sad goodbye, but new beginnings

old_house_j_i_mJuly 9, 2013

I recently made a significant career move to a new city. I will, sadly, be leaving my old "manse" behind (if anyone wants to buy it, let me know - the hard stuff is done).

So this new city is chock-full of old victorians (colonial revival and mansard roofed townhomes are abundant) and many HUGE old pre-20th century colonial revival "mansions."

But, as with so many great old homes, the neighborhoods are "rough" - some reporting crime levels that are 4-5 times that of the city overall.

I am certainly not looking in the worst of these areas (i cant live that way any more, I'm not 20 years old ...) but other areas with outstanding restored homes (and a few bargains in between) are in neighborhoods that have "turned themselves around" while being surrounded with some unsavory spots.

How do those of you who are in amazing old homes in rougher areas, or areas that are "pre-gentrification", do it ? What made you choose the house/neighborhood you are in?

Tell me about your home and neighborhood - both present and past experiences with good lessons are welcome.

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I don't have that issue anymore, but when I was buying city property, I looked for blocks with the majority of homes being owner occupied. There are those, even in poor sections. It tells me the occupants have an investment in the areas they dwell and they tend not to put up with things like drugs or gangs moving in on them. Then I made sure that the dwellings were secure as far as alarms or doors without glass panes near door knobs and got familiar enough with those living near me to keep 'an eye out' for suspicious activity.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 1:38PM
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I bought a house 'south of the tracks' when the neighborhood was still rough.

First of all, take a closer look at the crime stats ... will you be participating in the activities generating those crimes? And how are they distributed? What is in the neighborhood and how does it contribute to the stats?

When I broke down the 'high' stats in my neighborhood by location and crime (easier now) it was mostly drug deals gone bad, prostitution arrests and drunk and disorderlies lerading to brawls and assault arrests. I was unlikely to be involved in them, except for dialing 9-1-1

If you subtracted the crime from the bars and convenience stores at the fringes, and the drug deals along the major street ... we were no worse than the 'good' neighborhoods for other property crimes.

And, check it out on Google maps and street view:

Here is a link that might be useful: Google for Real Estate

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 9:38PM
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Not to beat your own drum, pre-regentrification.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 1:06AM
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Yep. The process works in both directions. Not only will a bad seed pull down the whole area with property values nosediving, but a good seed can build up the whole area too.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 8:38AM
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I think Calliope hit it on the head -- look for areas that are majority owner-occupied. Because if you're not in a very large city that has a critical mass of folks ready to move in and gentrify an area, it will be very hard to "bring back" a primarily rental area one house at a time.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 8:48AM
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Our old house is in the (not very big) city. We are only a couple of blocks from some "unsavory" areas but our street is fine. We have good neighbors which is why we had no misgivings about buying...that and the house was a bargain. Our neighbors make it a good place to live.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 2:52PM
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1. Lazygardens is exactly right. All the folks who get murdered know each other, 95% of the break-ins were by someone who had previously been in the place and had therefore "cased" it, and 90% of the random attacks happen after normal folk had long since gone to bed. You have to interpret the stats.

2. That said, the behavior one witnesses can be very disconcerting. And you never get used to it.

3. Be absolutely sure that every house/apartment immediately adjacent to yours is quiet, or walk away. Two houses away you can live with, but not adjacent.

We don't worry about our safety, but your quality of life is definitely effected. If our Victorian where on the right side of the tracks, it would be well into 6 figures. But then, we wouldn't own it! So, assuming you cannot afford the "right side" of the tracks, you have to decide between your love of old homes, and your quality of life.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 7:05PM
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Thanks all for chiming in. The neighborhood is on the upswing with a very very active citizens committee (neighborhood group) and though there are many empty lots, they are due to the fact that the neighborhood was built almost entirely between 1860 and 1875, Where age and nature just did a job on some homes (one magical home is so water damaged form a collaped roof that it will probably be torn down.

I am encouraged that the area is a regional landmark and on the historic register, so for what that is worth...

I need to get some crime stats and do a few graphs and charts (the city doesnt have them easily downloaded like some, nor are they readily available in a block by block map)

Im also becoming aware of some "newer" (1890's) areas that have less beautiful homes, but the neighborhood is 90% gentirfied (and the home prices affordable)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 8:20PM
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Sorry to hear of your plight, j i m...I know the struggle to balance safety over home from when I was doing my own search a quarter century ago.

Having lived nearly my entire life in the country outside a small town, all I knew was I wanted an old house--and not a RANCH like the one I grew up that meant older neighborhoods. Gentrification had hit a few Columbus areas in the 80s, like German Village and Victorian Village, but I could get very little house for my budget in those areas. So, I concentrated on a few others: Bryden Road south of downtown had lots of brick victorians, many with tons of original features, and I could have had a three story one with natural wood, stained glass and fireplaces for around 25k--but that area then, only if I wanted to carry a gun and essentially throw my life away by walking out my front door at the time. Now--while the area around it is a bit better...those houses now sell for 400-700k, some still needing a bit of work.

So, I concentrated more on the outlying areas of OSU, and got my current house after looking around for some three months--having missed the one I wanted to a prior offer from Canada. They essentially gutted the house of all original detailing (lights, trim, 3 pocket door sets) and left it for resale. I have been invited to visit by the new owners, and I'm tempted to see what was left besides the stairway oak panelling.

My house has been on a couple tours as it lies at the edge of the Northwood Park Historic District, and I have to put up with some noisy students from time to time, but at least I won't be knifed or shot going down the street as in those other areas I looked in.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 7:10PM
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When I bought (30 years ago) I started with my architecturally favorite neighborhood and found that I could not afford the blocks I felt safe on and did not feel safe on the blocks I could afford. And I had to feel safe to live my life and come and go at odd hours.

I compromised by selecting a different neighborhood with architecture that was not as lovely as my first choice and was less trendy but it had better crime stats. I was fussy about the block - no commercial, no school and no empty lots on the block. I strongly favored landmark blocks. I found a wreck of a house that had almost all the detail it was built with in 1880 as a middle class brownstone. I made construction a hobby, restored the detail and have a lovely home.

It was a good move for me.

I wish you well.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 7:41PM
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Calliope, I disagree with a bit of what you said.

You said, "The process works in both directions. Not only will a bad seed pull down the whole area with property values nosediving, but a good seed can build up the whole area too."

Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't. It can take 20 years for a neighborhood to turn around and sometimes, it never quite makes it up that hill, and sometimes, it just keeps slip-sliding downhill.

In 2011, I sold my gorgeous 1925 center-hallway Colonial (after I paid too much for it, and then dumped $50,000 into it).

It was bittersweet to leave that old house, but I did not have the intestinal fortitude to be an "urban pioneer."

I now live in a safe, quiet, peaceful suburb with a house that is far more suited to a pair of old baby boomers and not a day goes by that I don't feel VERY grateful to be out of the old neighborhood.

Maybe age is a factor, but I much prefer quiet and safe and peaceful over the inner-city, who's-that-guy-staring-at-my-house-now, we-need-a-fancy-security-system lifestyle.

Here is a link that might be useful: The

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 11:22AM
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Yes, Rosemary you are correct, it doesn't necessarily work both ways and it is much easier for an area to go downhill for one bad apple than uphill by one good example. It's the kind of trend we could reverse and I'm seeing reversed slowly, but we could do better. In my area part of what plays into the disintegration of some once nice areas has been the lack of enforcement for code violations.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 8:06AM
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Wow, Jim, sorry to hear you are selling that gorgeous kitchen! Yours was one of the ones I drooled over when doing my own remodel and in fact, I copied a few of your ideas (thanks!). I hope your next place is as great.

When I bought my old house, the neighborhood had nice people, but was run down. Mostly owners, a few rentals. All the houses were over 80 years old and looked very tired. It was what I could afford. Overall it seemed to be a quiet group, and a few of them knew each other. I knocked on doors to find this out. Crime stats were low, as they are in much of this city.

I started to fix up my place shortly after buying it, and all the neighbors saw the work. It brought them out to ask me questions about what I was doing, how, etc. There's an interesting thing that happens as people get to know each other and share thoughts and ideas. I've found that by knowing my neighbors and asking them about their houses, it brings up ideas of making the whole 'hood look nice, if one person starts the ball rolling. This may not always be the case, but I have seen it in a neighborhood I rented in that wasn't the best, and again after purchasing this house. Was it my planting of that seed that then encouraged others, many DIY'ers, to do the same, or did they just not want their house to look run down when the one next to it no longer did?

The bottom line is, in general we have lost touch with each other as we get busier, and I have found in this internet age, that by getting out and getting to know my neighbors, we build a community we want to improve and be a part of. I think that by seeing all the effort I put into my house, seems to make them want to do the same with theirs. It also builds a bit of a watch system as we all look out for each other. My whole block has now got newly painted homes, with much better looking yards than when I first bought. Many of them have upgraded their kitchens (after I did mine- with a couple choosing similar styles because they liked how mine was). I even helped teach a neighbor how to tile, and helped them tile their new kitchen. And just last week, yet another neighbor asked for my electricians phone number as they start their new kitchen remodel. Every fall, I assist the disabled neighbor with raking her leaves, and that has prompted the other neighbors to help her as well. It's amazing what planting that seed can do.

So, wherever you go, plant the seed. Get out and know your neighbors and be a part of the change. I don't want to sound all Polly Anna-ish here, but it really does make a difference in how enjoyable the neighborhood can be and my life within that 'hood!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 1:03PM
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