cracks (not big ones) following the overlay brick pattern of the poured-concrete foundation of the main structure, but on the inside (where the concrete is exposed), it doesn’t appear to be a major issue – but I know next-to-nothing about structural engineering. (Small cracks might be bad; big cracks are definitely bad. That’s the sum-total of my expertise.)

And the entire house needs painting, inside and out. I can do the inside; for the outside, I’d hire the same outfit that did such a fast and excellent job on my current home (that would be Forest Hills Painting, in case anyone in the Cincinnati area needs a recce).

So on Tuesday, I hope to find out what I may be getting myself into. And I’ll find out if I really want to get into it.

What I’m most anxious about is that the inspection will reveal the house needs only the work I’ve already identified and for which I’ve budgeted – then, I’ll be in full-on panic mode about mine selling in time for the move to happen (no, I’m not revealing the timeline). If mine doesn’t sell, I’ll have basically thrown away a significant chunk of money. Far worse, though, is that I will be desolate.

But should my (potential) dream house reveal itself as a nightmare, well, that’s money well spent – while I still have the option of maintaining ownership of the solid roof now over my head (which already features relined box gutterss, and new fascia boards and soffits).

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About fitz

Editor & content director for Popular Woodworking, ABD PhD focused on early modern drama, freelance content and copy editor/writer, ailurophile
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9 Responses to Gambling with Emotions (& Money)

  1. Megan:
    Sounds like there are issues you are on top of so far – what I want to add as a HVAC kinda guy is to be sure the heating, cooling, plumbing, wiring and hot water is up to par, or, if not, to allow for it – – – a savvy house inspector will be all over it, but often these items are overlooked or downplayed ’til after the fact, and all of a sudden !!!!! YIKES.
    Best of luck on your potential transaction.
    Dave B

    • fitz says:

      Oh – there are issues there, too. I think, for example, the A/C unit and I were born during the same year 😉 (we both still work, if not as efficiently as we once did…)

  2. Sam says:

    Megan,
    Sorry, but it sounds like a pass. I had my first home inspected before selling it and after 100 percent remodeling over 8 years, and the inspector had over three pages of complaints. Gambling with emotions is tough, but gambling with money is costly.

  3. Mark says:

    A saggy back side, I’m referring to the house of course, may not be all that difficult to fix. I’ve lifted many a house corner or even an entire side with a few 10 – 20 ton bottle jacks. Replace the supports with steel or reinforce concrete pillars, which you can later wrap in stone, brick or whatever material suits your budget and overall look of the house. Racoons in the attic? I’m glad there are people who remove critters like that. I won’t go near them. Oh, and you should probably accept that you’ll want reinsulate the entire place as you go. It definitely pays itself back in the years to come.

  4. Bob Jones says:

    The crew of This Old New England House Belonging to Rich People could fix you up in one 30 minute episode. 🙂

  5. Marilyn says:

    Yup! Familiar with this routine. Bought a 1906 12 years ago and its been a lot of work, but it taught me how to side, demo, finish, hire a good contractor, etc. Here’s the before and after: http://sheworkswood.com/2010/08/08/siding-project/. Mostly, I think its about being patient.

    • fitz says:

      Holy cow Marilyn – that looks like a whole new (and beautiful) house! I’m hoping I wouldn’t have to do _quite_ that much work (at least on the outside).

      I’m impatient (and anxious) right now, because I’m worried mine isn’t going to sell – but I’m fine living in a project for years on end!

      • Marilyn says:

        Thanks! If it all works out for you, I bet you’ll be surprised at how much better your house will look when your done.

        Heck, I was lookin’ at your current house and am really impressed. All the great furniture really makes it. I’d buy it. 🙂

  6. joemcglynn says:

    Marilyn is pretty amazing. If you think her house is nifty check out her blog to see the six board chest she just made for the front porch.

    Honestly, your new house scares me. That looks like a big project, but I agree that getting an assessment of what it needs is pretty important before you make any final decisions.

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