Fixer-upper or teardown, the old house conundrum

Myryah Irby

October 9, 2012

By: Myryah Irby, Home Renovation Enthusiast

In: Windows and Window FashionsKitchen RemodelRoofing and Gutters

Remember in my last post I wrote all about how much I love old houses, and how my husband and I have spent years and years looking for the perfect old house to buy and fix up?

Well, over the past year and a half we've learned that the old houses in upstate NY that had the features we were looking for -- higher ceilings, old wood floors, a few acres, trees, etc. -- were not available in our price range unless they also included certain drawbacks, e.g. a neighboring junkyard, campground, or trailer park, failing foundations, carpenter ants, mold, etc. Many of the old houses we loved the most were totally busted. We bid on a few of them anyway, only to find out during the inspection that they were even worse off than we'd thought.

For example, some of the highlights of the first house we attempted to buy:wide plank floors
Wide plank floors, a sweet little art studio/guest house in back, and windows, windows, windows!

rustic kitchen
The kitchen of my dreams (minus the taxidermy)

And the lowlights...

time for a new roof
The roof
was shot.

no saving this porch
So was the wraparound porch.

There were plenty of other problems, including the caved in house next door, the mold of many colors, and the size. At over 4,000 square feet it would have been mighty expensive to heat, and way more house than we needed. But those floors... that kitchen... my  backyard pottery studio!

The term "fixer-upper" means different things to different people. When dealing with houses of a certain age, i.e. those built in the 1800s or early 1900s, we've discovered that the term is often used pretty loosely; that in fact, it's sometimes interchangeable with another term: "teardown."

In the end we found a plot of land we loved, containing a more modern house we knew we could grow to love. While the house is still older than me (it was built in the late 60s or early 70s, we think) it's not the old house of my dreams. We considered our young children and the unpredictable economy, and chose fiscal responsibility over old house restoration. We bought a solid house we could afford to fix up, on a gorgeous five acre wooded lot. We have no regrets.

I still love old houses and hope to own one someday, but that day is not here yet, and that's OK.

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