We have said it before and we will say it again–restoring a historic house is no small undertaking. It can be tough. Hidden surprises can show up. Like massive water leaks during a rainstorm. Finding old termite damage on a major support beam. Or sometimes you just end up going for months with one or more of your major utilities not there.
To anyone who has restored a historic home, can you honestly say you woke up one morning, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and thought, “Hey! I am going to go out and buy myself an old, rundown house to restore TO-DAY!”
Let’s Go Buy A House Today Anyway
Adam’s latest restoration project–3071 Sidney Avenue in Cincinnati’s historic neighborhood of Camp Washington–was entirely unintentional. Some past clients called to ask him to list their investment property. With his Realtor-side in full throttle, Adam went to take a look at it.
Adam has completed restoration projects before, which include five homes and several multi-family investment properties. He admits that when he first saw each property, “Buy Me!” was not the first thing to enter his mind. However, he also has over 15 years of real estate sales experience. He knows all of Cincinnati’s 52 historic neighborhoods like the back of his hand. Camp Washington is in the midst of a renaissance. It is very likely the phrase “Location, location, location!” was humming in his sub-conscious when he went to check out 3071 Sidney Avenue.
When he did see it, his home restoration side took charge. He immediately thought,”Wow! Neat architecture, a lot of original details. This would be great to buy and restore at the right price!” (Being a restoration veteran, he is now way too practical to not immediately consider price…)
Adam bought 3071 Sidney Avenue–a three-story, nearly 2700-square-foot Second Empire home–for $18,000. At a price less than the average price of a new car, that should leave plenty of monies in the coffer for restoration work, right?
So What Does 18k Get You Nowadays?
3071 Sidney Avenue has sat vacant for 8 years. Partial demolition was done on the interior prior to Adam buying the home. This is what Adam got:
1) There is no electric, no plumbing, no HVAC.
2) No intact kitchen, no intact bathrooms, and no insulation.
3) Built in 1885 as a multi-generational home, during the 1920s, the exterior was clad with asbestos-cement tiles. The front porch was heavily altered too.
4) Indoor plumbing was probably installed around the same time the asbestos-cement tiles were added–during the 1920s.
5) Based on where pipe remnants are and the distinct lack of disturbance from installation, it appears that the plumbing extended into the kitchen and that was about it (yes, a bathroom was once shoved in the kitchen).
6) The original windows remain. Even a bit of stained glass.
7) Colorful slate shingles on the mansard roof, decorative wood brackets and elements on the central window dormer all remain.
8) The top of the roof has asphalt shingles, recently replaced.
9) There are original floors, a central beautiful staircase, transom windows, decorative woodwork, and period fireplace mantels–with one discovery so far about the mantels. Intact stencils underneath a layer of paint (characteristic of the period)!
10) The list can go on but let’s just say that, thankfully, the basement is dry.
So now what?
Don’t Get In Over You Head
When contemplating a home restoration, our #1 tip is “Don’t get in over your head”. Our #2
Tip is “If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?” (Source: Basil W. Walsh).
Plan well. Do your research. Call in the professionals to assess. Be realistic. Start with the practical items first. Get the house watertight by fixing the roof, windows, and exterior, and then do the mechanics. The overall aesthetics, the various niceties that bring back your home’s historic character? Save those until the tail end of your journey. How much time and money this equals depends on the condition of the house to begin with.
For Adam, the biggest difference between 3071 Sidney Avenue and his other restoration projects is that so much is gone and there is so much to do ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Did Adam get in over his head?
On the contrary, he quickly realized the scope of the restoration was beyond what he could plan and manage himself. “To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.” (Source: Confucius)
The game plan? To bring in the experts. The Architects…
Stay tuned! This is the 2nd post in an ongoing series documenting Adam’s restoration project: an 1885 Second Empire home. If you missed our introductory post click here. We hope you enjoy the journey! Join us as our story continues over the next several months.
A Camp Washington Restoration: The “Master Plan”