May 4th, 2015

While the basement of the house was a beautiful blank slate, the rest of the house had suffered several years of grime buildup. In one bedroom, which was slated to become a guestroom/library for our son, one wall had a cloud of brown on an otherwise white wall where years of grease from a child’s head had deposited. Chunks of undetermined material were caked underneath the handrails on the back stair case. Teeth marks were on several of the window blinds where they had been gnawed by their kids.

oldfiltersAs part of our offer on the house, we stipulated that a professional cleaning crew must come through and clean the house. While they did a wonderful job taking care of most of the filth, some things were missed, like these HVAC filters. I’m not sure how many years of buildup this is, but I’m going to guess all eight the previous owners were here.

Most of the walls were still the builder’s original white, which effectively hid the extensive trim work. One room had been painted—the dining room had been painted a safe beige-like color that I named ‘sickly flesh’ due to its faint pinkish cast.

All of the light fixtures were the same original builders’ grade cheap bottom-of-the-barrel bright brass jobs that we had quickly replaced in our last house. They would be junked even more quickly here.

Outside, no landscaping had been done, other than the front tree and bushes the builder had planted nine years earlier. No deck or patio was found in back of the house, leaving an odd exterior door dangling fourteen feet from the ground off the morning room.

The big advantage we found to the state of the house was that most prospective buyers skipped this house, despite the asking price sitting at a six figure discount to other houses in the neighborhood, and a dearth of inventory. Fortunately, unlike some other houses in which we had interest, all of the issues we found were merely cosmetic, and left us with the blank slate advantage of a new house, without the new house premium that could take a decade or more to recoup.

The Blank Slate

April 29th, 2015

A job transfer took us across the country, taking us from our beloved Chicago to the Northeast. In taking this opportunity, we were giving up several things that we enjoyed—most notably the weekend condo on Oak Street Beach, and the home-built media room and bar in our suburban house. It took us seven weeks of active house hunting to finally find a house.

We originally had a contract on a house, but it failed the inspection and the contract fell through. The good news was that house didn’t have space for a theater or bar, so I was able to put that back on my list of wants for the new house.

When we saw this house, it was filthy. Ten years of dug in grime in a house that was nine years old—stains in the carpeting that had other stains in them. The hardwood in the kitchen was damaged from being wet-mopped and left to warp. And then there was the damage that I had a hard time explaining how someone could damage things in quite this way, such as the bent cooktop and the bent convection oven fan.

origBut, it had a completely unfinished 9 foot basement that was above grade in the back of the house with a bunch of natural light. No other house we had seen had anything like this. In almost every other house, we found DIY work of questionable code adherence and workmanship—that I’d have to demolish and redo in every single case.

Joe’s Bar Is Live Again

May 30th, 2014

Welcome back to Joe’s bar.  We recently moved across the country, which meant we had to sell our house, including the bar and media room.  But, the new house has a much bigger space for a new bar and a dedicated home theater room.  In the coming days (ok, weeks, months), I’ll start posting photos and plans for the new space, as well as re-posting pics of the old bar.

Stay Tuned!