Our ca. 1880 house

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Posts: 331
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:45 pm
Location: Corsica, PA

Our ca. 1880 house

Post by nezwick »

Hello everyone, I'm back - you might remember this thread: viewtopic.php?t=26688

Well it didn't take us long to decide not to pursue that house (in fact, it's still on the market and down to $45.9k).

There was a house for sale just down the road from our apartment that had been listed with a Realtor for quite a while, but hadn't sold. I looked at it online, but didn't really think too much else of it because the price was higher than what we were looking for (and it also looked kind of modern). The seller is an elderly lady who has known my dad's side of the family for many years.

Anyway, my mother ran into the owner in town one day, and the owner said she had some issues with her computer she wanted me to look at. So we decided to make it a dual-purpose trip: fix her computer and get a tour of her house. And as it turns out, her one-year contract with the Realtor was over that very day!

I'm not kidding, the second she opened the front door I was in love. I saw plaster walls and wide old trim and was SOLD. We sat and talked for hours that night, about the house and its history and all kinds of things - and she gave us "the tour". At this point, we hadn't gotten pre-approved for a mortgage yet so I couldn't make any kind of offer or commitment, but I said I was very interested and would get back in touch once we were pre-approved.

Later that week, I was pre-approved for a mortgage for just $4900 shy of her original asking price ($79.9k). I made my offer of $75,000 and she accepted!

To make a long and boring story short - fast forward to the present and we are about a month away from closing. Our sales agreement states we must take possession by 30JUN but her moving company comes 13-14JUN so we will be moved in sooner.

Here are just a few of the extremely awesome facts about the house we bought:
- 3 bed, 2 bath, ~1500 sq. ft. (our apartment is 1 bed, 1 bath, 753 sq. ft.)
- Current owner moved into the house with her late husband in 1955. Apparently it was starting to get run-down but they got it for cheap and brought it back to life.
- Current owner is only the 2nd family EVER to live in the house since it was built (she estimates 1880).
- A huge cistern and an old well with an antique well pump are in the basement.
- The house underwent a huge renovation some time before 1921 when the "master bedroom" and living room were added on, and the back porch was enclosed into a kitchen.
- Much of the original hardwood baseboard trim, door trim, and window trim is still present through the house.
- The current owner renovated the old kitchen in 1955 when they moved in, and all of the 1955 cabinets are still present. The cabinets were built in-place and they wrap entirely around the kitchen (even above the doorways). There are something like 47 doors in that kitchen, and it's not all that large. Some of the vintage chrome hardware is still on the cabinets.
- Gas lines are still located in most of the downstairs rooms (from gas lights). Unfortunately, no fixtures.
- Two of the original turn-of-the-century 2-over-2 windows are still present in the living room.
- Tons of insulation has been added over the years.
- Modern plumbing (all copper and PVC) and no asbestos coated plumbing.

The house also has all sorts of modern amenities like 200A electric, city water & sewage, 6yr old HVAC with central air. Includes all appliances, and some furniture. It is truly move-in-ready.

There are a few negatives, but NOTHING we can't live with for a few years.
- Vinyl siding, asphalt roof, and cheesy looking exterior window trim w/ shutters makes the house look very generic.
- All but 2 of the windows have been replaced. However, NONE OF THEM ARE VINYL! Some are Andersen insulated wood windows and some are an unknown brand of insulated wood windows.
- Wallpaper all over the place.
- 1970's paneling in 2 of the bedrooms and the room which will be my office.
- Wall-to-wall carpeting everywhere except the bathrooms and kitchen (no hardwood).
- No interior access to the basement (this is both good and bad).
- Some of the outlets are still 2-prong ungrounded but there is no Knob & Tube.
- The upstairs bathroom was destroyed by plumbing failures in 1993 so it was completely rebuilt at that time. The old cast iron tub is still there though - and it is a decent '90s bathroom - just not period-appropriate.

I don't want to make this first post too long, but I will definitely add to this as time goes by. I know how everybody here likes to see pictures, but the owner still lives there so all I can give you is the Google Maps images. Remember, it is a generic vinyl box on the outside, but it's a real old house with lots of history and character!




What does everybody think? We are excited beyond excitement.
Last edited by nezwick on Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:13 pm, edited 6 times in total.
The McCullough/Simkins house, built 1872-1877:
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Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by SkipW »

I think that is a great looking house!

And if you plan on removing the siding and doing appropriate siding and/or shingles or the like, it would be truly fantastic. (I see corner boards, deeper trim... :wink: )

It sounds like fate was on your doorstep. It sounds like you were meant to own the house, too.

I'm glad you got the chance and it sounds like you will be a great 3rd caretaker.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right. - - - Henry Ford

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Location: Oakland California

Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by lisascenic »


That house is very pretty. Not generic at all.

I'm trying not to drive myself insane, by comparing housing costs in your part of the country and mine.

Posts: 331
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:45 pm
Location: Corsica, PA

Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by nezwick »

I agree, it does sound like we were meant to own this house.

The seller said other "potential buyers" who came to look with the Realtor disliked things like the small kitchen (not an eat-in kitchen because there is a formal dining room), and the fact that it does not have an open floor plan. People also thought the price was steep for this area for such an old house, but what they didn't realise is that it includes $15-20k worth of appliances, HVAC, and furniture.

We absolutely LOVE the small kitchen, in fact, we prefer a non-eat-in kitchen and formal dining room. I love the fact that it is NOT an open floor plan (GF is indifferent but I cannot stand open floor plans), and I love the old house charm that some of the rooms still have.

She said that underneath the vinyl siding, there is a layer of R-board type insulation, then a layer of Insulbrick, then tarpaper, then wood (can't remember if it is beveled claps or rough planks). My vision of the future exterior is wooden clapboard (most likely painted a "barn red" colour), grey metal roof, and grey/off white trim. Maybe shutters, but only if they can be functional. I want to keep the simple, clean, and sturdy look that this house was meant to have.
Last edited by nezwick on Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The McCullough/Simkins house, built 1872-1877:
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Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by OldTownHome »

Sounds awesome! As an owner of an 1880's home, I can say it was a good decade for construction ;-)

I know the feeling you had when you walked in. We went out with our realtors when we were house shopping, and our house was the first house we went through. It was at the top edge of our price range, and had so many problems, but I wasn't 10 feet into the house when I looked at my wife and jokingly said "Well, I'll take it!" We looked at a dozen or more houses after that first day, but still ended up buying the first house we went through. Meant to be.

We had to look past the problems and see the potential, that's for sure. Here are some photos from our home inspection. Nothing horribly awful, but nothing particularly great or perfect either. http://www.oldtownhome.com/2011/4/25/Le ... index.aspx.

Enjor you home.
Old Town Home
1886 Victorian Row House in Historic Old Town Alexandria

Posts: 331
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:45 pm
Location: Corsica, PA

Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by nezwick »

OldTownHome, I love the work you have done. You have a beautiful home.

Here is another teaser for you guys. We got our appraisal report in the mail today, and it included the current floorplan. There is one major error though: on the first floor, there is NO closet by the front entance (bottom of diagram). It is just part of the foyer/entrance where the current owner keeps a telephone stand and a small table. Not really sure why it was indicated as a closet.


It is also true that the usable basement does not fully extend under the front section of the house. Although I have not yet seen it for myself (current owner put up a wall), apparently it is just a crawl-space.

The room labeled "Family" is where our office will be. And the small room at the back door is actually a pantry, with many shelves.
The McCullough/Simkins house, built 1872-1877:
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Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by utopia13 »

Greetings nezwick & congrats on the sweet old house!

There is one thing about buying one of these old places....you just know the one when you see it! I am another example of someone who bought the first home they saw. I did look at others, but this one just caught my attention....like a cast iron pan upside the head! I could not deny the way this place drew me in. I had to have it.

We all will be looking forward to seeing the interior photos when you get in there.

In the meantime, take a deep breath...and start packing! :D
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Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by Don M »

Congratulations, I think you will be very happy with your new place.
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Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by catperson »

Aren't old houses wonderful? When you find the right one, you just know. We first saw our old house when we were not even looking for one. We both had just started selling real estate part time (no longer do that), and were looking at as many houses as possible in order to become familiar with the market. We walked into our house, which had been empty for at least a year (possibly longer), and said "Wow!", although It was definitely a fixer-upper, to say the least. As we weren't looking for a house, we had no intention of buying it, but we couldn't stop thinking and talking about it. I had always wanted an old house. We showed it to my brother and sister in law, who also liked old houses, and they were somewhat positive about it.

Finally, we decided to put in an offer. This was in 1985. The listing price was $12,500 (cheap for even then), and we put in an offer for $10,000. It was not accepted, so we offered them full price. The seller also had offered $1000 as an incentive to the realtor who sold it, so we got that, as well as a small commission. The house was sold "as is", and we were young and stupid. But maybe not so stupid, because after all these years and lots of $$$ spent on the house, we love it. From the day we moved in, I would walk through the house saying, "I LOVE MY HOUSE!!!" at the top of my voice.

It was not in the greatest neighborhood, although it really is better than its reputation. The neighborhood was on the local historic register at the time, and is now is on the National Register. We have seen much improvement in the neighborhood over the years, but there are still occasional problem areas (owned by slumlords or abandoned).

For many years all our extra money went to the house. For years we took no vacations. However, I have to say it was worth it. Even when it still needed lots of work, I always felt like I was living where I was supposed to be. I now feel that we could never afford to live in a house this nice if we had not done it the way we did.

Hurray for old houses, and congratulations on your new old house!!

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Re: We bought a ca. 1880 house!

Post by sooth »

Awwwwww, what a teaser! I can't wait to see pictures, but your description sounds great.
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