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Delay FIRE buy Old Home?
Old 09-12-2014, 02:34 PM   #1
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Delay FIRE buy Old Home?

There is an historic home that DW & I were trying to buy 2 years ago. It's in the process of getting fixed up. The person who bought it is looking to sell it and wants us to come by and take a look at where they are and what needs to be done still, etc.

They got it approved on the national register. DW loves it. I really like that fact that she loves it, and I'd be happy in the house. However, for me it would really cause me to reconsider, pulling the plug on steady income until we were in the house and comfortable with the new monthly burn rate and all the expenses. The house would end up replacing super nice travel. We would plan to sell it when we are older and the house needs another caretaker.

The home was built in the 1750s. We've never owned an old home before. I've done lots of reading about it.

Is there anything that the standard articles don't cover that someone with real experience has run into? Is this a gamble? I don't want to be going in a year.
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Old 09-12-2014, 02:43 PM   #2
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I personally would be very concerned about the hidden maintenance costs of a house that old. Having it on the national registry of historic places may make it harder to sell, since the pool of people who want a property that they can't modify will likely be smaller than it would for a "normal" house.

It's a completely personal decision, but it sounds very much like buying an old sailboat. I've known a few people who have done that, and they all were relieved when their boat-ownership experience was over.
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Old 09-12-2014, 02:45 PM   #3
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Two words: Money Pit!

If it is a designated heritage home, you will not be allowed to make changes at your own discretion.

It seems like a retirement killer to me.
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Old 09-12-2014, 03:00 PM   #4
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I'd be really leery of something like this unless owning something historic like this truly is a life-long dream of yours. The house I live in is "only" 98 years old, and has a ton of issues, so I'd be afraid to think of what might be lurking in something that's older than this country!!

One big issue with older houses is that in those days, they didn't have the concept of 4x8 anything, so you'll often find studs, rafters, joists, etc at random spacings that don't make sense by today's standards. Also, in the old days, they didn't dress lumber like they to today, so a 2x4 really WAS a 2x4, not a 1.5x3.5 like today.

Little details like this can make remodeling an older house a royal PITA. And if it's historic, and you have to have any mods approved by the historical association or whatever, I'm sure that only adds to the fun.
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Old 09-12-2014, 03:48 PM   #5
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I'd be really leery of something like this unless owning something historic like this truly is a life-long dream of yours. The house I live in is "only" 98 years old, and has a ton of issues, so I'd be afraid to think of what might be lurking in something that's older than this country!!
No question about it.
Back in the 90s, we lived in a house built in 1928. Beautiful house, one of the best looking on the street, built by the best builder in the region. DW was absolutely in love with it when buying it.

But for all that good side, we finally sold it because the maintenance was driving me up the wall. There are so many things about old houses that you just don't expect. Like the tube & post electrical wiring with cotton insulation on the wires, the cast iron plumbing behind lath and plaster walls, the tendency to sag on one side as the ground settles over the decades, etc. etc. etc.

That said, if you're comfortable with that sort of thing, more power to you and thanks for being a caretaker for some real history.
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Old 09-12-2014, 04:18 PM   #6
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It does have all new plumbing and electrical. I suppose that's a good thing. I'm definitely not a handyman. My wife is fairly competent at those sorts of things though and loves learning, exploring, and restoring old things. We've decided to move very cautiously . . . very, very cautiously.

I'm thinking of putting some parameters around a go / no-go decision...for instance, we'll only do it if we can maintain a sub 3% WR which includes a 2% sinking fund in the budget.
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Old 09-12-2014, 04:55 PM   #7
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If I would buy something in my homeland in Europe it would be very likely old old historic house build from stones.

They are very expensive and pain to maintain but boy what a pleasure to live in. The atmosphere of such old historic houses is one of the kind.

So I would say you will not make money by living in such house but you may enjoy it a lot. You live once.... It is OK to splurge on one or two things in life.
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Old 09-12-2014, 07:04 PM   #8
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I had an older home built in the 1930s. It had a lot of charming aspects to it but I would never buy an older house again due to maintenance issues. We didn't have anything major go wrong, but there were all sorts of little issues that bothered me: settling in the house, cracks in ceiling, plaster walls making it a pain to hang anything, the milk door in the side of the house.
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Old 09-12-2014, 09:50 PM   #9
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The atmosphere of such old historic houses is one of the kind.

So I would say you will not make money by living in such house but you may enjoy it a lot. You live once.... It is OK to splurge on one or two things in life.
My wife and I have been in the same home for 30 years, and raised our children here. This house was built in the early 1970s and it has been relatively trouble-free. I can't remember of having a repair truck in the driveway more than once or twice over the span of 30 years. I am fairly handy with plumbing, carpentry, HVAC, electrical etc. and have been able to do almost all repairs and remodeling myself. This has certianly been a factor in our ability to achieve FI athough, I am planning to w*rk another year or two at the most, just to pad the nest a little more. The kids have left home and this will be the first full year with no tuition payments.
With that said, DW just loves older homes and has admired them since we were married. Recently, we had the opportunity to purchase an older home that we have admired for many years. This gets us out of development living and out into the country where we want to be. The main house was built in the late 1800s with several much newer additions being added over the years. The natural woodwork and original hardwood floors are in perfect shape and many electical and plumbing upgrades have been made over the years and the house has been meticulously maintained. The lot is beautiful, the house, garage and shop have plenty of room for my hobbies and the upstairs has been converted into an apartment that brings in $9000 a year in rent. I've been a landlord for over 25 years so this will not be new to me. The difference between what we paid for this house vs. what will be able to sell our exisitng home will be $50K or less. Yes, there is no doubt some financial risk here, but its one of the things we decided to go ahead and do so we aren't looking back years from now with regret for never making a move.
To the OP...good luck in which ever way you go after you weigh all the factors and make your decision.
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Old 09-12-2014, 11:30 PM   #10
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There is an historic home that DW & I were trying to buy 2 years ago. It's in the process of getting fixed up. The person who bought it is looking to sell it and wants us to come by and take a look at where they are and what needs to be done still, etc....
Old or new house, this really raises my antenna. Why are they wanting to sell after only two years? Did they find something that is way beyond cost effective to repair? I would be sure to hire the most discriminating inspector who specializes in vintage homes and maybe insist on an escrow fund of a bucket of money to go toward hidden existing problems for the next five years or something.

We fell in love with a stained glass window in our little old 1887 house about 35 years ago but I wish we were not so emotionally attached to the house. Don't let your old dream house get in the way of your future--in the end, it's just a house. But I totally understand where your DW is coming from!
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Old 10-15-2014, 08:29 AM   #11
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Thanks for all the input here. We've decided not to go forward with the house.
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Old 10-15-2014, 10:36 AM   #12
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Do not make an emotional decision!
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