Anybody want to speculate on this old house I may buy?

LesterBurnhamNovember 17, 2012

Hello, all. Long time reader, first time poster. I am considering purchasing an old house, so I suppose this is the place in which to discuss it. I considered posting in the buying/selling forum, but this isn't a post about the buying process. Anyway, I just want to show some pictures of the house I am considering, and wondering if any one here who has old house knowledge could provide me with further information regarding home style, approximate age, what's original, what's not, or just whatever you want.

Since I cannot post copyrighted images, and I did not take any when I saw the house, here is a link:

http://www.homesandland.com/Real_Estate/PA/City/Scranton/ListingId/19253743.html

So what do you think? What style of house is this? How old do you think it is? That porch is definitely not original. Anyone know how it would have looked? Obviously, nothing upstairs is original. That's just a 1970s nightmare. There's a stained glass transom above the front door, but it is walled off on the inside. What's up with that? I'm sure there's hardwood under the carpet. Would you be able to tell what kind just by the style of the house or it's possible build date? I wish I could just look at pictures of a house and know everything about it! Anything else anyone would like to add is great, too. If I end up buying the house, I will come back here with dozens more questions and pictures of my own!

Thank you!

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liriodendron

I think its age is what it says on the listing c 1900. If it's in town you should be able to get very accurate info from public records. It may be occupying a lot on which there was an earlier building, but this one doesn't look like it's too much earlier.

It seems to be a nice sturdy little house. The decor is pure 70s-80s PA. It's hard to know what prompted all that paneling, whether it was simply a decorative update or whether the walls behind it are a mess. You might figure it was emergency first aid, and then if you discover it was only make-up you'll be pleasantly surprised. It might also have been added for energy savings. I have no experience with brick houses so I'm not sure what opportunities they have for insulation within wall cavities.

The house was likely built when energy (probably coal) costs were negligible so energy efficiency upgrades may be the main issue you have.

I think the back porch may be more original than you think, at least some elements of it. Its obviously been given new stairs and cloed in, but it's an essential back porch, so don't give up on it. The front porch seems orginal, though in both cases wooden elements may have been replaced. Keep a sharp eye out for similar buildings and check out what they've got for porches. Your local historical association may also be able to show you pics of similar-enough buildings to give you an idea of what may have been the original designs.

The pollarded tree behind it will take some thoughtful care. I'm puzzled why it was pollarded in the first place as it doesn't seem a likely species, or location for that technique.

What's under the front porch, and what's the point of those windows? They seem to me like the eyes of a very friendly sort of basement-living creature.

I'll add a direct link which will keep people from having to go to another window to see your house.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to listing in OP's post

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 6:18PM
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chibimimi

The front porch railings have certainly been replaced with something highly inappropriate, but I agree that the porch itself might be original. Is it a flat roof or hipped? It's hard to tell from the angle of the photos.

The hardwood under the carpet: Well, I would guess oak, but there are regional differences. Can you sneak into a corner and peel back the carpet? You should be able to press it back onto the tack strip afterwards without any damage. The wood may be in great condition, if it's had carpet protecting it for the last 70 years or so.

Are the windows original? Do they have storms on the outside?

It looks like the downstairs still has original trim with deep baseboards and picture molding. You could replicate that upstairs (but put it near the bottom of the list!), perhaps when you remove the paneling. In the early '70s, paneling could be had for just a few bucks for a 4X8 sheet, so it's possible previous owners simply paneled over good walls rather than paint. They might have put in "contemporary" trim at the same time.

Those pipes in the downstairs rooms -- do they feed the radiators or do they came from the bath upstairs?

If the neighborhood is good, this looks like a bargain! Lots of work, but a nice house.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 7:14PM
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columbusguy1

The house is clearly stated as 1900, and I see nothing to doubt that. Both porches are original, though the structures under both are replacements. The front porch most likely had wooden posts and trellis panels with trim boards. Without a larger picture, I'd say the railing on the front is original--there are houses in my area which look the same and have never been touched.

It should be a simple task to remove the section covering the inside of the transom, but you will have to replicate the trim most likely. Floors are probably oak, and should be in good shape--may just need polishing.

If it were my house--I'd remove the kitchen and bath down to the plaster, and put in appropriate period fixtures and cabinets. As for the panelling--words fail me how some people just have no concept of taste.

Stripping the woodwork would be high on my list once the mechanicals and structure are checked out--if they are working fine, then I'd not worry about them and move on to more pleasing projects.

One other note--those windows are not original...the arched tops of the openings show that...and at that time, an upper window could have multiple panes in differing patterns, but the lower sash would almost certainly have been one single pane of glass.

Not knowing prices there, it seems like a nice deal from comparable places here in Columbus!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 1:28AM
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lazy_gardens

Hard to tell the style without a floor plan, but it is probably the good old "American Foursquare" plan in a very plain incarnation.

What little I can see of the stairwell looks original. And under the carpet you will probably find the original hardwood (usually oak) floors. Don't freak out if you find them a mess. Almost anything can be fixed, and replacement boards can be stained an inserted if a spot is really bad.

If the neighborhood is desirable to you, the house and yard a good size for your family, and the house passes an inspection with no major dings (roof in good shape, no signs of long-lasting leaks, it's worth considering.

If you buy it, live in it for a bit before you start ripping things out. Research the house and houses of that era so you can spot what is original and what is replacement.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 2:57PM
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