I must say we have learned a lot about purchasing, living and owning an historic home this year. Here are some of them in no particular order:
- Just because a house is for sale does not mean the owners want to sell it. Even if they had moved out three years ago. Even if they only lived in the house for a few months. Even is they are moving to another country. Even if they failed to maintain the house while they owned it. Purchasing this house was the most difficult thing we have done. Ever. The sellers were delusional and unreasonable nearly every step of the way. I am still surprised that we were able to buy this house. In fact, we had walked away from it several times and the sellers kept coming back to us to see what needed to happen to complete the sale. Even then they put up road blocks.
- Homeowners insurance is a whole different prospect when you purchase an historic home. Nobody told us this before hand. Finding someone to insure our house was nearly impossible. In fact we really only had one choice and the premiums varied quite a bit for the same insurance company through different agents. The insurance for our house is crazy. I think my parents beach house is cheaper to insure. We have to carry insurance to cover the replacement value of our home. That is laughable for several reasons. No amount of money can replace this home. The materials and craftsmen needed to rebuild just do not exist. If something should happen to this house it would be foolish to even attempt to spend that kind of money putting a house up in this neighborhood.
- When you live in a historic house people will feel they have the right to judge the decisions you will make. The very first neighbor who stopped by commented that we had removed the wallpaper in the entry. Before he even introduced himself he felt it necessary to comment on this. It wasn’t original, although people seemed to think it was. There were two other papers under it. Plus it was UGLY! This is my house and it had to go. I am not sorry I am making changes. We will maintain whatever original features we can and restore what is possible to restore. We know it is a piece of history but please don’t feel that gives you a right to pass judgment on our decisions.
- Besides feeling like people are judging our decisions, we learned several things about privacy. First, people will feel it is perfectly OK to take pictures of your home. I can understand that to a degree but some people are doing way more than just taking a quick picture. A few weeks ago, a women was outside taking pictures for over an hour. She was on the sidewalk and across the street. That is OK. Not much I can do but then she was in the driveway and in the yard. She took pictures of the kids as they came home from school. This is not OK people! I don’t know you. I don’t know what you are doing with these pictures and it is never OK to take pictures of my children without permission or to be trespassing in my yard. To make matters worse, she came back the next day with another person and they both were taking pictures for several hours. There are a lot of pictures of this house on line. How many more do you need?
- Our purchasing this home was well publicized. The local newspaper did a follow up piece and interviewed us after we got the house. Because of this everyone we know, everyone who knows people we know and complete strangers have asked to see inside our house. This includes random people at school and church, the road construction workers, the gas line repair crew, customers and co-workers and even the check out lady at the grocery store. It has been crazy and I never expected this. Hopefully since we opened the house for the Christmas tour and had 1,000 visitors there aren’t that many people left who still want to get inside!
- Hand in hand with this notion is what happens when we do have people in. We had an open house for friends, family and coworkers last month to celebrate the holidays and our new home. We had a lot of discussion before hand about how much of the house we wanted people to see. We agreed that the second floor which is all our bedrooms and bathrooms did not need to be on display. Our kids deserve to have their bedrooms be private spaces. The house was not designed with the intention that this floor would ever be on public display. Unfortunately we had guests who decided that a closed door and requests not to go upstairs didn’t apply to them. My oldest son was sick and had to put up with these inconsiderate people coming into his room all evening. You would never go to a friend or co-workers house and feel free to walk through every room and closet in a regular house. I can not understand why these people (who will not be coming back to my house!) felt this was OK here. I am sure they would be horrified to have people going through their closets, bedrooms and bathrooms. It made me angry and made me feel like a horrible parent that my children’s privacy was invaded.
- During the Christmas tour we had several neighbors comment about our electronics on the first floor. They made a point of telling us that these are historic home and the first floor of the home should be historically accurate. That is what they believe people expect. We have a different view. This is a historic home but it is first and foremost OUR HOME! We are going to watch television in our living room and the kids are going to do their homework and use the computer in the study. Just because there weren’t electronics when the house was built doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be electronics in them now. The people who built these houses spared no expense. They put in the finest things money could buy and included the latest innovations, like electric lights. If they were building them now, the houses would include state of the art home theaters and all the modern conveniences they could imagine. I really wanted to ask these people if that was how they feel then why did they have refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, washers/dryers and a multitude of small appliances on the first floor of their homes. Not having a computer or television does not make your first floor “historically accurate” unless you are willing to forgo all those other things that were invented in the last 125 years. Don’t judge us because we enjoy watching a movie with our kids in our living room and want to keep an eye on their computer use. The kids shouldn’t be banished to their bedrooms to watch TV or use their electronics. This is our family’s HOME!
2 thoughts on “15 Lessons Learned in 2015, part one”
Dearest wife of my son, the French have a great way of naming the in- laws: belle mere, belle fille, and you are indeed a belle fille. I have seen firsthand the lovely, comfortable way your family spends evenings just hanging out in that gorgeous living room, and have seen the incredible, generous hospitality you offer to family, friends, and more. I have followed the huge repairs and careful restorations done and still to be done.. And I can say without one doubt, it is a NOBLE thing you are doing with that house. The French have another term for people with no manners: gauche! Ignore them, they are not of your tribe. Love you.
Hope you are all staying warm!