Dave says he knew we were buying this house before he got past the foyer. It took me a few days.
Our search for a house with that perfect combination of “needs repair but hasn’t been bastardized with bad additions” had come up empty, and our closing date was near. We decided to start looking at higher priced homes that had already been renovated, partly to educate ourselves on the higher end of the neighborhood market, but also, quite frankly, because we needed a place to live and after all this moving stress, maybe it would just be nice to move in and relax.
We started with a house on Spring Avenue built in 1894. The realtor’s description had all the right words: “architectural creation”, “historic district”, “updated kitchen”,” well maintained”, ” plenty of storage”. For this price, it better.
When we walked up to the stately front porch we were not disappointed. The substantial front door opened into a vestibule covered with original tile which lead to another substantial door that opened into the foyer. To my left was one of my favorite things I often find in old homes; an inviting petite fireplace surrounded by unpretentious little tiles. Adorable. The wall paper was heavy and dated, but the staircase was original and a piece of art.
To my right was a gracious over-sized living room with wood beams and quaint window seats tucked under huge ornate windows. On the far side of the living room was what people call an “inglenook”, but what I call an adorable little nook with built in benches.
But it was the dinning room that took my breath away. Paneled with original old growth quarter sawn white oak, it was simple and stunning at the same time. Not overly ornate or frilly like some Victorians can be, this house was the perfect combination of gracious and masculine. There was plenty of fine detail, but lines were straight and patterned so it didn’t feel frumpy.
So on to that new designer kitchen. Through that door on the opposite side if the dining room, into the butlers pantry, past the powder room, and hang a sharp left.
You read right. That was the only way in or out of the new kitchen. The owners had renovated the kitchen without changing the original layout. As a result, they were asking top dollar for a house with an kitchen that was too small and completely isolated from the rest of the house. I suppose when servants were cooking back in 1894, that worked well, but in 2018, that’s a deal breaker.
That’s when I checked out.
The upstairs was equally charming and in excellent condition. The problem was there was only one bathroom on the second floor ( 4 bedrooms), and it was tiny. The other two baths, while newer, were stacked above and below it (attic and basement) which is completely inconvenient for modern day living. Still, that was all fixable, but not at the asking price .
So we went on to our next appointment even more discouraged. We continued to educate ourselves on the LaGrange market, but days went by without any good prospects and our closing date was approaching.
I kept thinking about that house on Spring Ave. It was a great house, full of character and in really good shape. That dining room kept speaking to me, but I knew I would grow to hate it if I had to pass through it and the butlers pantry like a mouse Chasing cheese every time I wanted a glass of water in the kitchen. Yet I kept going back to it.
While Dave and I were out to dinner I mentioned how much I loved that house on Spring despite the horrible layout. “Oh yeah: he said. “I knew you would. I think I can work out the layout issues, but it would mean tearing out the new kitchen and adding on, and they are asking way to much for us to be able to do that without being over priced for the neighborhood.” He proceeded to draw out his ideas on cocktail napkins, and by the end of the night we had a workable layout. The only problem was the asking price.
We made them an offer that reflected what it would take to put on the addition and the limits of what we could put into that neighborhood. They rejected it.
We did a little research and discovered the house was on the market previously for a year without any offers. So it’s not just me. At this price point nobody is going to buy a house with one bathroom on the second floor and a small isolated kitchen in the back of the house. And few people without Dave’s experience would figure out how to make the layout work without destroying the charm. The home owners loved their house, and were blind to the layout issues. Unfortunately, they were stuck with a house they could not sell despite the upgrades and great care they put into it, because they had not solved the layout issues.
Now it was a waiting game. A very emotional waiting game. We kept looking without success, and they didn’t get any better offers.
Our house closed, so we rented a furnished apartment in Chicago. The summer in Chicago? I’m not complaining, but it did motivate us to go a bit higher on our offer on Spring Ave.
I suppose the sellers were motivated by the thought of sitting on the house for another year without any offers because they finally accepted. Drama over. At least for now.