We currently have a handshake agreement to purchase a small project property adjacent to our own. A few minor problems, though:
It’s completely overgrown, has been essentially abandoned for half a decade, and is filled floor to ceiling with, well, junk.
The property belonged to a woman who was unable to maintain it, and used it seemingly as a depository for her purchases and memories. Unfortunately, it was also a depository for a number of pets, and those of you that have both lived with and without an animal (dogs, cats, birds, husbands) will know that its a lot harder to keep your house clean when you have one. For the last few years, she had been living elsewhere and only visiting to check up on the place infrequently. She sadly passed away just over a month ago.
We knew that the house needed a bit of work, but we weren’t expecting a level five hoard when we walked through with the owner’s sister and brother-in-law. The floor is coated with around 6 inches of papers or birdseed, depending on which room you are in, and boxes, framed photos, medicine bottles, small furniture, new-in-box decor, or countless other items are stacked on top of this layer, all the way up to the ceiling in some spots. There is cracked and falling plaster on the ceiling and on the walls, including spots where plastic sheeting was taped up to attempt to hold up damp insulation or trap leaking water. Plaster on the walls is so bad in some areas, ’70s era wood paneling was added and crudely cut out around the doorways to keep it contained.
But, a close inspection reveals a great deal of potential.
For instance, the bungalow style house has very interesting exterior window detail, which is completely unique to the neighborhood. Heading inside, one can tell that there were a lot (a LOT) of built-ins throughout the house, particularly in the kitchen, along with a large steel farmhouse sink, likely original to the place. The dining room has a coffered ceiling with exposed dark wood beams, and the oak trim around the house is generally unpainted. The house is plumbed for two bathrooms and had been winterized before the heat was shut off, and the upstairs bathroom contains what appears to be a clawfoot tub.
The couple we spoke with are from out of state and were looking to offload the property to have a fund to support the sister’s elderly father. They had already been sifting through the contents of the house to look for family treasures and items with good resale value for the same purpose. Our already low propensity for in-person bargaining was completely removed, and we agreed to pay a fair price for the place.
However, because of the quantity of stuff in the house, we’re not able to get a completely clear picture of the structure. The overgrown exterior makes us wonder about the quality of the foundation, and fallen plaster makes us curious about the state of the attic. And, volumetrically, I’m going to guess that we won’t be able to get such a picture until we go through at least five to seven 40 yard dumpsters.
We took on this project because the property is right next door to our place, and we care deeply about our neighborhood. We already own and rent out the house on the other side of our main property, and have a lot of past personal experience in house repair and renovation because of this, which will come in extremely handy, and we hope to document the process with you. And, though many people struggle with addictions to stuff, because this isn’t our stuff, we have already overcome the highest hurdle to getting started: emotional detachment from the hoard.
We hope you will join us for this ride of discovery and repair!