Random Tour

My friend and business partner Nick asked if we could cruise by the new house to check it out yesterday and I was more than willing to do a drive by.  Once we got there, the current owners were out front and waved and practically drug us into the house so that they could give us a tour.

It was so nice to finally meet both of them!  Vernon and Lynn lived in the house for 26 years and raised 2 boys and I’m sure they have some stories to tell.  They were packing the final boxes up but were so nice.  They shed a little light on some of the curiosities of the house (electrical box in the living room ceiling with no switch), hidden dead space in the kitchen, etc.  Lynn had printed out a picture of the house from the day they bought it back in 1984 for me to have.  So cool!

Our house, circa 1984

Our house, circa 1984

They walked me through what projects they had done to the house and what was done prior to them.  Neither of us know too much about previous owners, but they did mention that the house used to be the neighborhood polling station for many years as they had quite a few old-timers knock on the door waxing poetic about their childhood and memories of the house.

The whole experience was exciting and a little bit emotional.  We talked about the whole unexpected and unusual process of purchasing the house and how the whole situation seemed like it was meant to be.  They found the exact house they wanted as did we, and we were able to communicate as much and make it happen in the most unlikely of ways.  They were excited for the future and glad that we were the buyers but you could tell that they have had a wonderful 26 years in this old house.

We’ll take good care of it.  We get the keys tomorrow!

We Own A New (old) House

Well, we owned a house before, but we own this one as of today!  Ironically, the house we now own is being lived in by the previous owners and we are renting the house we are currently in.  But I digress.  Exciting!

The Dining Room with the "Music Room" just beyond that.

It’s been such a long process that I can’t believe it actually happened.  Along with going even deeper in debt, I lined up the moving truck and finally selected our wood floor contractor.

The floors have turned into a bigger decision than I think I anticipated.  It sounded so simple when we started: sand them, finish them, be happy.  If it were only that simple.  Who should do it?  How should they do it?  What type of product? How many coats?  Should we remove the painted shoe on the first floor?  Should we replace it to match the floors?  Should we refinish the stairs?  Should we remove all the carpet upstairs and get stupid ambitious?  The answer was yes and yes.

We interviewed 6 flooring contractors and am quite confident that most would have done an amazing job but we chose one based on his experience and some very valued recommendations.  Once it’s done I will share his name.  We decided to go with a 3 coat oil finish on both the oak downstairs and fir upstairs.  We really considered the water based finish but ultimately decided to go with the tried and true.  The dust containment system should cut down on a fair amount of the dust.  The size of the project necessitates a tight schedule in order to dry and allow us to move in on time.  We get the keys at 5pm on a Wednesday and the crew will be there at 5:01pm to start removing carpet.  Dedication!  Can’t wait to document the before and after for everybody.  We were also pleasantly surprised to learn that over 100 years, the oak has only been sanded twice: once when it was installed in 1910 and one time since.  They are 3/4″ thick and no top nails!

A couple brief thank you’s:  Mark Charlesworth of ReMax is responsible for finding us this house that actually never even went on the market.  It was quite serendipitous and without him we would have must certainly settled for something less than perfect.  Also an incredible thank you to Scott Kirkland: a dear friend and THE best mortgage advisor/broker around. I can’t recommend him enough.

Pre-purchase Walk Thru

Forgive the quality – I shot it with my iPhone:


A new homeowner in the suburbs must miss out on all the excitement and intrigue that people buying 100 year old houses experience. We had the inspection today and were pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

As most of you are probably aware, those installing sewer lines back in the day thought it appropriate to build a majority of the line out of terra cotta. And why not – it’s comparable in strength to…clay pots? Well, over time it seems to break and with a good sewer scope you can avoid having to pay for it. The only thing that is worse than a cracked sewer pipe is a party line sewer that has been cracked. And that’s what we found. Not only do we get a new sewer pipe, but so does our poor, unsuspecting new next door neighbor. What an introduction. View the sewer scope here – it makes for exciting TV.

Along the way, we also uncovered the supposed justification for the 1960’s remodel of the kitchen and an example of just how good a job they did. It seems that the utility chimney in the center of the house sat proud of one wall in the original kitchen. What should one do? Build a new wall 3 feet from the old one which hides the chimney and creates a ton of dead space. We stumbled upon this dead space while inspecting the basement and found a virtual room hidden in the middle of the house. You could see the old lath and plaster along with the original trim work. It also provided a great view of the wasted space between the drop ceiling and original 10 ft. ceiling.

While the inspection was going on, we also had a contractor come through to give us a quote on refinishing the hardwood floors on the first floor and possibly to pull the carpet on the stairs and upstairs and refinish those as well. The oak on the first floor is in pretty good shape while we’re not sure how good the fir is upstairs. The first contractor was garbage though: when he quoted me nearly $4/ft for the oak and he didn’t think we should remove the quarter round I was done. On to another quote I guess. I was thinking of looking at Surface…any other suggestions?

Inching Closer

What a process this has become. It’s tough when you fall in love with a house that wasn’t for sale nor on the market but that’s what we did. It was a bit happenstance but there was talk that the house was going to list and we managed to walk through it that morning. A month later, our second offer was presented and several weeks later we heard a response. After several rounds of negotiations, we were under contract and ready for the inspections.

The new house


The house is a 1910 Portland FourSquare.  It’s got great bones and a great layout but will need some work.  The floors need to be refinished.  Everything needs painting or stripping.  The kitchen and bathrooms will eventually need to be gutted.  New electrical panel, some new wiring, new fixtures, add insulation, add a master bath, new fence, new yard, blah blah blah.  But we are so excited.  It’s a house we know we can grow into and tackle as our energy and resources permit.  It’s funny how you can have a love affair with something like an old house.