Will You Own the House? Or Will the House Own You?

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Alliance in St.Louis' Illinois suburbs 475.122155

Today I helped some first time buyers explore a historic home that has fallen on hard times. You might call it a damsel in distress seeking a knight in shining armor.

These buyers had been thinking about this property for a long time and they had big stars in their eyes.  And who could blame them when each room offered so much potential, from the classic double parlors, pocket doors and original hardwood floors to craftsman-embellished fireplaces, clawfoot tubs and grand staircases.

I hate to be the buzz killer in these situations, but this type of house, in this kind of condition, is not for someone who is struggling to come up with 3.5 percent for an FHA downpayment, let alone a conventional buyer.

And the chance of a house in this condition qualifying for FHA is located somewhere in the neighborhood of slim and none.

You'll be dealing with replacement of the electrical system (goodbye knob and tube wiring); adding HVAC (that charming boiler will have to go); repairing the animal-attacked roof;shivering through winter with single-pane windows; refinishing floors; stripping wallpaper; adding an entire kitchen to that large room where you found an original farmhouse sink but nothing else; installing plumbing to code; repairing crumbling plaster and so much more.

Who should buy an historic home in disrepair?  Someone with a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of patience. (Refer to the underrated Tom Hanks move, "The Money Pit" for an excellent example.)

Much like the Lorelei whose beautiful siren song caused sailors to wreck their ships on the ancient shoals, homes like this one call out to nice people and cause them to make decisions that are not always in their best interest."Fix me. Make me beautiful again," she winks. "I know you can do it. It won't take much. Really. Would I lie?" 

The moral?  If you're determined to rescue an historic home, and you have plenty of funds to sink into the project, call me. We can find a good candidate that will give you a lot of satisfaction and a possible return on your investment.  If you have very little money, let's talk instead about finding a nice house that will require less rehab, less ongoing maintenance and will help you stay within your realistic budget.

After all, the goal is for you to own a house -- not for a house to own you.

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Enjoy life in the (618) area code in Southwestern Illinois, St. Louis' Illinois suburbs. SEARCH FOR HOMES HERE.



I help good people buy and sell good homes in St. Louis' Illinois suburbs, with special emphasis on the Metro East communities of Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Collinsville, Troy and surrounding areas in Madison County, Illinois.

Are you a teacher, firefighter, law enforcement officer, medical professional or active duty or retired military? Then ask me about Homes for Heroes, offering substantial savings on home purchases. Learn more at Homes For Heroes.

For more information or to search for homes, visit my sites at NancyMilton.com618Life.com, or GoshenRealtyGroup.com or send an email to me at Nancy@GoshenRealtyGroup.com. Text or call Nancy Milton Holtzscher, your Edwardsville Realtor, at 618-791-8007 any time.

REMAX Preferred Partners is located at One 157 Center, Edwardsville, IL 62025, 618-791-8007 (direct) 618-655-1188 (office). We're easy to find on IL-157 in Edwardsville between Pasta House Co. and Shenanigans. Each office is independently owned and operated.


Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Heather Littrell 10/09/2011 02:41 PM
Home Buying
1st Time Buyers
Diary of a Realtor
home buying

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Blatt + Cutino
Keller Williams Coastal Estates - Monterey, CA
Broker-Associate 831/206-8070*Call today*

Well said and I love your photos in this blog!

Oct 09, 2011 02:09 AM #12
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Good post. This should be read by all buyers looking to buy an old house.

Oct 09, 2011 02:23 AM #13
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Nancy, on the surface it sounds like a great idea, but in reality it can be a costly enterprise. Good Post!

Oct 09, 2011 02:30 AM #14
Steve Warrene
Your Town Realty - Lower Burrell, PA
Pittsburgh Real Estate Investment Specialists

Nancy, I had a situation like this 2 years ago.  A young couple I was working with wanted an older home due to the charm they have.  We looked at a few and they found one they loved.  It was an FHA loan and some things needed to be done to bring it up to FHA standards.  I tried to get the buyers to see the problems even after the seller fixed the FHA issues.  They wanted to hear nothing about it.  So we had the seller fix the "punch list" of needed repairs and closed the deal.  Now the are "house broke" and can not afford to do anything due to the single pane windows, a furnace that is older than me (I'm 39)-I don't know how FHA passed it, a kitchen that they wanted/needed to tear out and redo, etc....
I tried to talk them out of buying the house due to those issues and they were alittle upset with me when doing so.  About a year later when I stopped over when I was in the area, we talked alittle and they are completely "house broke" and at first they said I should have never let them buy that house. After going down memory lane with them, they came to realize that they pushed me into going through with the purchase of the house for them.  They said as soon as they fix it up--it's going to take a few years, they are going to sell it and buy a younger newer house.

Oct 09, 2011 02:43 AM #15
Kerry Lucasse
eXp Realty - Urban Nest Real Estate Group - Atlanta, GA
Your Urban Nest Atlanta Real Estate Consultant

Great post!  There have been a few times when I felt like my 96 year old home owned me - LOL!

Oct 09, 2011 03:30 AM #16
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

It sneaks up on you old or not....Money going into a house can be cosmetic, functional or necessary. There is no end  to the house requesting $$$ to make it fit like a glove...whoa

Oct 09, 2011 04:19 AM #18
Susan Lehmkuhl
Buy and Sell Smart Realty, LLC - Phoenix, AZ
Associate Broker

Any house requires reserves.  You never know when something will happen ESPECIALLY with older homes.  The odds of issues coming up is much greater.  I recently bought a 38 year old house....love it, but things pop up all the time that I didn't expect.  

Oct 09, 2011 04:32 AM #19
Nancy Milton Holtzscher
RE/MAX Alliance in St.Louis' Illinois suburbs - Edwardsville, IL
Edwardsville/Glen Carbon, Illinois Broker, REALTOR

Steve -- Yep, charm is great when you have your head screwed on properly about the costs. Thanks!

Deb -- Many, many thanks for the feature!

Marte -- You're right. Looks are so deceiving.

Angelica -- Thank you. Photos are from a rights-free clip art CD I bought at Fryes, which has been great for illustrating blogs.

Gita -- Thank you. I hope it can save someone some grief.

Michael -- Thanks, costly in so many ways as I can just picture them headed straight for foreclosure.

Steve -- Good for you for not letting them blame you for it. Some days I want to make everyone sign an "I told you so" document.

Kerry -- You're a brave woman!

Erica -- Right you are. And "over your head" comes so very quickly, doesn't it?

Richie -- Yes, it's almost as if the house is actually speaking. "I need a new roof!"

Susan -- Absolutely! I tell everyone I work with that they have to expect this as a normal part of home ownership. Thanks!

Oct 09, 2011 05:11 AM #20
Sonsie Conroy
I serve buyers and sellers everywhere in San Luis Obispo County - San Luis Obispo, CA
Energetic, Enthusiastic, Knowledgeable Realtor

We almost fell into that trap when we were a lot younger and more idealistic (read: unrealistic). Luckily, my husband is an architect and he knew the costs involved. Once we had contemplated the very long list of repairs and replacements, we had to let that particular dream go and look for a home more in line with our finances. I still drive by occasionally to admire what the owners have done to the home to fix it up.

Oct 09, 2011 09:02 AM #21
Jeff Pearl
RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA - Lovettsville, VA
Full Service Full Time Realtor

Many historic homes, even in good condition, will require continuos maintenance.

Oct 09, 2011 09:37 AM #22
Michelle Francis
Tim Francis Realty LLC - Atlanta, GA
Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease


Excellent point.  We've had a number of buyers in the last three to four years go for the best maintained property, as no one is really looking for the major re-do.  Why not get the one that has been well maintainted at just a marginally higher price than the dismally maintained foreclosure.  The devil is in the details and it's amazing how the maintenance cost of those details can add up.

All the best, Michelle

Oct 09, 2011 11:52 AM #23
Margo Otey

I am a sucker for a restoration project...but then I realize I have no time.  I try to walk people through that thought process when they are captivated by a project that is beyond their ability and means.  They sigh with regret, but when they see how much work just owning a home is, they usually are glad they made a choice that was within the budget of their time/$/ability.

Oct 09, 2011 01:49 PM #24
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Nancy - Buying an old home is a daunting proposition if it's not in great condition.  It's something that should be carefully considered.

Oct 09, 2011 03:21 PM #25
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

I showed a buyer couple a wonderful Victorian house a few weeks ago. The house was very impressive. The owners had renewed it and preserved it. They had decorated it with period furniture, wall hangings and other decorations. The buyers were really taken with the house. They went home and then arranged to visit it again with a friend whose advice they valued.

In the end, they decide that the house was too “special” for them. The house would own them and they knew it. They did not make an offer.

The house is still on the market.

Oct 09, 2011 04:46 PM #26
Marge Piwowarski
Phoenix AZ Horse Property - Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC

I am afraid we are all owned a bit by our possessions.  I try not to allow the inanimate belongings to assume ownership of my time and $$ to an excessive degree.  The animate ones do better!  They own me lock, stock and barrel.

Oct 09, 2011 07:46 PM #27
Scott Godzyk
Godzyk Real Estate Services - Manchester, NH
One of Manchester NH's Leading Agents

Nancy with all of the foreclosures i noticed a trend of alot of older houses hitting the market, becuase you can not get a fha loan, they are priced incredibly low. We used a 203k loan for 1 buyer and the other came up with cash as the repairs were just too much for even 203k. i can not wait until they are restored and see the results

Oct 10, 2011 01:59 AM #28
Denise Tower
Coldwell Banker Gundaker - Maryland Heights, MO
Your Neighborhood Realtor

My all time favorite - all we really need to do is paint and put in 6 panel doors, they are easy to install....

Maybe in new construction but in 100 yr old houses that lean and have crooked doorways, not really, and once you start tearing into walls it is amazing what those pesky termites and carpenter bees can do over time.

I love old/historic homes and have been tempted on more than one ocassion to buy one but then I remember the Money Pit!

Oct 10, 2011 02:33 AM #29
Barb Merrill
Cactus Mountain Properties, LLC - Tempe, AZ
GRI, Associate Broker

This would have to be a long-term love affair in our market.  It may take a lifetime to get your money back out of a major restoration.  Think of it as a marriage until death do us part!

Oct 10, 2011 06:06 AM #30
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

Nancy - Great information for buyers!  One thing that has happened locally, that hasn't been mentioned, is that if you are going to buy an older house like this, you might want to review the codes for historical buildings - as you might not be able to change from single pane wood framed windows to the vinyl dual pane you want.

Oct 10, 2011 09:22 AM #31
Jenifer Lower
Bozeman Montana Real Estate .net - Bozeman, MT
Your Dream. Our Passion.

Thanks for sharing, it is hard to remind buyers they need a reserve for a home like this, and probably a large one at that!

Oct 12, 2011 06:44 PM #32
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Edwardsville/Glen Carbon, Illinois Broker, REALTOR
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