Why do you love your old house?

peacockladyAugust 13, 2012

Since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed of owning an old house. Maybe it was too many trips to Greenfield Village when I was a kid. After many years of living abroad in very modern apartments, we are moving to place with the possibility of an older home. We located a beautiful home with octagonal bedrooms, butternut trim and built ins, and stained glass frames for most windows. It has a three foot thick stone foundation. No upgrades to electric in at least 40 years, same with plumbing.We intend to get a good inspection, and speak with contractors.

So, give me your reasons why we should do this, and not buy one of the repossessed Mc Mansions in their neighborhood. Old house haters are trying to discourage me. What do you love about your old house?

P.S. Here is the listing for the home.http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/7215-N-Ann-Arbor-St-Saline-MI-48176/24729226_zpid/

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lazy_gardens

If the house is in good structural condition, the electric and plumbing can be dealt with. It looks lovely, and if it's in your budget, go for it.

As for the old house haters ... they are entitled to their opinions. You are entitled to ignore them.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:22AM
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jlc102482

Wow, that is one heck of an old house! I really hope it works out for you. It's absolutely gorgeous. As for the old house haters, I secretly feel sorry for them. They prefer characterless cookie cutters over things of true beauty, workmanship and history. Pretty sad, if you ask me!

I was born into a family of old house/antique lovers and lived in a large 1905 foursquare until I was 9 or so. Old houses have always felt like home to me and I will never choose to live in anything else. My old house is a small 1857 Italianate-ish (no one knows what to call it, not even Old House Journal, lol) and I really love it. Yes, it does have some "old house issues" like plaster cracks, wiring in need of updating, and a lack of closet space, but I think the charm and history far outweigh any of those inconveniences. I feel really privileged to live in an old house and to be a part of keeping it up and keeping it alive for future people to enjoy and learn from.

Here is a link that might be useful: My old house

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 10:45AM
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powermuffin

That is one great house. I've lived in contemporary homes all my life; our old house is my first old house. We decided, after becoming empty nesters, that we wanted a smaller town, a smaller house, and something with character. When we found this house, just 5 blocks to downtown, with the original trim and windows, and all the other quiry old house stuff, we loved it. There is something about the proportions of old houses that make us feel comfortable.

Our kids thought we were nuts, but they have come around a bit as we have worked on the house. We removed all the 1970's remodeling and the house is quite nice, especially for a modest worker's cottage. The kids will probably always want new homes, and that is ok. I just find them featureless, souless and not enduring. We had lots more problems with our contemporay homes and spent more money on them than we have with our old house. Most people that don't like old houses either think that they are too expensive to maintain or just don't like the idea of "used" anything including houses. To each his/her own.

If you do your due diligence before buying this house, you will know what to expect and you should be able to decide whether you are ready to tackle issues that come up or not. As far as finding unexpected problems, my experience is that these crop up no matter what the age of the house.
Diane

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 12:21PM
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stephf

What do I like about my old house? I like the fact that, when people walk into it, they don't automatically know where the bathroom is. Seriously, if you've been in one McMansion, you've been in them all. My house holds a sense of mystery. People don't know what to expect before walking into it. Owning an old house is kind of like having a really great secret.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 3:08PM
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kimkitchy

I love my old house because it is unique; because the front door knob turns the wrong way and it probably has for 100 years; because the materials that were used in it are big and solid and firm and they don't make woodwork and flooring and hardware like these anymore; I love the big old wavy glass windows and the deep deep eaves that keep our home cool in the summer; I love the high ceilings and the plaster and lathe walls; I love my front porch that says "welcome and sit and rock here a while"; I even love the inconvenient narrow stairs and the tiny bathrooms! Even though ours is a simple bungalow, it's about 1700 square feet of charm and I wouldn't trade it for a 3000+ square foot modern house for all the tea in China.

Beyond the structure itself, there is comfort in the history of your home and knowing that families have lived there and cared for your home for 100 years (or whatever) and gardened there and maybe they loved it as much as you do. Your home sheltered those families and keeps their secrets or "decides" to share them with you (as you find relics here and there). They and we become a part of the place and honor it by taking good care of it. If you find old photos of your home and the people who have lived there, how lucky you'll be.

Old house "haters" are just a different kind of person. They can't understand why you would spend your time and your treasure, expend your muscles and sweat in restoring an older home. I can't imagine how my life would be otherwise...

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 1:47PM
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sarahandbray

I am both one of those old home worshippers and old home haters, I would say--

The "hate" part really just has to do with having little kids and always being stuck doing some type of home project when I would rather be out playing with them.
The only other "hate" for me is being so indecisive because my renovation decisions carry greater weight (in my opinion) than if I had some generic development tract house. Every choice I make I always feel the need to weigh cost with integrity of the home and functionality for a busy home. I always wind up feeling guilty one way or another--either spending too much $$ to make it look authentic or not spending enough and possibly not being true to the house.

What do I love was your question though!!
--my husband's familiy grew up in this house and it has been in this sleepy little town for 150 years
--the warm and fuzzy stories everyone tells about this house who has lived here
--the wavy glass in the 41 windows
--the original hardwood floors
--the fancy bannister in the foyer
--10'+ ceilings
--6 bedrooms and an actual nursery--door off the master and door to the hallway--makes me think the original family really must have had kids in mind!
--two stairways
--super thick and intricate moulding
--floor to ceiling built-ins in dining room
--super thick blocks of stone for our foundation--this house isn't going anywhere!
--the different rooms in the basement--canning room, dry sink, cold room, etc.
--L-shaped front porch
--a monstrous walk-up attic
--original "three-seater" outhouse still intact (but not used!)

And so much more...
So the pros definitely outweigh the cons for me!

-Sarah

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:46AM
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eandhl

That is one beautiful home! I would suggest you look into one thing. "Designated historic site on National Register of Historic Homes". Not sure if they are refering to the house or the area. Do learn what this will mean to you.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 5:54PM
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Clarion

I think this is one of those "If you ask to ask" questions. You have to ask, so I'd think it over 3 times, and then 3 times again. For old house fans, we wouldn't live any other way, and wouldn't ask or think twice. You have to love all the history and work that goes with it. The charm and level of workmanship that not even the best McMansions can exhibit is all just a bonus.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 7:13PM
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kalindi615

There is nothing I don't love about living in an old house and mine is probably the oldest house on here. The main part of our house is a log cabin that was built sometime in the 1700's. It was added onto around 1800. It still has old exposed logs with all their bark on them holding up my ceilings. We are currently in the process of a major renovation- trying to make the house more livable (you think you have electric issues ours was run on the outside of the house with exposed wiring hanging all over the place because of the 2ft thick walls) and we are doing all the work ourselves and YES everything you try to do will take about 100 times longer and is a bit more frustrating than a modern prefab home with plastic parts, but IMO it is totally worth it.

In our case this is family property so we have the advantage of telling our kids stories of not only their father growing up here, but also how their grandmother was born in a room upstairs and grew up with an outhouse in the backyard and no indoor plumbing. But even if that wasn't the case, I love knowing that so many people have lived here. I love gardening outside and adding to my HUGE collection of broken pottery, tile, and dishware (because that is just what you did with it evidently when it broke back then).

But, that is us and we are a little crazy taking on a project like this with a 2 and a 3 year old. We love this type of thing and this house and property mean the world to us. Even if it weren't this house though, there would be NO question in my mind or my husband's if we would buy an old home or a new plastic modern piece of crap. I would say, please know what you are getting into, it is completely worth it, if you are the right type of person.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 6:25PM
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Janieful

That home could be a showcase home.

I live in a modest, 1920s bungalow that was pretty utilitarian in its time and slapped up to house working class individuals. I nonetheless love it.

I love older homes because they have a sense of place. You know that lots of lives have been lived within those walls. I wish I knew more about the previous owners.

We just did a big addition on the back with a full basement. While the foundation guys were digging, they came across several artifacts - an old horseshoe with the original nails in it, a glass bottle from the 1920s with an herbal supplement brand etched on the side.

There still is some tool in the old basement that I have yet to figure out what it is. This is the good stuff that you find and experience in an older home. They have layers. If you ever take down walls, who knows what you will find?

Even the obnoxious layers of paint on the walls or the layers of flooring left tell a story. We removed multiple layers in our only bathroom - all the way down to the original cracked hexagon. We saw 1980s flooring, 1940s linoleum. It was fascinating.

Old houses are a labor of love, but they are very satisfying. I even like the creaking floorboards and the settling that causes sloped floors.

I think old houses are for those who can tolerate a little imperfection in their living. I'm not trying to imply to those of us who do are better than those who want 90 degree angles - my house seemingly doesn't have any. We're just different.

If you're okay with and thrive on imperfections, then go for the old house. If you want it to look like a new home, I would say buy a recent house. It will save you a lot of frustration.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:50AM
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donaleen

My house is also a 1920's bungalow and not a fancy one, though it is nicer on the inside than the outside. I like that about it. It's very comfortable, has nice big rooms and a wonderful feel. Old houses comfort me, especially those built in the twenties and thirties. They just feel like home.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 9:44PM
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brickeyee

As the 1976 built houses around me have more and more serious problems, I look at my 1930s house that is still going strong.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 10:05AM
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chardie

Oh, let me count the ways! The wood is extremely hard, still holding up after 137 years. Thick moldings, large front porch, old plantings, double parlor, high ceilings, wide eaves for natural cooling in summer, etc., etc. Steep, narrow stairs are part of the charm and character.

But they're not for everyone. I've learned to embrace the quirkiness and imperfections. Nothing's square. The floors are not level due to settling. There are cracks in the plaster. Paint goes on bumpy over woodwork. But there's so much history and life within them!

Here's my double parlor:

Here is a link that might be useful: many more pictures here

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 11:32AM
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Circus Peanut

I grew up in Ann Arbor and believe I even know the house you're looking at! That looks like it's right next to the high school? If all is solid with the structure, I would not hesitate to make an offer on it.

It's a wonderful area; if you have kids, do check into the schools in Saline to make sure they're what you want, and spend some time in the house during rush hours / school hours to gauge the traffic noise on Saline-A2 Road, to make sure it's not too much from the bedrooms etc.

The great thing about no updates is that you don't have to undo bad work from the 70's, while retaining as much of the original structure as you like. The bad thing is that it's expensive to bring systems up to code. We just bought an old house in Maine and are spending quite a bit replacing the old knob&tube wiring (c. $12k) and ancient original boiler (c. $15k). But if you factor this into your offer, you will be good to go and have plenty of time to schedule the work before snow flies this fall.

I grew up in a 1960's ranch but have lived in older houses my entire adult life: absolutely no comparison. As brickeyee says, we're sitting pretty while the cheaper materials on the newer homes are failing at a rapid rate.

The best thing about old houses? Anything that can break can be repaired. This is not the case with McMansions and their scary vinyl windows, plastic doors, plastic trim, cheap drywall, hideous siding and manufactured flooring.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 8:50AM
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columbusguy1

Looked at some of your blog, Chardie--to keep your hydrangeas blue, amend the soil with aluminum sulfate from the garden center--about a cup per plant, I think. :)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:45PM
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peacocklady

Thanks for all the comments. We did make an offer, and we are finally through with inspections and negotiations. It was tough, but the more time I spent in the house the more I love it. We have much to do, but we are not going to be in too big a rush. I just think that waking up to the sun shining through the octagonal bays, and cooking in the huge old country kitchen will make up for the work.

By the way, we have done renos on newer homes before. We put a lot of time and energy into pretty bland places to make them special. This time, we want to pour our energy into a house that is already special.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 3:25PM
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r3venton

I love my old house because exterior and interior detail work that you neversee on new homes and because it is right in downtown. Tou cant find a new home downtown that has a yard. They are all new construction that they squeeze 4 or more homes onto a normal full size (.15-.2 acre) lot.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 11:16PM
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ingeorgia

Living in California most people we knew lived in bland copycat houses, same boring builder beige walls and all had same boring beige impersonal decor. You could have moved anyone of them into anyone of the others houses and never known the difference. Give me character, and that is what old houses have. they weren't slapped up by a big company making as much $$$ as they could with the cheapest materials in the shortest amount of time. Old houses have a past and their own uniqueness. My floors slope, many windows don't open, bathrooms need work. Wouldn't trade it for builder beige for anything. Congratulations on buying your old home !

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 8:56AM
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jlc102482

Congratulations on your new old home, peacocklady! I'm so glad it worked out for you - it's so beautiful. Here's to many happy years there!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 9:45AM
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pam1892

I love/hate my old house. But some of the love reasons are it's uniqueness, character, original 1892 pine floors & larger lot. Hate lack of closets/storage and only one bathroom. Your new house looks very nice peacocklady though I'd want to strip the wallpaper :-) In my opinion, you'd have update/maintenance issues in any house you purchase whether older or newer so just plan to do it over a length of time instead of all at once. P.S. Your house looks so bright & airy donaleen!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 4:10PM
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kmcg

congratulations, peacock! I would love to have a house like that; it's just wonderful.

I have a smaller cousin of yours, with a single turret that houses our dining room and a bedroom. It's fun to sleep in a round room! I love many things about this house, as so well-expressed by previous posters. One thing that renews my love on a daily basis is the beautiful woodwork:

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 3:10PM
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polly929

I love the charm of an old house.

Yes, there is always a project, but each and every one has been totally worth it when finished.

Here is what sold us on our old home:

This fireplace.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 10:36AM
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