I've got it bad...

Patricia ParksMarch 4, 2009

I have fallen in love with a late-1700s house in a small village in upstate NY. I drove past it many times while visiting a hospitalized relative, and it caught my eye right off the bat. It has been structurally restored up to an 1830s addition, which is a disaster, many layers of bad remodel, bad sills, etc. There is a dug well, and the septic is probably period as well... The interior of the original part has been gutted, framed in but not finished; what has been done appears to be well done, though a very thorough inspection is in order. The property is in a registered historic district. The owner is elderly, his wife has died and he has lost heart for the project. He did some really nice things like install a period fanlight over the original door, recreate exterior trim features, replace antique glass in the windows, etc.; but there's still a great deal to be done. Appliances are there but not installed. Nothing is really finished.

There's a nice, fairly new garage/workshop on the property. I know old houses are money pits, and they don't come much older than this! If all goes according to plan, which it never does, we could buy it outright, and still have some money to put into it to get it liveable; how far it would go remains to be seen. Well and septic would have to be planned for at some point, might as well be right up front!

I am checking things out regarding the historic designation and what that means in terms of restrictions on what can be done. DH is willing to get estimates on the sill work and to have a thorough inspection, etc. I think this place has huge potential, though right now it looks unkempt and neglected. Somebody talk me out of it...

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sarahandbray

Our house isn't as old as this one (1870's) but it's still a money pit! And we're in upstate, NY--just outside of Albany.

I'd love to talk you out of it, but I really enjoy our fixer-upper, despite the money we pour into it. I really agonize over every thing I put in here, but it is nice picking EXACTLY what you want (rather than someone else having the choice).

If you're not a DIY, I think it would be pretty pricey. Our contractor charged $55/hour!! Granted, he's pretty expensive, but it's REALLY hard to find reliable contractors used to working in old houses.

Good luck!! Any pictures???
-Sarah

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 11:34AM
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housekeeping

In NY, you should never overlook the cost of property taxes (I know I'll hear an Amen from other NY property owners.) There are two "property" taxes: the school tax bill due in September and then the combined County/Town/Village and Special District levy due in January.

And one of the tricky little surprises for remodelers of old houses in NY, is that if you completely gut a house to remodel it you lose one of the most beneficial tax aspects of owning an antique building: the fact that old buildings are steeply depreciated for setting tax assessment values. But the reasoning is that completely remade "old" buildings, aren't old anymore. For that reason, the tax assessment that's on it now may rise considerably when the project is completed. (OTOH, in NY it is illegal to raise an assessment merely because it has changed hands, even if the buyer pays a high price.)

There's no such thing as a period septic, none were made until the 20th c. You may have a septic that works, which would be a good thing since many parts of upstate require expensive raised bed or mound system at $20-40K a pop. Believe me, you don't want to go there!

I live with a dug well (in the floor of a crawl space underneath my pantry) and it is fine - nicer than the water I'd get from a drilled well which tend to be a bit sulphur-y in my area. However, you should have the water tested before purchasing. Unoccupied buildings with dug wells often fail on the first test due to inactivity, but sometimes they can be cleaned up with a stiffish dose of bleach and then retested to pass potability standards.

Care to say which county the house is in? There may be someone on here with local insight to offer.

But if you've got it really bad, there's nothing to say except, hello.

Molly~

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 3:19AM
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Patricia Parks

I live in NY, only about 45 minutes' drive from where this house is located in Otsego County; I'm aware of the septic issues and we've taken that into account re: up front money. (Period septic was a joke, of sorts; I've lived in some old houses in the area while growing up where it was pretty much an unknown.) Same on the taxes. My husband is a state employee, and we really don't want to leave the state or the area. So those things are OK. We currently live in a chicken barn, partially renovated, always something; it's been fun, but we no longer need the huge amount of extra space we have and don't want to see it deteriorate (or clutter up too badly) from disuse. My brother has done the majority of the work here that isn't in our limited range; I showed him pictures and he wasn't horrified. And I've shown him places that have made him say run, don't walk! Again, a serious inspection is in order. We have lots of contacts in the field whose opinion we would trust for structural and renovation issues, but not many for true restoration.
Thanks for the feedback!

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 9:09AM
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calliope

My cousin lives in a house in a registered historic district, but from what she has told me, all they seem to care about is exterior work, so that it doesn't detract from the millieu. Her house is not on any register. In England, however, it is an whole different ballgame. My peers-in-law could do nothing much at all inside or out, without having a nod of approval.

Housekeeping seems to have a very good picture of what is involved. I live in an 1820s-30s house in an unzoned rural section of the county. We had our property taxes hiked when we painted an old chicken coop. LOL. I visited the assessor's office several times, for this home and a couple others to check to make sure their plattes match the actual property. Twice I made them remove assessments on a barn and once on a garage what did not exist, and hadn't for years.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 12:16PM
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Carol_from_ny

I live in upstate NY. 1830's house. Once you fall in love with one of these old houses it's really hard to end the relationship.
I know when we found this one, I spend two hours trying to talk DH into and another two trying to talk him and myself out of it. We ended up buying the place and except for those occasional times when I'm overwhelmed I've never regretted our choice.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 4:04PM
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Patricia Parks

If the newer part of the house weren't in such bad shape, I'd be less worried. But I hate to think that it could be saved, if not for money; as it is, I don't see anyone else made of money lining up to take it on. Ever feel guilty about having to let a part go? Should we just walk away from the whole thing?
We're used to saving for incremental work, and living with lots of dust and mess; half the floors we have now on the main floor are unfinished, they're made out of wooden railroad car doors pieced together, most never painted or stained or filled. You could lose a small child down some of the cracks! We heat with wood now, and would still plan to do so; and we will continue improvements here (replacing some windows whose seals have blown due to settling, resolved with a drainage system a few years ago) and to do a little at a time. We added a passive solar greenhouse a few years ago, and it needs interior finishing; siding, etc. I like a work in progress, I guess; and this promises to always be one! Tips on a link for posting a picture appreciated; we have some. The good, the bad, and the ugly...

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 8:30PM
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sarahandbray

If you go to photobucket.com, you can create an album and upload your pictures to that. Just hit "Choose Files" and then find where your pictures are on your desktop. Then double click the picture you want to add. It will automatically upload it to photobucket.

Right click on the third line down under the picture. Choose "copy" and just right click in the message you're writing here on gardenweb and click "paste." Your picture should show up when you preview the message.

Hope that helps!!
-Sarah

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 8:09PM
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sarahandbray

If you go to photobucket.com, you can create an album and upload your pictures to that. Just hit "Choose Files" and then find where your pictures are on your desktop. Then double click the picture you want to add. It will automatically upload it to photobucket.

Right click on the third line down under the picture. Choose "copy" and just right click in the message you're writing here on gardenweb and click "paste." Your picture should show up when you preview the message.

Hope that helps!!
-Sarah

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 8:12PM
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sarahandbray

sorry about the double post!!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 8:13PM
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