My wife and I are house shopping. We’re trying to find a new old house (an old house that is new to us) that still has its original character and charm, but has some of the basic upgrades (central air, for example) completed.
Occasionally we actually do run across an early 20th Century home (Prairie style or Arts and Crafts style or Victorian) that isn’t dilapidated and hasn’t lost its charm. But as we walk through these houses, all I can think to myself is how poorly some of the renovations were done and all the work I’d have ahead of me, tearing out and redoing bathrooms and floors and woodwork, if we were to buy it. What’s more, since they think they’ve “renovated” the hose, they feel justified in jacking the price up another $40,000 or more.
I don’t mind renovating a house. And as different as I feel carpentry and woodworking are, I believe I have skills for good carpentry work. What’s more, I have the intelligence to call in a pro when I DON’T have the proper skills for a job. But I absolutely refuse to pay top dollar for shoddy work – and to find a $180,000 house on the market for $245,000 because of some crappy cover-ups the current owner is trying to pass off as renovations is all too common anymore.
The funny thing is, we actually watch most of those shows on DIY and HGTV, too. But we watch them to help give us ideas on what to look for in crappy DIY renovations! Not like we really need to, mind you… it’s easy enough to spot a sloppy tile job or unprofessionally-hung cabinets. It’s a good thing there isn’t some process by which we can view a house and then write out our thoughts and comments for the homeowners. At that point, my gentleness is usually gone and I’m much more likely to make critical, acidic statements than offer “constructive criticism”.
Later this week, we’ll go visit two more houses – one that is on the market and just a bit out of our “high” price range and one that we drove by last night and already have some skepticism about. The first one is worth checking out simply because they have built a 6-car garage space in the back alleyway, and I could easily turn that into some good workshop space with very little effort. They initially put it on the market way over-priced, so it has slowly been going down and at some point we suspect it will be back at its true value, which is in our price range. The second one is worth checking out because the price is much more in our range and it still has possibilities for renovations and
But honestly, we’ve started to lose our giddy anticipation at looking through a new perspective house. Maybe that’s a good thing, though; it gives us the chance to be pleasantly surprised and it also makes sure our judgment isn’t clouded by silly things like “Updated Granite Kitchen Counters!” (which turned out to be granite tile on an island with the rest of the kitchen counters being a poorly-matched laminate). We don’t want granite counters, anyway – possibly because every home improvement show and “check out this house!” show tries to put them in.
(Do you think HGTV gets paid a bit of money under the table from granite countertop companies? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit…)
While I enjoy the ability to go to such places and buy new lighting or hardware or even solid wood cabinets from big box places, more often than not I’ve found myself cursing their existence.
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com