Lead paint, years of neglect, and an exterior that would make an excellent location for the next blockbuster horror film didn’t deter my husband and me from falling in love with this 1902 Queen Anne home in Logansport, Indiana.
Not to say since our offer to buy the house was accepted, we haven’t had our reservations - we have. Yet, we’ve been able to see past the exterior as it stands and knew what the house could be again.
So why did we want a hundred-year-old fixer-upper?
As we’ve approached the big 5-0, my husband and I have been giving more thought to what we want to do once all the kids are out of the house, what the next phase of our life would bring. We started toying with the idea a while back about finding an older home that needed some work in a smaller town than the area we currently reside. My husband is the big antique buff, and he relished the idea of restoring something to its original glory, while I liked the idea of a house that wasn’t like the cookie-cutter homes we’d been living in the last twenty years.
I became a frequent visitor to websites like Old House Dreams, Circa Old houses, and Captivating Houses to look at what was out there in Indiana. To my surprise, there were quite a few older homes, pre-1920, for sale in Indiana. However, most were already restored and therefore beyond our price range, or in such bad condition we knew it would be too much for us to tackle.
We went to look at an Italianate built in 1896 that we both fell in love with, and the price wasn’t bad for what the house was. However, the area wasn’t right for us and we didn’t feel it was a smart financial move. Disappointed, I headed back to scour the old home websites once again to see if I had missed anything when I came across Annie (that’s what we’ve named her).
She was scary looking on the outside, (my daughter immediately Googled the address + “murder” when she saw it), but the inside was relatively intact. Many of the original features were still there, and that was a huge win in our eyes. The crown moldings, the pocket doors, the hardwood, and tile floors were to die for. Sure, the fact the home was condemned due to lead paint made us a little nervous, but we figured it was only paint, right?
We went to see it, and surprisingly I immediately fell in love. The minute I walked through the front door, she had me hooked. Even the packed-to-the-gills-with-trash attic and basement didn’t bother me. My husband and I left, and I was surprised when he said, yeah, that’s not going to work. I had been sure he would be as excited as I was. When I asked why he said, it needs so much work.
Well, duh. A house isn’t listed for 35,000 if it’s in good shape. I told him I really liked it and I wasn’t afraid of the challenge. I’m the bigger risk-taker in the family, so once he realized I was on board, his attitude changed and we went back to the real estate office. A couple of other people were looking at the property, so Matt said we should offer a little over asking to have a better chance of having our offer accepted.
The offer expired the following day at 5 pm, so we spent all night looking at pictures of the house and dreaming. Of course, we talked about remediating the lead paint issue and didn’t think about all the many other problems. The next morning when Martin, our realtor, told me we got the house, we were instantly thrilled. And then I thought I was going throw up. What the heck had we gotten ourselves into. Not only because we’ve never rehabbed a house before but also financially, we will have 2 kids in college in the fall and one not far behind. Were we insane?
I spent the 2 weeks before closing in a state of anxiety. But every night, we’d sit and watch a video Matt had taken of the inside of the house and look at pictures, and it reassured me it was the right thing to do. Crazy but still felt right.
We closed on the house, opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate, and immediately put on our Tyvek suits and respirators to start cleaning and scraping paint. That’s when it hit us. There was a lot more to deal with than just turning on the utilities and doing some cleaning and painting. And once we really examined the house, we realized how much filthier it was than just the lead paint dust issue. It was too late to back out now, we joked, not that we wanted to.
This is our second marriage, and we have a blended family, so we’ve been jokingly calling this our first baby together. Even though Annie has her issues, we know that our baby will be great again through love, sweat equity, and money.