Is the house worth saving?

WGH_AshMarch 2, 2014

Hi everyone. Some of you may have seen my other post about my derelict dream home. It's an 1880s gothic revival cottage- stucco, sash windows, beautiful peaked roof with trellis- with incredible sea views and huge windows. The sea views are south facing, the driveway is west facing, the back of the house is east facing to catch the sunrise over trees. Absolutely perfect.
But the inside is in dreadful condition- the roof is partially caved in, ceiling destroyed with damp, floors have collapsed, interior walls have been kicked in by hooligans and all windows have been smashed. It's almost impossible to imagine the layout, although I know that downstairs has one tiny bathroom, 2 living rooms with a fireplace each, a back kitchen and a back bedroom. Upstairs has three bedrooms, a large bathroom and absolutely incredible sea views from the landing. My boyfriend and i are completely in love, however we are just 18 and 19 years old.
Do you think the house is worth saving? Or should we just start from scratch?

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*clarification! I mean that my boyfriend and I are in love *with the house*.. Of course, I'm very fond of him too.. LOL

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 7:22AM
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To answer that question you need a structural engineer's assessment. If the bones are still good and you have the means to make the envelope sound and prevent any more damage to the inside, I'd guess that it probably is. If there are structural issues... that's a lot more daunting. I think it's worth finding out. It's a lovely house, or could be again.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 8:46AM
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This point was made in your other thread: This house has been abandoned for a long time; surely someone would have taken on this project by now if the house were available and worth it, no?

Someone also asked about the condition of the roof, and you've just confirmed that it's caved in and there are likely years of water damage and mold. Not good.

I think the estimate of 50-100k someone gave you was insanely low even before knowing this. Unless materials are a fraction of the price over there vs the states, and labor as well. And this isn't like doing a bathroom remodel; you'll have to spend a ton of money before you can even think about moving in prior to project completion. In the meantime you've still got to live somewhere. I know you're confident about finding work but will it pay enough to support all this? Would you be able to take out a large loan to fund this (doubt it) or will this have to drag on for years and years as you can afford each aspect of the project? That won't help negotiation with the trades.

One thing that particularly stood out at me in your other post is that you haven't discussed this with your farther who is "skilled in the building trades." Why not? You don't have to take his advice, but he might be able to give you a better idea of whether it's reasonable, a little crazy, or downright insane.

All that said, I looked at the pictures and absolutely understand where your heart is. Such a shame the state of this beautiful house.

Here's what I'd do if I were you. Continue your efforts to find out who owns it and if it can be obtained. Then hire an engineer to go have a look with you and determine whether it would be salvageable and how big of a project you're looking at. This will probably cost you a few hundred bucks. (or however that translates to Euros!) but it might be the best money you'll ever spend.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 8:59AM
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Thank you both for the advice. @foodonastump, you've made some thought-provoking points. Both my father and SO's fathers are engineers, so we will be able to get a structural assessment on it for free. The house is owned by the state, which I believe is the reason for nobody tackling the project. You must understand that the ownership of land and property, while legally following a similar system as the US, is vastly different over here in Ireland. Land and houses are often passed on through families, and it's not uncommon for houses to lie derelict for years.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 10:38AM
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Yep, same as what everyone said - no way it can be assessed via internet. Who knows there may be enough of the original structural timbers intact that it might make sense to gut and basically build a new house within an old shell. Although if floors are collapsed (do you mean the floor joists and all? or just the floor boards?) that suggests to me that structurally, its just too far gone to restore.

That said it might be possible to stabilize the structure somehow and keep it from falling down entirely.... perhaps use the structure as something else while your new house is built in a different spot? I haven't been to Eire in ages but I remember all the old ruins scattered around the countryside - some just walls left standing, abandoned when so many people died or emigrated from the famines of the 1800s. Not to mention all kinds of shells of medieval abbeys and such. I imagine there is a lot of skill and knowledge over there about how to maintain historic ruins?

Here in the US theres these fantastic ghost towns that have buildings in various states of collapse that are not restored, but have been stabilized to preserve them in whatever state of ruin they happen to be in - they are just so cool! You get such a strong feeling of history from them, a lot more than if they'd been fixed up and modernized.

If I were you Id just keep asking around, find some local preservationist folks - maybe you could find someone to take an interest and look at it with you. If you were to hire someone just consider it part of your ongoing old house education. You've got the bug for sure and this is something that will probably be a lifelong passion. One thing to know: if not this one, there will be others!

It would be interesting to ask around locally, neighbors, owner etc. and just get what the story is about it - Id love to know more about it!

This post was edited by kashka_kat on Sun, Mar 2, 14 at 10:49

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 10:45AM
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Sophie Wheeler

All it takes is money. Lots of money. Not something most 18 year olds have an abundance of unless they are heirs to fortunes.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2014 at 7:45PM
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Is it worth saving? If it has structural integrity, the answer for *me* is ABSOLUTELY!!! Would it be a daunting task? same answer! ;^)

Looking at the photos in the link from the other thread, I agree that the estimate of $50-$100K in US dollars is low -- or it assumes just a materials cost and that you and your family/friends will be doing a lot of the work!

Assuming it is structurally sound, the big question is: Are YOU the type of person who would tackle a lot of this work yourself, and do you have friends and family who have the skills and time to help you? alternatively, do you have unlimited funds to hire everything done by someone else?

It's a gorgeous place. I hope that you will be the one who can save it. :)

PS: I was just looking at the other photos again and realized it looks like the house probably had all of its copper pipes stolen. Would it be correct for me to think that an 'old house' restoration purist would have it replaced with expensive copper, while someone wanting to save money and hassle would go with pvc? Here's a case where I'd probably opt for pvc because it's generally out-of-site, and not only cheaper but it's easier to find a plumber who can handle it. I'd think it's also cheaper/easier to change pvc plumbing at a later time.

This post was edited by party_music50 on Mon, Mar 3, 14 at 8:44

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 7:46AM
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"the roof is partially caved in, ceiling destroyed with damp, floors have collapsed,"

It's a goner.

You would have to be Sir Elton John to afford this restoration. Because there's nothing left to "restore" it would have to be rebuilt from scratch.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 5:02PM
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Have a structural engineer (like your father) take a look and see what he thinks. If you can buy it for a low price, then you can slowly restore it. Maybe make it a family project. Just know what you're getting into up front...and you should buy it, not your boyfriend. I'm sure he's wonderful, but there's no reason to risk losing the house (and your hard work) a few years down the road. And, if it work out, you can get married the gardens, first :)

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 6:39PM
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I'm sorry to say I have to agree with @lazygardens here. I firmly believe the house is a goner. I care very much about my boyfriend, but this never really included him in my mind. It was always about myself and and the house. He fell in love with the house as soon as I showed it to him, and is fighting to save it. I, however, am the realist in the relationship, and accept with great sadness that it cannot be saved. I've photographed the house extensively and may even get the plans for it sketched up so that I may someday replicate it. But this beautiful house is just too far past the point of rescue, and it is with great reluctance that I let it go.
Unless.. Would it be significantly cheaper for me to buy the site, have the house demolished, and rebuilt a replica of it from scratch with new materials? I'm really struggling to let go, I guess! It's just so perfect, and in such a perfect location.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 3:07PM
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