Many ideas but where to start?

SammmCMarch 21, 2012

My house was built in the 1870's. There is so much i can do, we bought the house because of the apartment in the back of the property and because everything that needs to be done with both places would only be cosmetic.

I live in Binghamton, NY, not really a great area to be in but no where near as bad as most. Within the last month i hear cop sirens daily, i hear they are cleaning the place up. Fortunately, for us or house is back on a corner street where people only walk by. I have one normal neighbors to left of me and the ones to right, arent exactly. I would like to make myself feel safe, because right now this house is affordable and whats right for us, at the time being.

I would like to in the next 5 years have this place renovated and get some equity in to rent both places for higher than what they are worth now.

As of right now my first project is making me feel safe as i said before. Its not that i dont feel safe at home, its that i am an activite person, grew up in the country and now im stuck in the city. I want to get a dog to walk with me on the street and at parks. But with this area i CAN NOT do it alone. (i am young and quiet petite woman) I also would like to make my enclosed back porch into some type of patio. I dont have much for a yard but there is potential. It would be awesome to fence in the back yard/ combantion with the back open porch or patio.

I dont really know where to start with this one, i dont want people to think that it is cruel to have a dog in such a small back yard. I am highly active, i love to be outside, i grew up with horses and i loved to go out trail riding, so maybe you can feel my pain when i say i need to get out!!!!!!!! I hate the city with a passion, but i am willing to make it work for my boyfriend and the fact that this is the only option we have right now to afford to live together. the only way i can see myself not going insane is to get outside and walk, but unfortunatly there are many people here who could snatch me so yeah a nice rotweilier or boxer/lab would make me feel better when my boyfriend is working. I am going to post pictures of the exterior of my house, tomarrow when it is light out again. Now i chose this form because i also have many other projects and i figure why not keep it in the same page. My house was built in the 1870's so theres lots of interesting, orginal, wall paper, flooring, etc. I even found old polio leg braces for a young child.

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OMG - at first I thought you were being melodramatic about the personal safety issue, but then I read the crime stats for your city and you are right. You have to address your safety and security issues before you think about wallpaper, etc.

Call or go to your local police station and find out what street crime is in your precinct. Find out if it really is as dangerous as you think to walk the streets around you. The type of crime and the type of victim makes a difference. (Baltimore, for example, has a reputation for its high murder rate, but it tends to be drug traffickers killing other drug traffickers, or so they say.) The police may be willing to send someone to your house to evaluate it for safety issues - locks on the windows, appropriate outside lighting, etc.

Having a big scary dog is not a bad idea, but you will have to walk the dog. Don't get a puppy; go to a shelter and get an adult dog that will need less exercise.

Scary neighborhoods don't scare me to walk in; generally there are people around and they get to know you and even watch out for you.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:41AM
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I'm in a similar situation to yours. I'm not in a bad neighborhood, but I do have bad neighbors next door who sometimes make life miserable. Here are some things we did that helped me feel more secure.

The first thing I did when we moved in was to make sure we had window coverings in all of the windows. I mean blinds or curtains, not anything sheer or semi-sheer where people could see in at night when the lights are on. The next thing we did was put up a wooden stockade fence in the backyard, which wasn't cheap but was worth it for the privacy and (hopefully) security. The next step we're taking is to have an electrician wire 2 or 3 flood lights that will illuminate the front and back yards, which will go on automatically from dawn to dusk. (We should have done that a long time ago!)

Check all the locks on your windows and if any need replacing, do so right away. The House of Antique Hardware website has several 1870s repro styles to choose from. Ditto with your doors, needless to say. If you have a garage or any outbuildings, put locks on those too, even if it's just a hefty padlock. If you think it might help you feel more secure when you're home alone, you might look into buying a surveillance camera. Amazon has several wireless cameras and receivers to choose from that are relatively inexpensive and that you can easily mount outside yourself. You might also think about removing or trimming any large bushes near the house that someone could lurk in. Glass block windows for your basement, while not pretty or historically accurate in the least, are probably a good idea.

I hope this information helps you a little and is what you were looking for. I'm looking forward to seeing photos of your house!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:46AM
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I apologize for not posting pictures, it's been awhile since I have done this. I had an old photo bucket account for MySpace, although I haven't been in there in years. I know I should know how to do this doing it from my iPhone is another deal. I emailed them to myself but now stuck, I'll have to figure it out when I'm not at work and at home with my laptop. But I had a heart to heart with the boyfriend and a dog is not what we need or can honestly afford. But when I get the pics on here you'll be able to see what I mean about privacy. I would still like to do something nice for the back enclosed porch and at the same time create some privacy to be comfortable out back. You won't be able to see our apartment in the back very well but hopefully I can set the pictures up right so it makes some sense. As for setting up security systems my neighbor has a security camera that has a view of the left side of our house getting one to coincide with theirs would be great. As for the back porch the roof of just that will need to be done. Since I have a nice covered porch in the front I'd like to open up the back and avoid the roof all together. I am also hoping to find some nice wood to contribute to our future privacy fence. Once I get home I'll figure this picture thing out.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 11:32AM
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Sam- Did you buy this house, or your boyfriend? Can you move, if you choose to, back to the country (back home)?

You may not want to hear this...but think long and hard about whether you want to be in this situation. First of all, why are you still girlfriend/boyfriend? Not speaking from a moral standpoint, but a financial one. If you're sharing the work and the risk...are you also sharing in the (hopefully) profit, when you fix the place up?

While I understand that the heart wants what it wants (and this is not meant as a judgement of your boyfriend, at all) think very carefully, before you give up so much of your freedom, to be living in an area, you don't seem to like or want to be in. Just my two cents...

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 12:01PM
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Vancouver's inner city, where I live, has similar issues - wonderful old houses (often small, mind you) in a questionable area. I am not in the thick of it, but creating an oasis in the midst of chaos and ugliness is not too far off of the challenge that many people who live in this area face. Some more than others, and I do count my own location as one of the better ones.

The country, at least around here, has its own dangers such as bears and cougars. I'm not sure I'd prefer those :-) Coyotes are a problem in both areas. Fact is, predators exist.

A dog or not should be a decision made for the dog and what you can offer it, as much as for security. There are other things you can do, including fence plus surveillance, for example. I agree that window coverings are a rather crucial element. We have, for example, cafe curtains so that even during the day, people can't see in though we can get wonderful light and the house does not look unfriendly. They work with the vintage look.

A lot of people around here have window bars, visible ones so people don't even try. Some look nicer than others - the important things are enabling fire egress, and that they work.

Secure your perimeter, and create an oasis.

The most important element of areas like yours is normal people moving in and investing time and effort in the houses. That motivates authorities to do their part, then it becomes trendy, and then it becomes safer. Also, property values increase when properties improve.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 1:14PM
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I have a niece in Syracuse facing the same issues. Since their house is deep "under water," they are inclined to bid it and the city goodbye. I left the whole country for the (mythical) peaceable kingdom decades ago.

A trained guard dog is your best bet.

I knew a couple who lived in social housing here. To maintain the wife's safety when she was alone, they got themselves an imposing Rotti. (This also distinguished her from the dealers, who favoured Pitbull companions.) But they sure do eat a lot! The dog too.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:09PM
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Plant Knock Out roses under your windows. Easy to grow, pretty blooms, and AMAZING thorns. I have them under my front windows--while in theory if someone came with thick leather gloves, cutters, and cardboard to lay down, they _could_ get through, it's not likely. These roses are EVIL, in a good way.

There are some pretty barberries that will do the trick too.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 8:30AM
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Ditto what slateberry51 says about planting roses--other any other very thorny shrub under the windows, or any place where someone might think to sneak into the house. Make it look like it'll be difficult and painful to get in, and the opportunists will look for an easier place to go.

And I have to second graywings' advice about calling up the police station and asking what the crime statistics are: type of crime, etc. When I was moving into an apartment in an area that seemed to have lots of police presence/lights, I called the station and they told me that the most crime in my area was domestic violence. That made me feel better, because I knew it wasn't the sort of crime that would threaten me personally. (And fwiw, the stats were true: while living there, I once had a woman run up to my car as I was driving into my parking spot--she was barefoot and had run out of her apartment because her husband had threatened her with a knife. )

The dog is a lot of work, and a long-time investment.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 9:36PM
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