Well the showing went well (obviously, why would I have this blog?). The key of course, and perhaps when others went through the house they found it hard to do so, was to look past the decorations and see the house for what it was. So what was it???
An outright time capsule wrapped in an unfortunate vinyl and aluminum wrapper…with a LOT of needed tender loving care, especially the garage (asphalt shingles that should have been replaced at least 5 years ago, paint peeling off all surfaces). The flow of space felt right. For its 1450 sqft, it certainly had some generously sized rooms, especially the living room and master bedroom, there definitely was no shortage of natural day light from all of the windows, and boy were there a lot of original light fixtures! The plentiful gumwood woodwork, built-ins, stained glass, archways, and McKinney Wrought Iron hardware (I know this because my parents house has this unique hardware) were just icing on the top.
I really cannot get enough of that hardware.
…or the slab gumwood door with ebony inlay, and the original light fixtures aren’t bad either!
So I certainly was pretty excited about this nice little tudor revival, but what would happen when I did some research on the house? I should preface this by saying that in my free time, when I’m not playing in my parents’ gardens, drinking coffee, or walking around various neighborhoods I go trotting down the rabbit hole of obsessively researching buildings and persons of interest through historic newspapers and other various sources on invaluable treasures of websites like Fulton History (if you’ve never been, you should really go, I cannot stress enough how wonderful this website is), and the local history division of the Rochester Public Library.
As it turns out there was a reason for the stained glass, the raised wood floor in the basement, the steel casement windows, and the wrought iron hardware among other things. 288 Wimbledon Road was the model home, and not just any model home, it was The Democrat and Chronicle Master Model Home of 1928. The Democrat and Chronicle (the primary local newspaper) literally ran an article on this little house every Sunday for nearly three months in 1928 leading up to its grand opening to the public Sunday, September 9, 1928. They encouraged anyone interested in the design and construction of a modern and high quality home come down to the building site during the construction and ask the site manager any questions they might have. On September 9, 1928 the Sunday newspaper article was literally six pages long. Every contractor, every material, every appliance, every furniture arrangement (yes it was decorated and furnished also) and more was described in painstaking detail, with accompanying advertisements of course! This level of documentation is pure gold to any old house enthusiast, or historic preservation advocate…but wait there’s more! Many of these articles included photographs (I have still yet to contact the D&C to access their archive of photographs to get higher definition versions than what the microfilm provides)!
This is just an excerpt from the opening day article. I will include the whole sha-bang in another post.
Well at this point, I knew I was doomed. Not only did I like the space, the style, and time capsule nature of the house, it had a history, and one hell of a history at that. Further research has turned up more articles and more Master Model Homes that were constructed in different years around Rochester, and around the country, but more on that later.
So, then began the process of negotiating an offer. I thought I would play tough and offer the seller a lower offer than list price. Well, turns out they weren’t going to budge, and they were going to delist it and renovate the kitchen before re-listing it! Noooooooooo. Well, I wizened up for my second offer and met their lowest allowable price which came out to around $69/sqft…to those of you who live in cities not like Rochester…or even in other suburbs around Rochester, you would probably tell me to stop whining, so I will. Needless to say I was happy they accepted the offer. Of course, as someone much wiser than I had warned, this was only the beginning. The home inspection revealed further issues, such as phantom water pressure, some remaining areas of asbestos roof shingles (thank god most of them were gone!), a bulging brick chimney that needed to be partially rebuilt, and a mal-functioning steam boiler. I was able to renegotiate a small bit on price and critical repairs, but was not able to weasel much out of the seller, because the cat was out of the bag, I had already taken this house hook, line, and sinker, there wasn’t anything that would stop me now. Not the several hoops I had to jump through or broken promises for mortgages from the bank (definitely lost some sleep on that one), nor the last minute and possibly indefinite cancellation of the closing. Finally after months, beginning in late January, I closed on my perfect little money pit, keys in hand, on May 9, 2014.
I of course drove right over to the house, ran out front and took this photo…and then, promptly tore off a small section of vinyl siding to reveal the original story-book style cedar siding…score!
Lessons learned during this process:
- Never admit, or give the impression that you are completely smitten with a house that you intend to negotiate a price on…oops.
- Hire a qualified home inspector who specializes in older buildings…there are way too many home inspectors out there that do not have the eye for, nor knowledge to assess older buildings. My inspector, Chad Fabry, while expensive, was extremely thorough and worth every penny…and he lives in a 1860s Italianate house, so you really know you can trust him!
- Meet with multiple lenders, and preferably work with a locally based large credit union for your mortgage.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your realtor, lawyer, loan officer, loan closer, etc. any and all questions you have (this definitely helped me better understand the process, and kept me from completely loosing it).
- Read everything, so you really know what you’re signing. It took me several evenings to read the pages and pages of documents, but it helped leave little to chance.
- Wait at least a year after getting hired to start the whole process of looking for a home. This would have definitely saved me a lot of headaches, but then I might not have found this perfect little house.