Friday, October 5, 2007

More Background on the House - Our First Look

This is part two of our story. To start at the beginning, scroll down or click here.

It didn't occur to me to take a picture of the whole house before we bought it. The top photo was taken shortly after we moved in. Notice how Moe planted the yaupon holly trees under the porch roof? That was the first of many warning clues of the poor planning which we somehow missed.

This is a photo taken later when we had already done some work to the front, but the structure is the same.

The exterior was a little run down, colors were drab, but all in all, not too bad. Then we walked in the front door with Moe.

This is the floor plan as it was that day.

The smell of dog and cat feces and urine was overpowering and nauseating. Moe picked his way through the minefield of feces and trash dotting the living room carpet and opened the side door. Not that it helped much; in fact, it may have even pushed the stink deeper into the house. As Hubby and I stood on the comparably clean vinyl in the foyer, our eyes circled the living room, taking in every detail. The previous owners (remember this home was repossessed .. or possessed .. tough call) had painted the dark paneling with white paint - one streaky coat of flat, white paint on the walls, trim, switch plates, as well as a generous swath on the edges of the carpet. But they had not painted the blown acoustic on the ceiling and upper walls. The ceiling wasn't too bad, dingy next to the newly painted paneling, but the upper walls were something out of a bad horror movie. Huge cobwebs, covered with years of dust, hung in droopy folds over both walls. A tarantula or two would look perfectly natural in the corners.

Again, I didn't take pictures before we started working on the house. This black and white picture of the living room was taken by the appraiser. He was standing in the door from the patio and facing the hall to the bedrooms. At the time of the photo, we had already ripped out the carpet and had most of the paneling off the walls.

Next to the foyer was a small room, seven by seven feet, probably a mudroom, but we surmised that the previous owners had used it as a bedroom. Not a difficult guess since they left a trundle bed in the room. Over the bed was a clothes rod and shelf, with a few items dangling from bent hangers.

I've heard of people moving out in the dead of night, leaving much of their belongings behind, but I had never actually seen it before. The garage was completely full .. of .. stuff. Around the perimeter of the garage was a recliner that actually looked fairly nice, a baby bed and changing table, flags, pictures, a brand new roll of carpet, and a dishwasher. In the middle was an enormous pile of clothes, trash bags, food, toys, and papers. The pile was probably five feet tall in the center and the diameter was ten to fifteen feet.

The garage also had blown acoustic which was hanging in huge strips from the ceiling. The garage door had several broken windows which had been replaced with pieces of paneling, probably taken from the living room wall. Surprisingly, the door worked, which was a good thing, because I refused to walk on the living room carpet to see the rest of the house.

From the garage we walked to the patio on the side of the house. There was a nice grill on the patio as well as a rotting kitchen table beside the door that led to the living room. There was no roof over the door, the weatherstripping was shredded, and the carpet inside was dark and matted. We stepped through the door and on into the dining area and kitchen.

Among the clutter on the counter was a Fry Daddy, and above the fryer was a greasy stain on the ceiling. Obviously, this appliance had been in that spot for a very long time. It still had grease in it too. French fries anyone?

Lying on the floor was the water heater, shades of brown stains showing the recession of a pool of water as it dried around it. A long rip in the vinyl indicated it had been pulled from a nearby closet. The oven door was on the floor, propped up against the oven. I bet that was quite a fight. Too bad the oven tried to intervene.

This photo was also taken by the appraiser. He was standing in the dining area. To his left is the door to the living room and a pass through type opening. At the time of this photo, the water heater had been replaced and the counter cleared. That Fry Daddy was quite the eye candy, sorry you missed it.

A door led from the kitchen through a short hallway to a longer hallway and the bedrooms. There was a closet in the short hallway for the washer and dryer. The bedrooms and bathrooms were filled with trash; the bathrooms hard to see clearly because the electricity was off. There was probably more to the bedrooms than I could see, but I had held my breath so long I could feel my eyes bulging. I needed fresh air worse than I needed to see any more trash.

Moe said very little as he showed us through the house, but he didn't seem shocked or even grossed out by the condition of the house. When I could finally breathe normally again after we exited the house, he looked at us with a straight face and asked how we liked the house! We told him we would have to think about it.

I didn't like the layout of the house, but Hubby liked the location and convinced me that the layout could be changed to suit us. I said the kitchen was too small; he said we could expand it into the dining area. I said the living room was too small; he said we could build a family room on the back. I didn't like it's curb appeal, or lack thereof. It looked like a house plopped down in the middle of a pasture with just six trees scattered across the acre. He said we could plant trees and paint. The girls were noncommittal about the house, they would each have their own room and that was good enough for them. The dogs (we had four) would have to stay in a kennel until we could build a fence or at least a dog run.

I still can't believe we actually considered buying the house after seeing it, but we put pencil to paper, decided to offer him thirty percent less than he was asking, and see what happened. It wouldn't be the first house we had walked away from. When we made the offer, he told us he couldn't possibly go that low, after all, it was a custom house that was in good shape in a desirable neighborhood; it just needed to be cleaned. Actually, it needed to be burned, but we didn't tell him that. I have said it many times since then though. Instead, we just thanked him for his time and told him goodbye. He called less than thirty minutes later accepting our offer.

We looked at each other, surprised, excited, and apprehensive. What had we gotten ourselves into?

My husband grew up as the son of a home builder, so naturally he was cheap labor in the building business until he left for college. Once there, he worked for house painter and builders. After college, with a degree in psychology, he was drawn back to the field he knew best and took a job in sales with a paint company in 1981. He moved from inside sales to outside rep, and then to commercial and coatings issues specialist. Now he can analyze paint problems and the people who use it.

I grew up reading magazines about home design at a time when all my friends were reading Tiger Beat and other teen idol fan magazines. Most of my magazines were interior design but what I really wanted to do was design the house itself. Hubby and I had designed and built a small home with the help of my father-in-law and brother-in-law, who was also in the construction business. We had also done some minor remodeling on other houses we had owned, but had done nothing like this.

Still, with my ideas and hubby's abilities, we were up to the challenge.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a happy home,

Next, the remodel begins.


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